Democratic AGs were the most important office on the ballot in 2018 (and why that is still true for 2019 and 2020)—On the Issues
March 18, 2019
As Trump heads into the second half of his first (and hopefully only) term of the Presidency and the county continues to see gridlock in Congress, here is a review of how the Democratic Attorneys General were the most important office on the ballot in 2018—and how we, at the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA), are ready for what lies ahead in Washington, D.C. and in the states in 2019, 2020, and beyond.
Coined as “the down-ballot officials who could freeze the Trump Train in its tracks” by the Washington Post and as “The Most Effective Way for Democrats to Fight Trump’s Agenda” by Mother Jones, Democratic AGs continued to serve as the strongest check and balance in our democracy, holding the Administration, corporations, and all institutions legally accountable to the people of their states. Highlights of actions taken by Democratic Attorneys General on the issues are below.
- Fighting for Reproductive Justice – Contraception Coverage: When the Trump administration revised a rule allowing employers the right to refuse to provide no-cost contraceptive coverage to women employees by citing religious or moral objections, Democratic AGs fought back in court to protect access to contraception for women in their states and WON.
- Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro secured a nationwide injunction blocking Trump from implementing revised religious and moral exemption rules that would allow virtually any company to deny women health insurance coverage for no-cost contraception. Co-led by New Jersey AG Gurbir Grewal, the Pennsylvania challenge saw support from a coalition of 21 Democratic AGs who filed a brief in support of the case.
- California AG Xavier Becerra led 14 Democratic AGs in winning a preliminary injunction halting the Trump Administration’s attempt to deny millions of women and their families access to cost-free birth control guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act by allowing employers to interfere with their healthcare decisions for the 14 states involved in the case.
- Trump’s first attempt was blocked twice by lawsuits brought by Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro and California AG Xavier Becerra.
Title X: After Trump announced plans to cut funding to Planned Parenthood by removing their eligibility for Title X funding putting the health care for more than 40 percent of the federal program’s 4 million patients at risk, Democratic AGs were quick to call out this blatant attack on reproductive rights and access to healthcare. California AG Xavier Becerra submitted a letter to the federal government opposing the proposed regulation that undermines Title X family planning and requesting a meeting with OMB and HHS to share California’s concerns.
- Additionally, 20 Democratic AGs filed a brief to stand with Planned Parenthood and voice their support for lawsuits challenging the Trump administration rule changes that will reduce access to family planning services.
- In February, 13 Democratic Attorneys General requested a meetingwith the federal government to discuss the anticipated rule change, and how it would impact states.
- After the rule changed dropped, DAGA Co-chair Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum led a 21-Democratic AG coalition in filing a lawsuit challenging the rule. Washington AG Bob Ferguson and California AG Xavier Becerra filed separate suits in their respective states.
- Protecting Access to Healthcare
ACA Litigation: In response to 20 Republican AGs filing Texas vs. US, a lawsuit that would gut critical protections in the Affordable Care Act including protections for the 52 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, a coalition of Democratic AGs are fighting back to protect and preserve healthcare for families as this case moves through the courts.
- In fact, California AG Xavier Becerra filed a motion asking the 5th Circuit to expedite review of the Democrats appeal to a district court decision, which deemed the ACA unconstitutional.
- Additionally, four states sought formal permission to join the California-led coalition of Democratic AGs defending the ACA: Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, and Iowa. This makes the Democratic coalition 21 AGs strong.
- Defending Dreamers and Immigrant Rights
DACA: The Democratic AG-led lawsuits continue to protect DACA recipients. Most recently, in a blow to the Trump Administration, the 9th Circuit court of appeals ruled to keep the nationwide injunction court order in place from the California, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota led case, which effectively reinstated the program and allowed DACA recipients to continue renewing applications.
- Based on the latest quarterly report on DACA renewal, thanks to the Democratic AG-won preliminary injunction, more than 276,000 Dreamers have been able to renew their deferred action and work authorization under DACA since January 2018.
Family Separation: Democratic AGs fought to keep families together on the border including New Mexico AG Hector Balderas leading 21 Democratic AGs in a letter calling on the Trump Administration to end the “zero tolerance” policy that has resulted in the separation of families at the U.S. border.
- California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also led a 18 Democratic AG coalition in a lawsuit seeking to force the Trump administration to reunite more than 2,000 children with their parents.
Fake Emergency at the Border: 20 Democratic AGs filed a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to spend billions of dollars on his border wall. The lawsuit asks the federal court for a preliminary injunction to prevent Trump from acting on his emergency declaration while the case plays out in the courts.
- Standing up for Students by Taking on Betsy DeVos
Title IX: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education are attempting to move forward with a proposed rule that would undermine the anti-discrimination protections of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and weaken protections against sexual harassment and violence for students. The rule would impose new requirements on schools and students that would be a significant departure from both the fundamental purpose of Title IX to protect students and from the Education Department’s previous Title IX guidance, making campuses less safe. In response, Democratic AGs sent a message to Secretary DeVos: we must do everything we can to prevent sexual assault on campus.
- Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro,New Jersey AG Gurbir Grewal and California AG Xavier Becerra led a 19 Democratic AG coalition in submitting a comment letter to Secretary DeVos and the DOE expressing “strong opposition” to the department’s proposal and calling on federal officials to withdraw the proposed rules that undermine anti-discrimination protections of Title IX. Copy of the comment letter linked here.
- New York AG Tish James also submitted a letterto Secretary DeVos. “These rollbacks limit the school’s responsibility of preventing sexual assault, and makes it harder for survivors to report instances of assault,” AG James said in a statement. “Stripping these critical protections would be to the severe detriment of sexual assault survivors on college campuses across the nation.”
Borrower Defense Rule: 20 Democratic AGs led by Massachusetts AG Maura Healey won a case against U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her decision to suspend rules meant to protect students from abuse by for-profit colleges. The court said the Department of Education’s rationale for suspending the rules was “arbitrary and capricious.”
- Safeguarding our Future and Protecting the Environment
Protecting our environment and keeping our air and water clean under Trump’s EPA is a key priority for Democratic AGs. According to NYU’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, Democratic AGs have taken more than 150 actions to protect our planet.
Clean Power: 19 Democratic AGs submitted comments to the EPA demanding that the administration rescind Trump’s proposed replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.
Clean Cars: 21 Democratic AGs submitted comments to the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opposing new rules. If finalized, the new rules would halt national Clean Car Standards for passenger vehicles and light trucks that are expected to prevent up to 2,000 premature deaths, 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments and reduce asthma symptoms for millions of Americans, including children.
Off-Shore Drilling: 12 Democratic AGs filed comments with the Department of the Interior expressing strong opposition to plans to expand drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico.
Seismic Testing: Maryland AG Brian Frosh led a coalition of 9 Democratic AGs in moving to intervene in a lawsuit to stop the proposed use of air guns to survey the Atlantic Ocean floor for oil and gas. These “seismic testing” surveys will expose whales, dolphins, and porpoises to repeated sound blasts louder than 160 decibels.
- Protecting Worker’s Rights
Democratic Attorneys General have a strong track record of fighting to protect workers on a wide array of issues including wage theft, worker misclassification, discrimination in the workplace, equal pay for equal work, retaliation, and upholding the right to organize.
As part of their efforts in the post-Janus climate, more than a dozen Democratic AGs have issued guidance bolstering public sector unions in the wake of the Janus decision.
- Promoting Common Sense Gun Safety
3-D Printing: Most recently, a federal judge in Seattle extended the previous block on the publication of controversial 3D-printed gun blueprints by granting a preliminary injunction sought by Democratic AGs in the case. Previously, a coalition of 19 Democratic AGs led by Washington AG Bob Ferguson won a temporary restraining order to stop the initial distribution of the 3-D gun blueprints.
The very quick and efficient way Democratic AGs stepped up to protect public safety on 3-D gun blueprints is a key example of why this office is critically important in our system of checks and balances.
- Questioning Trump’s Business Interests
Emoluments: DAGA Co-chair District of Columbia AG Karl Racine and Maryland AG Brian Frosh’s lawsuit against Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause, an anti-corruption clause in the Constitution, continues to move forward in the courts. In fact, prosecutors in Maryland and Washington, D.C. have subpoenaed financial documents from the organization that operates Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C. and a number of other Trump properties worldwide.
The above examples are just a small window into the important work Democratic AGs do every day for the people in their states. At DAGA, our job is to elect and support Democratic AGs. Not only do we focus increasing the number of Democratic AGs nationwide, but we also work to increase the diversity of Democratic AGs— and we firmly believe that the People’s Lawyers should reflect the people they serve. In 2018, we succeeded on all fronts and continue to break records.
As we look forward to 2019, 2020 and beyond, DAGA will continue to bring Democratic AGs together to foster stronger communication and collaboration. And we will continue to innovate how we elect and support Democratic AGs.