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In 2024, expect new debates about AI, gender and guns

Written by The Anand Market

Updated on:

As Americans engage in deep disagreements over gender expression and sexual orientation, the costs and scope of racism, and the danger and opportunity presented by rapid technological advancement, state legislatures are become one of the most visible and influential arenas for these debates.

It probably won’t be any different in 2024.

Lawmakers in dozens of states will soon return to work, weighing in on some of the most controversial issues facing the country, including access to transition-related care for transgender youth, abortion and rights to fire arms.

Lawmakers will also consider new regulations on artificial intelligence, a digital frontier that security experts have described as a serious potential threat — and in which state lawmakers could play a critical role in enacting safeguards that could provide a model for the federal government to follow.

“Consensus has yet to emerge, but Congress can look to state legislatures – often referred to as laboratories of democracy – for inspiration on how to seize the opportunities and challenges posed by AI,” said a report released in November from the Brennan Center for Justicea non-partisan think tank on law and poverty.

Several states, including Florida, South Carolina and New Hampshire, are considering legislation that would govern the use of artificial intelligence in political advertising, including “deepfake” technology, which could allow for and to use the voice and image of a candidate. maliciously.

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In Missouri, lawmakers have proposed banning teachers from referring to a student using pronouns that don’t match their “biological sex” without written permission from the student’s parents.Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The South Carolina bill would limit the use of this technology within 90 days of an election and require a disclaimer declaring that advertising includes images or audio that have been “manipulated or generated by the artificial intelligence “.

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“The technology that produces this content has advanced rapidly and has outpaced government regulation,” said Nick DiCeglie, a Republican state senator from Florida. who presented a bill in December, said in a statement.

A recent wave of laws focused on gender expression and sexual orientation, led by conservative lawmakers across the country, is also expected to continue into 2024.

In Missouri, lawmakers have proposed banning teachers from referring to a student using pronouns that don’t match their “biological sex” without written permission from the student’s parents.

Lawmakers also plan to strengthen the law enacted by the state in 2023 that prevents doctors to prescribe puberty blockers and hormones to transgender minors. The new proposals include removing a sunset clause from the current law, as well as an exception that allowed minors who had already been prescribed puberty blockers or hormones before the law took effect. continue to receive treatment.

Twenty-two states have now passed laws prohibiting minors from transition-related health care; some have been blocked by legal challenges. The laws were part of a series of laws championed by conservative lawmakers over the past two years that focused particularly on the gay and transgender community. It included bills to limit drag shows and classroom discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation.

In South Carolina, one of the few Southern states that has not banned transition-related care for minors, critics of previously proposed bans have warned that the fight is not over. “We successfully beat back the worst attacks in 2023, but we need all hands on deck when the state legislature returns in January 2024,” the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina said in a recent press release.

Virginia is another state where a ban on transgender care for minors failed in 2023, as did nearly a dozen other bills. assailed by critics as “anti-transgender”.» But in 2024, as Democrats regain full control of the General Assembly after the November elections, the majority has indicated that abortion protections, limits on access to firearms and a minimum wage more high would be their highest priorities.

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Hundreds of abortion rights protesters at the Wisconsin State Capitol last January.Credit…Jamie Kelter Davis for the New York Times

Democratic lawmakers have proposed beginning the lengthy process of amending the state Constitution to guarantee the right to abortion, as well as passing a law banning the purchase, possession and sale of guns assault fire and certain ammunition feeding devices.

Other states, including Kentucky and Tennessee, could see proposals for less stringent gun control measures, including so-called alert laws that allow the temporary removal of firearms from people considered to be dangerous by the courts.

A Republican lawmaker from Kentucky said he would like to expand the ability of law enforcement agencies to temporarily remove weapons of people experiencing a mental health crisis, but other members of his party argued such a restriction would infringe on constitutional rights.

In Louisiana, the new year should start with consecutive special sessions.

The first will be congressional district boundaries, which a federal judge ordered lawmakers to redraw after previous maps were found to dilute the voting power of black voters. Parliament has until the end of January to deliver a new map.

Five of the Louisiana Supreme Court’s seven justices signed a letter last week urging that the court’s judicial district maps also be redrawn during the special session. They said the current maps had not been updated in more than 25 years and that there was an urgent need to “increase minority service on the Louisiana Supreme Court.”

The second session will likely focus on public safety and crime, although the agenda is unclear.

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The sessions come as Louisiana’s political dynamics are poised for a significant shift, with Republicans soon rid of their biggest obstacle to full control of state government: Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Democratic governor for two terms – and the only Democratic governor in the country. the Deep South – will leave office in January.

He will be replaced by Jeff Landry, the much more conservative Republican attorney general. Republican lawmakers said it would be a priority to return to Mr. Edwards’ agenda and pursue bills he had previously vetoed.

In Washington state, some elected officials – including the state treasurer and legislators – are pushing for an ambitious approach to closing the growing gap in upward mobility and access to education between high-income white residents and children growing up in low-income families. particularly families of color, with a proposal to create trust funds known as “baby ties.”

The proposal would provide these children with a $4,000 bond before their first birthday, which they could use when they reach adulthood to finance college, buy a home or start a business. Connecticut legislators baby bonds approved in 2021, but implementation was delayed for two years while state officials negotiated funding. Attempts at the federal level have failed.

Washington State had considered a similar measure in 2023, but it failed, with opponents mainly being put off by the cost. Supporters said the Washington Future Fund, as the program is formally known, would help bridge a significant opportunity divide.

“Income gaps and other institutionalized racist policies and practices prevent Black, Indigenous, and other people of color from building generational wealth,” said the Economic Opportunity Institute, a Seattle-based think tank focused on security economic, racial equity and sustainability. said of the proposed policy. “The Washington Future Fund would narrow this racial wealth gap and provide longer-term economic stability for low-income Washingtonians.”

Maia Coleman, Jenna Russell And Mitch Smith reports contributed.