By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
What’s old is new again. The KKK. Heroin and Opioid Drug Addiction. Healthcare. Mass Incarceration. Justice Reform. Sexual Harassment. Threat of Nuclear War. And yet, depending on your age, level of awareness, or civic engagement some of the issues facing America today seems overwhelming and unfamiliar. However history is an amazing teacher. If we look back at all that we have endured as a nation, we are reminded of our strength and resiliency. In 2018, we will need to call on that grit to meet the challenges and opportunities that await us.
Legislatively, our plate is full both locally and nationally. This year will bring the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on redistricting and gerrymandering, which was designed to lessen the voice and voting strength of communities of color, the young and the elderly. We wait to see what will happen with the U.S. travel ban, the border wall, and how the country will deal with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and whether thousands of immigrants brought illegally to the country as children, will be deported.
This year will likely see real decisions made regarding increased worker pay and whether state governments will stop barring local municipalities from enacting their own minimum wage increases. Medicaid expansion and threats to healthcare, with Republicans offering little by way of an adequate replacement for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), will continue to sound a clarion call for everyday Americans to become engaged in deciding how we are going to care for our people. Speaking of care, the rest of the nation seems finally ready to admit what we knew in the black community all along, drug addiction is a health crisis, and not a litmus test for increased criminal penalties, truth-in-sentencing and mandatory minimums.
In 2017, Colin Kapernick’s bent knee may have kept him from returning to the NFL, but it has straightened the back of many state legislators in the quest to address justice reform, inequity in policing, and accountability in how we review officer involved deaths. In our own backyard, the incidents of abuse at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth detention centers must be met with a commitment to do things differently in how we address the needs of these young people. Obligations must further come in the form of “pre” and “post” emphasis on quality public education that reduces the need for youth to interact with the criminal justice system.
The work ahead may seem daunting. Working to address issues of women being treated fairly in the workplace, religious freedoms vs civil liberties, or balancing environmental protections and economic growth, there is much to do in 2018. The past has provided a foundation to meet whatever is to come this year. Whether the battle to eliminate slavery, women’s suffrage, ensure civil rights, or the work to protect LGBTQ rights, we have example after example of what we can accomplish when we all tackle an issue together. I am looking forward to 2018 and working with you to make the New Year great.