The late Con­gress­man and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said, “All pol­i­tics is local.” Even as the national Con­gress seems stale­mated, unable to enact even such vital leg­is­la­tion as a jobs bill or firearm reform or a new immi­gra­tion bill, locked in seem­ingly end­less par­ti­san obstruc­tion­ism — even as inac­tion reigns supreme, state leg­is­la­tures across the coun­try are mak­ing progress, though too often the progress is in tak­ing states backward.

There is some good news. Col­orado will require more back­ground checks for gun sales, and will out­law high-​​capacity ammu­ni­tion mag­a­zines. At least eigh­teen other states, how­ever, have loos­ened firearms restric­tions. As of July 1, for instance, Kansas will allow schools to arm employ­ees with con­cealed hand­guns, and will ensure weapons can be car­ried into more pub­lic buildings.

Are there peo­ple who hon­estly believe that the way to reduce gun vio­lence is to have more guns? Per­haps so; or per­haps much action in state leg­is­la­tures is more par­ti­san than ratio­nal.

The Penn­syl­va­nia state Sen­ate nego­ti­ated with the state’s Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor, Tom Cor­bett, to include the Afford­able Care Act’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion in next year’s bud­get. The mea­sure passed in the Sen­ate on Sun­day night on a 40–10 vote. A key com­mit­tee in the state House, how­ever, stripped that pro­vi­sion on Mon­day from the ver­sion of the bill being con­sid­ered there. This would make Penn­syl­va­nia the 22nd state to turn down these bil­lions of dol­lars in fed­eral aid money.

It is dif­fi­cult to see why a state would reject the expan­sion of Med­ic­aid, since it is being paid for through fed­eral funds, and requires noth­ing from the states for the first three years. After that point, the por­tion paid by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment grad­u­ally reduces to 90 per­cent in 2020. Even with states pick­ing up one tenth of the cost, they will save money, since giv­ing ade­quate health care will mean lower costs for emer­gency rooms. A health­ier cit­i­zenry means fewer missed work­days, fewer med­ical bank­rupt­cies, and fewer unnec­es­sary deaths — thus, higher tax col­lec­tions. It’s a win-​​win, and should a no-​​brainer.

All is not lost for the Med­ic­aid expan­sion. In Ohio, the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, John Kasich, vetoed lan­guage in the bud­get bill that would pre­vent him from mov­ing for­ward with this pro­vi­sion of the ACA, though he did leave intact oner­ous new anti-​​abortion pro­vi­sions. In Nebraska, 22 state Sen­a­tors pledged to con­tinue work­ing on putting the expan­sion back into the state bud­get, after it hav­ing been stripped out of the cur­rent bill. In all, 23 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have approved these Med­ic­aid pro­vi­sions that will help mil­lions of peo­ple earn­ing less than 138 per­cent of the fed­eral poverty line, or roughly $31,800 for a fam­ily of four.

Is there any excuse, other than ide­ol­ogy, for deny­ing this cov­er­age? Does with­hold­ing health care for poor peo­ple serve any legit­i­mate purpose?

As men­tioned, Ohio is about to insti­tute severe — and so far, unique — abor­tion restrictions:

Clin­ics must have an agree­ment with a local hos­pi­tal to trans­fer patients there in the case of an emer­gency, but pub­lic hos­pi­tals are barred from enter­ing into those agree­ments… Another way the new law is unusual: the direc­tor of the state depart­ment of health, a polit­i­cal appointee, has the uni­lat­eral power to revoke vari­ances given to clin­ics with­out a trans­fer agree­ment. The direc­tor also deter­mines whether trans­fer agree­ments are satisfactory.

The new law also cuts funds for Planned Par­ent­hood, requires trans­vagi­nal ultra­sounds, and for­bids most med­ical coun­sel­ing that would dis­cuss abortion.

In Texas, an anti-​​abortion bill was fil­i­bus­tered to death — by a real fil­i­buster! — last week in an heroic effort by state Sen­a­tor Wendy Davis. In response, the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor, Rick Perry, called a spe­cial ses­sion of the state leg­is­la­ture to rein­tro­duce the mea­sure:

The bill would ban most abor­tions after 20 weeks of preg­nancy and would tighten reg­u­la­tions on abor­tion clin­ics and the doc­tors who work at them. Crit­ics said the mea­sure would have shut most of the abor­tion clin­ics in Texas.

Indeed, the bill would leave five clin­ics in oper­a­tion for the entire, enor­mous state. Cur­rently, there are about 40, so that’s clos­ing 88 per­cent of them. At least thir­teen states have passed new lim­its on abor­tions. A bill intended to close clin­ics in Alabama has been tem­porar­ily blocked by a fed­eral judge.

It’s clear that most of these anti-​​choice laws would be ruled uncon­sti­tu­tional in light of Roe v. Wade. Or at least, they almost cer­tainly would be by any­thing other than the Roberts court. A coin flip might be a rel­a­tively accu­rate pre­dic­tor of what would hap­pen if these laws are chal­lenged today.

In other, non-​​health mat­ters, in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court deci­sion strik­ing down an impor­tant pro­vi­sion of the Vot­ing Rights Act, sev­eral states are con­sid­er­ing (or have already enacted) restric­tive new vot­ing laws; Vir­ginia, North Car­olina, Penn­syl­va­nia, Alabama, Wis­con­sin, and Texas are among them.

On the plus side, new leg­is­la­tion in eight states will pre­vent busi­nesses from demand­ing pass­words to social media sites as a con­di­tion of employ­ment. Though, on the down­side, this means in at least eight states, such intru­sive demands from employ­ers were appar­ently com­mon enough that the state leg­is­la­tures felt com­pelled to enact such laws.

An excel­lent sum­mary overview of the action in state leg­is­la­tures can be found here. Some of the new laws will undoubt­edly infu­ri­ate, some will delight, some will make one sit up in sur­prise. My per­sonal favorite is that Ken­tucky has just repealed a Prohibition-​​era law ban­ning election-​​day drinking.

Per­haps we all need that sort of release on elec­tion day, for Amer­ica is that sort of nation — no mat­ter your polit­i­cal point-​​of-​​view, every cycle brings plenty to cel­e­brate and plenty to lament. At the least, this mix pro­vides plenty of rea­son for peo­ple on all sides to remain active. Our multi-​​tiered sys­tem of gov­ern­ment, with elected offi­cials in cities, coun­ties, states, and other regional and local juris­dic­tions in addi­tion to fed­eral, gives oppor­tu­nity for both value and mis­chief of almost infi­nite variety.

On this July 4, as you watch the fire­works and cel­e­brate another can­dle in the nation’s cake, take stock of what the nation is doing, where it’s been, where it’s going. Think about where you want it to go, and where you might be able to make a dif­fer­ence. A nation’s life is not a spec­ta­tor sport.

In Amer­ica, the peo­ple gov­ern. The gov­ern­ment is made up of cit­i­zens, not nobil­ity rul­ing hered­i­tary fief­doms. More, the peo­ple chose rep­re­sen­ta­tives; even appointed offi­cials are selected by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple. That is the whole point of Amer­ica, the pur­pose of the nation, the rea­son it was cre­ated. To the extent that we relin­quish our power to cor­po­rate inter­ests, to monied mouth­pieces, or to pro­fes­sional lob­by­ists, we fail to achieve our national purpose.

If you are dis­sat­is­fied with the direc­tion of the nation, your state, your city, or your county, it is up to you to do some­thing about that. If you don’t see changes you want, look in the mir­ror for the cause.

All pol­i­tics is local. It starts in your home, and spreads from there.