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Taking the Lead: An Interim Report on State Legislative Successes in Enacting Progressive Policy
John Bacino on June 18, 2007 - 9:36am
The 2006 elections sent a clear message that voters wanted a more progressive turn in public policy. At the federal level, even the new Congressional leadership has been stymied in delivering that change in the face of partisan gridlock and filibusters, but state governments have seen sweeping reforms. On issues ranging from health care to clean energy to electoral reform to assisting working families, state leaders have stepped up and delivered often precedent-setting reforms. Even on issues like the minimum wage where we have seen some federal action, many states are still delivering higher wage standards and bolder leadership. And on other national issues, states in 2007 took leadership in demanding fairer trade deals and an end of the escalation in Iraq. The bottom line is that states are driving progressive change in the nation. Download Taking the Lead: An Interim Report on State Legislative Successes in Enacting Progressive Policy Why Progressive Policy is Winning: The rising importance of progressive state policy is not an accident. As the Progressive States Network detailed in our 2006 report, Governing the Nation from the Statehouses: The Rightwing Agenda in the States and How Progressives Can Fight Back, the rightwing in our nation has for decades understood the power of statehouses and invested the resources to push their agenda using state policy. While progressives may not be able to match the monetary resources of the Right, in recent years progressives have increasingly focused resources to support forward-thinking state legislators -- including the creation of the Progressive States Network itself -- arming them with the policy and campaign resources needed to take on the special interest lobbyists and enact legislation that benefits the public interest. The state successes detailed in this report are the result of two changes at the state level: the public opinion that brought new progressives into state leadership positions, and the greater grassroots support those legislators are now able to tap into to move public policy. Even where state leadership has remained the same, we have seen a shift in policy as even more conservative state leaders recognize the need to respond to shifting public opinion and the new mobilization by progressives in the states. The Report: This report is divided into two sections. The front section details by policy area the overall gains made in the states, including Protecting Working Families, Expanding Health Care to All, Promoting Clean Energy & Jobs, and a range of other issues. The second section lists short summaries of achievements (and a few set-backs) in each of the states that have already finished their legislative sessions. This second section highlights which states are taking the lead as policy innovators and those that are still mired in the status quo by big moneyed rightwing interests. This report is very much an interim report, no doubt missing some additional important innovations enacted by various states that we could not mention due either to time or space constraints. We will follow up with a fuller report later in the summer to include both a more detailed explication of all of the issues mentioned here and to include additional states as they complete their legislative sessions. In preparing this report, we are grateful both to our many organizational partners (listed in the inside cover) with which Progressive States Network works and to the funders who make our work possible.