This Dispatch will outline these trends in public opinion, with special emphasis on the
results of two wide-ranging surveys this year, the Pew Research Center for the
People and the Press report, Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes:
1987-2009 (hereafter "Pew"), and the Center for American Progress report, State of American Political Ideology, 2009: A National
Study of Values and Beliefs (hereafter "CAP-beliefs"). Other reports will
be touched on as well, but the core results are similar across all major surveys
on these points.
Along with giving a roundup of the range of initiatives on the ballot in this off-year election, this Dispatch will give special focus to the campaigns against TABOR and defending relationship equality laws.
For years, states have increasingly seen their hands tied by a federal government declaring that preemption voids state consumer, environmental and labor rights laws. The Bush administration in particular used its regulatory authority aggressively to block state law after state law.
The results have been catastrophic. Despite the myth that "no one saw the subprime meltdown coming," the reality is that thirty states enacted laws to rein in abuses by predatory lenders. However, the Bush administration used its regulatory authority over banks to shut down most of those predatory lending laws in the courts. This is just the most dramatic example of how preemption allowed the federal government to enforce its own inaction on state governments at the behest of corporate interests.
When Progressive States Network (PSN) discussed gains in progressive power in legislative chambers around the country back in November,
one of the question marks was what would happen in the Texas House.
Earlier this week, that question was largely resolved when it was announced
that rightwing Speaker Tom Craddick no longer had the votes to be
reelected. Instead, a majority coalition, including most House
Democrats and a growing number of Republicans, decided to support
Republican Joe Straus from San Antonio as the new speaker.
With legislative sessions getting underway around the country, this
Dispatch provides a list of key bills and policies that we encourage
legislators to consider introducing. While not exhaustive of the range
of needed reforms in states, they emphasize initiatives of strategic
importance that are being considered in multiple states. Working with
our various partners, Progressive States Network is providing staff
support for these policies and will work to use movement in multiple
states to generate national media and attention. This in turn will
create greater momentum to assist individual states in pushing bills to
passage. The following is a quick checklist of key policies with links
to model legislation and policy summaries.
With conservatives losing the presidency and democrats controlling
Congress, we are likely to see a significant redeployment of
conservative political energy into the states. There are still 33
state governments where Republicans control either a governorship or a
legislative chamber, and other state political bodies are still
controlled by conservative Democrats. We are already seeing rightwing forces shift to state level policy
campaigns. In fact, multiple conservative commentators have begun to
openly discuss that the states will be their key target in the next few
In last Tuesday's election, there was a dramatic demographic and
geographic shift in who supported progressives all the way down the
ballot. These changes could lead to long-term electoral support for
progressives if they deliver on the promises they made to voters.
With elections over and new progressive strength in many legislatures,
voters will now be demanding that state leaders deliver, made all the more
challenging given hard economic times and the laundry list of social
problems we face.
To assist in this task, Progressive States Network has
launched an upgrade of its website to make it easier for legislators and
advocates to find both past Dispatch information and
additional resources we will be adding in coming months. As well, we
have new Policy Options reports that give more detailed analysis of
policies that legislators may want to introduce in their states.
Beyond federal victories for progressives, November 4th was in multiple
ways a resounding victory for progressives at the state level. First, with President-Elect Obama's experience as a state
legislator, state leaders will hopefully have an ally in the White House
who understands the challenges they face and the need for a federal
partner to make state innovation effective. Second, even after large gains in state legislatures for
progressives in 2006 and 2007, Tuesday saw additional legislative gains,
with new progressive leadership taking control of number of key state
There are stark differences between the two presidential campaigns'
approaches to federal-state relationships. Differences range from the
amount of funding appropriated for programs run by the states to
whether the candidates would strengthen or weaken state regulatory
This Dispatch is a roundup of what ballot initiatives will
appear on state ballots across the country this November. Whether it's
workers rights, energy policy, education, transit, abortion or health
care, ballot initiates give voters a chance to directly vote on an
According to The Wall Street Journal, "Fed and Treasury
officials have identified the disease. It's called de-leveraging, or
the unwinding of debt. During the credit boom, financial institutions
and American households took on too much debt." But let's not buy into a false equivalence of "financial
institutions" and those "American households" borrowing beyond their
Wednesday, PSN Executive Director Joel Barkin sat down for a phone interview
with Thomas Frank, author of the new best selling book, The Wrecking Crew:
How Conservatives Rule. Their conversation touched on a number of
issues surrounding how conservatives have worked over the last decade to
dismantle government as we know it in Washington D.C. and throughout the
On Monday, July 22nd, over one hundred and fifty
state legislators, labor leaders, and advocates participated in "Building
a Progressive Majority in the States," a joint annual meeting of the
Progressive States Network and the National Labor Caucus. Taking a cue from the opening plenary
policies for an economic downturn,
the conference focused on strategies for confronting the most
important issues facing America's working families, including
affordable health care, smart immigration policy, workers' rights,
green jobs, clean energy, and tax and budget reform. To address these
issues in more depth, PSN policy experts joined state legislative
leaders in smaller workshops that gave participants a chance to share
best practices and model legislation while developinglegislative
and winning strategies for 2009.
As the Supreme Court marches to the Right, corporate interests continue
to thrive at the expense of state regulatory powers. "This has been a
very successful year for the business community," said Miguel Estrada,
a Washington appellate lawyer who represents many key corporate
interests before courts in Washington, D.C." This session at the U.S.
Supreme Court, as this Dispatch will highlight, had an almost
uniform tilt towards business versus state regulatory authority. In
other areas like election law, the tilt was against poor voters who
faced restrictions on their right to vote, though the term was a more
mixed bag on criminal justice and other issues before the Court.
Wednesday, the Progressive States Network played host to national
luminaries and state leaders from all over the country to celebrate the
many victories achieved by the organization and its allies in the most
recent legislative session, and to build momentum for new victories in
the coming year.
Conventional wisdom inside the D.C. Beltway holds that on major issues like
health care or energy independence, it's fine for state legislators to play
with their legislative toys in local sandboxes, but that it's really up to the
"grown-ups" in the federal government to fix big problems. In national policy
debates, state governments are usually treated as a tiny sideshow to the top
billing of national legislation.