Progressive Ballot Issues For Turnout and Framing

There are few more potent tools for impacting the outcomes of elections than changing what appears on the ballot. And there are no more direct paths from public outcry to passed legislation than through ballot issues. For years, the rightwing has been advancing policy goals, shaping message, and marshalling voters through ballot issues (we've already highlighted many of their current-year endeavors in this very newsletter). Progressives increasingly are fighting back using ballot issues -- which shouldn't be surprising, since initiatives and referedenda were originally a progressive reform.

Illinois Joins Pre-School for All Movement

This past week, Illinois Governor Blagojevich signed the first law in the nation that establishes the goal of universally-available public preschool for all 3- and 4-year olds in that state.

Chicago: Groundbreaking Retail Workers Living Wage Law Passes

By a vote of 35 to 14, the Chicago city council yesterday approved a new ordinance requiring large retailers in the city to phase in a living wage for their employees of $10 per hour plus $3 per hour in benefits-- the highest minimum wage established for any industry sector in the country. If signed by the mayor, the law would raise pay for tens of thousands of workers in retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us, Lowe's and Home Depot. A broad coalition of organizations including ACORN, labor unions and church groups worked together for its passage.

CA: State Rules FedEx Drivers Employees, Not Contractors

For years, the delivery company FedEx has claimed that its ground drivers are not employees but independent contractors-- meaning the company didn't have to pay for workers compensation, unemployment insurance or extend a range of other worker protections.

Vote-by-Mail Earns Backing from NAACP, Senator Kerry

Supporters of Oregon's unique universal vote-by-mail system got a serious leg up this month when the NAACP adopted a resolution formally endorsing the system. The NAACP joins the AFL-CIO in publicly backing the system, which has gained widespread support among representatives of working families for the way that it increases flexibility for voters and also serves as a reminder of otherwise low-profile elections for many of us in our busy day-to-day lives.

2006: Debate on Health Care for All Gets Real

Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to create a health care plan to provide health care coverage for the 85,000 uninsured residents of that city. While there are additional votes needed to finalize the bill, with a unanimous vote and the endorsement of the mayor, the proposed ordinance is expected to become law with no problem.

Next Steps After Court Strikes Down Maryland Health Care Law

Yesterday, a federal judge overturned Maryland's Fair Share Health Care law, which had required large employers such as Wal-Mart to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care for employees or pay the equivalent in fees to the state.  The judge in his decision argued that the federal ERISA (Employment Retirement Security Act) law preempted the Maryland law.

Vouchers and the Myth of Private School Superiority

Two things happened this past week. Some in Congress proposed spending $100 million on vouchers for private schools as a supposed educational solution for low-income students.

Progress on the Minimum Wage

After years of stagnating wages for working Americans and inaction by Congress, legislators and activists across the country are taking the lead in securing higher minimum wages on a state by state basis. They are achieving some outstanding results. Here's where the minimum wage fight stands in a number of states:

The Takings Trap: Kelo and Oregon's Measure 37

Exploiting the unpopular Kelo vs. New London Supreme Court decision, far-right ideologues are pushing a number of nearly identical ballot measures in dozens of states across the country as reforms to "protect our homes." The backers claim that their efforts will prevent big corporations from using eminent domain to seize people's homes. In reality, these faux populist measures -- backed almost entirely by one rich New York City developer -- will leave cities and counties powerless to protect the environment and strengthen communities in the face of sprawl development.