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Issues on the Ballot this Election Day: Progressive States Network on UP with Chris Hayes

This weekend, Progressive States Network's Suman Raghunathan joined the panel on MSNBC's UP with Chris Hayes to discuss some of the decisions voters in states across the nation will be facing at the polls on Tuesday beyond races for elected office, including ballot measures on immigration, taxes, criminal justice, marriage equality, and more. Watch the video here:

Scorched Earth on Workplace Fairness: Conservatives Seek to Block Popular Ballot Measures and Local Laws

Frustrated by stagnation in the job market and in statehouses alike, worker advocates have increasingly taken to direct democracy and local governments to balance the economy in 2012. A combination of political gridlock in Congress and many state legislatures since the 2010 elections has largely stalled a wave of progress led by states raising workplace standards like the minimum wage and paid sick leave, as well as toughening up laws to combat workplace violations like wage theft and payroll fraud. Over the last year, advocates have turned to ballot initiatives and local government measures, where the immense levels of popular support for workplace fairness policies historically have proven likely to carry the day. But, unwilling to let such clear majorities carry the day, conservative business lobbies have rolled out a range of increasingly ruthless tactics to roll back and block progress.

Gov. Brown Follows the ALEC Path on Deregulation in California

Last month, California Governor Brown turned his back on California telephone consumers by signing into law a bill that strips the oversight authority of the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC). Specifically, the law removes rate and quality protections for consumers of phones that function through Internet technology. This technology, called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), routes phone calls over Internet signals, and is offered by cable or DSL companies like Verizon’s FiOS, Comcast’s Digital Voice, and AT&T’s U-Verse. The experience is just like using a traditional phone since increasingly landline phones need Internet Protocol to be connected. The bill signed into law, SB 1161, effectively eliminates common-sense protections for all of California’s consumers who will be helpless when issues arise with their phone service, while tying the hands of the CPUC and local governments alike.

California Gov. Brown Vetoes Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, Trust Act

With minutes ticking down to a midnight deadline to sign bills passed by the state legislature this session, California Governor Jerry Brown issued two vetoes that will disappoint many Californians as well as workers' rights and immigration advocates: the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights (AB 889) and the Trust Act (AB 1081).

Tuition Equity and Marriage Equality Laws Lead in Maryland

On Election Day, Maryland voters will determine the fate of two landmark laws that their legislature passed over the past two years: tuition equity for undocumented immigrants and the legalization of same-sex marriage. Both laws were challenged by opponents seeking their repeal at the ballot box this fall — but according to a new poll released this week, both show strong chances of surviving.

PSN 2012 Election Reform Session Roundup: The Year of Right-Wing Overreach

(With 2012 legislative sessions largely adjourned in statehouses across the nation, this is the fifth in a series of issue-specific session roundups from Progressive States Network highlighting trends in different policy areas across the fifty states. Read the full article here.)

With a close presidential election on the horizon, this year saw conservatives continuing to ramp up their voter suppression efforts. Party leaders in Pennsylvania and Florida admitted as much, confessing that their efforts were intended to benefit conservatives in time for the elections. However, attempts to stack the deck for partisan gain encountered a number of obstacles and were nowhere near as successful as they were last year, ultimately ensuring that — despite a continuing spate of efforts in legislatures, the courts, and by partisan elections officials to roll back the fundamental right to vote — 2012 was not the banner year that the right was hoping for. If 2011 was “The Year of Voter ID,” then 2012 will certainly go down as “The Year of Right-Wing Overreach,” as courts and federal enforcement agencies struck down such blatantly partisan tactics. Though the year is far from over and several important voter suppression battles have yet to be decided in advance of Election Day, there were some key victories for democracy that bode well for 2013. [Read More]
 

Voter ID: Efforts to Suppress the Vote Go Into Overdrive for Election 2012

Though UFO sightings are more common than in-person voter impersonation, over thirty states introduced or carried over legislation focused on an almost entirely non-existent problem. These included an assortment of new voter ID proposals and measures to “strengthen” existing laws by requiring photo ID, but also some bills to expand the type of photo ID acceptable at the polls.  The national right-wing strategy behind voter ID laws became clearer this year as the corporate backers of the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were taken to task by the public  for their support of state legislation to suppress the vote. [Read More]
 

Legal Victories: Protecting the Right to Vote in the Courts

Performing an important check on partisan right-wing legislators eager to tilt the electoral playing field in their states, the courts have made a number of important rulings that largely affirmed individuals’ right to register to vote and access the polls easily. [Read More]
 

Beyond Voter ID: New Ways to Disenfranchise Voters

Conservatives attempted to exploit anti-immigrant sentiment by using the same faulty rationale for voter ID laws — keeping non-citizens from “stealing” our elections — to push for a new initiative: purges of non-citizens from the voter rolls. [Read More]
 

Victories to Expand and Protect the Franchise

2012 also featured some bright spots that bucked the trend of imposing barriers to registration and voting. From same day registration to online voter registration to eliminating waiting periods for ex-felons, progress was made on expanding voting rights in some states. [Read More]
 

Looking Forward to 2013: Modernizing the System, Protecting the Vote

Though more studies showed in 2012 that voter ID is a misguided, ineffective means of addressing electoral fraud, the upside of the conservative focus on “protecting the sanctity of the vote” and the rolls may be the highlighting of the need to update our antiquated, patchwork voter registration system. The components of voter registration modernization ensure that records are more accurate, opportunities for fraud are reduced, and that the overall process is more efficient — all while saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year, something that liberals and conservatives can agree upon.

If history is any indication, one of the biggest problems plaguing Election Day will be partisan misinformation campaign designed to skew the vote — not undocumented immigrants, as conservatives insist. The confluence of near-universally weak state laws on deceptive practices and a historically close election could result in record numbers of voters kept from the polls. Legislators should take advantage of public discussion of disenfranchisement to champion legislation that protects voters.

Priority One for 2013: Rebuilding The Middle Class

New Census data reported just this week painted a distressing picture: 46.2 million Americans still in poverty in 2011, median household income declining by 1.5 percent, and rising income inequality. As a snapshot of an America three years removed from the end of the Great Recession, the numbers serve as an important reminder that it's not just the tepid growth in jobs, but the increasing lack of good jobs and the slow corrosion of the middle class that should be the chief concern of lawmakers.

Explaining the Latest Federal Ruling on SB 1070: A Mixed Decision

Last week, a federal district court in Phoenix issued a mixed ruling on Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070. Immigrant communities declared partial victory with Judge Susan Bolton's decision to strike down the portion of the law that makes it a crime to drive, live with, or engage in everyday activities with an undocumented individual. This means Arizonans of good faith who interact with or provide spiritual support to an undocumented friend or neighbor no longer have to worry about getting slapped with criminal penalties or arrest. Several SB 1070 copycats — including laws in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina — feature similar provisions which have also been blocked by federal courts.

PSN 2012 Immigration Session Roundup: Growing Consensus for Common-Sense Efforts as Anti-Immigrant Bills Lose More Steam

(With 2012 legislative sessions largely adjourned in statehouses across the nation, this is the fourth in a series of issue-specific session roundups from Progressive States Network highlighting trends in different policy areas across the fifty states.)

In 2012, state legislatures saw a dramatic decrease in anti-immigrant proposals and embraced a growing consensus around common sense, pro-immigrant policies in states across the country. This legislative session illustrated the decreased popularity of broad anti-immigrant proposals, as well as growing interest in targeted campaigns to introduce pro-immigrant policies, especially in states with growing immigrant populations. These policies, which underline the importance of cultivating all of our nation’s talented youth, protecting hard-won wages, and ensuring the safety of our communities, once again outnumbered misguided (and failed) attempts to enshrine racial profiling and deprive crucial industries of workers this year.

Two important developments in immigration policy from the federal government also shifted the landscape and conversation in the states. President Obama’s surprise June 15th Deferred Action announcement, which shields some undocumented youth from deportation and allows them to work legally in the United States, opens up a clear path for talented immigrant students to contribute to state economies once they receive a college degree. The announcement deflates traditional opposition to state tuition equity proposals, which previously branded the policies as impractical because they did not grant work authorization to undocumented college graduates. Now thousands of students accepted through the program will likely be able to legally work and in turn contribute to state economies upon graduating from college. The development ratchets up pressure on states to pass tuition equity proposals as eligible students stand ready to pay their way into higher education systems, which continue to suffer from dramatically decreased funding due to the slow economic recovery and long-standing budget deficits.

The Supreme Court also narrowed the role that states can play in immigration enforcement when they decisively struck down Arizona’s disruptive and economically devastating SB 1070. The Court underlined the federal government’s role in determining and enforcing immigration policy by striking down three of SB 1070’s four provisions while also sending a strong signal that the remaining provision, Section 2(b), will be susceptible to future challenges because it will inevitably encourage racial profiling. The three provisions that were struck down — prohibiting undocumented immigrants from seeking work, allowing warrantless arrests of immigrants for the suspicion of a deportable offense, and making it a state crime to not carry immigration papers — emphasized the role that the federal government must play in immigration enforcement and highlighted the growing reality that Arizona’s unconstitutional approach is far outside the mainstream of American values.

The Supreme Court’s decision notwithstanding, anti-immigrant forces still plan to reproduce the flawed “self-deportation” model in as many states as possible. The principal architect of SB 1070, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, not only led the charge to enshrine the harshest anti-immigrant plank in the national Republican Party’s history, but also announced that he intends to push the “papers please” 2(b) provision in Missouri, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Oklahoma and other states. [Read More]
 

Tuition Equity: More Progress

Even before President Obama’s announcement that “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) would protect some DREAM-eligible youth from deportation, legislation that allows qualifying undocumented students to attend public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates was already gaining momentum in the states. DACA recipients will receive a two-year reprieve from deportation, a renewable two-year work permit, and, depending on the state, eligibility to receive driver’s licenses.

In a big step for these aspiring citizens, students began submitting applications for the program beginning August 15th. The program also re-emphasizes the need for states to pass tuition equity laws, ensuring that these talented students can access higher education and continue contributing to their states. DACA also neutralizes a common anti-immigrant argument against tuition equity laws: that allowing immigrant students access to higher education would be wasteful because they would be unauthorized to work in their states.

Twelve states already have tuition equity laws on the books, with an additional ten states moving the proposal this year.  [Read More]
 

Pushing Back Against Enforcement and Community Policing

Efforts to make immigration enforcement sensible and practical have turned into a powerful bill in California called the TRUST Act which could serve as a model for other states looking to move past the expensive and burdensome detention and deportation dragnet. After a 2-year campaign and strenuous efforts by advocates, the bill is still waiting for Governor Jerry Brown’s signature by September 30th.

The TRUST Act’s focus on building trust between community members and law enforcement statewide by prioritizing violent and serious criminals instead of casting a wide, expensive, and counter-productive dragnet has spurred many to call it the “anti-Arizona” approach. Governors in New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois challenged their state’s involvement in Secure Communities, highlighting the gap between S-Comm’s stated goals and the actual devastation the program has wrought on immigrant communities nationwide through widespread deportations. [Read More]
 

Driver’s Licenses: Ensuring Safety and Saving Costs

A hot-button issue in previous years, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants have the potential to stimulate the economy by allowing immigrants to drive to work and contribute to state economies while also keeping our roads safe. Unlicensed drivers also increase costs for the entire pool of drivers. When New York considered a driver’s license proposal in 2006 the State Department of Insurance estimated that premiums would have saved New York drivers $120 million, a 34% savings.  [Read More]

 

E-Verify: Momentum Ebbs on Flawed Program

Efforts to impose the flawed, federal E-Verify program on states have mostly flopped in 2012. E-Verify is a federal pilot employment-verification system that filters a worker’s identification information through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) databases — in theory flagging as ineligible any worker whose information doesn’t match up with federal records.

After an ascendant couple of years for the policy, which has become highly controversial due its high error rate and job-killing tendencies, 2012 saw proposals to enact or expand mandatory E-Verify fail in 23 states.  [Read More]
 

Wage Enforcement: Promise for 2013

Another important legislative avenue in protecting immigrant workers garnered momentum in 2012, with promises of even bigger action in 2013. Proposals that seek to enforce wage and hour laws, enhance workplace protections, and crack down on employers seeking to duck paying payroll taxes by misclassifying full-time workers as independent contractors play a strong role in protecting workers, both immigrant workers [Read More]
 

State Work Authorization Efforts

In the last session, several states also attempted to address their states’ need for immigrant workers, through a variety of complicated and non-traditional methods. Though none of the proposals passed, legislators in California, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Vermont all proposed some version of a state-based worker authorization models.  [Read More]

 

Rounding Up 2012 Legislative Sessions

With 2012 legislative sessions largely adjourned in statehouses across the nation, Progressive States Network is releasing a series of issue-specific session roundups highlighting developments and trends in different policy areas across the fifty states.