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With Congress a Morass, States Continue to Look at Gun Violence and Immigration

This past week was saturated with crisis and tragedy following the events in Boston and Texas, but it also saw significant developments on two critical issues before the U.S. Senate that would likely have otherwise fully gripped the nation's attention. On guns, an already-weakened bipartisan compromise on universal background checks was blocked in the Senate by a minority of senators, ending for now the fight to pass any federal legislation in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. On immigration, the long-awaited full text of the so called "Gang of 8" immigration bill was released, drawing support from the White House, conditional praise from some advocates, and stoking opposition among anti-immigrant forces. With the ability of Congress to pass legislation on any major issue now perhaps even more in question, both issues also continued to play out on the state level this week as well:

More Positive Signs for Voting Rights Laws

After a year that started off with a wave of efforts to suppress the vote - many of which continue - more and more states are now looking at enacting significant reforms to modernize voter registration and protect and expand voting rights. Here's a roundup of recent developments:

Radical Right-Wing Tax Plans Run Into Trouble

Taxes are on the minds of many this week as April 15th approaches. They're also on the minds of many conservative governors -- in states such as Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Nebraska -- who have seen their radical tax proposals to further enrich corporations and the wealthy run into major resistance from voters, businesses, and even conservative lawmakers. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who this week withdrew his regressive plan that would have eliminated the state income tax while raising the sales tax, has seen his standing drop sharply in the polls. In the run up to Tax Day, increasing attention is being focused on how tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations increase burdens on the middle class.

Three Years After SB1070, A Dramatic Shift on Immigration in the States

Three years ago this month, Arizona's SB1070 was enacted, setting off a wave of copycat anti-immigrant state bills despite the increasingly dubious constitutionality of such laws and an increasing consensus about their destructive economic consequences for states that adopted them.

State Gun Laws: Why They Matter

This week, President Obama traveled to Colorado to continue to press Congress to pass legislation on gun violence prevention. Next week, he is set to travel to Connecticut to do the same. Both are states that have witnessed horrific mass shootings over the past year, and both have since seen their legislatures act to pass bipartisan gun violence prevention bills. Connecticut's new law, passed and signed into law this week, strengthens a ban on assault weapons, limits magazine sizes, and creates the nation's first statewide dangerous weapon offender registry. Maryland also saw strong gun legislation pass their legislature this week, likely to be signed into law next week. All of this movement comes the same week that a new report was released showing that state gun laws likely do have a significant impact on levels of gun violence.

Parents Trigger Defeat of "Parent Trigger" Bills

For-profit charter school companies and their allies were hoping to push so-called "parent trigger" bills this year in over a dozen states -- bills which purport to "empower" parents of poor-performing schools by allowing them to vote to turn over their neighborhood schools to private companies. But in state after state, parents themselves have been pushing back.

Map of the Week: Upward Mobility, State-by-State

Map: Relative Upward Mobility, State-by-State

Of the 15 states whose residents have less upward mobility than the national average, 14 are so-called "right-to-work" states

One Million New Yorkers Set to Benefit from Paid Sick Leave

After years of debate and delay, paid sick days may soon become a reality for approximately one million New Yorkers who do not currently have access to them.

Chart of the Week: Deep Cuts to Higher Education

A chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showing the drastic cuts to higher education over the past five years, state-by-state.

Another New Frontrunner in the Race to Restrict Reproductive Rights

Not to be outdone by Arkansas or any of the record number of other states advancing restrictions on abortion in recent years, North Dakota this week passed anti-choice legislation so draconian it is alienating even self-described "pro-life" lawmakers. Legislatures in states including Texas and Kansas also tried to keep up in the race to be the most backward state on reproductive rights this week, passing legislation that would shut down clinics and endanger women's health. Texas Gov. Rick Perry told lawmakers back in December that his goal was to "make abortion, at any stage, a thing of the past" in his state -- and it looks like lawmakers in other states have also set that as a key priority for legislative sessions this year: