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Charles Monaco on April 24, 2013 - 5:24pm
A bipartisan majority of state senators in Colorado approved a resolution Wednesday calling on Congress to pass federal immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. The passage of the resolution, by an overwhelming margin of 33-2, comes after similar resolutions have been introduced in many states in recent weeks, and as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee continues to hold hearings on the comprehensive immigration proposal put forward by a the Senate "Gang of 8" last week.
The language of the Colorado resolution calls for comprehensive reform that will "provide a fair, equitable, and realistic mechanism for aspiring citizens who have grown up in this country to become citizens and be able to fully contribute to our joint future."
“It is important that we come together, Democrats and Republicans, to urge Congress to address one of the biggest issues facing our country today,” said State Senator Irene Aguilar, a sponsor of the resolution, in a statement. “We need reform that is fair and humane, provides a roadmap to citizenship, strengthens our national security, protects American workers, and helps our economy thrive." The resolution now moves on to the Colorado House, where it is expected to pass.
Colorado has recently been cited as a state where sweeping demographic changes are quickly altering the political landscape — a fact which has already been made clear this session. Earlier this year, Colorado's legislature approved a bill ensuring tuition equity for undocumented immigrant students, which is set to be signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper next week. And the Colorado Senate also debated a bill today that would allow undocumented immigrants access to driver's licenses.
Colorado is one of at least 16 states where similar pro-reform resolutions have been introduced in recent weeks. Bipartisan and in some cases unanimous majorities of legislative chambers have passed resolutions calling for comprehensive reform this year in states including Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, and most recently California.
Charles Monaco on April 9, 2013 - 3:13pm
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. Three years later, with Congress on the precipice of debating federal immigration reform, the debate over immigration policy in the states has shifted dramatically. That shift can be seen in the number of states that have adopted policies like tuition equity for all immigrant students — which was signed into law in Oregon and Colorado in recent weeks and which continues to gain momentum in other states. But it can also be seen in the number of states where resolutions have been introduced this session urging Congress to pass a comprehensive reform package that includes an accessible and realistic path to citizenship.
Today, members of PSN's National Immigration Working Group, a group of lawmakers from across the country committed to supporting pro-immigrant policies at the state and federal level, announced that they plan to introduce a number of state resolutions supporting federal reform that would bring the total number of such resolutions introduced in statehouses this year up to sixteen. States where plans to introduce resolutions were announced today include Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, and North Dakota. They would join states including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Oregon, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas who have all already seen one or multiple resolutions introduced this year.
Colorado State Senator Angela Giron, Chair of the National Immigration Working Group, noted that many of these resolutions have been sponsored by state legislators who have been leaders on fights in their states, both against anti-immigrant bills and in favor of positive immigration policies. "As we look at the landscape in the states as Congress is set to debate immigration reform, I think it is safe to say the tide has turned," said Sen. Giron. "The fact that state lawmakers are now standing up should send a message to Congress: Americans support a path to citizenship for all 11 million aspiring citizens currently living in the shadows that is as inclusive and accessible as possible."
Even more indicative of the shift in the debate over immigration in statehouses is the fact that, where these resolutions are receiving a vote, they are often passing with bipartisan or even unanimous support. Just last week in Nevada, a resolution urging Congress to "include a realistic pathway to citizenship" and to "create an immigration process that strengthens our nation’s economy and allows aspiring citizens to continue making contributions to our communities, our State and our nation" passed unanimously. According to Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom, that type of vote would have been nearly impossible to imagine three years ago. "Congress needs to listen to what's going on out here in the states," said Sen. Segerblom. "The American people are ready for this."
Resolutions in New Jersey and New Mexico have also passed with bipartisan support.
Meanwhile, in both Washington D.C. and communities across the nation (including state capitals), tens of thousands of supporters are expected this week at rallies and other events in support of a path to citizenship. As Congress inches closer to beginning what is certain to be an historic debate, state lawmakers and their constituents alike appear intent on making sure their voices are heard.
Charles Monaco on March 30, 2013 - 9:14am
Of the 15 states whose residents have less upward mobility than the national average, 14 are so-called "right-to-work" states.
Charles Monaco on March 29, 2013 - 5:49pm
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. After bottling up a bill that had earned strong backing among the public and her colleagues, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced in a turnaround this week that she had struck a deal with proponents of paid sick days in New York City and would allow the bill to come up for a vote, where it will likely win enough support to override an expected veto from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and become law.
The compromise legislation will reportedly require all New York City employers with over 20 employees to provide paid sick days beginning a year from now in April 2014, with that threshold dropping to 15 or more employees in October 2015, at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked and up to 5 days per year. Other provisions in the still-unfinalized bill are said to include a "trigger" which would prevent the law from taking effect if the city economy were to decline precipitously as well as a requirement that all smaller businesses not covered by the law provide unpaid time off for employees who get sick. The New York Times reported that the legislation will make it clear that, "whether the sick leave is paid or unpaid, companies will be legally forbidden from firing workers for taking such time off."
While the changes to the original language of the bill will mean New York City's law will be weaker than laws currently on the books in major cities like San Francisco and Seattle, the threshold for the size of employers will be lower than it is next door in Connecticut. (The National Partnership on Women and Families has an informative resource comparing the various paid sick days laws that have so far been enacted across the nation.)
The movement in New York City on paid sick days adds momentum to a number of paid sick days campaigns currently underway in the states. Legislatures in states including Vermont, Maryland, Massachussets, and Washington are all considering paid sick leave legislation this session, while in the month of March alone, New York was the third U.S. city to pass a sick leave measure, following Portland, Ore. and Philadelphia.
The winning streak on paid sick days and other workers' rights legislation in municipalities over the last few years has clearly been alarming to big corporations, who have been actively backing state efforts to preempt and repeal local paid sick days measures. Just one day before the deal in New York City was announced, a state Senate committee in Michigan approved a bill that would prevent cities from enacting similar sick leave requirements. Other states including Florida, Mississippi, and Washington are seeing similar bills pop up this year, all following in the footsteps of Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker signed a repeal of Milwaukee's paid sick days measure into law in 2011.
But the victory in New York City this week should inspire progressives elsewhere looking to advance what is, as a reminder, a broadly popular policy. The ripples may already be spreading south to Philadelphia, where Mayor Michael Nutter is coming under increasing pressure as he is expected to announce within days whether he will veto a paid sick days bill for the second time in his mayoralty. As Demos' Amy Traub notes, this week's win in New York was "the result of years of tireless organizing and advocacy" on the part of multiple organizations and individuals, and a hopeful reminder that, despite rampant corporate influence in the legislative process, "the game is not entirely rigged."
Charles Monaco on March 15, 2013 - 1:20pm
It's already March, but it felt a bit like Groundhog Day this week as U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled — for the third straight year — a conservative House budget proposal steeped in austerity, divorced from reality, and as unpopular as ever. Notwithstanding an Election Day that saw majorities vote against both Congressman Ryan’s policy priorities and Congressman Ryan as a Vice Presidential candidate, the newest incarnation of the Ryan budget still includes massive cuts to key domestic priorities, assumes the repeal of parts of Obamacare, turns Medicare into a voucher system, cuts Medicaid by over $750 billion, and hands out even more huge tax breaks for the wealthiest few — all while claiming to balance the budget in ten years. It’s a document that has rightly been described as “a tale of fantastical illusion,” but also one that reflects the destructive conventional wisdom that continues to see austerity and short-term deficit reduction as priorities for the nation ahead of getting Americans back to work.
To significantly less fanfare, another budget proposal was released this week that actually does redirect the debate away from austerity and toward job creation. The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ “Back to Work Budget” proposal starts by repealing the cuts in both the sequester and the Budget Control Act that are already set to curb economic growth significantly this year. It continues by investing in real job creation — including direct aid that aims to close state budget gaps caused by the Great Recession for two years, allowing states to directly rehire some of the hundreds of thousands of cops, teachers, and public sector workers who have lost their jobs lost over the last decade. It also extends emergency unemployment compensation for the jobless in high unemployment states, invests in infrastructure, returns Pentagon spending to 2006 levels, and aims to reduce the deficit by $4.4 trillion by closing tax loopholes and instituting a financial transaction tax.
In all, the CPC budget includes a range of proposals that are predicted to create 7 million jobs in the first year alone if enacted. While the CPC points out in their summary of the budget that “this is what the country voted for in November,” a point even Congressman Ryan appears hard pressed to argue, the proposal clearly faces a hard road in a conservative House of Representatives still opposed to the most minor of compromises. But at the very least, as part of a national discussion that views far-right fantasy budgets along the line of Ryan’s as “serious” proposals, the “Back to Work Budget” is an important contribution to debates happening both in D.C. and in state capitals across the nation going forward. And as Paul Krugman points out in a column today, it also has the benefit of being grounded in actual economics and real numbers:
The National Priorities Project also has a very useful comparison of the major budget proposals floating around right now — including the Ryan budget, the CPC budget, and the Senate proposal by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) — and how they all compare to popular opinion.
Charles Monaco on March 1, 2013 - 6:00pm
At least 6 of the 9 states covered in full by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act saw voter suppression efforts passed by their legislatures in 2012.
Charles Monaco on February 25, 2013 - 9:03am
With the across-the-board cuts in the federal budget sequester set to go into effect starting Friday, the White House is releasing a series of fact sheets outlining exactly how hard the cuts would hit state economies. Among the ugly consequences, according to the Huffington Post:
The Washington Post also has a helpful interactive infographic breaking down the White House numbers.
These reports come after a series of other warnings of the state-by-state effects of the sequester, including reports from the Center for American Progress, National Education Association, and the National Priorities Project.
Click below for PDFs of the reports highlighting the effects of the sequester in your state:
Charles Monaco on February 8, 2013 - 9:51am
The images are still fresh: endless lines of voters waiting for hours outside polling places on Election Day merely to participate in the democratic process. In some states, these lines were exacerbated by partisan efforts to restrict access to the polls, including cutting back on early voting days, as well as antiquated registration systems and polling sites running out of ballots.
A new analysis by MIT political science professor Charles Stewart III (illustrated in an infographic below) shows the wide disparities in time spent on line by voters across the fifty states and across different demographic groups. The differences by state are striking: Vermont voters waited an average of 2 minutes to vote, while Florida voters waited an average of 45 minutes (the national average was 14 minutes). Overall, African-American and Latino voters waited nearly twice as long on Election Day as white voters did, and rural voters had much shorter waits than suburban and urban voters.
President Obama memorably cited the need for election reform in his victory speech on election night, thanking voters for waiting on long lines, then adding, "we have to fix that." Even as some states consider further efforts to suppress the vote (or even reapportion their electoral votes so that the votes of urban areas count even less in the next presidential election), many are also looking to address this problem early in 2013. Fourteen states are considering whether to expand early voting — including Florida, where the Secretary of State just this week released a report recommending the state expand hours and locations for early voting and require simplification of intentionally lengthy and confusing ballot language. While states can do a lot to modernize voter registration systems and shorten Election Day lines, basic national standards are also clearly needed.
Access to the ballot shouldn't depend on your state, your race, or whether you live in a city or a small town — yet, as the map below illustrates, that seems to be exactly what it does depend on right now:
From the Dispatch
In The News
Research Roundup 5/11: The Economic Impact of Immigration Reform, Death on the Job, Paid Parental Leave, and More05/11/13
Research Roundup 5/4: What Business Climate Rankings Really Tell Us, The State of Preschool 2012, Federal Spending in Your State, and More05/04/13
Research Roundup 4/27: The "Paycheck Protection" Racket in Missouri, Making Jobs Good, Action on Paid Sick Days in 2013, and More04/27/13