- Policy Resources
- News & Analysis
- Your State
Charles Monaco on January 18, 2013 - 11:13am
One month after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, legislative efforts to combat gun violence are starting to advance swiftly in some states — even as lawmakers in others are reacting to shifting public opinion on guns by seeking to make enforcement of federal laws a felony and mandate more firearms in schools.
Hours before President Obama announced his support for a series of executive actions and legislative proposals that together amount to the most sweeping national gun violence prevention effort in decades, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the “NY SAFE Act.” The legislation in New York — which was introduced, debated, and passed by legislators in a matter of hours — includes further restrictions on the sale of assault weapons and ammunition, increased background checks, a requirement for mental health professionals to report credible violent threats by patients, and increased penalties for some offenses.
In Connecticut itself, lawmakers are taking a more deliberate approach. A bipartisan legislative gun task force held its first meeting this week, looking to come to agreement on a legislative package that would deal with gun violence prevention, school safety, and mental health by the end of February. Incoming Speaker of the House State Rep. Brendan Sharkey defended his state’s approach, telling a reporter that “taking quick action is important, but taking smart action is even more important.”
Other states looking to advance gun violence prevention laws early in new legislative sessions include California, Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, as well and two other states that recently saw mass shootings, Oregon and Colorado.
But as the New York Times noted in an editorial this week, other states have responded to the national debate over gun violence sparked by Newtown by proposing patently unconstitutional bills that would attempt to make the enforcement of federal gun laws a crime, or otherwise seek to nullify federal laws. In Missouri, State Rep. Stephen Webber had a succinct reaction to the nullification bill introduced in his state this week: “This is nuts.” In their editorial, the Times had a more measured but no less forceful take, noting that “too many states continue to put their citizens at risk as they pledge ever-greater fealty to the gun manufacturers. It’s time the states became laboratories for safety rather than violence."
In addition to nullification bills, states are also seeing a rash of legislation introduced that would alloow or in some cases mandate more guns in schools, echoing the NRA’s post-Newtown arguments. South Dakota lawmakers filed legislation that would allow firearms in schools this week, while in Virginia, a bill sponsored by State Del. Bob Marshall that would require arming school employees and teachers was debated in committee. Making sure schools remain safe places to learn with these types of proposals being seriously considered will clearly be a priority for supporters of common-sense gun laws in many states. Instead of these proposals to put more guns in schools, lawmakers should advocate for strengthening emergency response plans and providing more support for teachers and volunteers.
Both USA Today and The Guardian published useful 50-state surveys of gun laws this week. As the national debate over gun violence prevention contniues to evolve, it is clear many states will also be reconsidering their own laws this year.
Jeanine Johnson on January 11, 2013 - 1:15pm
The provision in question requires all employers to cover emergency contraception.
Funny thing is that the contraceptive mandate provision is not a criminal provision and thus does not carry any jail time. Shouldn't the Attorney General whose job it is to enforce the law and who has served on a state Subcommittee to Study Liability Protections for Health Care Providers know that? I am pretty sure he should. No, no, I am certain he should.
Leila Pedersen on January 7, 2013 - 9:01am
The nation let out a collective sigh last week when a deal was made just hours before the country went toppling over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Although the agreement passed by Congress and signed by President Obama provides temporary reprieve, it also left much to be desired. While the agreement ultimately reflected the public’s mandate to raise taxes on the super-rich, it also failed to define those who make between $250,000 and $400,000 as “wealthy,” extending all of their Bush-era tax rates permanently. This misclassification contradicts public opinion and will result in a dramatic loss in revenue, setting a dangerous precedent. Perhaps the most threatening decision made was to make no decision at all on across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequester, for another two months. These automatic spending cuts pose a serious threat to states and localities.
With state revenues still recovering from the recession, most states continue to suffer from severe budget shortfalls. In addition to inadequate revenue streams, declining federal aid imposes an added threat to states. Last year, the Budget Control Act (BCA) set caps to “discretionary spending” including nearly $900 billion in cuts to states and localities. If sequestration goes into effect in March, federal aid to states will be cut by nearly 10 percent, on top of the cuts already imposed by the BCA. Already heading toward historic lows, cutting federal grants would shift more costs to the states for public services such as education, maintaining clean waterways, improving public transit systems, job training and placement, disaster relief, law enforcement and public safety. It is the states who educate our children, build our bridges and roads, protect the public safety, and care for our sick and ailing. Absorbing these costs would likely reduce the effectiveness of programs designed to protect our nation’s most vulnerable and stimulate the economy.
Without adequate funding, states risk reneging on the commitments they have made to the public, needlessly hurting families and putting the brakes on economic growth in the process. Under sequestration, state education funding to K-12 schools would be cut by $4 billion, making it harder to provide the quality education needed to thrive in a 21st century economy. Reduced investment in infrastructure would cause roads and bridges to begin to deteriorate. Cuts to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), one of the most effective social programs, will mean fewer low-income pregnant women, infants, and young children will have access to nutritious foods.
With the federal fiscal fight now destined to continue to play out through the early part of 2013, state legislators, citizen activists, and progressives across the nation should stand together to insist that any future deal does not needlessly cut essential programs disguised as “discretionary spending.”
Charles Monaco on December 7, 2012 - 7:23pm
The start of most state legislative sessions is still weeks away. But conservatives in one state aren't wasting any time, attempting to pass anti-worker legislation before the new year even begins.
Despite previously calling it a "divisive, polarizing issue that will drive people apart," and just a few months ago saying there were "many problems in Michigan that [were] much more pressing," Michigan Governor Rick Snyder decided this week to fast-track so-called "right-to-work" legislation. Conservatives in the state legislature happily complied, introducing and passing versions of the bill over the course of a few hours yesterday even as massive protests against the effort took place inside the state Capitol, calling to mind familiar scenes from other states in 2011 and 2012.
Michigan's Eclectablog describes the rapid-fire events that took place over the course of the day:
Progressive States Network's Executive Director Ann Pratt highlighted the stakes of the fight in Michigan in a statement released today, saying that Gov. Snyder and conservatives in Michigan were "engaged in an outrageous effort to ram through legislation that will harm families, drive up poverty, and erode economic security for all residents and businesses in their state."
Meanwhile, progressive state legislators from across the nation, who stood in solidarity with their counterparts in Wisconsin and other states that saw similar battles in 2011 and 2012, signaled they were prepared to do so again.
"Michigan voters have shown unified opposition to anti-worker legislation," noted Georgia State Senator Nan Orrock in a statement. "The initiatives being pushed by the governor are a slap in the face to the very workers who put the auto industry back on track."
Central to the argument made by proponents of "right-to-work" legislation is that states who enact the policy will see their economies thrive — it's an argument that's been made repeatedly by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has long supported the policy. But as Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson noted in a column today, the evidence does not show that to be the case:
Via the Detroit Free Press, here's a great series of maps that illustrate some of that math. States with these anti-worker laws don't see greater income growth, but rather greater poverty, more uninsured people, declines in wages, and a lower quality of life:
Charles Monaco on November 28, 2012 - 1:24pm
For the past five years, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has partnered with supply-side economist Arthur Laffer to rank the fifty states according to their economic outlook. As Progressive States Network has noted in the past, the rankings published alongside the group's yearly Rich States, Poor States report, are in fact based on a corporate wish-list of criteria such as low state minimum wages and public sector job losses that are hardly concerned with the economic realities faced by millions of families actually living in those states.
A new study released today by Good Jobs First and the Iowa Policy Project takes an even closer look at the ALEC-Laffer rankings, and weighs them against actual economic results in the states. The verdict? That these rankings rely on methodologies and arguments "that range from deeply flawed to nonexistent" — and moreover, that states who actually follow ALEC's economic advice have done demonstrably worse economically over the past five years.
Dissecting the methodology of the ALEC rankings, the authors find that policies encouraged by ALEC as being beneficial to state economies — including lowering state and local taxes, the elimination of estate and inhertance taxes, and wage suppression policies — "contradict longstanding peer-reviewed academic research" on state economies, and don't have any correlation with positive economic results. Rather, as Dr. Peter Fisher, primary author of the study, notes, ALEC policies are "a recipe for economic inequality, declining incomes, and undermining public infrastructure and education that really matter for long-term economic growth.”
The release of the study, Selling Snake Oil to the States: The American Legislative Exchange Council's Flawed Prescriptions for Prosperity, comes at the end of a year that has seen unprecedented national attention on ALEC for their support of "shoot-first" and voter suppression bills, accompanied by legislators leaving the group in droves and a voter rebuke of over 100 ALEC-affliated legislators at the polls. With ALEC themselves promising to focus more on economic issues going forward, this new report should prove useful in defending against attempts by ALEC to peddle their wares in the states in 2013 legislative sessions.
PSN on November 5, 2012 - 7:27pm
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:
Charles Monaco on October 1, 2012 - 9:17am
With minutes ticking down to a midnight deadline to sign bills passed by the state legislature this session, California Governor Jerry Brown last night 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).
In his statement vetoing the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights — legislation that would have extended workplace protections to an estimated 200,000 domestic workers including house cleaners and caregivers — Gov. Brown said that the bill raised "a number of unanswered questions," including increased costs. "In the face of consequences both unknown and unintended, I find it more prudent to do the studies before considering an untested legal regime for those that work in our homes," wrote Gov. Brown. Reacting via Twitter, Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance called the veto "unacceptable." Similar legislation had been enacted in New York state in 2010, and efforts to advance rights for domestic workers are set to continue in statehouses next year.
The Trust Act, referred to as "Anti-Arizona" legislation for the different type of approach it signified compared to Arizona's SB 1070, would have limited the damage caused by the federal Secure Communities (S-Comm) program which has resulted in mass deportations of immigrants who have not been convicted of serious crimes. Despite support emerging for the measure from a wide range of coalition members, including many faith leaders, Gov. Brown wrote in his veto message that he thought list of offenses outlined in the bill was "fatally flawed." He did also suggest he was open to working with the legislature to alter the language and pass similar legislation in the future.
Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, noted both his disappointment and the urgency behind efforts like the Trust Act. "By vetoing the TRUST Act Governor Brown has failed California's immigrant communities, imperiling civil rights and leaving us all less safe," said Alvarado in a statement. "Immigration and Customs Enforcement strong-armed the Governor to defend its deportation quota instead of defending Californian's rights. On this sad day, we renew our commitment to fight to keep our families together despite the Governor and the President's insistence on seeing them torn apart."
Both measures had been introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.
The last-minute decisions in Sacramento weren't all disappointing for immigrant advocates. Governor Brown did sign a bill that will allow undocumented immigrants eligible for work permits under the Obama administration's Deferred Action policy to receive driver's licences — becoming the first state to do so.
Charles Monaco on September 27, 2012 - 1:29pm
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.
According to the poll (conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies), Maryland's marriage equality law wins the backing of 51 percent of registered voters in the state, with 43 percent opposed. Maryland is not the only state in which marriage will be on the ballot fall — Maine, Washington, and Minnesota voters will also decide the fate of same-sex marriage. With 32 states having voted against same-sex marriage since 1998, Maryland shows a strong chance of becoming the first state to ever support marriage equality at the polls.
Even more striking is the 58 percent majority of Maryland voters in this new poll who support their state's in-state tuition law (or state Dream Act), compared to only 34 percent who say they are opposed. As Progressive States Network has previously highlighted, tuition equity laws are already on the books in twelve states (including Maryland), with momentum in many other states continuing to build, especially in the wake of the Obama administration's directive this summer to defer action on deportations for some DREAM-eligible young people. With the outlook for the DREAM Act in the next Congress murky at best, the number of states looking at tutition equity legislation in 2013 is also growing, and includes Colorado, Oregon, Florida, Ohio, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Delaware.
From measures advancing progressive taxation to taking on Citizens United and more, voters in states across the nation will be deciding on some critical issues at the ballot box in November. But by approving these two landmark progressive achievements, Maryland voters may end up sending one of the strongest messages to the nation about the promise and political viability of bold progressive state legislation.
Charles Monaco on September 13, 2012 - 3:58pm
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.
But a year after President Obama announced and hundreds of state lawmakers stood up to support the American Jobs Act, and at the height of an election year where jobs and the economy are ever-present buzzwords but Congress is incapable of acting, it's up to progressives to articulate a strong vision of an economy bolstered by common sense policies that would ensure that the engine of our economy — a strong middle class — is recharged and revitalized.
A new report just released by more than 20 organizations including Progressive States Network begins to lay out a roadmap that does just that. The report, "10 Ways to Rebuild the Middle Class for Hard Working Americans: Making Work Pay in the 21st Century," highlights ten specific steps that the nation can take to combat austerity politics and rebuild this vital economic engine in 2013 and beyond.
Among the policy recommendations in the report are many which are already seeing momentum in states across the nation, even as attacks on the middle class continued in statehouses in 2012. These include raising the minimum wage, stopping wage theft, ensuring workers have access to paid sick days, implementing health reform, banning employer discrimination against the unemployed, and more. As Progressive States Network noted in our 2012 Workers' Rights Session Roundup, bills to raise the minimum wage were introduced in 17 states this year, paid sick days bills were introduced in 9 states, and advances were even made on wage theft protections in unlikely places like Louisiana — momentum that hopefully bodes well for 2013 both in the states and nationally. (Read the full session roundup for more.)
Here's all ten ways to rebuild the middle class — read the the full report here:
Suman Raghunathan on September 11, 2012 - 5:31pm
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.
But disappointingly, last week’s ruling failed to block section 2(b) — the “racial profiling” provision. This decision is a disappointing one for Arizonans who believe in freedom, justice, and equal treatment under the law. It also stands to affect tens of thousands in a state where Latinos make up 30% of the population and are now certain to face racial profiling and discrimination when the law goes into effect.
The ruling “will lead to rampant racial profiling of Latinos and others who might be ‘suspected’ of being in Arizona without authorization,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center in a statement the day of the decision. “This isn’t just a blow to our plaintiffs, but also a step back from our core values of equality under the law.”
While the news out of Phoenix all but ensures that law enforcement throughout the state will begin demanding immigration documents, a broad coalition of civil and immigrant rights groups will continue to challenge the "racial profiling" provision — and the rest of SB 1070 — in court.
“While today's ruling puts civil rights at risk, it does nothing to undermine our resolve to continue fighting until SB 1070 is struck down in its entirety,” added Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
Below are some key bullet points how to talk about the ruling and what it means for other states:
The ruling in Alabama comes at the tail end of an eventful year in both legislatures and the courts for state immigration policy. Just last month, a federal court struck a strong blow against divisive anti-immigrant provisions in SB 1070 copycat laws in both Georgia and Alabama. And in California, the TRUST Act, a bill that has been called the "anti-Arizona" for its practical, common-sense approach, has been passed by both houses and currently sits at the desk of Governor Jerry Brown. If signed into law, the TRUST Act would ensure law enforcement can maintain truly secure communities in California by prioritizing violent and serious criminals instead of casting a wide, expensive, and counter-productive dragnet — and would also point to a positive way forward on common-sense state immigration policy for the entire nation.
Progressive States Network recently surveyed the progress and setbacks in this year’s state legislative action in our 2012 Immigration Session Roundup, highlighting the decreased popularity of broad anti-immigrant proposals and the growing interest in targeted campaigns to introduce pro-immigrant policies this year in states across the nation.
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