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States Get a Jump Start on SOTU Agenda

On Tuesday night, President Obama laid out his second term agenda in a State of the Union address that detailed specific policy proposals across a range of issue areas. But even as national conversations around the minimum wage, immigration, gun violence prevention, and early education began to get louder in the wake of the President's speech this week, states were already getting a jump start on many of these issues. As Iowa State Senator Joe Bolkcom, Chair of the Board of PSN, said in a response to the State of the Union this week, "state legislators across the nation know they do not need to wait for Washington to act."

Sequestration: Coming Soon to a State Near You?

The "sequestration" cuts to domestic and defense programs still loom in the not-to-distant future. The latest noises from Washington, D.C. are that, thanks to conservative opposition to including additional revenues, the draconian cuts may very well come into effect on March 1st. Here's the current state of play in D.C. — and how some are predicting it might affect the states.

On Marriage Equality, Eight Years = 180 Degrees

Eight years ago, progressives were recovering from an Election Day that saw a full 11 states ban same-sex marriage at the polls. The environment in early 2013 could not be more different. Coming off of historic successes at the polls in four states in November, momentum behind marriage equality efforts continues to grow in state after state in advance of what is likely to be a landmark Supreme Court decision on the issue this term:

No Letdown in the War on Women

For months, conservative strategists and pundits have publicly ruminated on the need to turn their focus away from "divisive" social issues — things like the war on women's health that dominated statehouses in 2011 and 2012, when states passed an astounding 135 restrictions on abortion. But if this is the national strategy, word has apparently not yet filtered down to the states just yet. Here's just some of the anti-women's health bills that have been proposed and passed in statehouses over the past week as the war on women continues unabated:

Anti-Union Bills Still Percolating in Midwest

From Missouri to Pennsylvania to D.C., anti-union "right-to-work" laws are still being proposed and debated. Michigan workers continue to fight their law in the courts weeks before it is set to take effect, while workers in nearby states remain prepared for similar legislation to emerge. Meanwhile, an "anti-right-to-work" bill moved forward in Vermont — legislation that would require all workers who receive benefits thanks to a union to pay their fair share.

Memories of Long Lines Focus Attention on Election Reform

A new analysis showing how widely voters' wait times on Election Day differed by state and demographic group — as well a new report on how voter registration modernization and early voting could help fix the problem — are both helping to focus more attention on election reform efforts early in state legislative sessions. Meanwhile, efforts to suppress the vote are proceeding as well, while a controversial redistricting scheme in Virginia seems to have fallen apart.

Infographic: How Long Were Election Day Lines in Your State?

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 poll sites running out of ballots. A new analysis shows the wide disparities in time spent on line by voters across the fifty states and across different demographic groups. 

States Get a Head Start on Immigration Reform

The same week that both President Obama and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators released proposals for comprehensive federal immigration reform, pro-immigrant policies continued to gain traction in the states on issues including tuition equity and driver's licenses for DREAMers. Nearly three years after Arizona passed SB 1070, anti-immigrant forces are clearly finding themselves increasingly isolated at both the state and federal level in 2013:

Multiple States Mull Raising Minimum Wage

Many states are already considering action on the minimum wage in new sessions — by legislation or by ballot initiative. Polls and studies released this week continued to show both the broad and deep popularity and the positive economic effects of raising the wage:

A "Progressive Tax Rebellion"?

As goes California, so goes the nation? The conservative anti-tax revolt that began in the Golden State over 30 years ago was rebuked by voters this past November when they approved Prop 30. Early in sessions in 2013, other states are showing signs of following a similar path and refusing to rely on economically destructive cuts: