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After “Fiscal Cliff” Deal, Sequestration Poses Serious Threats to States

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.

What Effect Does RTW Really Have on States?

The start of most state legislative sessions is stil weeks away. But conservatives in one state aren't wasting any time, attempting to pass anti-worker legislation before the new year even begins. 

New Study: ALEC Economic Rankings a Recipe for Economic Inequality and Stagnation

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.

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.