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Campaign spending, cost of tax credits, enfranchising former felons, voting accessibility, decline of employer-based health care

Out of control campaign spending is enveloping state legislative races, according to a new report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which finds that 78 legislative races in 12 states over the 2003-2004 cycle involved more than a million dollars in spending-- a total of $155 million for these races.

If the state is going to hand out tax credits and deductions, policymakers should at least know who is receiving them and whether they are effective, argues New Mexico Voices for Children in a new report on the need for better reporting of public revenues lost to subsidies and other forms of tax expenditures.

In good news for democracy, the Sentencing Project in a new report, A Decade of Reform: Felony Disenfranchisement Policy in the United States, details how 16 states since 1997 have implemented policy reforms that have reduced the restrictiveness of felony disenfranchisement laws.

An important concern in designing voting systems is making sure they are accessible for voters with visual, physical or other disabilities-- and the Brennan Center for Justice has released a study on The Machinery of Democracy to assess options for legislators and recommend best practices in promoting accessibility.

A Commonwealth Fund report details how individuals are losing health insurance coverage from their employers -- and are finding few affordable options on their own as costs explode and health care consumes a rising share of family income. A Kaiser Foundation survey finds that for employees with employer coverage, insurance premiums are increasing more than twice as fast as workers’ wages and overall inflation-- and high-deductible health plans are spreading.

Americans are facing longer commutes, burning more fuel and commuting more between sprawling suburbs rather than between suburb and city as in the past, a new Transportation Research Board report finds. Carpooling and walking to work have declined significantly in the last two decades, but transit use is gaining group in the Western states.