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Policy Checklist for the New State Legislative Sessions

Policy Checklist for the New State Legislative Sessions

With legislative sessions getting underway around the country, this Dispatch provides a list of key bills and policies that we encourage legislators to consider introducing.  While not exhaustive of the range of needed reforms in states, they emphasize initiatives of strategic importance that are being considered in multiple states.  Working with our various partners, Progressive States Network is providing staff support for these policies and will work to use movement in multiple states to generate national media and attention.  This in turn will create greater momentum to assist individual states in pushing bills to passage.  The following is a quick checklist of key policies with links to model legislation and policy summaries.

Raise Labor Standards

After years of financial excess that left the incomes of most working families stagnant or even declining, a priority of state leaders should be raising labor standards and putting more income into the hands of the working families whose spending and work will be the cornerstone of any economy recovery.  A few key policies to do so include:

Index Minimum Wage to Inflation:  A number of states have not only raised their minimum wage but indexed it to inflation to prevent erosion of its value over time.  See EPI's Securing the wage floor for more on the need for indexing.

Resolutions in Support of Employee Free Choice Act.   Strengthening the freedom to form unions is one of the most critical reforms to rebuilding wage standards in the economy, so many states are supporting resolutions urging federal passaging of the Employee Free Choice Act.    See Wisconsin State Senate Resolution 7 in support of “Employee Free Choice Act” as an example.

Paid Sick Days:  Guaranteeing employees a minimum number of days off for sickness and to care for family needs is key to both helping families balance work and family concerns and protecting the public health. See Model paid sick and safe days bill and the enacted Text of San Francisco sick days law 

If you have any questions about PSN's work on labor policy, please email our Interim Executive Director Nathan Newman at nnewman@progressivestates.org.

Green Jobs

Investments in "green collar" jobs, including retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency and providing training in low-income communities to create new “green” career ladders, will be a key job creator during this recession.  See Greener Pathways: Jobs and Workforce Development in the Clean Energy Economy for more on promoting green jobs in the economy.  A few key models include:

  • New York State Green Jobs/Green Homes proposal provides a good model for state-level energy efficiency retrofit projects.
  • California's AB3018 developed a comprehensive array of programs, strategies and resources to grow California's "green" economy and created a Green Collar Jobs council in California's Workforce Investment Board.
  • Minnesota passed a Green Jobs Act, which creates programs for energy saving investments, establishes a microenergy loan program, coordinates economic development and environmental policy, and creates a Green Jobs Task Force.  (Link is an RFP by the Minnesota Green Jobs Task Force, the appendix has two pieces of enacting legislation)  
  • Washington state passed HB2815, which funds labor market research, Green Industry Skills Panels, creates green jobs training fund, and requires mandatory reporting of all sources of global warming pollution.

If you have any questions about PSN's work on green jobs policies, please email our Broadband and Economic Development Policy Specialise Julie Schwartz at jschwartz@progressivestates.org.

Broadband and Technology Investments

As we outline in our report, Broadband and Technology Investments: Policy Options for 2009, investments in broadband are key to both long-term economic growth, better energy management, improving access to health care and bridging the "digital divide" that undermines economic equality in our society.   In particular, states can promote broadband deployment councils and digital inclusion programs in the coming sessions.

Broadband Deployment Councils:  One crucial step to successful deployment of broadband infrastructure is for states to create deployment councils to identify where access to high-speed Internet currently exists, to analyze and implement the best mechanisms for increasing access to affordable broadband in un-served and underserved areas and to develop a statewide strategic approach to broadband build-out which furthers multiple long-term state goals.  For more information:

Digital Inclusion: In order to ensure that all citizens, regardless of income, education, ethnicity or age, can compete in the digital age, it is essential that states invest in digital inclusion programs.  Initiatives to increase digital inclusion and the everyday use of technology should include three broad concepts.  First, states should educate the public on how digital skills and better access to information can empower them, and they should publicize the fact that improved technology access is tied to economic development, better health care, and environmentally friendly policies.  Second, individuals need access to technology and digital skills training which will teach them how to utilize and reap the benefits of 21st century infrastructure. Third, any digital inclusion initiative must be tied to the overall goals of the state to ensure long-term sustainability.   For more information:

If you have any questions about PSN's work on broadband and technology investment policies, please email our Broadband and Economic Development Policy Specialise Julie Schwartz at jschwartz@progressivestates.org.

Budget Reform and Contract Accountability

PSN outlines a range of revenue and budget reforms in PSN's report, Tax and Budget Reform: Policy Options for 2009.  Budget transparency and accoutability legislation is especially important to ensure that public dollars are spent wisely and that they serve public policy goals and strengthen wage standards in the economy.  

Contracting and Privatization Transparency —  Key reforms are needed to require disclosure on the percentage of agency functions privatized, wages paid by contractors, and costs or savings to the public from state contracts and privatization. Some good model language includes:

Living Wage/Contract Accountability — Any government contractor should be required to pay a fair wage & provide health care to employees:

Corporate Tax Disclosure — Basic information from the tax returns of all corporations above a certain size should be publicly disclosed to assure that tax loopholes are not being abused.  See State Corporate Tax Disclosure, which includes both background on the issue and a "Model State Corporate Income Tax Disclosure Act" to implement corporate tax disclosure.

If you have any questions about PSN's work on budget reform and contractor accountability policies, please email our Interim Execuitve Director Nathan Newman at nnewman@progressivestates.org.

Integrating Immigrants and Protecting Workers

In responding to debate on immigration in the states, state leaders need to emphasize policies that integrate immigrant families into our communities.   As part of our State Immigration Project: Policy Options for 2009, PSN has identified four main issue policies that can strategically address voter concerns and uphold equal rights for all our residents.

Wage Enforcement as Proactive Policy -  By increasing penalties for wage law violations and cracking down on misclassification of workers, we can both improve workers lives and address the real concerns voters have about sweatshop employers.  These types of policies are at minimum revenue neutral and can even be revenue generating, when you consider the vast gap between what employers are paying and should be paying in state taxes, workers' compensation and unemployment benefits. Model legislation includes: 

Immigrant Integration — Expanding adult English education and citizenship training classes and creating outreach centers for new immigrants highlights new immigrants’ desire for integration, versus punitive measures that simply reinforce a broken immigration system. See the work that has been done in the states on creating Offices of New Americans or major panels and commissions:

Resolutions for Federal Government to Share Taxes Paid by Immigrants with Their Communities- Highlight taxes paid to feds by immigrants and need for federal funding for local services to ease strain on local governments. A number of states have passed resolutions requesting  reimbursement for state immigration-related expenses.

Protecting Immigrant Victims and Witnesses from Investigation of Immigration Status- Promote community policing and strengthened cooperation by immigrant communities with the police by eliminating fear among witnesses coming forward. The strategy of community policing has been adopted by police chiefs in major cities around the country as a means of increasing general public safety. See PSN's Immigrant Outreach as Public Safety and Anti-Terror Policy

If you have any questions about PSN's work on policies to integrate immigrants and protect workers, please email our Immigration and Workers' Rights Policy Specialist Caroline Fan at cfan@progressivestates.org.

Clean and Fair Elections

As we outline in our report, Clean and Fair Elections: Policy Options for 2009, protecting the right to vote and expanding the voter base should be a key objective for progressives.  The following are a few of the most important reforms legislators could implement in the coming session.

National Popular Vote Compact — States, working together, have the power to institute a national popular vote for president.  Making every vote count is an important reform for making the federal government responsive to all voters and all states.

Universal Voter Registration —   The battles over voter registration in the last election clearly indicate that the time has come for states to take primary responsibility for registering voters.  Progressive states should move to a modern voter registration system that actively registers all eligible adults either directly or through expanding state agency registration activities.

Permanent Absentee Voting - States should allow every voter to cast a mail-in ballot, both as a way to increase access to the polls and to take the pressure off polling places on election day.  States can help facilitate mail-in voting by creating permanent registries of mail-in voters.

Judicial Campaign Public Financing — Many states with elected judges are seeing politics and political contributions undermine the independence of their judiciary.  Public financing of judicial elections protects judicial independence and serves as a model for financing elections generally.

Stopping Voter Suppression — Right wing campaigns to suppress the vote of minorities, lower-income individuals and the young are alive and growing.  States can push back by pursuing broad voter protection laws and resisting initiatives, like voter ID requirements, that restrict access to the polls.

Reform the Ballot Initiative Process - Right wing operatives and conservative moguls have hijacked the ballot initiative process in many states, often through the use of fraud.  Common sense protections can be implemented that help ensure a fair process with results that reflect the true will of the electorate.

If you have any questions about PSN's work on election reform policies, please email our Election Reform Policy Specialist Christian Smith-Socaris at csmith-socaris@progressivestates.org.

Health Care for All

As we outline in our report, Health Care for All: Policy Options for 2009, the following are key policy reforms that state legislators are tackling to increase access to coverage, cut health care costs and improve the quality of care - many of which can save states money during these difficult budget times.  In addition to achieving key health care policy goals, these reforms will help build support for bold federal reform and achieve key political goals, such as putting opponents to reform on the defensive and highlighting the undue profits of certain industry's in the US health care system.

Health Care for All - A Model: Health care varies across states, yet certain priorities exist that guide comprehensive health care reform, notably the need to address the cost and quality of health care, as well as access to care.  Key components include: guaranteed coverage; limiting the cost of coverage in a new system to an affordable percentage of income; a public plan option to create more choice, competition, and negotiating leverage with the industry; improved chronic care management and other quality initiatives; comprehensive benefits coverage; choice of doctors; and, coverage that is portable.For more, see:

Reform Health Insurance: Lawmakers can help address frustrations over rising premiums, higher deductibles, and poor coverage of pre-existing conditions by strengthening regulation of health insurance.   For more, seeHealth Insurance Regulations to Ensure Fairness and Access.  Key policies include:

Reduce Prescription Drug Costs: Lawmakers can cut prescription drug costs for consumers, businesses, and state health programs by reducing the drug industry’s marketing influence in doctor’s offices, by purchasing medications in bulk and through price negotiations, and by ensuring consumers get the safest and most effective medications.  For complete descriptions as well as links to model legislation and resources, visit: Reducing Prescription Drug Costs - Model Policy 2009 as well as the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices for the latest news and up to date resources and model legislation.

Ensure Tax-Exempt Hospitals Provide “Community Benefits”: States are increasingly revising their “community benefits” statutes to ensure that non-profit hospitals are actually providing help to low-income patients in exchange for their tax benefits.  For complete descriptions as well as links to model legislation and resources, see Community Benefits" Standards for Non-Profit Hospitals - Model Policy 2009.  See also:

If you have any questions about PSN's work on health care reform policies, please email our Health Care Policy Specialist Adam Thompson at athompson@progressivestates.org.