Spotlight on: Minnesota and Colorado

(This article originally appeared in the Stateside Dispatch, Progressive States Network's email roundup of the latest state policy news. Sign up to receive the Dispatch in your inbox here.)

Over the past few years, progressives have grown accustomed to the same disturbing pattern: conservatives winning full control of a state's government, then swiftly advancing a destructive anti-worker, anti-middle class agenda. From Wisconsin to Maine to North Carolina, the attacks have come across the nation -- and, as a new study released this week showed, they've promoted a conservative agenda that is often severely out of step with the public.

Perhaps the phenomenon should not be surprising. Unified partisan control of state governments is now at levels not seen since 1952, and conservatives and their corporate backers have long targeted the states as "laboratories" where their views would be shaped, tested, and enacted into policy.

But in contrast to the conservative policies we've seen move in the states over the past two years, 2013 has so far seen at least a handful of states where progressive policies are being introduced and enacted across a range of issue areas. With legislative sessions about midway through, here's a roundup of the policies moving in a couple of those states -- Minnesota and Colorado:

In contrast to many of their midwestern neighbors, Minnesota is seeing a pro-worker agenda advance this session, including a bill that would allow unionization of child-care and home health care workers. [Star Tribune]

Minimum wage legislation is also moving in Minnesota, where a bill under consideration in the state House would increase the rate from $6.15 (below the current federal rate) to $10.55 an hour by 2015. [Pioneer Press]

Both houses in Minnesota gave final approval to health exchange bills this week, with some differences that must be worked out in a conference committee. [Pioneer Press]

A great infographic from Take Action Minnesota on the differences between the two health exchange bills. [Take Action MN]

Gov. Dayton's budget calls for higher taxes on the wealthy, and voters approve. [Star Tribune]

An omnibus election reform bill moved in a Senate committee this week that would include early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. [MinnPost]

Another bill advanced in the state Senate that would increase funding for education in an effort to equalize funding across districts. [MPR News]

The leader of the Minnesota College Republicans this week joined a bipartisan group of legislators, members of clergy, and others who are supporting a marriage equality bill. [Minnesotans United]

Meanwhile, Colorado's landmark ASSET tuition equity bill won final approval from the state legislature on Friday with a bipartisan vote and is now on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk. [Denver Business Journal]

State Sen. Angela Giron, Chair of PSN's National Immigration Working Group and co-sponsor of the bill: "We are now going to be able to reward young people who have played by the rules. They are now going to be able to give back." [Denver Post]

Mark Kelly, the husband of former U.S. Representative and gun violence victim Gabrielle Giffords, testified in front of a committee in Colorado this week as seven bills to prevent gun violence advanced. [AP]

Gov. Hickenlooper is on record as supporting three of the bills, including universal background checks and magazine limits, and a formal vote is set for Monday. [Denver Post]

A state House committee advanced a civil unions bill this week, one supported by 70% of Colorado voters. [ThinkProgress]

A new joint (and "joint") committee was established this week to craft laws to regulate marijuana in the state, following a constitutional amendment approved last year that directed the state to authorize retail sales. [Denver Post]

@MikeJohnstonCO: The issue that brought me to the capitol: the end of the dream deferred, at last opportunity for all - #coasset passed!



Read the full Dispatch from March 9, 2013 here.