Progressives scored major victories  at the ballot box this month as voters from every corner of the nation loudly and decisively rejected the overreach of right-wing legislatures and governors in 2011 — including attacks that took place this year on workers, voting rights, reproductive rights, and immigrants. As 2012 legislative sessions inch closer, progressive state legislators from across the nation are already planning to capitalize on this momentum. Last week, a national group of progressive lawmakers met to strategize on how to turn the tide in 2012 by advancing state policies that support the 99%.
Over 60 state lawmakers came together last weekend in Baltimore, Maryland for Progressive States Network’s annual Legislative Leadership Retreat, the largest ever number for the national legislator conference. The broad public rejection of anti-worker, anti-middle class, anti-voter, and anti-immigration policies at the ballot box this month and the continuing momentum behind Occupy Wall Street and the emerging 99% movement were both foremost on the minds of speakers and attendees at the conference.
"If it's not working for the 99%, it ain't working," said State Sen. Joe Bolkcom (Iowa), Chair of the Board of Progressive States Network, as he kicked off the opening session discussing the potential for progressive policies in the states in 2012 sessions.
"The Occupy Wall Street movement is helping focus attention on the wealth gap.... I think that we're seeing a real shift in consciousness and awareness, where people are feeling emboldened to stand up," State Sen. Nan Orrock (Georgia) told Amanda Terkel at the Huffington Post .
At the conference’s opening session, keynote speaker and noted progressive author and commentator John Nichols called the election results a sweeping progressive victory, commenting that "Tuesday was no thin ray of hope, it was absolute bright, sun-shining day of incredibly grand results across the country."
Nichols also underscored the critical work of Progressive States Network and the central role that state policy will play in shaping the national debate in 2012 and beyond. "The states are where the action is going to be," Nichols told lawmakers. "The states are going to lead, so what you are doing is fundamental."
"There's something real going on," Anna Greenberg, Senior Vice President of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, told legislators in a presentation about the Election Day results. "It's not just one state, it's across different issues, different states, and different electorates. What's happened in these states defies the gloomy national picture."
The retreat allowed legislators from across the nation to network with counterparts in other states, and to share best practices and strategies for countering the corporate interests that have fueled right-wing attacks on the 99% in statehouse after statehouse.
"We've got a good progressive caucus in Ohio, but it's hard to have any context for what we're doing, especially in a conservative legislature," State Sen. Mike Foley (Ohio) added. "It's good to get reports from other states about what's happening in Wisconsin, what's happening in Indiana, what's happening in Nebraska, Minnesota, wherever folks are coming from."
At this year's three-day retreat, areas of focus included policies to create and grow jobs, rebuild prosperity in state economies, protect families from cuts and attacks, and revitalize the middle class. Other subjects at this year's conference included state health care policies, moving from defending workers to fighting for the 99% on workers' rights, and advancing common-sense immigration policies in the states.
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Huffington Post - Progressive State Lawmakers Plan Next Moves After Big Ballot Wins 
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