Immigration Policy in the States- Mid-session Developments
Thursday, March 27th, 2008
Immigration Policy in the States- Mid-session Developments
With many states having finished or well into their legislative sessions, the story on immigration in the states is one of a few bad bills passed, a lot of bad bills defeated and a few positive programs moving forward.
Most states have rejected anti-immigrant bills filed, while a number of states where bills initially moved forward defeated or stalled them in the end:
Even many bills that passed were often limited or qualified in various ways:
On the driver's license issue, Oregon's legislature codified SB 1080 , the Governor's Executive Order to make lawful presence a requirement for Oregon's driver's licenses. Similarly, Idaho's Governor signed into law HB 366  which further restricts immigrants' access to driver's licenses by requiring licenses issued to legal immigrants to have expiration dates matching the expiration of their immigration documentation. But the Maryland legislature rejected proposals to prohibit licenses for undocumented immigrants in that state.
A number of positive immigration bills have also passed this session, including:
Many bills, both bad and good, are still active in other states. For example, while the passing of Georgia's "crossover day" means that 6 anti-immigrant bills are dead , some dangerous bills remained, including HB 978 , which would allow police to confiscate vehicles of undocumented drivers who get into a traffic accident, and SB 350 , which would make it a felony to drive without a license. On the other hand, a number of states, like Iowa , are still considering wage enforcement and other measures to crack down on low-wage employers, instead of scapegoating undocumented immigrants.
Providing Broadband For All: Washington State and West Virginia Take Strides Forward
Broadband is a key component of economic development, a resource capable of producing economic savings and a mechanism to enhance residents' quality of life. In the past few weeks, Washington State and West Virginia have taken substantial steps to address the digital divide  (the gap between those who have access to information technology and those who do not) by passing progressive broadband legislation.
Washington State: Washington State Senate Bill 6438 , introduced by Senator Kohl-Welles , and strongly supported by Senator Kauffman , Representative Hudgins  and Representative McCoy , sets forth a comprehensive and integrated statewide, high-speed Internet deployment and adoption strategy. The bill focuses on supplying broadband to all communities by implementing a mapping plan to identify existing broadband and spurring deployment of broadband infrastructure to underserved areas. Additionally, the bill addressed the demand side of broadband utilization by funding community technology programs that address digital literacy issues. Key elements include:
A major drawback of Senate Bill 6438 is the provision that prohibit the public release of data collected from broadband service providers. This lack of transparency creates a hurdle to public verification of data and a barrier to ensuring that all communities have ubiquitous broadband and quality service.
West Virginia: Thanks to new legislation, HB 4637 , proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin , and sponsored by Speaker of the House of Delegates, Richard Thompson , West Virginia is one step closer to meeting its goal of universal high speed Internet by 2010. This legislation will create a Broadband Deployment Fund and a Broadband Deployment Council  in order to extend high speed Internet access to unserved areas of West Virginia. The bill has three main components: first, it establishes a state Broadband Development Council; second, it provides for a mapping project; and third, it establishes a deployment plan.
The mapping plan set forth in the legislation is very broad and allows the council to delegate much of the mapping project to an outside organization. It is essential that if a large part of the mapping project is delegated to an outside organization any of the data collected regarding broadband availability, connectivity speeds or existing infrastructure be collected at a census block level and be given to the Broadband Deployment Council, a public body, for verification. Public interest organizations, such as the Center for Public Integrity , Public Knowledge , and Free Press , all have highlighted the need for mapping data to be aggregated by a public body, as a means of protecting broadband consumers.
The Broadband Deployment Council is unfortunately weighted too heavily towards industry representation, which may lead to biased findings and hinder the committee's ability to protect the public interest. While the Council has nine members from different segments on the community, including a representative from the Communications Workers of America , telecommunication industry representatives have four of the nine seats on the council.
Lastly, HB 4637 will provide for the development of a strategy and mechanism for extending broadband access to unserved areas across West Virginia by stimulating demand for those services and by constructing the necessary infrastructure to meet that demand.
With a new website, Truth in Immigration , the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) has created a national clearinghouse for refuting immigration falsehoods that seeks to "refute legal and factual inaccuracies about immigrants and/or Latinos."
In Dying for Coverage , Families USA has produced state-by-state reports on the number of deaths cause by the lack of health insurance. State reports are available for AR, CO, FL, IA, MI, MO, NV, NH, NM, OH, OR, PA, VA, WV, and WI.
Commuting costs are a disproportionate burden on the working poor, according to Commuting to Opportunity: The Working Poor and Commuting in the United States  by the Brookings Institution. The working poor spend 6.1% of their income on commuting compared to just 3.8% for other workers, highlighting the need for more cost and energy-efficient transit options in our metropolitan regions.
What makes a development good for a community? The Liveable Communities Coalition has developed a Smart Growth Scorecard , 50 questions covering everything from housing diversity, compactness, community needs and connectivity to work and retail to assess new developments with an eye to promoting sustainable smart growth.
In Don't Get Burned: The Risks of Investing in New Coal-Fired Generating Facilities , the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) highlights why coal-burning power plants are not only bad for the environment, but are likely to be bad economic investments for companies due to the unknown costs of carbon capture and storage along with the rising costs of constructing new plants. Conversely, a new report  from Clean Edge sees strong industry growth in clean energy technologies like solar and wind.
As Georgia's legislative chambers debate tax-cut packages, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute has a new analysis  showing the damaging impact these tax cuts would have on education and other services. Because the proposals would use poorly designed formulas to cap tax rates below the growing need for services, the problems will only increase over time.
A new film, A Dream Deferred , gives a powerful media resource that highlighted dedicated high-school students are denied the chance to attend college, based solely on their undocumented status and why "Dream Acts' to offer in-state tuition for such immigrants is so crucial to them and to our communities.
3 Steps Forward
2 Steps Back
The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:
Nathan Newman , Policy Director
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