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07/06/2006 The Political Landscape




Thursday, July 06, 2006

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The Political Landscape

As November 2006 approaches, political observers have their eyes on changing political winds. A number of observers are also keeping a close eye on the states, where many outcomes are up in the air and the stakes are high. Control of 29 legislative chambers -- almost one in three -- is up for grabs and leaders of both the Republicana and Democratic parties are pledging to put major resources into winning legislative seats.

The resources are moving in part because the stakes are so high. An article (subscribers only) in today's Wall Street Journal highlights at least two issues likely to be impacted -- taxes and tort reform. In reality, the makeup of statehouses can impact a whole range of issues, including two we highlight below -- health care and immigration.

The increasing awareness among progressives of the power of states to significantly impact public policy is a hopeful sign (for a full accounting of the power of the states, read the Progressive States report from earlier this year). Check out below to find out more about how a couple critical issues are playing in some key states.

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Strengthening-Communities

CT: The Political Strength of Health Care for All

Both Democratic candidates for Governor, federal candidates, and legislative candidates from both parties have either released their own plans for Health Care for All in Connecticut or expressed their support for the concept.

The momentum behind the movement comes after both Vermont and Massachusetts passed bills providing for universal or near-universal coverage and work by Connecticut's health care groups. Still, the presence of universal coverage plans being proposed by two major candidates for Governor and the issue's emergence as a major factor in state races is unprecedented according to locals.

While incumbent Governor Jody Rell has yet to offer her own universal coverage alternative, non-profits believe she will offer her own plan or at least be forced to address the issue this fall.

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Strengthening-Communities

UT: Moderation on Immigration a Political Strength

While some politicians express angst about sounding moderate on the immigration issue by eschewing xenophobic measures, a Utah primary election last week shows just how weak the hard-line anti-immigrant stance is with real voters.

The race turned almost entirely on the issue of immigration. The incumbent U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon faced a primary challenge from someone whose profile largely matched his -- conservative and a member of the LDS church. The voters of the district stuck with the incumbent -- a victory for moderation on immigration even among conservative primary voters in a conservative state.

The election result has brought more venom from the far right, but mostly serves as an example that the public really is receptive to reasonable stances on the immigration issue.

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Research-Roundup

Medicaid Maladies, the Widening Racial Income Gap, and the Public's Real Views on Immigration

With the new requirement that Medicaid recipients present an ID to receive benefits, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has found that 3 to 5 million legal citizens are at risk of losing health coverage because they don't own a passport or birth certificate required under the law. They include a state-by-state breakdown of Medicaid coverage in each state that are effected by the change.

In its Economic Snapshot series, the Economic Policy Institute that the weak post-2000 labor market has reversed progress in the racial income gap. In 2000, African American families were making 63.5% of the average white family income, but that slipped to 62% by 2004, reflecting rising unemployment in the economy.

What the Public Really Wants on Immigration (pdf), a new indepth survey of public opinion by The Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress, finds that the public is concerned about illegal immigration and wants greater enforcement at the border, but also favor reform that creates a path towards citizenship for immigrants who are already in the country.

Featured Article

TomPaine.com yesterday published an op-ed "Overpaying for Jobs" by Progressive States Communications Director Matt Singer. The op-ed makes the case that state and local governments misuse taxpayer money when they hand it back to large businesses in the form of "tax expenditures" -- tax credits and incentives -- with little accountability.

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Progressive States' policy department is hiring for new policy positions and is also looking for interns. For details, visit the Jobs & Internships Page.

Suggestions

Please shoot me an email at msinger@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

Matt Singer
Editor, Stateside Dispatch