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Affirmative Opposition Forms to Anti-Civil Rights Initiative

http://www.progressivestates.org/dispatch

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Strengthening Communities

Michigan Anti-Affirmative Action Initiative Opposed by Broad Bipartisan Coalition

In the final days leading up to the election, there is an ugly trend of dishonesty running through state ballot initiatives. Deceptively titled initiatives are confusing voters and masking their true nature: "property rights protection" would actually result in a huge burden to tax payers and severly hinder environmental protection and in Michigan you have a "Civil Rights Initiative", Proposition 2, which is anything but a civil rights initiative.

Proposition 2 would constitutionally ban voluntary affirmative action efforts in the public sector, including education, employment, and contracting. The fallout?

  • The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, including dozens of Republican prosecutors, have denounced the measure as a threat to public safety by undermining recruitment of officers and public safety staff that reflect the make-up of the communities they serve.
  • The lack of health care professionals in black and Latino communities would only get worse as fewer minority health professionals get trained.
  • Programs targeted for women, such as state-funded breast and cervical cancer screening and battered women's shelters, could be eliminated.
  • The tuition waiver program for Native Americans, one of the only means of educational opportunity for many Tribal members, would be threatened.

Since all of Michigan's affirmative action programs are voluntary, not court-mandated, the use of a constitutional ban would undermine programs with broad support and further intrude into local community decision-making by not allowing those communities to adopt affirmative action policies under any circumstances, regardless of community will or desire.

Opponents denounce an initiative that would use the state constitution to take away rights to equal opportunity, rather than defend it. Joining labor, social justice, Democractic and environmental groups in opposing the proposition are Republicans, religious groups, businesses, and a slew of others. The coalition against the proposition is as diverse as it is wide, with the ACLU joining with the Michigan Catholic Conference on the steering committee of the main organization opposing the measure.

This bipartisan coalition has denounced the campaign led by Ward Connerly, a businessman who has spearheaded similar measures in other states and whose "American Civil Rights Institute" is funded by millions of dollars from rightwing foundations. Even Dick DeVos, the GOP candidate for governor this year, sees the Michigan initiative as an extreme measure that would distract Michigan "from our goal of bringing hope and opportunity to every person in our state."

Given the misinformation promoted by the anti-affirmative action campaign, the most recent polls show a very tight vote next Tuesday, but we can hope that commitments to opportunity will trump the fears promoted by Connerly and his backers.

More Resources

Increasing Democracy

OR: Universal Health Care Proposal Takes Shape

An Oregon State Senate commission has approved a framework to provide universal health care in the state and to control costs. State Senator Alan Bates, who co-chairs the Commission on Health Care Access and Affordability, called the agreement "the first step on a very, very long journey." While the Commission has broadly described the proposal, important details are unclear and questions remain.

The Oregon Health Card: Under the proposal, the state would create a "health care funding pool" to serve an oversight role and collect money from various sources. The "pool" would provide an "Oregon Health Card" to each resident qualifying them for a health care package of "essential medical care" offered by insurers. Insurers, who would be required to accept anyone with a card, would compete for card-holders.

The "Oregon Health Card," as outlined, appears similar to a voucher system under which people receive a health care voucher to access a standard, or minimum, level of benefits. These systems can be problematic if the level of benefits is not comprehensive and low and middle income participants can't afford supplemental insurance to access necessary care. However, the Commission has stated that the package of benefits be based on evidence-based medicine and that new drugs, procedures and technologies be evaluated for their cost effectiveness.

The benefit design will emphasize primary and preventive care and the management of chronic illness. This is promising, but progressive and consumer advocates will need to watch closely as "essential medical care" is defined. To contain costs, Oregonians will also be required to sign an "End of Life Directive" detailing the level of end-of-life care they want -- thereby reducing use of expensive extraordinary measures for people who don't want them.

Premiums and Funding: The Commission states that most "Oregonians will be expected to participate in the funding of their own health care, but in a way that ensures if is affordable." According to The Oregonian, the estimated monthly premium for an individual will be $350, but it's unclear at this point what subsidies will be available for lower-income families to make premiums more affordable. Employers that choose not to provide coverage to their employees will be assessed an annual fee of $395; or, if self-insured, to show that the company plan is at least of equal value to the state plan. This employer fee will be pooled with other resources to fund the Health Card.

It is unclear if the Commission's proposal is a truly universal plan or a voluntary system of expanded access. In a welcome departure from the path that Massachusetts has taken, the Oregon proposal does not hinge on an individual mandate. However, the fee employers must pay for not providing coverage, at 1/12th the estimated annual premium costs, is unlikely a strong enough deterrent to employers dropping coverage.

To fund the Health Card, the Commission proposes to pool money from public and private programs, draw down additional Federal Medicaid dollars, and create savings in the system through its cost containment proposals. These include creating a system of electronic medical records, and emphasizing preventive care and improving care for chronic disease.

Moving Forward: The Commission has not been working in a vacuum. Elsewhere in Oregon, the Archimedes Movement, a project of former Gov. John Kitzhaber, is developing its own proposal for universal health care. In fact, Gov. kitzhaber has presented to the Commission, and, according to Commission staff, the idea of pooling resources is attributable, at least in part, to the former Governor.

In its draft Case Statement, the Commission says "incremental change will not solve our state's health care crises. Spending more money to do more of the same is not a solution. Comprehensive reform is required." Such statements are promising. Progressive States will be watching closely as the Commission fills in the details in its proposals for universal health care in the state.

More Resources

Research Roundup

Exurb Living and Transit Costs, Economic Poaching, Wage Growth, and Public Health Cracks and Strains

While many families move to sprawling exurbs because they think the housing is more affordable, a new study by the Center for Housing Policy finds that increased transit costs in the exurbs means that for every dollar a working family saves on housing, the spend 77 cents more on transportation- a report that for the first time measures the combined housing and transit costs in 29 metropolitian areas at the neighborhood level.

With communities often locked in wasteful competition to hand out tax breaks to businesses, Policy Matters Ohio has produced a memo documenting state and local "anti-poaching" agreements that encourage cooperation and better use of tax dollars by communities for regional economic development. Good Jobs First has a similar memo on deterring job piracy across states lines in federal economic development programs.

The most recent employment data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show some real gains in worker compensation in the last year, but the Economic Policy Institute writes that overall wage gains during the last five years have been only 0.9% per year. A report by the Urban Institute finds that middle class gains in income in the last two decades have been similarly minimal, although there are been greater gains in wealth accumulation because of the runup in housing and financial assets.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has prepared an issue module on public health preparedness, especially in light of fears over terrorist attacks post-911. It finds that while some areas of public health like fighting bioterrorism have received additional funding, there are "cracks and strains" in the public health infrastructure that could collapse under the pressure of an emergency.

Michigan Anti-Affirmative Action Initiative Opposed by Broad Bipartisan Coalition

One United Michigan
Americans for a Fair Chance
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, "Tell the Truth Jennifer: Your Inaction, Not Your Skin Color, Kept You out of the University of Michigan"
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Affirmative Action Resources

OR: Universal Health Care Proposal Takes Shape

Oregon Senate Commission on Health Care Access and Affordability, "Comprehensive Health Care Reform (Draft)"
Archimedes Movement

Eye on the Right

The affirmative action initiative in Michigan isn't just a disaster, it's also been a fraudulent one from day one. Federal judges just barely allowed the measure to stay on the ballot despite concluding that petition circulators were "unprincipled" and "engaged in a pattern of voter fraud by deceiving voters into believing that the petition supported affirmative action." They got it on the ballot by telling people it did the opposite of what it actually did. Multiple rightwing ballot measures in other states got tossed for similarly misleading voters. This wasn't an accident. It's how much of the rightwing operates.

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Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
Matt Singer, Communications Director

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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

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