"National Popular Vote" Fix for Electoral College Passes MD Senate

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Increasing Democracy

by Nathan Newman

"National Popular Vote" Fix for Electoral College Passes MD Senate

Yesterday, the Maryland Senate approved legislation that would grant Maryland's 10 Electoral College votes to the Presidential candidate receiving the most votes nationally, rather than to the winner of the state-- a system that would go into effect if enough other states approve similar legislation to guarantee the Presidency to the candidate winning the popular vote nationally.

"It's a stand on principle," said Sen. Jamie B. Raskin, D-Montgomery, the sponsor of the bill, which passed 29-17 and now goes to the House of Delegates. "What we're saying is the person who won the national popular vote should be president."

This follows the Arkansas House, Hawaii Senate, and Colorado Senate passing similar bills, adding to the national momentum behind the National Popular Vote movement.

Part of the goal is to encourage Presidential candidates to pay greater attention to solidly "Blue" and "Red" states which are often taken for granted.  And it means that voters in those states will have more reason to turnout to vote since each vote will actually count.

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Rewarding Work

by Nathan Newman

Gay Adoption Gains, Children Win

This week, an Arkansas bill to ban gay adoption collapsed in the House, after passing the state Senate earlier this month.  In New Hampshire, the state House overwhelmingly passed a bill affirming the right of gay couples to jointly adopt children.  Earlier this month, the Colorado House approved a similar "second-parent adoption" bill in a bipartisan vote.

The Arkansas bill followed a state Supreme Court decision last year that a state board's ban on gay foster parenting had overstepped its powers. While right-wing social groups like the state's Family Council campaigned to have the legislature step in, even allies in the House like Republican House leader Rep. Johnny Key rejected the idea: “Just on an institutional basis, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”?

In New Hampshire, where individual adoption by a gay parent is allowed, legislators were responding to inconsistent treatment of joint adoption, where probate judges in six counties allowed gay couples to adopt jointly, while judges in four other counties blocked such joint adoptions.  In Colorado, current law blocks joint adoption altogether.

Advocates for gay adoption in the Arkansas debate cited the fact that 4000 children are languishing in state care-- and only 2088 even have foster homes.  This parallels national numbers which show 518,000 children were in the foster care system by 2004. Last year, over 119,000 foster children waiting to be adopted were not able to be placed with permanent families. With so many children without any family at all, those advocating the ban on gay adoption are advocating that more children have no family at all-- a stance that loses support even among many socially conservative legislators.

Gay Adoption Laws in the States:   Florida is the only state with explicit policy banning all gay people, even if single, from adopting children.  Michigan, Mississippi and Utah prohibit all unmarried couples from adopting, de facto barring gay couples.  In many other states, administrative decisions may bar gay couples from fostering or adopting children. 

The other large issue is whether, even if adoption is allowed, a second parent in a gay or lesbian relationship can jointly adopt the child.  Nine states and D.C. affirmatively allow such second-parent adoption; if the New Hampshire and Colorado bills become law, those states would join this group.  

Encouraging passage of "second adoption" bills is their benefit to other family situations, such as where a grandparent can jointly adopt a child with the mother.

Support for Gay Adoption: Pubic opinion has shifted significantly on gay adoption in the last decade: where 57% of the public in 1999 opposed allowing gays and lesbians from adopting, today the public nationally is evenly divided (46% support, 48% opposition). 

Institutionally, most mainstream children's health care welfare organizations support gay adoption, including the Child Welfare League of America, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

Under current policies, a new Urban Institute study found, 65,500 adopted children and 14,100 foster children currently live with gay and lesbian parents, while expanding adoption rights in more states would help make inroads in finding places for children currently without a foster or adopted family.  With 20,000 children "aging out" of foster care each year without ever having a family, more and more states are recognizing that barring any family from adopting a child in need is a betrayal of the family values most Americans prize.

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Increasing Democracy

By Author

Facing RACE: Breaking Down Structural Racism

As we highlighted in our blog last week, over 600 civil rights activists gathered at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City to talk about the future of racial justice.  Through a mix of plenaries, workshop sessions and a film fest, the conference covered topics from how to avoid the next Katrina disaster to lessons on racial justice from around the world. 

There was a theme, however, that underlay all the topics. We often think of race as a separate issue and talk about racial justice as mainly concerned with overt, deliberate discrimination based on race.  Certainly intentional racial discrimination cannot be tolerated. But, we often overlook the fact that racial disparity is, as panelist Angela Glover Blackwell pointed out, baked into our consciousness. Racial disparity is structurally ingrained in everything from educational opportunities to the built environment.

Housing: Take low-income housing, for instance.  As highlighted by the Center for Social Inclusion, often it's seen as a boon for poor communities and communities of color that affordable housing is being built.  Unfortunately, low-income housing is often located far from suburbs and urban areas, so how do people then get to work if there is no public transportation and they cannot afford to have a car?  What is the effect on the local school district, which is usually already under-funded and under-resourced?  What opportunity are we ending up giving unless we address this structural racism in our housing and transit systems?

Education: In addition to the barriers caused by low-income housing, racial inequities in education are further hampering our young citizens.  As the Drum Major Institute points out, fewer than one in ten Latino students receives their Regents' diploma after four years in New York City's public schools.  This is despite the fact that more than a third of the total number of students in the school system are Latino.  While half of all New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, report cards, grade report, and parent-teacher conferences are only provided in English, despite education experts agreeing that active parent involvement is crucial to raising student achievement.  The City Council is promoting new legislation to translate those documents, so that children are not left two steps behind. 

Health Care: We have highlighted the health care crisis many times in our Dispatch.  Compounding the general health crisis are the racial disparities in health care.  The Applied Research Center points out that equalizing mortality rates between African Americans and Whites alone would have saved five times as many lives as all advances in medical technology between 1991 and 2000.  While the health care dialogue has focused on prescription drugs for seniors, tort reform, and cuts to critical public health care programs like Medicaid, there is very rarely a discussion of how to eliminate inequities in access to and quality of health care.  Steps like increasing support for community-based clinics to provide high quality health care can help to close the racial disparity gap.  The Applied Research Center details more solutions in their report, Closing the Gap: Solutions to Race-Based Health Disparities.

The issue of health care inequity goes beyond what happens when people get sick.  As highlighted by PolicyLink, there is a link between neighborhood conditions and the health of its residents.  Many low-income areas, which tend to also be comprised of a majority of people of color, have no access to grocery stores or fresh vegetables, leading to unhealthy eating and living habits.  PolicyLink's report Health Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities through Food Retailing, offers tips for how to create incentives to encourage placement of food retailers in local communities and how to sustain farmer's markets.

Beyond Race Neutrality: These are just a few examples of how racial injustice is a fundamental component that is rarely recognized.  Breaking down issues into how they actually end up affecting communities highlights how racial inequities are perpetuated.  Lawmakers can begin to eliminate inherent structural racism by being cognizant of the superficially race-neutral policies that end up furthering racial inequities.

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Research Roundup

Research Roundup

With Tax Day coming, the Center for Budget Policy & Priorities (CBPP) has a report debunking the right-wing Tax Foundation's "Tax Freedom Day" propaganda about the tax burden on middle class families due to state and local taxes.  In fact, the Tax Foundation's reports are based on tax estimates that have been proven to be inaccurate and inconsistent over time. 

More relevant than some general measure of taxes paid as a percentage of state income -- which treats the differing situation of wealthy and poorer taxpayers alike -- is the very real tax burden on low-income families, where CBPP finds that in 19 of 42 states that levy income taxes, two-parent families of four with incomes below the poverty line still pay income tax.

The Illusion of Coverage: How Health Insurance Fails People When they Get Sick-- the title of a recent Access Project report details how, despite having insurance, families with serious medical problems are increasingly finding themselves in debt and even bankrupt.  The report emphasizes that as states look at "affordability" of health insurance, they can't look just as premium costs; they also have to look at total out-of-pocket liability for families.

A new Brookings Institution report on Pennsylvania highlights how the state is still coping with slow population growth, unbalanced development patterns and incomplete transition in creating "post-industrial" jobs-- and urges the state to deepen existing programs to strategically invest in key industrial clusters and workforce development. 

A new study by the Corporation for Enterprise Development & the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center indicates that North Carolina "dramatically overbid" with its $242 million subsidy for a Dell computer plant in 2004-- with the state losing an estimated $63 to $72 million over 20 years on the deal.  The study finds this pattern of overbidding holds true for most of the 31 other deals also examined by the study.

Delaware charter schools have a pattern that "may be accelerating the re-segregation of public schools" along race and income lines, according to a new study sponsored by the Delaware State Board of Education and Department of Education. 

"National Popular Vote" Fix for Electoral College Passes MD Senate

National Popular Vote

Progressive States Network, National Popular Vote Moves Forward in North Dakota and Nation

FairVote, Presidential Elections Reform

Gay Adoption Gains, Children Win

ACLU, Gay & Lesbian Rights: Parenting
         Too High a Price: The Case Against Restricting Gay Parenting

Child Welfare League of America, Defining Family

Pew Research Center, Less Opposition to Gay Marriage, Adoption and Military Service

Human Rights Campaign, Adoption and Foster Care Laws and Policies

CO HB 1330, Concerning the Second-Parent Adoption of a Child or a Sole Legal Parent

Facing RACE: Breaking Down Structural Racism

Center for Social Inclusion
Drum Major Institute
Applied Research Center

Eye on the Right

The Montana Department of Revenue, in charge of taxation in the state, is running into opposition in its efforts to increase enforcement on out of state individuals and businesses who don't pay what they owe. While their bills have breezed through the Senate, they are being stopped in the more conservative House. Department Director Dan Bucks said, "We don’t know why legislators would defend nonresidents and out-of-state corporations who don’t pay the taxes that they owe here.’’ A similar program in 2005 to collect back-taxes paid for itself 10 times over, and Governor Schweitzer promised to give any revenue from this session's reforms back in tax refunds. Makes one wonder if those representatives remember they're supposed to be representing residents, not out of state millionaires and corporations.

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate


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

John Bacino
Editor, Stateside Dispatch


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