Taking the Lead: Our Report on State Legislative Successes in 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

Taking the Lead: Our Report on State Legislative Successes in 2007


Taking the Lead: Our Report on State Legislative Successes in 2007

2007 is looking to mark a resurgence of progressive policy across the states, as new energy, including many new statehouse leaders, enact major policy reforms around the country.

With a majority of sessions winding down for 2007, Progressive States Network has issued a report detailing some of those initial successes:

Taking the Lead: An Interim Report on State Legislative Successes in Enacting Progressive Policy

To highlight these successes, Progressive States sponsored a forum last Thursday at the Center for American Progress (CAP), where CAP, Diallo Brooks of the Center for Policy Alternatives, Washington State Senator Karen Keiser, Iowa State Senator Joe Bolkcom, and Maryland House Delegate Heather Mizeur highlighted how state legislatures are making history with these progressive gains.

The report itself is divided into two sections. The front section details by policy area the overall gains made in the states, including Protecting Working Families, Expanding Health Care to All, Promoting Clean Energy & Jobs, and a range of other issues. The second section lists short summaries of achievements (and a few set-backs) in each of the states that have already finished their legislative sessions, highlighting which states are taking the lead as policy innovators and those that are still mired in the status quo by big moneyed rightwing interests.

This report is very much an interim report, no doubt missing some additional important innovations enacted by various states that we could not mention due either to time or space constraints. We will follow up with a fuller report later in the summer to include both more details of the issue areas mentioned here and to include additional states as they complete their legislative sessions.  

If there are additional policies enacted in your state that we missed, please contact us at with the details.


Why Progressive Policy is Winning in the States

The 2006 elections sent a clear message that voters wanted a more progressive turn in public policy. Even as the new Congressional leadership has been stymied in delivering that change at the federal level in the face of partisan gridlock and filibusters, state governments have seen sweeping reforms. On issues ranging from health care to clean energy to electoral reform to assisting working families, state leaders have stepped up and delivered often precedent-setting reforms. Even on issues like the minimum wage where we have seen some federal action, many states are still delivering higher wage standards and bolder leadership.  And on other national issues, states in 2007 took leadership in demanding fairer trade deals and an end to the escalation in Iraq.

The bottom line is that states are driving progressive change in the nation.

The rising importance of progressive state policy is not an accident.  As the Progressive States Network detailed in our 2006 report, Governing the Nation from the Statehouses: The Rightwing Agenda in the States and How Progressives Can Fight Back, the rightwing in our nation has for decades understood the power of statehouses and invested the resources to push their agenda using state policy.  While progressives may not be able to match the monetary resources of the Right, in recent years progressives have increasingly focused resources to support forward-thinking state legislators -- including the creation of the Progressive States Network itself -- arming them with the policy and campaign resources needed to take on the special interest lobbyists and enact legislation that benefits the public interest.

The state successes detailed in the report are the result of two changes at the state level: the public opinion that brought new progressives into state leadership positions and the greater grassroots support those legislators are now able to tap into to move public policy. Even where state leadership has remained the same, we have seen a shift in policy as even more conservative state leaders recognize the need to respond to shifting public opinion and the new mobilization by progressives in the states. 


Some State Success Highlights

Protecting Working Families: With working families facing rising economic inequality and job pressures that often strain their ability to make ends meet and take care of their children, state leaders having been stepping up to address those needs, including

  • Raising the Minimum Wage- New Mexico, Iowa, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Dakota
  • Indexing Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers to Inflation- Vermont
  • State Living Wage Law - Maryland
  • Paid Family Leave Law- Washington State
  • Creating or Expanding Earned Income Tax Credit - Iowa, New Mexico, Kansas
  • Removing the Poor from Income Tax Rolls- Arkansas, Hawaii, Virginia
  • Allowing Day Care Workers to Unionize- New York
  • Majority Signup for Public Employees - New Hampshire
  • Resolutions in Support of Federal Labor Law Reform- Alabama House, Hawaii House, Illinois House, Kentucky House, Michigan House, Minnesota Senate, Wisconsin Senate, West Virginia House

Health Care for All: Without question, health care reform is on the agenda for statehouses around the country””┬Łand many states are passing serious initiatives to expand coverage and are considering even more comprehensive plans to attain health care coverage for all and rein in rising health care costs for consumers and businesses.

  • Expanding SCHIP Health Coverage for Kids- Washington, Hawaii, Indiana, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee
  • Creating Commissions on Universal Coverage- Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, New York
  • Regulating Health Insurance Premiums- Colorado
  • Regulating Prescription Drug Marketing Tactics- Vermont, Iowa

Clean Energy and Jobs: This was the year for renewable energy and states took bold steps in advancing clean energy progress, including:

  • Creating or Expanding Renewable Energy Standards for Utilities- Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, New Hampshire, New Mexico
  • Comprehensive Global Warming Law- Iowa
  • Creating Climate Change Commissions- Florida, Maryland, Arkansas, Texas, Washington
  • Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Targets- Minnesota, New Jersey, Washington, New York
  • "Clean Car" Emission Standard- Maryland

Other Key Policies:   States also made progress on other issues ranging from electoral reform to challening the Iraq escalation to gay rights:

  • Election Day Registration - Iowa
  • Permanent Mail-in Voter Option- Colorado
  • National Popular Vote- Maryland
  • Voter-Verifiable Paper Ballots- Iowa, Florida, Maryland, Virginia
  • Resolutions againt Iraq War Escalation- chambers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington State
  • Resolutions against “Fast Track”? Trade Deals- chambers in Alabama, Hawaii, Nevada, Maine, Montana, Pennsylvania
  • Domestic Partnerships or Civil Unions- New Hampshire, New Jersey, Washington State, Oregon
  • Banning Anti-Gay Discrimination- Iowa, Oregon, Colorado
  • Protecting Contraceptive Equity- Connecticut, Oregon, Colorado
  • Repealing Abortion Parental Notication Law- New Hampshire
  • Mapping Broadband Access & Digital Divide- Washington State


From Star States to the Bottom of the Barrel

The profiles in the report highlight significant policy successes (and some setbacks) in each of the states that have wrapped up their regular legislative sessions for 2007. A number of states are still in session, so additional states will be added to this list, affecting the ranking of states in our next updated version of this report.

Star States who advanced progressive reforms on multiple fronts: Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington State

Policy Leaders who enacted important reforms but could have achieved far more: Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada

Incremental Gainers who made solid if unspectacular progress this session: Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia

Leadership Laggards who either accomplished little or balanced negative and positive policy changes: Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming

Bottom of the Barrel, states  who distinguished themselves by rightwing policies or particularly dysfunctional leadership: Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri

Many more states and policy successes will be profiled in the next updated addition of this report-- and we encourage people to write in with any policies that they think particularly significant in their states that were not covered by this interim report.

Eye on the Right

Oregon made significant progress this year cracking down on predatory lending. But it's important to look back at the opposition these measures ran into. The Chair of the Commerce Committee, through which the bills passed said lobbyists and those within the industry pushed him to drop the bill, unsurprisingly. However, in an unexpected twist, he also received opposition from payday loan customers. It turns out some customers were pressured to voice opposition to the bill, or were lead to believe their loan applications wouldn't be approved if they did not participate. Sadly, we shouldn't be surprised considering the tactics of payday lenders. Hopefully, similar pushes in other states will be watched more closely for undue influence.

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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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