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Bills that Made a Difference in 2008

Bills that Made a Difference in 2008

Thursday, July 14, 2008

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EVENT: BUILDING A PROGRESSIVE MAJORITY IN THE STATES AT NCSL

WHAT: An event coinciding with the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislators sponsored by PSN and the National Labor Caucus.   Participants will develop and share strategies to advance real solutions to the issues that matter most to America’s working families, including the growing economic crisis, worker’s rights, health care, fair immigration reform, and smart growth and clean energy.
WHERE:
W New Orleans Hotel, New Orleans, LA
WHEN:
9:00am to 1:30pm, Monday, July 21, 2008
SPEAKERS INCLUDE: New York Times Best-Selling Author David Sirota and national radio commentator and author Jim Hightower
RSVP: www.progressivestates.org/annualmeeting

 


 

Bills that Made a Difference in 2008

Even with many states having short sessions, the 2008 state legislative sessions have already had some impressive milestone victories for families and communities across the country.  This Dispatch covers a few of the key issue victories this year -- and points out that states are still taking the lead on issue after issue.  Most of the bills highlighted became law, while a few, falling short of final passage, were innovative enough and showed enough movement to promise greater things for 2009. 

The list below is not exhaustive (we'll publish a more exhaustive list later in the year) and we'd be very interested in receiving additional nominations for key bills that were innovative and likely to impact politics both in your state and around the country.  Send any additional 2008 successes nominations to dispatch[at]progressivestates.org.

More Resources

 

 

Rewarding-Work


 

Rewarding Work- Minimum Wage, Working Family Tax Credits and Wage Law Enforcement

Raising the Minimum Wage:  As we noted last Thursday, states continue to raise the minimum wage above even the increased federal rate.  Connecticut legislators overrode the veto of Republican Gov. Jodi Rell to raise the state's minimum wage from $7.65 to $8.00 in 2009, with another jump to $8.25 slated for 2010.  Maine in 2008 approved an increase to $7.25 per hour this year and $7.50 per hour in 2009.  This is all part of the trend of states leading the way on raising wage standards.

Earned Income Tax Credits:  Washington State this year became the first state without an individual income tax to reward low-income workers with an earned income tax credit -- in Washington's case equivalent to ten percent of the federal EITC.  Indiana expanded its state's EITC from 6% to 9% of the federal credit, while the District of Columbia boosted its EITC to 40% of the federal credit -- the highest local EITC credit in the nation.

Wage Law Enforcement:  In 2008, Massachusetts made it the law (SB 1059) that triple damages will be mandatory for violations of that state's wage law.  Multiple states introduced new bills to crack down on the misclassification of employees as independent contractors which is done to evade regular wage laws.  Utah made it a crime of fraud to misclassify an employee in order to avoid obtaining workers' compensation insurance coverage.  Many state houses,  including the Iowa Senate and Kansas House, promoted cracking down on wage law violators as an alternative to purely anti-immigrant legislation, often stalling the anti-immigrant legislation promoted by their counterpart chambers. 

More Resources

 

 

Valuing-Families


 

Valuing Families- Health Care, Paid Sick Days and Paid Leave

Health Care Insurance Industry Reform: Colorado lawmakers approved HB 1389, the FAIR Act, to penalize insurance companies that reject valid claims and authorize the Insurance Commission to reject unjustified health-care insurance rate hikes.  This followed Washington State earlier in the year approving a law,  SB 5261, giving the insurance commissioner the authority to reject unjustifiable premium increases by insurance companies.  These bills are critical both to protecting health care consumers and highlighting the profiteering by insurance companies that is driving up costs for everyone.

Healthy Wisconsin and Related Reforms:  When the Wisconsin Senate passed Healthy Wisconsin in June 2007, it became the only fully-funded plan passed by any chamber in the country to provide health care coverage to all residents.  Although it was held up by the Assembly, Sen. Jon Erpenbach re-introduced the proposal in 2008 with slight changes designed to achieve even greater affordability for small businesses.  The Healthy Wisconsin model is now being picked up in other states; in February WA State Sen. Karen Keiser introduced a health-care-for-all measure modeled directly on Healthy Wisconsin.  In Wisconsin, progressive legislators and advocates continue to use the need for health care reform and the Healthy Wisconsin proposal to bring out the progressive vote this November - with the goal of taking over the Assembly.  

In Connecticut, both the House and the Senate passed a bill that would have borrowed the pooling mechanism from the Healthy Wisconsin model to extend state employee group plans to workers in the private and non-profit sectors. Although the bill was vetoed by CT Gov. Jodi Rell, it is expected to be re-introduced next year with increased public support -- and the Healthy Wisconsin and related pooling reforms are likely to become a key model for federal health care reform as well.

Paid Leave: In May, New Jersey Gov. John Corzine made New Jersey the third state after California and Washington State to approve a paid family leave law.  New Jersey's law allows workers to take up to six weeks of paid leave to care for a new born child or a seriously ill family member. 

Paid Sick Days: In March, the District of Columbia approved a paid sick days bill providing for between three and seven guaranteed sick days for workers, depending on the size of the firm.  Paid sick days bills were also approved in the California Assembly and in the Connecticut Senate.  And a paid sick days initiative likely to be on the November ballot in high-profile Ohio is polling 71 percent support, so these initial 2008 successes on the issue promise a likely exponential movement on paid sick days in 2009.

More Resources

 

 

Growing-Economy


 

Growing Economy- Investing in Infrastructure, Stopping Highway Privatization, and Promoting Digital Literacy

Investing in Transportation:  In March the Minnesota House and Senate overrode Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto to pass  HF 2800, providing $6.6 billion in funding for the repair and construction of roads, bridges, and mass transit.  The bill is notable for the emphasis it places on smart energy use, with $70 million set aside for improvements to the St. Paul’s light rail line, a 5 cent increase in the gas tax, and many of the road upgrades designed to reduce pollution-causing traffic congestion.   Minnesota's actions, following the collapse in August 2007 of a major bridge, highlights the recognition by increasing numbers of state leaders that investing in infrastructure, partly "green" transit options, is the key to long-term economic growth in our states.

Stopping Privatization of State Infrastructure:  If infrastructure investments are key, states are also rejecting the idea of giving away the store through privatization of public assets.  Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey legislatures rejected proposals to privatize state toll roads.  In New Jersey, the idea never came to a vote and in Pennsylvania, the legislature voted specifically to reject a bid for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which would have been the largest privatization in the history of the country.  While privatization deals are still be proposed around the country, actions in these and other states are a strong message that consumers and taxpayer advocates aren't going to allow public assets to be commandeered by profiteering financiers.

Green Jobs:  The Washington State legislature approved a comprehensive "green economy jobs growth" law, HB 2815, that aims to increase the number of "green jobs," from retrofitting buildings to installing solar panels, reaching 25,000 by 2020.  This bill emphasizes that creating long-term green energy jobs are a key to economic growth, since producing and saving energy locally is far better for local economies than shipping oil dollars oversease.

Digital Literacy:  Washington State was again a leader in passing "digital literacy" legislation, SB 6438, which builds a web-based map of all community technology programs, creates a community technology grant program and allocates $500,000 to promote the digital skills of less advantaged community members.  The bill also included provisions to better map which communities do and do not have access to high-speed Internet broadband, part of a growing trend in states, like Kentucky and West Virginia, to pass similar mapping legislation this session and in recent years.

More Resources

 

 

Increasing-Democracy


 

Increasing Democracy- National Popular Vote, Paper Ballots and New Americans Policies

National Popular Vote: New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii all approved legislation this year entering into the national popular vote interstate compact to elect the president who receives the highest popular vote total.  This reflects accelerating support for the measure after Maryland became the first state to approve NPV last year. This movement is propelled by the desires of state leaders to encourage presidential races that give a voice to voters in all states, not just the swing states.

Paper Ballots:  State leaders have increasingly recognized that paper ballots are absolutely necessary to restore citizens’ faith that our elections are fair, to ensure that votes are accurately cast and counted, and to establish a record upon which electoral disputes can be resolved.  Now the federal government has authorized the use of Help America Vote Act funds to replace machines previously purchased with HAVA funds, and states are taking advantage of the opportunity to switch to paper ballot systems.  With Iowa approving SF 2347 to move this year to paper ballots and Tennessee doing the same for 2009, paper ballots will now be used by over 50% of the nation's voters.

New Americans Policies:   Even as some states have sent a chill of fear into immigrant communities, a larger group of states, more than fourteen, have enacted "New Americans" policies to help new immigrants learn English and assist them through the naturalization process.  In February 2008, Washington’s Governor Christine Gregoire signed Executive Order 08-01, creating a New Americans Policy Council to promote naturalization, English skills, and public-private partnerships for integrating 135,000 legal permanent residents. The Washington state legislature took the additional step of providing $340,000 in funding to promote community economic development, economic development and build the capacity of organizations across the state that provide naturalization assistance to legal permanent residents. 

More Resources

 

 

Promoting-Justice


 

Promoting Justice- Stopping Foreclosures and Gay Rights

National Popular Vote: New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii all approved legislation this year entering into the national popular vote interstate compact to elect the president who receives the highest popular vote total.  This reflects accelerating support for the measure after Maryland became the first state to approve NPV last year. This movement is propelled by the desires of state leaders to encourage presidential races that give a voice to voters in all states, not just the swing states.

Paper Ballots:  State leaders have increasingly recognized that paper ballots are absolutely necessary to restore citizens’ faith that our elections are fair, to ensure that votes are accurately cast and counted, and to establish a record upon which electoral disputes can be resolved.  Now the federal government has authorized the use of Help America Vote Act funds to replace machines previously purchased with HAVA funds, and states are taking advantage of the opportunity to switch to paper ballot systems.  With Iowa approving SF 2347 to move this year to paper ballots and Tennessee doing the same for 2009, paper ballots will now be used by over 50% of the nation's voters.

New Americans Policies:   Even as some states have sent a chill of fear into immigrant communities, a larger group of states, more than fourteen, have enacted "New Americans" policies to help new immigrants learn English and assist them through the naturalization process.  In February 2008, Washington’s Governor Christine Gregoire signed Executive Order 08-01, creating a New Americans Policy Council to promote naturalization, English skills, and public-private partnerships for integrating 135,000 legal permanent residents. The Washington state legislature took the additional step of providing $340,000 in funding to promote community economic development, economic development and build the capacity of organizations across the state that provide naturalization assistance to legal permanent residents. 

More Resources

 

 

Conclusion

On too many issues, states have had to take the lead in protecting working families and addressing the economic crisis gripping our communities.   The examples above are just a few models of reform that will hopefully be replicated in even more states across the country in 2009.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

Last Thursday's piece about the minimum wage and indexing has a few typos in the numbers; please see the corrected version now on the website.

Resources

Rewarding Work- Minimum Wage, Working Family Tax Credits and Wage Law Enforcement

Progressive States Network, States Still Leading Feds on Minimum Wage
Progressive States Network, Tax Relief to Help Low-Wage Washington Residents
Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, State Earned Income Tax Credits: 2008 Legislative Update
Progressive States Network, Tough Wage Enforcement Law Approved in Iowa Senate; Anti-Immigrant Measures Rejected

Valuing Families- Health Care, Paid Sick Days and Paid Leave

Progressive States Network, "The FAIR Act will keep health insurance premiums in check" (Denver Post)
Progressives States Network, Healthy Wisconsin represents bold, fair approach to care
Progressive States Network, Paid Sick Days & Paid Leave Bills Approved in D.C. and New Jersey
Sick Days Ohio
National Partnership for Women & Families, Local Paid Sick Days Campaigns

Growing Economy- Investing in Infrastructure, Stopping Highway Privatization, and Promoting Digital Literacy

Progressive States Network, Minnesota Session Roundup
Progressive States Network, Largest Privatization Deal in U.S. History Proposed for Pennsylvania Turnpike
Progressive States Network,  Washington House Passes Bill to Create Green Jobs
Progressive States Network, Providing Broadband For All: Washington State and West Virginia Take Strides Forward

Increasing Democracy- National Popular Vote, Paper Ballots and New Americans Policies

Progressive States Network, Momentum Builds for a True 50 State Presidential Election 
Verified Voting Foundation, Tennessee Passes Paper Ballot Legislation
Verified Voting, State Voting Systems Map
Progressive States Network, Washington State Session Roundup

Promoting Justice- Stopping Foreclosures and Gay Rights

Progressive States Network, Maryland and Minnesota Session Roundups
Progressive States Network, New State Gains on LGBT Rights

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Julie Schwartz, Policy Specialist
Christian Smith-Socaris, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
Austin Guest, Operations Manager
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Coordinator

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

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