Working families across the nation may find themselves feeling thankful that state legislative sessions have either reached or are nearing their finish lines for 2011.
After an historic shift in the partisan control of state legislative chambers following last November’s elections, conservatives found themselves controlling new levers of power in many states.
They used them.
From a non-stop assault on the rights of workers, immigrants, and women, to power grabs making it easier for corporations to influence the political process and harder for historically disenfranchised populations to vote, to balancing state budgets on the backs of children and the vulnerable by cutting schools and health care in order to give millionaires and CEOs even bigger tax cuts, the measures that grabbed headlines in the states this year have been almost uniformly bad news for the economic security of the vast majority of Americans.
But dig just a little beneath the headlines, and some glimmers of hope are clearly visible.
In every region of the nation, in red states and blue states alike, momentum increased behind a variety of common-sense, positive, pragmatic measures in the states that contrast sharply with the extreme and unpopular priorities of the right. Even as moderate and progressive lawmakers found themselves forced to play defense against an unprecedented assault on the middle class in many states, they still were able to advance measures to rebuild their state economies, protect the middle class, and build healthier and stronger communities.
And in states where the corporate right did not control the agenda, some landmark legislation passed that may point the way forward for future years in other states—when they will surely find themselves out of power once again.
In no particular order, below are 13 positive, progressive pieces of legislation from around the states that advanced in 2011 and which represent some of the key policy solutions featured in PSN’s Blueprint For Economic Security. Some are more prominent, others less so, but all advanced policies that promise to continue gaining momentum across the nation in the years to come.
(This list is not intended be a comprehensive survey of positive, progressive legislation that moved this year—be sure to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know about the best legislation in your state this session!)
1. Oregon’s HB 2825: Increasing Accountability for Corporate Subsidies 2. Illinois’ SB 2505: A Responsible Approach to Revenue Shortfalls 3. Oregon’s SB 889: Partnership Banks to Rebuild Prosperity in the States 4. Maryland’s HB 93: Countering Citizens United by Taking it to the Shareholders 5. Connecticut’s SB 913: As Other States Attack Workers, Groundbreaking Victory on Paid Sick Days 6. Texas’ SB 1024: In a Deep Red State, Success on Fighting Wage Theft 7. Maine’s LD 269: Bipartisan Support for Work-Sharing Ensures More Job Security for Thousands 8. Oregon’s HB 2200 and HB2192: Expanding Broadband Access to Rural Areas 9. Vermont’s SB 78: Empowering Community Broadband to Grow State Economies 10. Connecticut’s HB 6399: Setting a Path towards a Green Economy 11. Colorado’s SB 11-126: Tuition Equity Laws Gain Support from Business and National Momentum 12. California’s AB 1081: An Alternative to a Flawed Federal Immigration Enforcement Program 13. Connecticut’s SB921: Increased Choice, Coverage, and Health Security for Families
“It's really, really expensive to be anti-immigrant.”
– Progressive States Network’s Suman Raghunathan, speaking on a panel this week at Netroots Nation 2011 in Minneapolis, MN on the state of immigration policy in the states. (Watch full video of the panel here.)
Research Roundup: End of an ARRA, Reforming the Credit Reporting Industry and Internet for the Homeless
In this week’s Research Roundup: Reports from the Center for an Urban Future on what the recovery act brought to economies in cities like New York, Demos on the urgent need to reform the nation’s credit reporting industry, the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs on the needs and challenges of creating an Internet access and education center run by and for homeless and low-income populations in Minnesota, and the American Library Association evaluating Internet connectivity in public libraries.
End of an ARRA – The 2009 federal stimulus brought a huge infusion of funds to New York City for job training and workforce development, but the money is now running out. This report from the Center for an Urban Future looks at how the funds were spent and what the end of this funding stream means at a time when countless New Yorkers are still out of work.
Discrediting America: The Urgent Need To Reform The Nation's Credit Reporting Industry – With credit reports and scores have a direct and growing impact on Americans’ economic security and opportunity, this report by Demos examines troubling shortcomings in the for-profit credit reporting industry, and recommends common sense steps to reform the credit reporting system, finding that today’s credit reporting system falls short on basic goals of fairness and accuracy.
Envisioning an Internet Center for Homeless Individuals: One Group’s Quest to Reduce the Digital Divide – This report from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs details the needs and challenges of creating an Internet access and education center run by and for homeless and low-income populations. Through interviews with homeless individuals in the Twin Cities area and a survey of existing Internet access points, the report found that most of these individuals access the web through public libraries and many are lacking even the most basic digital literacy skills. Creating a convenient, safe welcoming environment as well as targeted education is key to helping the homeless stay connected with the world, become civically engaged, and learn how to find work, housing, and other resources online.
Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2010-2011 – Continuing an ongoing evaluation of Internet connectivity in public libraries that began in 1994, the American Library Association found that demand for Internet services in libraries is increasing exponentially. Although 99.3% of public libraries provide free public Internet access and 87% provide technology education as well, 76% are short on computers to meet demand and 45% complained of slow connection speeds, citing costs, space, and insufficient infrastructure as major obstacles. Due to budget cuts and the slowed economy, more and more libraries decreased their open hours, especially in urban areas, and most expect to further cut services. Even so, libraries are still able to perform what they consider one of their most important functions by offering access to job databases, civil service exam resources, and assistance with job applications. Next year’s report is expected to show improvements as a result of the $7.2 billion in ARRA funding awarded in 2010.
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