DISPATCH: Head Start for States on Immigration, Raising the Wage, and More

Stateside Dispatch
Saturday, February 2, 2013

Welcome to the Stateside Dispatch, Progressive States Network's roundup of the latest state policy news. Here's what happened in the states this week:

States Get a Head Start on Immigration Reform

The same week that both President Obama and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators released proposals for comprehensive federal immigration reform, pro-immigrant policies continued to gain traction in the states on issues including tuition equity and driver's licenses for DREAMers. Nearly three years after Arizona passed SB 1070, anti-immigrant forces are clearly finding themselves increasingly isolated at both the state and federal level in 2013:

Mirroring the bipartisan support for reform in the U.S. Senate, four Republican state lawmakers in California announced their support for comprehensive immigration reform. [Los Angeles Times]

Why increased border security — a key demand in the announced Senate framework — is already "90 to 95 percent solved." [Wonkblog]

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the author of Arizona's SB 1070 and advisor to Mitt Romney, is now "marginalized on a national basis" on immigration. [Kansas City Star] 

Colorado's ASSET in-state tuition bill gained more bipartisan support, setting off "shock waves" in the state. [Denver Post]

A tuition equity bill in Virginia cleared a House subcommittee by a 6-0 bipartisan vote. [Manassas Park Patch]

In-state tuition is also back on the front burner in Oregon, where Gov. John Kitzhaber recently announced he would sign a bill into law if passed. [Statesman Journal]

Illinois became the fourth and biggest state to allow all immigrants access to driver's licenses. [Colorlines]

Michigan's Secretary of State reversed a policy that prevented DREAMers from receiving driver's licenses following a challenge by a coalition of civil rights organizations. [ACLU]

Meanwhile, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signaled she would again push for repeal of her state's driver's license law. [Stateline]


Multiple States Mull Raising Minimum Wage

Many states are already considering action on the minimum wage in new sessions — by legislation or by ballot initiative. Polls and studies released this week continued to show both the broad and deep popularity and the positive economic effects of raising the wage:

Twenty-three states have either already increased their minimum wage or are considering increases this year. [USA Today]

After New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a wage increase, the issue is set to go to voters in a ballot initiative in November. [Politicker NJ]

A look at how Gov. Christie's veto will hurt New Jersey's economy as it continues to suffer from one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. [Demos]

A new study showed increasing the minimum wage in New York state to $8.75 would create thousands of new jobs. [The Post-Standard]

Support for raising the minimum wage exceeded 70 percent within "every income, age, educational, and regional group" in a new poll of New York state voters. [The Business Review]

For the second year in a row, increasing the minimum wage is back on the legislative agenda in Connecticut. [AP]

In Washington, the state with the highest minimum wage, an effort is afoot to allow employers to pay workers a lower "training wage." [Washington Policy Watch]


A "Progressive Tax Rebellion"?

As goes California, so goes the nation? The conservative anti-tax revolt that began in the Golden State over 30 years ago was rebuked by voters this past November when they approved Prop 30. Early in sessions in 2013, other states are showing signs of following a similar path and refusing to rely on economically destructive cuts:

An in-depth look at how the Prop 30 vote in California is resonating beyond state borders. [The Nation]

David Dayen on how progressives "achieved the impossible" by balancing California's books. [The New Republic]

A new report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy underscored how "the poorest Americans are subject to a tax rate at the state and local level that is twice as high as the tax rate paid by the wealthiest earners." [ThinkProgress]

With more states seeing unified control of legislatures and governors' seats, approaches to tax and budget issues may diverge even more sharply in 2013. [Christian Science Monitor]

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing an increased income tax rate on the wealthiest earners offset by decreased property and sales taxes. [Reuters]

A bipartisan duo of Texas state legislators introduced legislation to "scrub, sunset and possibly repeal scores of preferential tax breaks" in the state. [Dallas News]

Conservatives in Michigan are looking at increasing either sales or gas taxes to pay for needed infrastructure repairs — and voters may be the ones who end up choosing. [AP]


Lawmakers Look to Take Down Barriers to Voting 

With the long lines on Election Day still somewhat fresh in the minds of voters, and as the year kicks off with efforts to rig the electoral vote and lessen the impact of the votes of historically disenfranchised communities, lawmakers in some states are introducing proposals to expand and protect the vote:

Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner proposed a package of election reform legislation to protect and expand early voting hours and reduce long lines at polling places. [Columbus Dispatch]

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to reverse his own policy and restore early voting days to "restore Floridians' confidence in our election system." [Miami Herald]

A South Carolina House committee advanced a bill that would allow a week of early voting, but end in-person absentee voting that is currently available for a month in advance of Election Day. [AP]

Many states have either enacted or are considering online voter registration. [Washington Times]

A voter ID bill in Montana was defeated after seeing bipartisan opposition. [Huffington Post]

How Minnesota defeated Voter ID. [The American Prospect]

Some lawmakers in Montana want to repeal election day registration, however. [Missoulian]

An election day registration bill was introduced in Vermont by State Rep. Suzi Wizowaty. [Vermont Legislature]

Why we should enshrine the right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. [The American Prospect]

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Also this week:

Arkansas State Sen. Joyce Elliott helped launch a new coalition to defend public schools against a Walmart- and Koch brothers-backed push for privatization. [Arkansas Blog]

Illinois' State Senate may vote on same-sex marriage on Valentines Day. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Colorado advanced a civil unions bill to the full Senate for consideration. [ThinkProgress]

"What a difference a couple of years — and an election — makes." Anti-worker legislation "losing steam" in New Hampshire. [Nashua Telegraph]

Infographic: Oregon is the only state not to have in some way restricted abortion access for women. [Remapping Debate]

The new trend in anti-choice state legislation: "fetal heartbeat" bills. [ThinkProgress]

Who will legalize pot next? Possibilities include Alaska, Maine, Oregon, California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Nevada. [The Nation] 

Family leave is under attack in Washington state, as conservatives propose repeal. [Crosscut]

A Pennsylvania bill would ban employer discrimination against the unemployed. [The Employer Handbook]

A look at spreading efforts by some state lawmakers to attempt to nullify or otherwise criminalize the enforcement of federal gun laws. [The Atlantic]

Texas lawmakers proposed rewarding companies that refused to offer their employees coverage for contraception. [ThinkProgress]

Three states are pushing a bill backed by ALEC to require the teaching of climate change denial in schools. [DeSmogBlog]

Biotech firms are lobbying multiple states intensely to limit generic competition. [New York Times]

A look at the growing strength of non-union labor organizations across the states. [The American Prospect]

Paid sick days may be quickly becoming a key issue in the New York City mayoral race. [Capital New York]

Follow @PSNwire on Twitter for the latest state policy news.


Research Roundup

In this week's roundup: reports on the regressive nature of state tax systems, how states are making it easier to apply for Medicaid, voter registration modernization, federal budget cuts, corporations influencing education policy, the failings of GDP as a statistic, paid sick days in Philadelphia, public attitudes on Social Security, and how the state of the states is becoming (slightly) more liberal: 

Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

Report: States Making It Easier To Apply For Medicaid [Kaiser Family Foundation]

The Case for Voter Registration Modernization [Brennan Center]

Budget Cuts Set Funding Path to Historic Lows [Center for American Progress]

Corporate Interests Pay to Play to Shape Education Policy, Reap Profits [In the Public Interest]

What's Missing From GDP? [Demos]

Valuing Good Health in Philadelphia: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days [Institute for Women's Policy Research]

Survey: Americans Make Hard Choices on Social Security, Prefer to Raise Payroll Taxes and Increase Benefits [National Academy of Social Insurance]

State of the States: Americans Slightly Less Conservative, Slightly More Liberal [Gallup]

Email us at with research roundup suggestions.


Quote of the Week

"The tone has changed from one of hostility to a hiring fair. We no longer see these people as threats but view them as assets."

— Colorado State Sen. Mike Johnston (D), co-sponsor of a tuition equity bill, on the change in public mood on the issue of immigration compared to just a year ago.


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