In a positive step forward for federal respect of state regulatory powers, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider a previously denied waiver to allow California to set more stringent auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required by federal law. In a statement by the White House, President Obama said "the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." The directive represents not only greater respect for state authority, but also a sharp break from the climate policies of President Obama's predecessor.
Washington State minimum wage workers got a raise January 1st to $8.55
per hour -- now the highest minimum wage in the country. Like nine
other states, Washington automatically increases its minimum wage each
year at the rate of inflation to make sure families don't face a de facto pay
cut as rising costs eat into family budgets. Because the federal
minimum wage is not indexed to inflation in this way, we have seen a
decline in its value from $9.34 in inflation-adjusted dollars down to
just $6.55 per hour this past year. This trend highlights why state
efforts to index the minimum wage to keep up with inflation are so
Soon after the November elections and the dispiriting setbacks for gay marriage equality in California, Arizona, and Florida, a group of religious leaders in Maine formed a coalition
to advocate for gay marriage rights and actively seek equal treatment
for gay and lesbian couples within Maine law. The group, Religious
Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine, includes 120 clergy from
across the state and 14 different faith traditions, including United
Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Unitarian Universalist,
Congregational, and the United Church of Christ.
As states face mounting deficits, corporate lobbyists have been promoting the idea that privatization of public services and assets is a free lunch -- services can be delivered more cheaply than by public employees and public assets like highways can be sold or leased for a hefty return to the taxpayer. As PSN has detailed in our December 2007 report Privatizing in the Dark: The Pitfalls of Privatization & Why Budget Disclosure is Needed, the promises of privatization too often yield to a reality of lost money and degraded services, weak oversight and lost expertise, assets sold off for short-term gains but long-term loss, lost democratic accountability, and the corruption of the political process.
In the past few years states have become increasingly unwillingly torely on the chance that volatile global investment markets will chooseto invest in their local communities. Instead, states are choosing todirectly invest themselves in local emerging opportunities. The greatadvantage of direct investment, instead of simply raiding the statetreasury and giving away corporate welfare, is that by making directinvestment in local businesses, states create a financial stake infirms. If these businesses are successful, they will return equity tothe tax payers that can be reinvested in other projects. According to the National Association of Seed and Venture Fund, as of 2006, all but six states had state venture capital funds.
Once the sleepy backwater of electoral politics, judicial elections
have recently become a battleground where right wing and corporate
groups spend large sums to fill the courts with jurists who will
support their interests. This is perhaps the most troubling example of
money corrupting our politics, because instead of pay-to-play politics
it gives us pay-to-win justice. The independence of the judiciary
simply cannot be maintained in an environment where jurists are
competing for votes in high-priced, bare-knuckle political brawls.
While the financial crisis has received more of the headlines, there has been a growing unemployment crisis over the last year.
With unemployment at a five-year high, nearly 10 million Americans were
officially unemployed last month, with nearly 500,000 workers applying
for benefits each week. And the problem doesn't stop there, with
long-term joblessness rising: