On Tuesday night, President Obama laid out his second term agenda in a State of the Union address that detailed specific policy proposals across a range of issue areas. But even as national conversations around the minimum wage, immigration, gun violence prevention, and early education began to get louder in the wake of the President's speech this week, states were already getting a jump start on many of these issues. As Iowa State Senator Joe Bolkcom, Chair of the Board of PSN, said in a response to the State of the Union this week, "state legislators across the nation know they do not need to wait for Washington to act."
The "sequestration" cuts to domestic and defense programs still loom in the not-to-distant future. The latest noises from Washington, D.C. are that, thanks to conservative opposition to including additional revenues, the draconian cuts may very well come into effect on March 1st. Here's the current state of play in D.C. — and how some are predicting it might affect the states.
A new analysis showing how widely voters' wait times on Election Day differed by state and demographic group — as well a new report on how voter registration modernization and early voting could help fix the problem — are both helping to focus more attention on election reform efforts early in state legislative sessions. Meanwhile, efforts to suppress the vote are proceeding as well, while a controversial redistricting scheme in Virginia seems to have fallen apart.
The images are still fresh: endless lines of voters waiting for hours outside polling places on Election Day merely to participate in the democratic process. In some states, these lines were exacerbated by partisan efforts to restrict access to the polls, including cutting back on early voting days, as well as antiquated registration systems and poll sites running out of ballots. A new analysis shows the wide disparities in time spent on line by voters across the fifty states and across different demographic groups.
One month after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, legislative efforts to combat gun violence are starting to advance swiftly in some states — even as lawmakers in others are reacting to shifting public opinion by seeking to make enforcement of federal laws a felony and mandate more firearms in schools.
The nation let out a collective sigh last week when a deal was made just hours before the country went toppling over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Although the agreement passed by Congress and signed by President Obama provides temporary reprieve, it also left much to be desired. While the agreement ultimately reflected the public’s mandate to raise taxes on the super-rich, it also failed to define those who make between $250,000 and $400,000 as “wealthy,” extending all of their Bush-era tax rates permanently. This misclassification contradicts public opinion and will result in a dramatic loss in revenue, setting a dangerous precedent. Perhaps the most threatening decision made was to make no decision at all on across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequester, for another two months. These automatic spending cuts pose a serious threat to states and localities.