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Maine

New England Leads Fight for Marriage Equality

On Monday, March 23rd, the Vermont Senate overwhelmingly passed (26 to 4) a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, making the state the first in the nation to take legislative rather than judicial steps toward granting marriage rights to same-sex couples.  Although House Speaker Shap Smith was confident a majority of representatives would vote in favor of the "marriage equality" act, Governor Jim Douglas revealed in a press conference Wednesday that he would veto the bill, though he did say he would accept a legislative override.

Obama Allows California to Adopt Car Emission Standards - New Day for State Regulatory Authority

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. 

Maine Religious Leaders Mobilize Around Gay Marriage - On Both Sides of the Issue

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.

New Hampshire Data-Mining Ban Upheld- Blow to Drug Industry Marketing is Boon to States

Tuesday, New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation law banning the sale of data on physician prescribing habits to drug industry marketers was upheld by a federal appeals court.  The legislation and subsequent court ruling dealt a significant blow to the drug industry and its heavy-handed marketing tactics. The 2006 New Hampshire law, sponsored by Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, will protect the privacy of physicians and their patients by banning data-mining - the process by which the drug industry uses, or mines, the prescribing habits of providers to inform direct-to-provider marketing. As Rep. Rosenwald stated in a press release, the "decision unanimously recognizes that States have the right to protect the prescriber-patient relationship and patient safety, and to try to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals.” Maine and Vermont passed similar laws which have been held up by litigation, but will now move forward.

Rising Unemployment Highlights Need for Federal Expansion of Unemployment Insurance Funds

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:

Reforming the Ballot Initiative Process: Making Direct Democracy Work

Direct democracy through popular intiatives and referenda began a century ago as a grassroots, progressive reform aimed at circumventing corrupt legislatures and increasing civic involvement.  The long history of this reform indicates that in the whole this experiment in direct popular participation in the legislative process has been successful as an avenue for passing populist policies that maintains the favor of the public over time.  However, throughout this history there have also been attempts, sometimes successful, to manipulate the process and the electorate into passing legislation that would not garner majority support had voters possessed an accurate conception of its content and effect.