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.
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.
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:
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
Milwaukee has a paid sick leave referendum
on the ballot for November that would allow employees to take leave for
medical treatment, preventive care, or diagnosis for themselves, as
well as to care for a close family member who is sick or who needs
diagnosis or preventive care. Additionally, employees would be allowed
to use the time to deal with domestic violence or sexual assault (for
example, using accrued time to flee to safety.) Employees at firms
with 10 workers or less could accumulate up to 40 hours, whereas larger
companies would have to provide up to 72 hours of paid sick leave.
On September 4, the ConnectME Authority awarded its second round of grant awards to bring broadbandcommunications services to unserved areas in Maine. More than $1.75 million was awarded and service is expected to be expanded to an estimated 12,500 residents. "This second round of grantsshows that the ConnectME initiative is spurring private investment inbroadband and cellular service across Maine," said Governor Baldacci. "These investments are enabling people in rural areas enhanced accessto technology, transforming our state economy, and expanding businessopportunities for more Mainers."
By one estimate, the federal government spent over $367 billion in 2005 aloneon subsidizing Americans' retirement savings and tax breaks to build upother assets like buying a home. Unfortunately, those subsidies gooverwhelmingly to those Americans who already have high-incomes; almostnone of it goes to the poorest Americans who need the most helpbuilding the financial assets that can lead to long-term economicopportunities and security.