This past week was saturated with crisis and tragedy following the events in Boston and Texas, but it also saw significant developments on two critical issues before the U.S. Senate that would likely have otherwise fully gripped the nation's attention. On guns, an already-weakened bipartisan compromise on universal background checks was blocked in the Senate by a minority of senators, ending for now the fight to pass any federal legislation in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. On immigration, the long-awaited full text of the so called "Gang of 8" immigration bill was released, drawing support from the White House, conditional praise from some advocates, and stoking opposition among anti-immigrant forces. With the ability of Congress to pass legislation on any major issue now perhaps even more in question, both issues also continued to play out on the state level this week as well:
After a year that started off with a wave of efforts to suppress the vote - many of which continue - more and more states are now looking at enacting significant reforms to modernize voter registration and protect and expand voting rights. Here's a roundup of recent developments:
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:
This fall, voters in some states and cities will have the chance to do more than just push back. Initiatives are on the ballot that would directly confront the destruction that austerity economics has wrought on communities, while building national momentum behind policies to revitalize our economy and protect our democracy. All kinds of issues are at stake, from workers’ rights to corporate influence in politics, to whether corporations and the luckiest few will pay their fair share in taxes. While voters will be electing a president, governors, Congress, and thousands of state legislators this November 6, here are a few places where a progressive vision will also be on the ballot:
Preventing exceedingly rare voter fraud is not worth the very real consequences to electoral participation among the elderly, youth, and communities of color. That's the message being sent by state legislative leaders across the nation, three of whom - State Del. Jon Cardin (MD), State Rep. Joe Miklosi (CO), and State Rep. Ben Cannon (OR) - co-wrote an op-ed published in the Baltimore Sun this week.
A healthy civic society requires protecting citizens' fundamental right to vote while ensuring the integrity of our electoral system. Sadly, this goal is being jeopardized by a coordinated, nationwide effort to enact voter ID laws that will not solve the challenges facing our electoral systems and will instead disenfranchise voters and infringe upon the fundamental American right to free and fair elections.
During 2011 legislative sessions, most states chose to close severe budget gaps without revenue increases, instead opting for further damaging and deep cuts to critical education, health care, and social service programs. However, now that most sessions have ended, lawmakers, business leaders, and community groups in a number of states appear to be increasingly interested in taking revenue increases to voters as an alternative.