The federal Department of Veterans Affairs for months has been
embroiled in a controversy over its prohibition on voter registration
drives in veterans' facilities. Now 10 Secretaries of State and the
Attorney General of Connecticut have stepped into the maelstrom, demanding that the VA reverse its policy.
Late last month, Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal attempted to register voters at the
Veterans Affairs Hospital in West Haven. They were prevented by staff
from registering voters inside the facility, but they were able to
register a dozen veterans as they were leaving. One newly registered
voter is 92-year-old WWII veteran Martin Onieal.
Even with many states having short sessions, the 2008 state legislative
sessions have already had some impressive milestone victories for
families and communities across the country. This Dispatch
covers a few of the key issue victories this year -- and points out
that states are still taking the lead on issue after issue. Most of
the bills highlighted became law, while a few, falling short of final
passage, were innovative enough and showed enough movement to promise
greater things for 2009.
With food and gas prices rising rapidly, low-wage workers can at least
welcome an increase in the federal minium wage to $6.55 per hour
scheduled to go into effect on July 24th. Even better, a number of
states will also be increasing their minimum wage rates even higher than the federal rate:
The Right, including Presidential candidate John McCain, wants every American to purchase their health insurance in the individual market, where a
of non-elderly Americans currently get their coverage. As
a new Families USA
report makes clear, this would expose Americans to even more
volatility than they currently experience in accessing health care and health
Florida Governor Charlie Crist recently signed an economic stimulus plan for the state that redirects $1.95 billion of the state's pension fund
into direct investments in Florida's economy. The amount is limited to
1.5 percent of the state's pension money, but even that limited
percentage can add up to massive investments in jobs for the state's
In creating the program,
legislators and the Governor pointed to the success of similar programs
in other states, particularly the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the nation's largest pension fund. A recent study
found the California fund's in-state investments had fed an estimated
$15.1 billion into in-state economic activity in 2006 and created
124,000 jobs, more jobs than the construction or motion picture
Voter suppression is growing rapidly in America today.Over half of states now have voter ID requirements more stringent than that required for first time voters in federal elections.Several states are clamping down on voter registration drives or are considering proof of citizenship requirements.
In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the US health care system 37th in the world despite spending more than any other country. In 2007, according to the US Census Bureau, the US ranked 42nd in life expectancy.
If you are a person of color, a low-wage worker, non-English speaking,
or live in a low-income community, the picture is much worse. For
instance, the life expectancy for African-Americans
is 73.3 years, five years shorter than it is for whites. For
African-American men, it is 69.8 years, just above averages in Iran and
Syria, but below Nicaragua and Morocco.
On Wednesday night, the Connecticut House passed
a simple, yet far-reaching bill to offer small businesses and
municipalities better, more affordable health insurance. The
Connecticut Healthcare Partnership, HB 5536,
allows small businesses and municipalities to join the state employee
health insurance plan. This is significant because small employers,
towns, employees and their families will be able to join forces with
and benefit from the bargaining power of the 200,000 member-strong
state employee pool.
Maintaining accurate voter rolls and ensuring that all eligible voters who register to vote actually make it onto voting rolls are two of the most important functions of election administration.If an eligible voter cannot vote because his name doesn't appear on the voter roll used in an election, the problem will not be addressed by the federal guarantee of a provisional ballot. Such a ballot cannot register a person to vote, it can only preserve a ballot in the case the voter rolls at the precinct are mistaken or the
$287 billion -- that is how much the U.S. spent
on pharmaceuticals in 2007, representing a significant driver of health
care costs. While spending on hospital and physician care surpass
spending on prescriptions, drugs still account for 14% of all health care expenditures. Combine this with polls that show 70% of Americans believe the drug industry puts profits ahead of people, and it's no wonder that in 2008, at least 540 bills
and resolutions are being considered by states across the country to
reduce prescription drug prices, ensure the quality of medications
covered by public and private health plans, and reduce the undue
influence of pharmaceutical industry marketing - which itself tops out
at $30 billion each year.