At the same time that a new study out of Massachusetts
reveals that tobacco companies are steadily increasing nicotine levels
in cigarettes, the fight to limit the health impacts of tobacco is
gaining new steam. Ballot measures will be considered in eight states this fall regarding tobacco. And in Virginia, where tobacco is king, Governor Tim Kaine is considering a ban on smoking in state buildings.
In the groundbreaking film An Inconvenient Truth, Vice President Al Gore makes an impressive case that it is now essential that the world act to prevent the potentially catastrophic implications of global warming. The film could not come at a more critical time. While the planet warms, Washington dawdles. The nation's political elite remains mired in a debate manipulated by powerful energy interests.
As we detailed a few weeks ago, rightwing developers are using the cover of "fixing" eminent domain to push radical anti-environment initiatives on ballots across the country. Opponents ranging from outdoor sports organizations to labor unions have been mobilizing in response.
There are few more potent tools for impacting the outcomes of elections
than changing what appears on the ballot. And there are no more direct
paths from public outcry to passed legislation than through ballot
issues. For years, the rightwing has been advancing policy goals,
shaping message, and marshalling voters through ballot issues (we've
already highlighted many of their current-year endeavors in this very
newsletter). Progressives increasingly are fighting back using ballot
issues -- which shouldn't be surprising, since initiatives and
referedenda were originally a progressive reform.
As far-right funders like Howard Rich work across the country, dumping
literally millions simply into qualifying these atrocious measures for
ballots, progressives have experienced some good news and some bad
news. Here's where the campaign stands in various states:
Diving into the world of campaign finance and investigating the funders of the takings initiatives quickly reveals a number of organizations involved: Americans for Limited Government, America at Its Best, the Fund for Democracy, and Montanans in Action. What is odd, though, is that with more digging, they all appear to be funded and controlled by the same individual: New York Developer Howard Rich.
Despite a veto by the governor, the New York State legislature is poised to override and enact reforms to allow day care workers to form labor unions. The bill, A10060, sponsored by Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat (a Progressive States board member) and Senator Nick Spano,
would effect an estimated 52,000 day care workers in facilities
subsidized by state funds, given them standing to negotiate with the
state for wage increases, as well as benefits like health care,
workers' compensation, paid vacation or sick days.
The Western Governors Association on Sunday acknowledged an
inconvenient truth. The bipartisan group of Governors from West Coast,
Rocky Mountain, and Great Plains states came together to unanimously
pass a resolution (PDF) that says that global warming is real, at least partially human-caused, and that now is a time for action.
The reality for working Americans is that wages have been largely stagnant for
over three decades. For many workers -- especially those without a
college degree -- pay has actually gotten worse, meaning that this
generation is the first one in American history which is not doing
signficantly better than the previous one. Part of the reason for
these stagnant wages is that inflation was allowed to erode the federal
minimum wage-- its inflation-adjusted value dropping from $9.12 per hour in 1968 down to just $5.15 per hour in 2005.