Common Cause and The Century Foundation have released the new version
of their joint biennial report on election administration in 10 swing
states and the findings are not very encouraging: while voters' desire
to participate is growing, states have only made fitful progress
improving the voting process, and in many instances things have moved
backward since the last federal election in 2006. Examining the most
recent election experiences of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia
the report details serious problems in every major aspect of the voting
process, along with a handful of bright spots where individual states
are moving important reforms.
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.
Over the past decade, elections for state high court seats have gone
from sleepy, mildly partisan affairs to major political battles with
huge campaign spending, millions in independent special interest
advertising, and misleading and negative attacks in the forefront.TV advertising is now apart of virtually all (91%) contested state supreme court elections, up from about one in five elections in 2000.And in 2006 business groups were the source of more than 90% of those ads.Business groups are also the source of almost half of all campaign contributions in these races.
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.
The Iowa Senate on Tuesday approved SF 2416,
a bill to sharply increase fines on employers violating Iowa state wage
laws, crack down on the practice of misclassifying employees as
"independent contractors" to evade those laws, and protect workers
reporting violations from retaliation.
Since the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) established the
requirement that first time voters present some form of identification
before voting in a federal election, voter identification requirements
of all sorts have been enacted across the country.Currently
26 states have laws that are more restrictive than the HAVA mandate,
and 21 states require ID from voters every time they vote.These laws have been passed by arguing they are necessary to prevent voter fraud, even though all evidence suggests that such fraud is extremely rare and poses no threat to the integrity of our voting systems.Instead, these fraud arguments have merely been a partisan tool, used for decades, to suppress turnout
among new groups entering the electorate in large numbers and
threatening the power of those currently in charge, whether they be
minorities, immigrants or students.
The biggest news coming out of Wisconsin this year may be the retirement
of the Green Bay Packers' beloved quarterback, Brett Favre, but
lawmakers were largely able to keep to the task at hand and pass a budget before the end of the shortened 2008 session. However, they may find themselves back in Madison to deal with a worsening
budget situation. Despite leaving some key issues on the table due to
partisan divisions, lawmakers laid a solid foundation for future
success in 2009.
Madison, WI - Healthy Wisconsin, a legislative package that
would guarantee affordable health care to all Wisconsinites, is gaining
steam as a national model for state health care reform. As the revised
Healthy Wisconsin bill (SB 562) had its public hearing today before the
Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the Washington State
Legislature neared final passage of legislation authorizing a detailed
study of a proposal modeled after Healthy Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is righting a wrong that many state governments are complicit
in perpetrating, but is largely due to federal policy. As the New York Times
recently reported, child-support payments for children on welfare are
being used in almost every state to recoup state and federal welfare
expenses. When Congress created the child-support system 30 years ago,
recouping welfare costs by siphoning off collected child-support
payments was an explicit goal. Yet close to half the states pass along none
of the collected child-support while most others pay only $50 per
child, even when a non-custodial parent pays several hundred more. Research
and experience shows that the policy of withholding payments to recoup
state costs discourages non-custodial parents from paying child-support
and makes families more dependent on aid.