This Dispatch is a roundup of what ballot initiatives will
appear on state ballots across the country this November. Whether it's
workers rights, energy policy, education, transit, abortion or health
care, ballot initiates give voters a chance to directly vote on an
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.
This November Coloradans will have a chance to vote on a simple proposition:
Should employers have to provide a legitimate reason before they fire an employee?
Virtually all states already prohibit firings on the basis of race,
gender, age or religion and many other criteria; Colorado's Ballot Amendment 55 would
merely boil employer responsibility down to a simple requirement that
they provide a "just cause" reason for terminating any employee.
The benefits of a post-secondary degree are plentiful. For example, an employee with a four year college degree earns 60 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma. Paying for college, however, has become a daunting task and strain for many American students and families. The cost of higher education across the country is rapidly increasing, at almost double the rate of inflation, outpacing increases in financial aid and many families ability to pay. The combination of these factors result in too many students being unable to earn or complete their degrees due to financial constraints.
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.
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:
While national press coverage has focused on the historic ruling which
made California the second state to allow same-sex nuptials, lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender rights are making slow and steady progress across the country. In the recent weeks a few more states have taken action to help further civil rights for the LGBT community.
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