Last week, Connecticut's high court struck down the state's
civil union law and ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional
right to marry. Connecticut joins Massachusetts and California as the
only states that recognize gay marriage. As the New York Timesreported,
the Connecticut ruling is notable because it found for the first time
that a state civil union law, while providing all the legal rights of
marriage to gay couples but limiting marriage to heterosexual couples,
violated the state's "constitutional guarantee of equal protection
under the law."
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
Milwaukee has a paid sick leave referendum
on the ballot for November that would allow employees to take leave for
medical treatment, preventive care, or diagnosis for themselves, as
well as to care for a close family member who is sick or who needs
diagnosis or preventive care. Additionally, employees would be allowed
to use the time to deal with domestic violence or sexual assault (for
example, using accrued time to flee to safety.) Employees at firms
with 10 workers or less could accumulate up to 40 hours, whereas larger
companies would have to provide up to 72 hours of paid sick leave.
Instead of allowing the right-wing to scapegoat undocumented immigrant
workers, Progressive States Network will be working with progressive
leaders across the country to introduce wage enforcement laws that
emphasize that native and immigrant workers both suffer under illegal
working conditions. See State Immigration Project: Policy Options for 2009 for the full range of immigration policies Progressive States Network is supporting in upcoming legislative sessions.
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.
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.