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From the Dispatch

DC: Big Box Wage and Benefits Bill Introduced

Following Chicago's lead, DC Councilman Phill Mendelson has introduced a bill to require large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco to pay employees a living wage of $11 an hour plus health benefits worth at least $3 a hour. The bill also would give labor groups and the public access to public areas of a firm to communicate with employees about their rights. As we detailed in last week's Dispatch, a major committee and a majority of Chicago City Council members have endorsed a similar bill for that city.

SCOTUS Strikes Down Campaign Finance Laws; Public Financing Strongest Constitutional Option

This week, the Supreme Court struck down Vermont's strict limits on campaign contributions and expenditures by candidates.  In a set of fractured opinions in Randall v. Sorrell, the Court did not put an end to all campaign finance limits but did put a roadblock in the way of anything much more restrictive than most present laws.  So if there is going to be more serious reform to lessen the power of special interest money in politics, the only real remaining route to reform are systems of public financing of elections like Maine and Arizona.

Reforming Failed Tax Subsidies

Back in April, the Stateside Dispatch profiled successful job creation programs where states not only invest in dynamic high-tech and inner-city startup companies, but make money for the taxpayer from many of their investments.

Clean Elections: Good Politics

We already knew that clean elections were good policy. In fact, we brought together over 100 policymakers and activists in New Hampshire to spread the word on clean elections (see the resulting Resource Sheet). Now, new polling data shows that clean elections are also good politics. Polling undertaken for Public Campaign Action Fund and Common Cause shows that Americans overwhelmingly (74%) support public financing.

IL: Chicago Advances Ordinance to Raise Wages

Recently, in our Stateside Dispatch highlighting alternative strategies to raise wages around the country, we highlighted a proposed ordinance with widespread support in Chicago. That proposal -- which raises the bar on wages for large retailers -- has now passed through the city's finance committee and is moving closer to a vote of the full council.

CA: San Francisco Proposes Universal Health Care

The City of San Francisco is taking steps to provide health care to all of its 82,000 uninsured residents, paid for by a combination of public money and assessments on employers that do not provide health care for their employees:

The Taxpayers' Bill of Goods

With the 2006 elections quickly approaching, a small group of highly energized right-wing activists are working hard to export a failed policy from Colorado to other states around the nation. The idea is known variously as the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR), the Stop OverSpending Amendment (SOS), or as Tax and Spending Control (TASC). Fundamentally, though, all of the amendments boil down to a single policy idea: arbitrarily capping increases in state spending based on only two factors -- population growth and the consumer price index.

Western Governors Demand Action on Global Warming

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.

Institutional Investors, Including State Funds, Demand Disclosure on Financial Risks from Climate Change

Companies are required to calculate the risks to their businesses based on a range of potential threats to their business models, but there is currently no requirement that they calculate the potentially catastrophic costs of climate change. A few U.S. companies do so voluntarily, but most do not.

More on Defining Down Health Care

The Washington Post details some of the changes states are making in the Medicaid program, party based on federal waivers and partly due to a new federal law passed last December that allows states to offer unequal benefits to different Medicaid recipients.