Corporate-backed legislators and governors are sacrificing their future political prospects as they ram through increasingly unpopular bills attacking the middle class and economic security. While the greatest attention has focused on the dramatic story that is still unfolding in Wisconsin, equally important fights are going on across the country. In case after case, polls show public approval ratings plummeting for elected officials pushing legislation that scapegoats public sector workers and collective bargaining rights for their states’ fiscal problems. While some of these officials are moving to moderate their course to save themselves, others are pressing forward with a zeal that is likely to cost them politically.
One year ago today, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law – and the focus of attention immediately turned to the states. Now, one year later, as millions of women, seniors, children, and small businesses are seeing benefits from provisions in the law that have already taken effect, it is even more clear that the states are the venues where the future shape of the law will be decided.
Last week, Governor Rick Scott and the other members of the Florida Board of Executive Clemency voted unanimously to roll back rules that had made it easier for nonviolent felons to regain their voting and other civil rights upon completion of their sentences. Under the new requirements - which are among the strictest in the country - nonviolent offenders would have to wait five years upon their release from prison to even apply for the chance to have their rights restored without a hearing.
As the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act approaches, the political rhetoric against the health law remains as heated as ever. But as more and more Americans experience the benefits of the law on their everyday lives, a growing number of stakeholders in the states - including health insurers - are coming out in support of both the law and its effective implementation in the states. Successful implementation requires states to enact their own exchanges, or marketplaces for health insurance, as the vehicle that provides for quality, affordable health insurance coverage.
The steady drumbeat of states recognizing the error of enforcement-only anti-immigrant legislation continues. This week, Iowa and Kansas join the list of nine states to date (including Virginia, Kentucky, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, and Washington) that have defeated their broad (and misguided) anti-immigrant bills this legislative session.
The right wing may be grabbing headlines for its audacious assault on organized labor and reproductive rights, but less well-reported have been their equally destructive attacks against another familiar target: young voters.
In recent weeks, a bipartisan approach to immigration policy in Utah has gained widespread national attention as a collaborative, pragmatic effort with the active involvement of many different stakeholders and communities. But late last week, months of hard work on the part of Utah state legislators in pursuit of inventive and effective immigration solutions ended in disappointment as a trio of misguided immigration bills were quickly introduced and passed by Utah’s state legislature with little opportunity for public input or debate. Despite the good intentions of so many, the results of this effort do nothing to address the need for common sense immigration policies that expand opportunity for all, and they are not a model for other states to follow.
Following up on Illinois lawmakers' successful effort to raise personal and corporate income taxes earlier this year, other states are considering sound proposals to generate revenue even as the right wing continues to advocate irresponsible slash-and-burn fiscal policies.
Despite the clear need for states to support community efforts to create jobs by investing in critical infrastructure, right-wing legislation in North CarolinaandSouth Carolinaseems to want to take away the people’s rights to build broadband in their communities. The bills – HB3508/SB483 in South Carolina andHB129/SB87 in North Carolina – place onerous requirements for community-based broadband networks, threatening their existence and economic growth. As our states continue to deal with the fallout of the Great Recession, broadband build-out is the critical infrastructure investment needed to put Americans back to work and rebuild prosperity.
Despite a year of sustained attacks from the opposition, almost all states continue to move forward with implementation of the health care law. Even as the right continues to spew rhetoric attempting to strike down the law, over 20 states are moving forward with active exchange legislation. As the time remaining for states to implement effective exchanges grows shorter, and as an effort to give states more freedom to design their own systems gained White House support this week, progressive models are emerging for building state-based marketplaces that ensure the health security of families.