Many states are already considering action on the minimum wage in new sessions — by legislation or by ballot initiative. Polls and studies released this week continued to show both the broad and deep popularity and the positive economic effects of raising the wage:
As goes California, so goes the nation? The conservative anti-tax revolt that began in the Golden State over 30 years ago was rebuked by voters this past November when they approved Prop 30. Early in sessions in 2013, other states are showing signs of following a similar path and refusing to rely on economically destructive cuts:
With the long lines on Election Day still somewhat fresh in the minds of voters, and as the year kicks off with efforts to rig the electoral vote and lessen the impact of the votes of historically disenfranchised communities, lawmakers in some states are introducing proposals to expand and protect the vote:
Virginia's Senate leadership chose the occasion of Martin Luther King Day on Monday to push through a partisan redistricting bill, taking advantage of the absence of a legislator attending President Obama's inauguration. A separate effort in Virginia to change the way the state awards electoral votes in presidential elections ran into bipartisan opposition, even as lawmakers in other states were considering doing the same:
With a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election now come and gone, conservatives in many states seem to be having second thoughts about their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, progressive lawmakers in Iowa and Michigan signaled they were set to introduce legislation on Medicaid expansion:
Governors and lawmakers who call themselves "anti-tax" are kicking off new state legislative sessions by proposing drastic cuts or even the elimination of state income taxes — offset by increases in sales taxes that would hit the middle class and low-income families and which would do nothing to boost state economies:
Frustrated by stagnation in the job market and in statehouses alike, worker advocates have increasingly taken to direct democracy and local governments to balance the economy in 2012. A combination of political gridlock in Congress and many state legislatures since the 2010 elections has largely stalled a wave of progress led by states raising workplace standards like the minimum wage and paid sick leave, as well as toughening up laws to combat workplace violations like wage theft and payroll fraud. Over the last year, advocates have turned to ballot initiatives and local government measures, where the immense levels of popular support for workplace fairness policies historically have proven likely to carry the day. But, unwilling to let such clear majorities carry the day, conservative business lobbies have rolled out a range of increasingly ruthless tactics to roll back and block progress.
Last month, California Governor Brown turned his back on California telephone consumers by signing into law a bill that strips the oversight authority of the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC). Specifically, the law removes rate and quality protections for consumers of phones that function through Internet technology. This technology, called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), routes phone calls over Internet signals, and is offered by cable or DSL companies like Verizon’s FiOS, Comcast’s Digital Voice, and AT&T’s U-Verse. The experience is just like using a traditional phone since increasingly landline phones need Internet Protocol to be connected. The bill signed into law, SB 1161, effectively eliminates common-sense protections for all of California’s consumers who will be helpless when issues arise with their phone service, while tying the hands of the CPUC and local governments alike.
(With 2012 legislative sessions largely adjourned in statehouses across the nation, this is the fifth in a series of issue-specific session roundups from Progressive States Network highlighting trends in different policy areas across the fifty states. Read the full article here.)
With a close presidential election on the horizon, this year saw conservatives continuing to ramp up their voter suppression efforts. Party leaders in Pennsylvania and Florida admitted as much, confessing that their efforts were intended to benefit conservatives in time for the elections. However, attempts to stack the deck for partisan gain encountered a number of obstacles and were nowhere near as successful as they were last year, ultimately ensuring that — despite a continuing spate of efforts in legislatures, the courts, and by partisan elections officials to roll back the fundamental right to vote — 2012 was not the banner year that the right was hoping for. If 2011 was “The Year of Voter ID,” then 2012 will certainly go down as “The Year of Right-Wing Overreach,” as courts and federal enforcement agencies struck down such blatantly partisan tactics. Though the year is far from over and several important voter suppression battles have yet to be decided in advance of Election Day, there were some key victories for democracy that bode well for 2013. [Read More]
Though UFO sightings are more common than in-person voter impersonation, over thirty states introduced or carried over legislation focused on an almost entirely non-existent problem. These included an assortment of new voter ID proposals and measures to “strengthen” existing laws by requiring photo ID, but also some bills to expand the type of photo ID acceptable at the polls. The national right-wing strategy behind voter ID laws became clearer this year as the corporate backers of the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were taken to task by the public for their support of state legislation to suppress the vote. [Read More]
Performing an important check on partisan right-wing legislators eager to tilt the electoral playing field in their states, the courts have made a number of important rulings that largely affirmed individuals’ right to register to vote and access the polls easily. [Read More]
Conservatives attempted to exploit anti-immigrant sentiment by using the same faulty rationale for voter ID laws — keeping non-citizens from “stealing” our elections — to push for a new initiative: purges of non-citizens from the voter rolls. [Read More]
2012 also featured some bright spots that bucked the trend of imposing barriers to registration and voting. From same day registration to online voter registration to eliminating waiting periods for ex-felons, progress was made on expanding voting rights in some states. [Read More]
Though more studies showed in 2012 that voter ID is a misguided, ineffective means of addressing electoral fraud, the upside of the conservative focus on “protecting the sanctity of the vote” and the rolls may be the highlighting of the need to update our antiquated, patchwork voter registration system. The components of voter registration modernization ensure that records are more accurate, opportunities for fraud are reduced, and that the overall process is more efficient — all while saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year, something that liberals and conservatives can agree upon.
If history is any indication, one of the biggest problems plaguing Election Day will be partisan misinformation campaign designed to skew the vote — not undocumented immigrants, as conservatives insist. The confluence of near-universally weak state laws on deceptive practices and a historically close election could result in record numbers of voters kept from the polls. Legislators should take advantage of public discussion of disenfranchisement to champion legislation that protects voters.