DISPATCH: No Slowdown for Marriage Equality, Little Letdown in War on Women

Stateside Dispatch
Monday, February 11, 2013

Welcome to the Stateside Dispatch, Progressive States Network's roundup of the latest state policy news. Here's what happened in the states this week:


On Marriage Equality, Eight Years = 180 Degrees

Eight years ago, progressives were recovering from an Election Day that saw a full 11 states ban same-sex marriage at the polls. The environment in early 2013 could not be more different. Coming off of historic successes at the polls in four states in November, momentum behind marriage equality efforts continues to grow in state after state in advance of what is likely to be a landmark Supreme Court decision on the issue this term:

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn voiced his support for same-sex marriage in his "State of the State" address, where a bill is set to be voted on by the full Senate later this month. [Freedom to Marry]

Marriage equality looks like it will also soon be on the front burner in Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton reiterated his support while outlining his legislative priorities for 2013. [MN Progressive Project]

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee highlighted the economic argument for same-sex marriage, saying that the Ocean State needs "to have the same welcome mat at our door that our neighbors have.” [Bloomberg News]

A bipartisan majority of Colorado's Senate voted in favor of civil unions legislation, with State Sen. Ellen Roberts (R) praising the bill for creating a "structured, legalized framework for children to grow up in." [Denver Post]

Indiana's conservative legislative leadership decided to postpone until 2014 a vote on whether to enshrine their ban on same-sex marriage in their state constitution. [Indianapolis Star]

Freedom to Marry, one of the major national groups behind state ballot victories in 2012, announced plans to engage in states including Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island in 2013. [BuzzFeed]

Iowa conservatives continue to fight amongst themselves on the issue. [Des Moines Register]

Texas State Representatives Garnet Coleman and Rafael Anchia introduced bills to repeal their state's ban on gay marriage. [Burnt Orange Report]

It's unclear exactly what arguments may be made by Obama administration in briefs filed in the two same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court. [NPR]


No Letdown in the War on Women

For months, conservative strategists and pundits have publicly ruminated on the need to turn their focus away from "divisive" social issues — things like the war on women's health that dominated statehouses in 2011 and 2012, when states passed an astounding 135 restrictions on abortion. But if this is the national strategy, word has apparently not yet filtered down to the states just yet. Here's just some of the anti-women's health bills that have been proposed and passed in statehouses over the past week as the war on women continues unabated:

Alabama state lawmakers want to pass restrictions that would close the last five abortion clinics in the state. [ThinkProgress]

So-called fetal "heartbeat" bills are the newest legislation of choice among anti-choice state legislators. [RH Reality Check]

Barely a month into the new year, North Dakota has already seen at least five legislative efforts attacking reproductive rights, including a "heartbeat" bill. [ThinkProgress]

Among the North Dakota bills was a "personhood" constitutional amendment initiative, which passed the state Senate. [Huffington Post]

Mandating transvaginal ultrasounds, such a popular idea with Virginia women, is among the abortion restrictions now being proposed in Michigan. [AP]

A draconian bill proposed by nine Iowa state lawmakers would aim to charge women who seek abortions with murder — with no exceptions for rape or the life of the mother. [Ames Tribune]

None of this appears to be making national conservative leaders particularly happy. [NY Daily News]

Over in Washington state, a measure that would require most insurers to cover abortions is being debated. [AP]


Anti-Union Bills Still Percolating in Midwest

From Missouri to Pennsylvania to D.C., anti-union "right-to-work" laws are still being proposed and debated. Michigan workers continue to fight their law in the courts weeks before it is set to take effect, while workers in nearby states remain prepared for similar legislation to emerge. Meanwhile, an "anti-right-to-work" bill moved forward in Vermont — legislation that would require all workers who receive benefits thanks to a union to pay their fair share.

A standing room only crowd was in attendance as a Missouri House committee debated a "right-to-work" bill. [AP]

Despite being vetoed twice in recent years, the Missouri bill this year could skip the governor entirely and go straight to the voters. [Missouri Watchdog]

Two conservative Missouri lawmakers said that the chances of the bill becoming law during the 2013 session were "slim." [Springfield News-Leader]

In neighboring Kansas, already a "right-to-work" state, the state House voted in favor of a bill that would bar public employee unions from automatically deducting dues for political activity. [Topeka Capital-Journal]

An editorial in the Kansas City Star blasted both the bills in Missouri and Kansas as "pointless attacks on unions," noting that some of the language of the anti-union bills originated with the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). [Kansas City Star]

Pennsylvania State Rep. Darryl Metcalfe — an ALEC member — is one of the chief backers of his state's "right-to-work" bill. [Center for Media and Democracy]

In Iowa, House Joint Resolution 1, which seeks to add the language in Iowa's anti-dues law to the state Constitution, advanced in a House subcommittee. [Ames Tribune]

Chris Savage of Eclectablog on the legal fight underway in Michigan to have their "right-to-work" law invalidated. [AFL-CIO]

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a national "right-to-work" law. [Daily Kos]

Taking a different approach, Vermont's state Senate passed a "fair share bill" by a vote of 24-5. [VT Digger]


Memories of Long Lines Focus Attention on Election Reform 

A new analysis showing how widely voters' wait times on Election Day differed by state and demographic group — as well a new report on how voter registration modernization and early voting could help fix the problem — are both helping to focus more attention on election reform efforts early in state legislative sessions. Meanwhile, efforts to suppress the vote are proceeding as well, while a controversial redistricting scheme in Virginia seems to have fallen apart.

PSN released this infographic and map of how voters' wait times differed by state and demographic group. [PSN]

The Brennan Center for Justice released a report with three main recommendations on how to fix the problem of long lines at the polls: modernizing voter registration, a fixed national time period for early voting, and setting minimum standards for polling place access. [Huffington Post]

Nicole Austin-Hillery on the Voter Empowerment Act, comprehensive legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. John Lewis that would "address the core problems that led to voter frustration and disfranchisement in 2012." [Roll Call]

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's own Secretary of State is joining the call for expanded early voting days and locations in Florida. [AP]

Reports indicate that President Obama may soon join the push for action in Congress — perhaps including it in his State of the Union address this week. [New York Times]

Ari Berman in The Nation on the collapse of the bipartisan consensus in support of the Voting Rights Act, and why conservatives are now trying to destroy it. [The Nation]

A bill that would have purged Colorado's voter rolls of "suspected" non-citizens failed to pass. [Project Vote]

Virginia's partisan redistricting scheme, launched last month while a key State Senator was absent attending President Obama's inauguration, fell apart after being ruled "not germane" by the Speaker of the House. [ThinkProgress]

Virginia passed another measure restricting the types of identification accepted at the polls. [Blue Virginia]

Legislation introduced in Indiana would attempt to prevent out-of-state college students from voting. [Indianapolis Star]


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Also this week:

Momentum for Medicaid expansion continued as six Republican governors are embracing expansion as provided for under the Affordable Care Act. [Washington Post]

Ronald Brownstein on some of the reasons why conservative resistance to Medicaid expansion may be eroding. [National Journal]

Sarah Kliff on how Ohio Gov. John Kasich came to his decision to support expanding Medicaid. [Washington Post]

California's Senate will consider a "sweeping" package of gun violence prevention legislation. [Mercury News]

Former President Clinton pushed for national paid sick days legislation, citing Connecticut's landmark law as a model. [Huffington Post]

Laura Clawson on a recent, "laughably weak" conservative attack on Connecticut's paid sick days law. [Daily Kos]

How Oregon small businesses are providing a counterweight to corporate forces and advocating for paid sick days, common-sense immigration reform, and more. [The Oregonian]

Oregon may look to rein in tax deductions that benefit high income earners. [The Oregonian]

Bad Ideas, Higher Ed. Edition: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory wants to fund public community colleges based on how many of their graduates receive jobs. [Washington Post]

Bad Ideas, K-12 Edition: Tennessee State Sen. Stacey Campfield wants to cut welfare payments to families whose kids receive bad report cards and test scores at school. [Washington Post]

Three more states are considering legislation to force welfare recipients to take drug tests. [MSNBC]

Minnesota State Sen. Jeff Hayden blogged in support of Gov. Dayton's proposal for a "fair and balanced tax system." [MN Progressive Project]

A new lawsuit in Alabama challenges the "scarlet letter" provision in their anti-immigrant law. [Alabama Media Group]

Bipartisan support for the ACA in Colorado continues as both parties joined to block repeal of the state's health insurance exchange. [Denver Business Journal]

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wants his state to pass its own DREAM Act. [CBS New York]


Follow @PSNwire on Twitter for the latest state policy news.


Research Roundup

The Hidden Cost of Offshore Tax Havens: State Budgets Under Pressure from Tax Loophole Abuse [U.S. PIRG]
"Federal taxpayers are not the only victims of offshore tax havens. Tax havens deprive state governments of billions of dollars in badly needed revenues as well.... In 2011, states lost approximately $39.8 billion in tax revenues from corporations and wealthy individuals who sheltered money in foreign tax havens."

Federal Grants to States Subject to Sequester Vary Widely Across Program Areas [Pew Charitable Trusts]
"Overall, about one-fifth of federal grant funding to states would be subject to the sequester. But, the percentage of funding in each program area that would be vulnerable to any cuts varies greatly. States continue to face a great deal of uncertainty about how the cuts could be implemented and their specific impacts on state budgets and economic activity."

How to Fix Long Lines [Brennan Center for Justice]
"By modernizing voter registration, providing more early voting opportunities, and setting minimum national standards for polling place access, America can fix the long lines that plague elections and bring our voting system into the 21st century."

Measuring State Elections Performance [Pew Charitable Trusts]
"The Elections Performance Index (EPI) is the first-ever comprehensive assessment of election administration in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Using data from 17 key indicators, the EPI makes it possible to compare election administration policy and performance across the states and from one election cycle to the next."

The Dividends of Citizenship [Immigration Policy Center]
"The integration of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants now living in the United States into full citizenship is not only good for those individuals, but the country as a whole. Citizenship, and the quest for citizenship, facilitates integration in myriad ways that legal status alone does not."


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Quote of the Week

"I don’t think we want to be known as the island of the uninsured. We need to move forward with a real plan."

— Indiana Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, expressing his concern that Indiana may be the only state among all of its neighbors to refuse to move ahead on expanding Medicaid.



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