DISPATCH: States Get Jump Start on SOTU Agenda

Stateside Dispatch
Sunday, February 17, 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:


States Get a Jump Start on SOTU Agenda

On Tuesday night, President Obama laid out his second term agenda in a State of the Union address that detailed specific policy proposals across a range of issue areas. But even as national conversations around the minimum wage, immigration, gun violence prevention, and early education began to get louder in the wake of the President's speech this week, states were already getting a jump start on many of these issues. As Iowa State Senator Joe Bolkcom, Chair of the Board of PSN, said in a response to the State of the Union this week, "state legislators across the nation know they do not need to wait for Washington to act."

"Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour... let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on." - President Obama

Two days after the State of the Union, New York's Assembly leadership upped their minimum wage proposal to $9 to match President Obama's. [Albany Times-Union]

Minnesota's proposal to raise the wage to $9.50 and index to inflation also gained steam in the wake of the State of the Union this week. [Star Tribune]

Michigan legislators pushed this week to increase the state minimum wage to $10 by 2016. State Sen. Bert Johnson: "This is a conversation we need to have at both the state and national level." [MLive]

In Hawaii, a state Senate committee advanced a bill this week that would increase the state minimum wage to $9.25. [AP]

A proposal to increase New Jersey's minimum wage, vetoed by Gov. Christie last month, gained final approval to go before voters as a ballot initiative this fall. [AP]

New Mexico is also considering a minimum wage increase predicted to inject $67 million into the state economy. [AP]

A recent poll showed that 73% of voters support raising the minimum wage to $10 — but wealthy and corporate donors aren't as enthusiastic. [Demos]

A great roundup of some of the messaging on the minimum wage used by both President Obama and others in reaction to the State of the Union this week. [Topos Partnership]

A map of the current state of minimum wage laws in the states. [PSN]

"The time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform... Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship." - President Obama

A bipartisan resolution in favor of comprehensive immigration reform is taking shape in Texas' state legislature. [Austin American-Statesman]

Oregon's tuition equity proposal got a big boost this week from Gov. John Kitzhaber and business leaders in the state.

Tuition equity in Colorado passed another committee and will go before the full state Senate next week. [Hispanically Speaking News]

North Carolina announced this week that the state will join others in issuing driver's licenses to eligible DACA participants. [Charlotte Observer]

"At least a dozen" additional states may soon consider tuition bills — how states are showing the way on immigration reform. [Kansas City Star]

"Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote." - President Obama

Great photos from a rally for new gun violence prevention laws that took place outside the Connecticut state Capitol on Thursday, attended by over 5,000 people, including Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R). [CT News Junkie]

Washington state lawmakers may soon join other states acting on gun laws early in 2013 as indications are that a deal is near on universal background checks. [AP]

Vice President Biden took a break from his Colorado vacation to call state lawmakers and urge them to move forward on gun legislation. State Rep. Tony Exum: "He kept on calling me ‘chief'." [KWGN]

A New Jersey Assembly committee advanced a slate of gun violence prevention proposals this week, which will move on to the full Assembly next week. [New York Times]

Why the NRA and the gun lobby are "terrified" of new legislative proposals in California. [Mother Jones]

A former Connecticut Republican state legislator: "When you see words like 'threatening' and 'intimidation' used to refer to NRA tactics, this unfortunately is not an exaggeration, nor is it uncommon." [Greenwich Time]

Infographic: In states that have background checks, 38% fewer women are shot and killed by their intimate partners. [Demand A Plan]

"Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America." - President Obama

The White House released their detailed proposals for early childhood education after the SOTU, including a "state-federal partnership to guarantee pre-K to all 4-year-olds in families at or below 200 percent of the poverty line." [Washington Post]

"To be eligible for the program, the states would have to offer programs with well-trained teachers paid comparably to those teaching in kindergarten-through-12 classrooms, small classes and rigorous statewide standards for early learning." [New York Times]

President Obama highlighted Georgia's early childhood education program. [AP]

Sharon Lerner on how "rural, conservative, impoverished Oklahoma has built the nation’s brightest model for early education," also highlighted by President Obama on Tuesday. [The American Prospect]

Rick Perlstein says: Get ready for a right-wing backlash. [The Nation]

North Carolina Gov. Patrick McCrory's choice to head the state Division of Child Development and Early Education resigned after reports emerged that "she founded and headed an organization that advocated against publicly funded early childhood education programs." [WRAL]

State legislators: Learn more about how you can join PSN's National Working Group on Public Education, a coalition of state legislative leaders committed to advancing public education and defending against policies that undermine the needs of students, families, and communities.

Sequestration: Coming Soon to a State Near You?

The "sequestration" cuts to domestic and defense programs still loom in the not-to-distant future. The latest noises from Washington, D.C. are that, thanks to conservative opposition to including additional revenues, the draconian cuts may very well come into effect  on March 1st. Here's the current state of play in D.C. — and how some are predicting it might affect the states.

The Director of the Congressional Budget Office told lawmakers this week that the across-the-board cuts in the sequester could cost the country 750,000 jobs. [Huffington Post]

Some "high level sources on Capitol Hill" are predicting that possible negotiations to avoid the bulk of the sequester will only take place "after the impact of the sequester is actually felt." [Huffington Post]

The National Education Association has state-by-state fact sheets on how services to students would be diminished and how many education jobs would be lost if the sequester takes effect. [NEA]

In Virginia, that might mean $48 million lost in federal funds for pre-K through 12th grade education. [Fairfax Station Patch]

In South Dakota, state lawmakers are predicting "pain" thanks to cuts in "a number of programs that people have become used to." [KTIV]

Why one prominent national progressive leader is arguing in favor of letting the sequester cuts happen. [Huffington Post]

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has a plan to avoid the sequester focused on closing tax loopholes and limiting deductions for corporations and the wealthy. [MaddowBlog]

Are you a state legislator? Join the Working Group of State Legislators for Tax Fairness to learn more about how you can have an impact in the debate over the sequester.

Also this week:

North Carolina's legislature seems set on slashing unemployment insurance benefits for the jobless, disqualifying 170,000 people from federal benefits in the process. [Washington Post]

Six other states, including Florida, have already cut unemployment benefits to 25 weeks or fewer. [Sun Sentinel]

The Illinois Senate passed same-sex marriage just in time for Valentine's Day. [Reuters]

Supporters of marriage equality in Oregon launched a campaign to place repeal of their state's ban on marriage on the ballot on Valentine's Day as well.

A North Dakota bill that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation died in the state Senate. [Inforum]

Sarah Jaffe on the state of play in the New York state legislature around Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed 10-point Women's Equality Act. [RH Reality Check]

Michigan state Senators and their staffers received a memo this week indicating that their health care plan would no longer include abortion coverage. [MLive]

A bill being proposed in Texas' state Senate would endanger abortion clinics across the state. [Texas Observer]

It's a high bar to clear, but it looks like some Arkansas lawmakers want their state to be the most extreme in the war on women. [ThinkProgress]

"This bill is a priority. It is long overdue." — Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R), speaking about a bill to mandate transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. [The Cap Times]

Iowa's state Senate is pushing legislation to expand Medicaid to 150,000 people despite opposition from Gov. Terry Branstad. [Des Moines Register]

Expanding Medicaid in Colorado would boost jobs by 22,000 in the state and result in $4.4 billion in new economic activity, according to a new report. [Denver Post]

More than 10,000 North Carolinians are urging Gov. McCrory to veto a bill that would ban the state from expanding Medicaid. [AP]

New Hampshire is considering bills that would ban employers from requesting social media passwords and from using credit reports in evaluating job applicants. [Union Leader]

Who could have predicted? Connecticut's paid sick days law is not hurting businesses in the state. [CT Post]

In the week's most important news: Idaho moves to legalize beer kegs. [Idaho Statesman]

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


Research Roundup

ALEC Tax and Budget Proposals Would Slash Public Services and Jeopardize Economic Growth [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
"Governors and legislatures in numerous states are considering, or have recently enacted, sweeping tax and budget proposals that follow recommendations of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), with potentially adverse consequences for middle- and lower-income families, individuals, and communities across the country."

One-Two Punch: As States Cut Unemployment Benefit Weeks, Jobless Also Lose Federal Aid, Even as Jobs Remain Scarce [National Employment Law Project]
"This policy brief identifies those states that shortened the duration of state UI benefits and explains how this policy will limit the availability of federal UI benefits, which were extended through the end of 2013, while undermining economic recovery. We conclude with a discussion of pending legislation in North Carolina that proposes the harshest cuts yet."

Four Big Threats to State Finances Could Undermine Future U.S. Prosperity [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
"Without adequate revenues, states and localities cannot continue providing public services like education, health care, and infrastructure that lay the groundwork for a prosperous future.  But state revenue systems face four serious challenges."

State Tax Proposals Worthy of the Word "Reform" [Citizens for Tax Justice]
"State tax reform proposals are not all bad news this year.  There are some good faith efforts underway that would fix the structural problems with state tax codes, rather than simply dismantling or eliminating entire revenue sources and calling it “reform.”  Proposals in Minnesota, Kentucky, Utah, and Massachusetts would improve the fairness, adequacy and sustainability of those states’ tax systems through various combinations of base broadening, tax breaks for low- and moderate-income families, and increases in the share of taxes paid by wealthy households."

Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment? [Center for Economic and Policy Research]
"The employment effect of the minimum wage is one of the most studied topics in all of economics. This report examines the most recent wave of this research – roughly since 2000 – to determine the best current estimates of the impact of increases in the minimum wage on the employment prospects of low-wage workers. The weight of that evidence points to little or no employment response to modest increases in the minimum wage."

The 2012 Election Protection Report: Our Broken Voting System and How to Repair it [Election Protection/Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law]
"This Election Protection report provides a snapshot of the endemic problems that continue to plague American elections and sets the stage for federal and state legislators, state executives, and election officials to finally address the enduring difficulties that infect the voting process of this country."

Regulation Issue: Industry’s Complaints About New Rules Are Predictable — and Wrong [Public Citizen]
"Today, at the national, state, and city levels, opponents of regulation claim proposed rules will eliminate jobs, reduce profits, and hurt consumers. But such doomsday forecasts rarely, if ever, materialize.... This report looks at five more recent areas that have followed a familiar pattern:  The proposed regulation initially prompts industry to conjure dramatic language about the damage it will cause. Then, the regulation takes effect and wins broad public approval. Meanwhile, industry’s ominous predictions quietly recede from memory after they fail to materialize.

Email us at with research roundup suggestions.

Quote of the Week

"In hearing and reading about some of the bills, it struck me as a video of 'Legislators Gone Wild.' Some of these things that I see these guys doing, I think it does... help us lose credibility in the eyes of many voters in Colorado."

— Former Colorado State Rep. B.J. Nikkel (R), on conservatives choosing to prioritize attacks on women, immigrants, and supporters of gay rights even after their "trouncing" at the polls in November.

Sign up for PSN emails:

Like us on Facebook:

Follow us on Twitter:


Receive this email as a forward? Sign up to get the Dispatch in your inbox here.

Email us at with feedback and tips.
Progressive States Network engages and builds the capacity of state and national leaders to advance public policy solutions that uphold America’s promise to be a just and equitable democracy.
Progressive States Network
82 Wall St, Suite 200, New York, NY 10005