DISPATCH: Statequesterpocalypse, Justice Scalia Again Offends Entire Nation, and More

Stateside Dispatch
Saturday, March 2, 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:

Statequesterpocalypse 2013 Kicks Off

On Friday, the across-the-board cuts of the federal budget sequester started to kick in. While planes have hopefully not fallen out of the sky (yet), as President Obama noted in a press conference on Friday, the pain will be felt incrementally, and it will be real to millions of Americans. What's worse, the self-inflicted damage to the economy predicted to result from the sequester is entirely avoidable, and in fact does little to reduce the deficit. State legislators from 46 states this week urged Congress to avert the sequester and make sure that "significant revenues" were included in any new deal. Here's more on that, and on how the cuts are set to hit the states in the coming weeks:

Progressive States Network released an open letter this week signed by legislators from 46 states urging Congress to avoid the sequester and include "significant" revenues in any replacement. [PSN]

A collection of state-by-state fact sheets on the effects of the sequester from the White House, NEA, and others. [PSN]

Sequestration will take a toll on state environmental programs. [Stateline]

It's also going to hit communities of color particularly hard. [Campaign for America's Future]

And women and children. [Alternet]

And — specifically — conservative-leaning states. [The Daily Beast]

Indiana reversed a decision to halt federal jobless benefit payments in advance of the sequester kicking in. [IndyStar]

Meanwhile, a reminder that the damage already caused by austerity measures has been steep: "Federal, state and local governments now employ 500,000 fewer workers than they did on the eve of the recession in 2007." [New York Times]

And this could all be avoided by passing a single, one-sentence bill. [Huffington Post]

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ALEC's "Refocus" on Economy is Bad News for Economy

Last year, the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) came under fire for their support of voter suppression and "shoot first" laws. In response, ALEC claimed they would "redouble their efforts on the economic front" this year. But, in fact, ALEC has long focused on policies that weaken wage standards and otherwise endanger working families — and a new report released this week by the National Employment Law Project (with research support from PSN) shows just how. At the same time, efforts to combat the ALEC economic agenda advanced in states including Maryland and Washington as polls and research continue to show that policies like raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, and paid sick days are popular and good for the economy:

Since 2011, 105 wage suppression bills have been introduced in state legislatures. [ThinkProgress]

The full report: "The Politics of Wage Suppression: Inside ALEC’s Legislative Campaign Against Low-Paid Workers." [NELP]

Maryland lawmakers heard testimony this week on a paid sick days bill. [WBOC]

A poll showed that 82% of Maryland voters support the paid sick days proposal, including 64% of Republicans. [Maryland Reporter]

A paid sick time bill is gaining momentum in Vermont. [VT Digger]

A letter to the editor in Connecticut outlines the "clear gains" for the state from their first-in-the-nation paid sick days law. [CT Post]

Your regular reminder that the minimum wage is very, very popular nationwide — even among Republicans. [Huffington Post]

More evidence that raising the minimum wage is also good economic policy. [US News]

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States Stand Up for Voting as Justice Scalia Again Offends Entire Nation

Ninety-eight to zero. That was the vote of the United States Senate in July 2006 in favor of re-authorizing the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights law which this week came under withering — and disturbing — attack from conservative Supreme Court Justices during oral arguments in Shelby Co. v. Holder. At the very same time that Chief Justice Roberts was quoting dubious election statistics and Justice Scalia was claiming the protection of the right to vote was a "racial entitlement," states across the nation continued to press forward with voter suppression measures that underscored the need to continue to protect voting rights for all Americans:

Justice Scalia's comment that Congress overwhelmingly voted to reauthorize the VRA in 2006 because they were afraid to oppose a "racial entitlement" caused gasps in the courtroom and outrage afterwards. [Yahoo! News]

Massachusetts' Secretary of State challenged Chief Justice Roberts’ assertions about his state's turnout statistics during arguments: "I'm calling him out." [Boston Globe]

Do states still need the Voting Rights Act? [Frontline]

Texas State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer answers in an op-ed: "yes." [Politico]

Alabama State Sen. Hank Sanders helped organize 200 people to come with him to hear the arguments in D.C. [Greenville Online]

An analysis of which states flipped their position on the VRA since the last time the Court considered the case. [NPR]

Voter suppression is clearly still alive and well in the South. [Kansas City Star]

Meanwhile, Michigan conservatives are pushing forward with a plan to rig the electoral vote in 2016. [Detroit News]

Rhode Island's Voter ID law may face changes or even repeal. [Rhode Island NPR]

State legislators: Join PSN's national Working Group of State Legislators for Election Reform to learn more about efforts to fight voter suppression and protect and expand voting rights.

Map of the Week:

Map: States and VRA

At least 6 of the 9 states covered in full by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act saw voter suppression efforts passed by their legislatures in 2012. [PSN]


Also this week:

The Washington state Supreme Court struck down the state's two-thirds supermajority requirement for tax increases. [The Stranger]

On Friday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared that he would appoint an Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit, leaving half of African Americans in the state without democratically elected local government. [Eclectablog]

Lawmakers in Michigan may be looking to repeal their anti-union right-to-work law. [AP]

A great glossary to decoding right-wing anti-abortion rhetoric. [ThinkProgress]

"With 15 states banning payday loans, a growing number of the lenders have set up online operations in more hospitable states or far-flung locales like Belize, Malta and the West Indies." [New York Times]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined the growing number of conservative governors who are getting behind expanding Medicaid. [MSNBC]

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is now facing pressure from "within his own party" on Medicaid expansion. []

An Iowa Senate committee advanced a Medicaid expansion bill. [Des Moines Register]

The Maryland Senate passed an "ambitious" gun violence prevention bill. [Washington Post]

New York may become the 33rd state to adopt early voting. [Huffington Post]

A Colorado legislative task force on regulating marijuana finished some groundbreaking work this week. [Denver Post]

Turns out eliminating state income taxes is unpopular, even in conservative Kansas. [PPP Polls]

A roundup of movement in the states on in-state tuition and driver's licenses bills this week. [Immigration Impact]

Is right-wing education reform dead in Texas? [Education Opportunity Network]

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

Research Roundup

States with “High Rate” Income Taxes are Still Outperforming No-Tax States [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]
"In reality, states that levy personal income taxes, including the states with the highest top rates, have seen more economic growth per capita and less decline in their median income level over the last ten years than the nine states that do not tax income. Unemployment rates have been nearly identical across states with and without income taxes."

Stacked Deck: How the Dominance of Politics by the Affluent & Business Undermines Economic Mobility in America [Demos]
"This paper offers an overview of the interplay between declining upward mobility and growing political inequality, which we show is a self-reinforcing phenomenon. It reports on a growing body of new research on this nexus and offers a set of policy recommendations to reduce both political and economic inequality. "

Payday Lending in America: How Borrowers Choose and Repay Payday Loans [Pew Charitable Trusts]
"This report, the second in Pew’s Payday Lending in America series, answers several important questions: If payday loans are unaffordable, why do people choose them? How can they eventually pay them back at all? And what are the consequences of using a loan that is so difficult to repay?"

TANF Emerging from the Downturn a Weaker Safety Net: State-By-State Fact Sheets [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
"Nationally, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), which provides basic assistance to families with little or no income, responded only modestly to the severe recession that began in December 2007, and the national TANF caseload began to decline in January 2011. State TANF caseloads varied widely in their responsiveness during the recession, growing substantially in some states but changing little in many others."

The Sequester’s Devastating Impact on Families of Unemployed Workers and the Struggling Unemployment Insurance System [National Employment Law Project]
"Already struggling to get by on modest benefits, the long-term unemployed will feel the cuts directly with a reduction in federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and indirectly through reductions in reemployment and job training services offered by state workforce agencies. In addition, the state agencies that are already struggling to process unemployment claims face the prospects of further reductions in funding and critical services."

New Map Details Hundreds of Community Owned Internet Networks [Institute for Local Self-Reliance]
"The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has released a new interactive map showcasing 342 community owned networks throughout the United States that serve local businesses and residents. These local governments have invested in networks for a variety of reasons, but economic development is often the most significant motivation. In many cases, local businesses approached the municipality about expanding access to the Internet. Unfortunately, nineteen states limit local government investments in this essential infrastructure. The map provides detailed information on the nature of those limitations."

Email us at with research roundup suggestions.

Quote of the Week

"We cannot stop the flu. We cannot keep from ever getting sick. But we can make sure more families receive access to the recovery time they need and deserve. In doing so, we chalk up a win for employment security, public health and our economy."

— Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur on the paid sick days proposal being debated in that state's legislature this week.


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