DISPATCH: What You May Have Missed in the States This Week

Stateside Dispatch
Saturday, April 20, 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:

Register Now: Webinar Monday 4/22 on Expanding Medicaid

Reserve your spot now! Progressive States Network is hosting a series of webinars in the coming weeks and months on the challenges and opportunities facing state legislators on health care. The webinar series is designed for legislators and legislative staff and supported by The Commonwealth Fund, a national, private foundation based in New York City that supports independent research on health care issues and makes grants to improve health care practice and policy. The first webinar is set for this Monday, April 22nd at 4pm ET, and will focus on expanding Medicaid through the state budget process. Future topics will include health insurance marketplaces, what lawmakers need to know about the ACA before 2014, and improving health outcomes while saving state budgets.

Register for the webinar on Monday and for the entire series here.

With Congress a Morass, States Continue to Look at Gun Violence and Immigration

This past week was saturated with crisis and tragedy following the events in Boston and Texas, but it also saw significant developments on two critical issues before the U.S. Senate that would likely have otherwise fully gripped the nation's attention. On guns, an already-weakened bipartisan compromise on universal background checks was blocked in the Senate by a minority of senators, ending for now the fight to pass any federal legislation in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. On immigration, the long-awaited full text of the so called "Gang of 8" immigration bill was released, drawing support from the White House, conditional praise from some advocates, and stoking opposition among anti-immigrant forces. With the ability of Congress to pass legislation on any major issue now perhaps even more in question, both issues also continued to play out on the state level this week as well:

"The inability of Democrats and Republicans to see eye to eye in Washington has led lots of people to look to the states as friendlier and more productive venues." [NPR]

After a minority of U.S. senators voted this week to kill compromise legislation on universal background checks, victims of gun violence are pledging to take the fight to state legislatures. [New York Times]

Four gun safety bills were approved by the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee this week following two weeks of intense negotiations. [Register-Guard]

The full text of the Senate immigration bill. [Office of Sen. Schumer]

How the Senate immigration bill would affect a state like Colorado. [Denver Post]

How states like Maryland have been taking the lead on in-state tuition, "paving the way for reform" on the national level. [NBC Latino]

Under the Senate immigration bill, states would no longer face a penalty for offering in-state tuition to undocumented students. [National Immigration Law Center]

The bill also "misses the opportunity to neutralize dangerous state and local laws and policies that result in racial profiling." [National Immigration Law Center]

The Oregon Senate is set to vote next week on allowing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. [The Columbian]

The Vermont state Senate advanced a bill to allow driver's licenses for immigrant farm workers by a 27-2 vote. [Burlington Free Press]

A driver's license bill in Maryland is at the governor's desk and expected to be signed into law. [Washington Post]

Legislators: Join the National Immigration Working Group for more resources and information on the recently released Senate immigration bill.


More Positive Signs for Voting Rights Laws

After a year that started off with a wave of efforts to suppress the vote  -- many of which continue -- more and more states are now looking at enacting significant reforms to modernize voter registration and protect and expand voting rights. Here's a roundup of recent developments:

The Connecticut state House passed a joint resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to allow early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots. [The Day]

A sweeping proposal under consideration in Colorado could "change the way America votes" and increase voter participation. [Denver Post]

Pennsylvania progressive lawmakers want their state to become the 36th to have some form of early voting. [Post-Gazette]

Voters in West Virginia will soon be able to register to vote online. [AP]

Ex-felons will have their voting rights restored immediately thanks to legislation passed in Delaware. [Delaware Online]

A county clerk in Oregon on why his state should expand voting and enact automatic voter registration. [Oregon Live]

Other good news on voting rights legislation in Hawaii, Maryland, and Texas. [AFL-CIO Now]

Legislators: Join the Working Group of State Legislators for Election Reform for new messaging resources on voting rights and more.


Also this week:

Front pages in every state mourned the tragic attack on the Boston Marathon on Monday. [BuzzFeed]

Eleven states may drop long-term unemployment benefits altogether, thanks to the cuts in the sequester. [Huffington Post]

Why boosting the minimum wage in the states is a "no-brainer." [AFL-CIO Now]

New Jersey voters still strongly support increasing the minimum wage, and the issue will be on the ballot this fall. []

A new national association of restaurant owners was announced this week whose members will be supporting "high road" policies including living wages and paid sick days. [ROC United]

Analysts from both the left and right agree: Kansas' radical tax plan is the worst in the entire nation. [Kansas City Star]

The Missouri House passed legislation this week that would cut the state corporate income tax rate in half over the next five years, and is projected to reduce revenue by $328 million. [AP]

It's not just the Cayman Islands. Thanks to some state laws, the United States has come to be considered a major tax shelter itself.  [MSNBC]

An Arkansas House committee rejected legislation previously approved by the Senate that would have unemployment benefits. [AP]

"A nearly decade-long effort to require Massachusetts employers to offer paid sick days is gaining momentum as lawmakers pass similar proposals across the country." [Boston Globe]

Vermonters packed a hearing room at the Statehouse this week to voice their opinion on a paid sick days bill. [WCAX]

Hundreds rallied at the state Capitol in Missouri this week in favor of Medicaid expansion. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Hospitals are also continuing to push state lawmakers to expand Medicaid. [Stateline]

It's a big weekend of action for supporters of marriage equality in Rhode Island. [RI Future]

Susan Crawford on why states should let cities build better internet-access networks. [Bloomberg]

Florida conservatives continue to push to preempt local paid sick days laws despite voters not particularly wanting them to. [FCIR]

Kansas became the first state in 2013 to pass a law mandating drug testing for welfare and unemployment benefits. [ThinkProgress]

An Arkansas conservative lawmaker mocked "liberals" in Boston the same day the city was under lockdown due to the manhunt for the remaining bombing suspect. [ThinkProgress]

And a Tennessee conservative lawmaker passed a resolution this week to honor himself. [WSMV]

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

Chart of the Week

Chart: State and Local Taxes

The regressivity of state and local taxes, in one chart. More on your state tax system's distributional impact here. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

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Research Roundup

Strategies to Address the State Tax Volatility Problem: Eliminating the State Income Tax Not a Solution [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
"State revenues plummet in recessions, just when states can least afford the loss.  Some proposals to address this flaw in state tax systems would change the systems’ structure — for instance, by replacing state personal income taxes with sales taxes — but wouldn’t solve the problem and would exacerbate others in state tax systems.  States have to balance their annual budgets so they cannot just run up debt during recessions, but they could better address revenue volatility with such strategies as stronger reserve funds and better mechanisms for managing budget surpluses."

Executive Paywatch [AFL-CIO]
"In the past few decades, CEO pay has skyrocketed while the average worker’s pay has stagnated despite increases in productivity. Multinational corporations park their profits overseas and shirk their responsibilities as taxpayers. The middle class is dwindling and more and more working people are living hand-to-mouth. Learn more about the pervasive inequality in the United States and spread the word."

Workers’ Rights on ICE: How Immigration Reform Can Stop Retaliation and Advance Labor Rights [National Employment Law Project]
"The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has prepared this analysis and offers the stories of immigrant workers to underscore the importance of ensuring workplace protections for all who work in the United States, regardless of status, and to emphasize the critical need for a broad pathway to citizenship. Such protections will benefit all workers by raising workplace standards and removing rewards for employers who abuse workers for their own gain."

Fresh Start: The Impact of Public Financing in Connecticut [Demos]
"This report looks at the impact public financing has had on campaigning, the legislative process, policy outcomes, and the dynamics of the legislature. While only a few electoral cycles in, it is clear that public financing is a fundamental step towards a more representative legislative process that is more responsive to constituents."

Valuing Good Health in Vermont: The Costs and Benefits of Earned Health Care Time [Institute for Women's Policy Research]
This analysis estimates cost-savings associated with paid sick days in Vermont, "through reduced turnover, reduced spread of contagious disease in the workplace, prevention of productivity losses from employees working while sick, minimized nursing-home stays, and reduced norovirus outbreaks in nursing homes."

Texas on the Brink [Texas Legislative Study Group]
"In Texas today, the American dream is distant. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured adults in the nation. Texas is dead last in percentage of high school graduates. Our state generates more hazardous waste and carbon dioxide emissions than any other state in our nation. If we do not change course, for the first time in our history, the Texas generation of tomorrow will be less prosperous than the generation of today."

Email us at with research roundup suggestions.

Quote of the Week

"All in all, this has been a tough week."

-- President Barack Obama, concluding his remarks to the nation Friday night.


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