DISPATCH: States Fail to Make the Grade on Economic Security, Wrestle with Minimum Wage, and More

Stateside Dispatch
Friday, May 31, 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:

Low-Wage Worker Strikes Spread West as States Wrestle With Minimum Wage

This week, Seattle became the latest city to see strikes by fast-food workers calling for higher wages, following similar actions in New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Detroit this year. Echoing the calls of workers in other cities, Seattle workers were demanding the right to organize without employer retaliation as well as higher wages. Washington state currently has the nation's highest minimum wage, at $9.19 an hour. Yet as one striking Taco Bell employee put it, that still isn't nearly enough to provide workers with an income that would allow them to afford the basics, especially given the limited hours many are allowed by their employers. As legislative sessions reach their hectic final stretches in many states, minimum wage increases also continued to be on the agenda as legislators wrestled with whether -- and how much -- to increase their state minimum wage:

The action in Seattle was the seventh work stoppage by American fast food workers in the last eight weeks. [The Nation

"At the minimum wage of $9.19 per hour and only 27 hours per week, I don't earn enough to make ends meet." -- Taco Bell worker Caroline Durocher. [AOL Jobs

Connecticut's legislature passed a small minimum wage increase -- 75 cents over two years -- and sent it to Governor Dan Malloy, who was expected to sign it into law. [CT News Junkie

“The economy’s doing pretty well, but not for the folks at the bottom... the money [from the minimum wage increase] is going to be spent again and again.” -- Connecticut State Rep. Peter Tercyak. [CT Mirror]

The minimum wage legislation in Connecticut does not cover tipped workers, including restaurant servers and hotel workers, who will continue to earn $5.69 an hour. [Connecticut Post]

California's Assembly this week approved a minimum wage increase of $1.25 up to $9.25 an hour over three years that would also index the wage to inflation. [LA Times]

Santa Clara County in California may go further and match San Jose's recent voter-approved minimum wage increase to $10 an hour. [Silicon Valley Business Journal]

Legislators and legislative staff: Join PSN for an informative webinar next Friday, June 7th on how to aid low wage workers and create good paying jobs in your state! Sign up to join the Economic Security Working Group for more information.

New Report: States Fail to Make the Grade on Economic Security

From tax policies to public education funding to sick leave, health care, and housing, state policies can play a huge role in ensuring the economic security of families. Yet right now, none of the fifty states are making the grade. That's the conclusion of a new national scorecard from Wider Opportunities for Women, which looked at 85 different policies across all 50 states and sees much room for improvement on economic security policies. According to their analysis, Washington state leads the nation with a grade of B-, while Utah, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama bring up the rear with D's. Read the full report here, and see how your state scored. Here's a quick look at how some states might look to improve both their rankings, and the economic security of their residents:

Kansas and Missouri, with grades of C and C- respectively, could both benefit from enacting policies to protect job quality. [Kansas City Star]

A new study shows that providing paid sick days to Oregon workers would save employers nearly $11 million a year, while also increasing their economic security score. [Portland Business Journal]

In Massachusetts, increasing the minimum wage and providing paid sick days -- both still under consideration this session -- could also benefit families. [WWLP]

A map of all 50 states and their scores. [ThinkProgress]

Connecticut the Latest State to Allow Driver's Licenses for Immigrants

With comprehensive immigration reform continuing its arduous path through Congress, states continue to work on their own tracks, passing reasonable, humane, and economically beneficial immigration policies. In addition to measures like tuition equity, this includes bills that allow undocumented immigrants access to driver's licenses. This week, Connecticut became the latest state to pass such a bill, while California saw bipartisan support emerge for theirs -- yet more evidence of how the politics around immigration reform may be shifting:

A bill to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses passed both houses of Connecticut's legislature and is headed to the governor's desk. [CT News Junkie]

Video of Connecticut State Rep. Juan Candelaria introducing the legislation. [CT House Democrats]

California's driver's license bill passed the state Assembly this week, and could affect two million people in the state. [AP]

"Today is the first time in history that this measure has received bipartisan support on the Assembly Floor." -- California State Assemblymember Luis Alejo, sponsor of the bill. [Gilroy Patch]

A driver's license bill also advanced this week in Nevada. [Las Vegas Sun]

Bills have also passed in 2013 in Vermont and Colorado, and have been signed into law in Oregon, Illinois, and Maryland. [Wall Street Journal]

Legislators: Sign up for PSN's Immigration Working Group to get involved and have your voice heard in the push for comprehensive immigration reform.

Reminder: Next PSN Health Care Webinar: ACA 101

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 next webinar is set for Monday, June 10th at 4pm ET, and will focus on what lawmakers need to know about the Affordable Care Act before 2014. Register for the entire series here.

Also this week:

An op-ed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders on some of the positive accomplishments in their just-concluded session. [Star-Tribune]

Those accomplishments include progressive tax legislation that increases rates on the top two percent of earners and is predicted to raise $2.1 billion in revenue over two years. [Citizens for Tax Justice]

North Carolina's "hard turn to the right" continues to be the subject of protest. [Washington Post]

More on California's newest debate: what to do with a budget surplus. [New York Times]

California's legislature approved a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights for the second straight year. [ThinkProgress]

More than 250,000 veterans may miss out on Medicaid coverage in states that have refused to expand it. [Stateline]

Millions of the poorest living in states refusing to expand Medicaid will also miss out. [New York Times]

That number includes a disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos. [The Atlantic]

New polling shows strong support in southern states for expanding Medicaid, despite the opposition of governors in the region. [Stateline

Conservative Texas lawmakers are sticking to their anti-women's health agenda as their session draws to a close. [ThinkProgress

How Missouri's 2013 session left women even worse off than before. [RH Reality Check]

The Supreme Court this week announced it would not be hearing an appeal from the state of Indiana regarding their effort to defund Planned Parenthood that had been blocked by a lower court. [Mother Jones]

Lawmakers and governors in at least nine states are pushing back against Common Core standards. [AP]

School closings and testing requirements are prompting protests in communities ranging from Chicago, Philadelphia, and Newark, New Jersey to western New York state. [Education Opportunity Network]

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced he would expedite the restoration of voting rights for most non-violent felons. [Washington Post]

How Missouri has some of the "loosest, wildest, most corruption-inducing campaign finance laws" in the nation. [Kansas City Star]

Hundreds rallied in Albany to press the New York Senate to pass campaign finance reform. [ThinkProgress]

The sequester continues to hit states hard, and more and more Americans are noticing. [Washington Post

Overall, states are losing $5.1 billion in grants due to the cuts in the sequester, according to a new analysis. [Economic Policy Institute]

That includes preschoolers in Wisconsin who will be kicked off of Head Start. [Wasau Daily Herald]

And job seekers in Michigan who are unable to get training. []

And the long-term unemployed in Illinois. [Progress Illinois]

California is considering legislation that would penalize large employers for paying workers wages low enough so that they qualify for Medicaid. [Sacramento Bee]

California's legislature also advanced a dozen gun violence prevention measures this week, including background checks for ammunition purchases. [LA Times]

New polling in Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee shows that "even in dark red states there's strong, bipartisan support for expanded background checks." [Public Policy Polling]

Ten state legislatures that have defeated the NRA post-Newtown. [ThinkProgress]

It turns out anti-Sharia law legislation passed in five states includes a carve-out for corporations who routinely rely on foreign law. [The Atlantic]

Are state business climate rankings a myth? [Times Dispatch]

The latest ALEC economic ranking of Wisconsin would seem to indicate so. [PR Watch

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

Map of the Week

Map: Progress of Driver's License Bills in 2013

The states that have passed or are considering bills that will allow all residents to apply for driver's licenses regardless of immigration status. [Graphic via Wall Street Journal]

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Research Roundup

Foreign Law Bans: Legal Uncertainties and Practical Problems [Brennan Center for Justice and Center for American Progress]
"A troubling trend is quickly developing in state legislatures across the country: In a thinly concealed attempt to inflame anti-Muslim attitudes, lawmakers in 32 states have moved to ban foreign or international law. The bans are based on model legislation designed by anti-Muslim activist David Yerushalmi and promoted by activists who have stirred up fears that Islamic laws and customs -- commonly referred to as “Sharia” -- are taking over American courts.... Although attacking a problem that does not exist, foreign law bans threaten to create genuine problems of their own."

National and State-by-State Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform [Center for American Progress]
"In this follow-up to the 'Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants,' we begin by recapping the national gains. We then provide estimates of the economic benefits for 24 states if their undocumented populations were legalized. Specifically, we estimate the increases over 10 years in gross state product, or GSP, as well as earnings, taxes, and jobs for these states if the Senate Gang of 8’s bill is enacted in 2013. We also explain why immigration reform is responsible for these specific economic benefits."

What Do Current Federal Funding Levels in the Wake of Sequestration Mean for State Budgets? [Economic Policy Institute]
"With many states’ fiscal situations still grim in the wake of the Great Recession, recent federal policy decisions have put even greater pressure on state budgets. This brief documents how recent federal fiscal policies have impacted state budgets through affecting funding levels for federal grants provided to states. Principal findings include [that] the sequestration cuts that went into place March 1 decreased federal funding for state grants in fiscal 2013 by $5.1 billion."

Registering Millions: The Success and Potential of the National Voter Registration Act at 20 [Demos]
"Since its adoption twenty years ago, the NVRA has successfully registered millions of eligible voters and led to important increases in voter registration among lower-income Americans. This brief highlights the key provisions in the act that were designed to expand voter registration opportunities, describes its impact on voter registration rates, and provides recommendations to ensure the act continues to expand voter registration opportunities for millions of Americans."

Online Voter Registration [Project Vote]
This policy paper "provides a comprehensive overview of this issue, identifying both the tremendous benefits and potential concerns of online registration. The paper summarizes the various systems currently in place around the country, and offers reasonable recommendations for how legislators and election officials can best design online systems to reach the greatest number of eligible citizens."

A Woman’s Agenda for the 21st Century: A Dozen Policies to Promote Economic Security for Women and Their Families [Center for American Progress]
"Today’s families are increasingly reliant upon working mothers as breadwinners or co-breadwinners. The past four decades have brought about dramatic changes in how women -- and men -- navigate their workplace responsibilities, caregiving needs, and personal lives.... By addressing longstanding and ongoing gender disparities in pay and access to benefits; beefing up family supports such as universal child care, paid sick days, and paid family and medical leave; combating unemployment; and empowering employees to fight discrimination, policymakers could substantially and rapidly improve women’s lives and build family economic security."

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Quote of the Week

"People are playing politics with people's lives, and that is a very serious matter."

-- Mississippi State Senator Billy Hudson (R), the lone Republican lawmaker to back Medicaid expansion in his state, calling for a special session for the state legislature to act to "do the right thing" on the issue. [WDAM]


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