Congratulations to Connecticut State Rep. Gary Holder Winfield, who has won the special election for State Senate District 10! The lead sponsor of Connecticut's TRUST Act, the first state law in the nation of its type, soon to be Sen. Holder-Winfield has long been recognized as a legislative star to watch. Dubbed "rookie of the year" as a freshman legislator, his colleagues have observed that "Gary's the guy that can pick an issue and get it done."
Washington's working families may soon have more to cheer about after the state House of Representatives passed four bills to combat wage theft. The bills' sponsors include Rep. Mike Sells (H.B. 2331), Rep. David Sawyer (H.B. 2332), Rep. Cindy Ryu (H.R. 2333), and Assistant Majority Whip Rep. Marcus Riccelli (H.R. 2334).
In Ohio, Democratic leaders of the State Senate and House called on Gov. John Kasich to veto two anti-voting bills (S.B. 205, S.B. 238) intended to limit Ohioans' opportunities to register and vote. Although Gov. Kasich ultimately signed the measures into law in a disgraceful move, the pressure from Sens. Joe Schiavoni, Charleta Tavares, Edna Brown, Lou Gentile, and Nina Turner, as well as Reps. Tracy Maxwell Heard, Debbie Phillips, Michael Ashford, Dan Ramos, Ronald Gerberry, and Kathleen Clyde raised the visibility of the issue and laid groundwork for future battles over voting rights.
This week in Oregon, which has already gained national attention for its "Pay it Forward" proposal for free university tuition, state lawmakers approved by a vote of 57-2 the "Oregon Promise" proposal, S.B. 1524, to examine whether it's feasible to give Oregon high school graduates the opportunity to attend community colleges for free.
In California, State Sen. Ricardo Lara has proposed legislation to offer health coverage to all Californians regardless of their immigration status. Federal legislation to allow aspiring Americans, who are immigrants but already a part of our communities, to earn citizenship status is currently pending in the U.S. Congress.
We have great news coming out of Nebraska, where the Legislature unanimously voted to advance a bill to allow online voter registration. The legislation, however, still needs additional rounds of approval before it goes to the Governor.
Don't Miss It
Network For Public Education. On March 1-2, the Network for Public Education is holding its national conference in Austin, Texas. More than twenty panels and workshops are planned, with experts and important figures in the education reform debate presenting.
National Community Reinvestment Coalition. The Coalition is holding its annual conference on March 12-15, centered around the theme of "A Just Economy: Ideas, Action, Impact." More information can be found here.
United States Student Association. To be held in Washington, DC, on March 14-17, the USSA National Grassroots Legislative Conference will provide students the opportunity to learn new skills in student advocacy, connect with one another, and visit with their elected lawmakers in Congress.
Voto Latino's Power Summit. To celebrate its 10 year anniversary, Voto Latino is holding four Power Summits nationwide this year, with the first taking place in New York City on April 11-12.
In April, progressive state legislators nationwide are planning to take part in Progressive States' National Week of Action for Real Prosperity Across America. If you are a lawmaker interested in participating, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eye On The Right
Anti-Gay Segregation Bills. The pressure is building on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto S.B. 1062, legislation that has drawn harsh national and local criticism for its similarity to Jim Crow laws in promoting bigotry against gay, lesbian, and transgender people in the name of religious liberty. Legal experts also raise concerns that because of the way the legislation is crafted, which would allow anyone to invoke his or her religious beliefs to justify discriminatory behavior against anyone else, it could backfire by ensnaring people of all different faiths and groups. Several state senators who initially voted for it are now backtracking and urging a veto. It should be noted that similar "religious freedom" measures are pending in numerous states, including Kansas, Missouri, and North Carolina.
Georgia's "Guns Everywhere" Bill. Alarmingly, the Georgia House has passed legislation deemed the most extreme gun bill in America, as it would allow people to carry guns everywhere, from schools and airports to even bars and churches. This "guns everywhere" bill, which includes a wish list of provisions pushed by the gun lobby, is now pending in the state Senate.
Pulse Of The Community
Gun Violence. In a reminder of the stakes involved in making progress on gun violence, the Center For American Progress reported that next year, guns are projected to become the leading killer of young Americans. Also in a reminder of the coalition of advocates and stakeholders involved, the Center hosted a National Youth Gun Violence Prevention Summit that brought together dozens of groups and young people to build a national network of youth advocates. The gun violence prevention community at large recently celebrated several victories when the Supreme Court left intact court rulings that upheld gun laws and an extreme open carry bill in South Carolina suffered a decisive legislative defeat.
Freedom To Marry...In The South? State-by-state, marriage equality is steadily becoming reality across America -- as this ten year retrospective shows. Many of the gains are coming from the courts, such as in Texas where a federal judge today struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. In an effort to further build support for marriage equality, the organization Freedom to Marry is spearheading an effort in 14 Southern states to promote wider acceptance of gay and lesbian couples.