After major victories at the ballot box this week, leading progressive state legislators from every corner of the nation gathered at a national conference Thursday, November 11th to plan how to turn the tide in 2012 by advancing policies that support the 99%.
Two days after voters soundly rejected many high-profile right-wing ballot initiatives, a group of progressive state legislators are meeting in Baltimore, Md., to share success stories and figure out how to move forward in 2012. More than 60 state legislators are gathering for the invite-only leadership retreat hosted by the Progressive States Network, a group providing research, networking, policy and messaging support to progressive lawmakers at the state level.
Exactly one year ago, conservatives swept the states on Election Day, thanks to promises to focus on jobs and the economy. But in states where conservatives were able to advance their agenda in 2011 sessions, voters only saw attacks on workers, the middle class, women, immigrants, and historically disenfranchised communities. This week, voters from every corner of the nation - form Ohio to Maine to Arizona to Mississippi - sent a striking and direct message in response, rejecting the overreach of right-wing legislatures and governors in 2011 on a range of issues.
Hundreds of state lawmakers representing every corner of the nation joined together to send a single message to Washington, D.C.: pass a meaningful jobs bill, and pass it now. In an open letter released today by Progressive States Network, 211 legislators representing 46 states voiced their strong support for the American Jobs Act and warned of “devastating” economic consequences to their states if jobs legislation was not passed by Congress.
In his address before a joint session of Congress on Thursday evening, President Obama laid out a $447 billion package of policies intended to spur desperately needed job creation. A breakdown of the American Jobs Act shows a mix of proposals including targeted tax cuts and spending that have been supported on a bipartisan basis in the past, and which altogether are estimated to increase employment by up to 4.3 million jobs over the next two years. States are set to be key players in many of the efforts outlined in the plan. In addition to providing desperately needed direct aid in the amount of $35 billion to states and local governments still struggling with historic revenue shortfalls (funding that is predicted to add 135,000 public and private sector jobs in 2012) as well as $30 billion in funding to modernize schools and $49 billion to continue extended unemployment benefits, other policies in the American Jobs Act echo innovations that have already been enacted with widespread support in states across the nation.
Beginning almost immediately with the gaveling-in of sessions in January, newly empowered conservatives unleashed a torrent of attacks aimed directly at workers, women, children, immigrants, historically disenfranchised populations, and the very existence of the middle class. Coordinated multi-state efforts like the assault on collective bargaining, extremist restrictions on reproductive rights, broad Arizona-style attacks on immigrants, and attempts to institute new barriers to voting through Voter ID requirements all repeatedly made national news.
From a non-stop assault on the rights of workers, immigrants, and women, to power grabs making it easier for corporations to influence the political process and harder for historically disenfranchised populations to vote, to balancing state budgets on the backs of children and the vulnerable by cutting schools and health care in order to give millionaires and CEOs even bigger tax cuts, the measures that grabbed headlines in the states this year have been almost uniformly bad news for the economic security of the vast majority of Americans. But dig just a little beneath the headlines, and some glimmers of hope are clearly visible.
Today, a five-week standoff in Indiana's state legislature ended
after conservative lawmakers backed down on critical elements of
proposed legislation to severely undermine workers' rights, permanently
ban collective bargaining for public employees, and create a sprawling
state-funded private school voucher system.
On March 8, 2011, Tim Judson, Progressive States Network's Workers' Rights Policy Specialist, testified at the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing on the the national assault on worker's rights. The full testimony is available here.