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.
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.
The fundamental challenge in this recession is that the growth that preceded it was a mirage. Bubble era borrowing created a network of financial jobs, real estate jobs and construction jobs that collapsed with the end of the bubble. Many of those jobs will never return.
An extremely high proportion (75%) of job losses in this recession are permanent rather than temporary. States will need to nurture completely new industry sectors and the infrastructure to support those jobs, while the jobless will need retraining in new skills to participate in those sectors.
Illinois has enacted a law that will take away a necessary protection for landline phone consumers. SB 107 strips away the authority of the Illinois Commerce Commission to ensure that landline phone users — residing in 78 percent of households in the state - receive reliable and affordable phone service. Under the law, Internet-based phone services would be completely unregulated. The ICC has been instrumental in promoting universal access to telecommunications services in the state, as mandated by the state’s Telecommunications Act that was last updated in 2001. It required a service provider to offer high-speed Internet access to at least 90 percent of homes outside of the Chicago Metropolitan area. This newly enacted law eliminates such requirement and the ability of Illinoisans to access affordable High-Speed Internet services. Consequently, the law threatens to reduce investment in broadband that could make the state more competitive in the global market.
As we described last week in State Job Creation Strategies Part I: Finding the Money and Investing in Human Capital and Physical Infrastructure,
competing globally for jobs starts with policy makers instituting
fundamental investments in education, human capital and physical
infrastructure that make their state a productive environment for
economic innovation. The next step, as this Dispatch will describe, is helping the private sector leverage opportunities for job creation and technological innovation.
As this Dispatch will highlight, the first step is to fund jobs
that support long-term economic competitiveness, notably by investing
in people and physical infrastructure. While the economic climate for
profit-making business opportunities is more limited, investments in
education, health care, transit and energy efficiency can create
immediate jobs while strengthening building blocks for long-term