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Vote-by-Mail Earns Backing from NAACP, Senator Kerry

Supporters of Oregon's unique universal vote-by-mail system got a serious leg up this month when the NAACP adopted a resolution formally endorsing the system. The NAACP joins the AFL-CIO in publicly backing the system, which has gained widespread support among representatives of working families for the way that it increases flexibility for voters and also serves as a reminder of otherwise low-profile elections for many of us in our busy day-to-day lives.

2006: Debate on Health Care for All Gets Real

Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to create a health care plan to provide health care coverage for the 85,000 uninsured residents of that city. While there are additional votes needed to finalize the bill, with a unanimous vote and the endorsement of the mayor, the proposed ordinance is expected to become law with no problem.

Next Steps After Court Strikes Down Maryland Health Care Law

Yesterday, a federal judge overturned Maryland's Fair Share Health Care law, which had required large employers such as Wal-Mart to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care for employees or pay the equivalent in fees to the state.  The judge in his decision argued that the federal ERISA (Employment Retirement Security Act) law preempted the Maryland law.

Vouchers and the Myth of Private School Superiority

Two things happened this past week. Some in Congress proposed spending $100 million on vouchers for private schools as a supposed educational solution for low-income students.

Progress on the Minimum Wage

After years of stagnating wages for working Americans and inaction by Congress, legislators and activists across the country are taking the lead in securing higher minimum wages on a state by state basis. They are achieving some outstanding results. Here's where the minimum wage fight stands in a number of states:

The Takings Trap: Kelo and Oregon's Measure 37

Exploiting the unpopular Kelo vs. New London Supreme Court decision, far-right ideologues are pushing a number of nearly identical ballot measures in dozens of states across the country as reforms to "protect our homes." The backers claim that their efforts will prevent big corporations from using eminent domain to seize people's homes. In reality, these faux populist measures -- backed almost entirely by one rich New York City developer -- will leave cities and counties powerless to protect the environment and strengthen communities in the face of sprawl development.

How Rich: The Man Behind the Takings Initiatives

Diving into the world of campaign finance and investigating the funders of the takings initiatives quickly reveals a number of organizations involved: Americans for Limited Government, America at Its Best, the Fund for Democracy, and Montanans in Action. What is odd, though, is that with more digging, they all appear to be funded and controlled by the same individual: New York Developer Howard Rich.

Takings In Your State

As far-right funders like Howard Rich work across the country, dumping literally millions simply into qualifying these atrocious measures for ballots, progressives have experienced some good news and some bad news. Here's where the campaign stands in various states:

States and Poor Families Caught by New Punitive Federal Welfare Rules

With new federal rules slipped into the recent reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, families in poverty are going to be suffering more -- and states have seen their flexibility in helping them significantly curtailed by new rigid federal rules. As this Stateline.org story highlights, most states are now scrambling to meet these stiff requirements and many are protesting that the poor will be the victims:

Good News on the Minimum Wage

Working Americans get some good news today out of three states -- Montana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania -- where progress is being made on the minimum wage. In Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell signed a staggered, two-dollar increase into law. In Montana, signature gatherers succeeded in qualifying for the ballot an initiative to increase the minimum wage and tie the minimum to inflation.