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Ben Secord on April 27, 2011 - 4:14pm
Yesterday, a Colorado bill that would have allowed undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition to attend the state's colleges and universities died in the House Education Committee, on a partisan vote. The "ASSET" bill - standing for "Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow"
Despite its failure this year, ASSET still enjoys strong support from Colorado's business and educator communities, who view it as a key workforce and economic development proposal that would improve educational access and inject much-needed revenue into the state's strapped higher education system and help address the state's current overall budget deficit. The bill was the centerpiece of a broad and effective coalition, having been endorsed by education advocates, key business leaders and chambers of commerce, student groups, and immigrant rights advocates.
While this week's disappointing vote is a setback, Colorado continues to show positive signs of taking a more measured and forward-thinking approach to immigration. Earlier this year, lawmakers soundly defeated a bill that aimed to copy Arizona's controversial and misguided immigration enforcement law, SB 1070. And thanks in large part to a growing Latino population and increasingly influential Latino electorate, key progressive lawmakers have consistently avoided the kind of overheated anti-immigrant rhetoric that has emerged in many other states during legislative sessions.
State lawmakers missed an opportunity yesterday to improve educational access for thousands, decrease drop-out rates among high school students, and help the cash-strapped state university system. Nonetheless, gains were made, particularly in the Senate, where many Democrats supported the bill who had previously opposed a similar measure in 2008. This momentum will certainly carry over to next year, with Colorado poised to become a leader in advancing state-level pro-immigrant legislation.
Cristina Francisco-McGuire on April 21, 2011 - 5:48pm
As coordinated right-wing legislative attempts to suppress voter turnout in disenfranchised communities continue in state after state, those truly concerned about protecting the right to vote are also taking action.
This past week, Project Vote, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and New Orleans attorney Ronald Wilson filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the NAACP state conference and several private individuals. The complaint alleges that Louisiana’s public assistance agencies are not providing opportunities to register to vote as required by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), a failure that disenfranchises minority and low-income voters. Under the law, clients should be offered voter registration services with every application for benefits, renewal, recertification, or change of address transaction.
Nicole Zeitler, director of the Public Agency Voter Registration Project at Project Vote, described the impact of the state's failure to meet the requirements of the NVRA:
After similar lawsuits were brought in recent years Missouri and Ohio and successfully settled, voter registration numbers soared at public assistance agencies in those states. In contrast, voter registration applications originating at relevant Louisiana agencies actually dropped 88% between 1995 and 2008, despite an increase in public assistance recipients.
Altaf Rahamatulla on April 1, 2011 - 4:38pm
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been hailed by some as a bold leader,
but the priorities expressed in his first budget, approved this week by the legislature, indicate that he is following the right-wing's
slash-and-burn policies and adhering to economically flawed and discounted
The budget includes a slew of heinous cuts that predominantly fall on the middle class, working families, and localities, but does not include the extension of a high-end-income tax surcharge, a measure that over 70 percent of New Yorkers support. It slashes education aid by $1.3 billion, cuts state workforce costs by $450 million, and lowers local aid, while also creating or increasing several tax credits for businesses. The budget's adherence to right-wing economic doctrine was so strong that former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Guiliani boasted that Gov. Cuomo was "doing everything that a Republican governor would be doing in a similar situation." Perhaps recent reports highlighting the fact that conservative billionaire David Koch provided Cuomo with $87,000 during the gubernatorial campaign should also come as no surprise.
Cuomo's actions stand in stark contrast with other progressive budget solutions being advanced across the country: including Illinois increasing its personal and corporate income tax, proposals in Michigan and Connecticut to raise tax rates on the highest earners, and efforts to bolster the earned income tax credit (EITC) to assist the working poor.
Far from helping to rebuild the economy, a budget that relies too heavily on cuts threatens to have a detrimental impact, resulting in reduced private sector spending, job loss, and diminished investments. The Economic Policy Institute explains that $1 in cuts translates to $1.41 in lost economic activity. As Jon Shure, Deputy Director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, relates, "to be cutting taxes when you're short of revenue is like saying you could run faster if you cut off your foot."
Analysis has shown that the extension of New York's "millionaire's tax" would have generated $1.2 billion in the coming year, $4 billion the following year, and only impacted only 2 percent of the state (the Center for Working Families provides a breakdown of the percentage of residents in each district who would be affected by the increase). Despite overwhelming public support for the extension of the measure, historic levels of economic inequality, and the egregious regressivity of the state's existing tax structure (which places a heavier burden on the middle class and low-income families than the richest of the state), elected officials decided to further burden working families by passing a budget that relies primarily on cuts. This is demonstrative of a disturbing and pervasive trend in politics: tax breaks for the affluent and corporations, and austerity for the rest.
Charles Monaco on March 28, 2011 - 5:13pm
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.
As the AFL-CIO's blog reports, dozens of legislators who had relocated to Illinois for over a month returned home today to a hero's welcome (photo at right via Indiana AFL-CIO). State Rep. Patrick Bauer, leader of the House Democrats, released a statement highlighting the significant victories won by progressive legislators who, through their bold and sustained action, stopped a fast-tracked right-wing assault on the middle class dead in its tracks and turned the momentum around:
Talking Points Memo has more details on the deal that was apparently reached - and the initial reports sound as if it contains significant victories for Indiana workers and families. The so-called "right-to-work" bill that initially inspired the walkout looks as if it has been scrapped completely. An effort to make permanent Gov. Mitch Daniel's executive order banning collective bargaining for public workers - an echo of Gov. Scott Walker's actions in Wisconsin - was also defeated. And a proposal to create a school voucher system described as the "largest in the nation" was scaled back significantly, both saving teachers' jobs and preserving resources for public school students.
The fight, of course, is not nearly over, either in Indiana or across the nation. Progressive legislators in Indiana are returning to their districts to fight attacks taking place there on teachers and the middle class. And efforts to pass anti-union legislation are still underway in Ohio, despite the strong bipartisan opposition that has emerged there, as well as other states. But by taking power into their own hands, slowing down a race to strip workers of their fundamental rights, and fully representing their constituents by allowing real debate and discussion to take place, lawmakers in Indiana, like their counterparts in every state in the nation, are demonstrating that the momentum and popular support in the states is behind those standing up and fighting for the middle class.
PSN on March 18, 2011 - 2:23pm
State Senator Joe Bolkcom, the new, incoming Chairman of the Board of Progressive States Network, welcomed Ann Pratt as the organization's new Executive Director in the following message sent to Progressive States Network's supporters, friends, and partners today:
Read more about Ann Pratt and Senator Bolkcom here.
Read the press release announcing Progressive States Network's new leadership here.
PSN on February 23, 2011 - 5:11pm
(This is a guest post by Beth McConnell, Executive Director of the Media & Democracy Coalition)
Behind the stories of murder that dominate many television news broadcasts are real people whose lives have been shattered. A program airing on the nation’s newest public access television station, PhillyCAM, tells those stories in a way traditional media rarely does.
One recent episode of the program, Unsolved Philadelphia, showed the prayers, song and poems shared at what would have been the 16th birthday party for I’riana DeJesus, who was murdered at the age of 5, and whose killer is still on the loose. Host Paul Smith urged viewers who may have information on the whereabouts of a man linked to the murder to contact the show, providing local residents that may be afraid to speak to police – common in communities beset by violence and fear of retaliation – a way to help solve this heinous crime. The show’s producer, Grady Jones of Life Media Studios, told me that since the series began airing in December 2010, they’ve already received tips about some of the murders profiled, which police are now investigating. “We don’t make any money from this show, it actually costs us money,” said Jones. “I grew up in Philadelphia, and many of these communities affected are where I used to live and frequent. They mourn losses every single day. If it wasn’t for PhillyCAM, these stories wouldn’t be told.”
More than 3,000 Public, Educational and Government access (PEG) channels across the nation provide a vital platform for community-produced video from full coverage of local town halls, to student-produced shows about topics that matter to their campus, to city council meetings and debates. PEG stations feature programming that may not be considered commercially profitable, or may be considered too “local” for news outlets that serve millions of viewers or readers, or too controversial for giving voice to political views not considered mainstream. But the programming on these stations is critical in creating an engaged, informed and active community.
Unfortunately, PEG stations are under attack in states across the nation. At the urging of cable and phone companies, more than 17 states passed legislation in recent years that strip their municipalities of the right to negotiate franchising agreements that led to the creation of PEG stations. According to a recent report by the Alliance for Community Media, these state laws have devastated community media stations across the country. 20% of the stations surveyed in those states reported funding decreases that have led to cuts in service. Respondents from 17 communities in 8 different states report loss of PEG facilities. Comcast used state franchise law as the excuse to close all of its PEG facilities in northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan in September of 2007. This is despite very healthy profits from major telecommunications companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, even during the recession. PEG stations that survived have also reported being mistreated by the cable providers, such as by making it difficult for viewers to find the channels and access the programming.
Just last week, New Jersey's Assembly passed a bill that would have threatened PEG stations, but was amended to protect the facilities due to significant community backlash. Members of the Colorado legislature recently announced their intention to re-vive a state franchising bill that could also threaten PEG stations. A House Committee in Indiana passed a bill last week that will eliminate certain franchise fees paid by video service providers to local governments. These fees are often used to support PEG stations.
Under the guise of creating competition in the video subscription market, these bills often eliminate or reduce consumer protections, local control, resources for community programming, and standards for build-out of networks to un-served communities. And there is evidence the hoped-for “competition” isn’t benefitting consumers. A 2008 survey by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) showed that of 14 states that had adopted similar laws, cable rates had not decreased, and consumer complaints remained high.
Where is the public benefit in state legislation that weakens consumer protections, threatens community programming, does nothing to lower cable rates or improve customer service?
Federal legislation will soon be re-introduced in the 112th Congress to address some of the mistreatment of PEG stations by video service providers, and state legislators can help by urging their federal Representatives to co-sponsor the bill, the Community Access Preservation Act. State legislators should also consider taking a second look at existing state video franchising legislation, and propose changes to the laws to un-do the harm to PEG stations. Finally, state legislators should look closely at any bills that purport to create “competition” in the video marketplace, but that actually just strip communities of important consumer protections and opportunities for freedom of expression.
Altaf Rahamatulla on February 17, 2011 - 6:14pm
As conservative governors across the nation are attacking workers' rights, proposing heinous cuts, attempting to provide excessive corporate tax breaks, and advancing regressive policies that threaten the vitality of middle class and working families, one governor's approach stands in bold contrast.
In addition to making wide-ranging revenue generation proposals, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy is pushing the creation of the state's first Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). As the New York Times analyzed, "unlike his counterparts, [Malloy] has set out to prove that even in an age of austerity one can govern as a defender of the social safety net."
The Hartford Courant expanded on Malloy's proposal:
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted EITCs. Since 2006 alone, five new states have enacted the program: Michigan, North Carolina, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Washington. Additionally, Maryland recently expanded the refundable part of its EITC from 20 percent of the federal EITC up to 25 percent.
These types of policies increase economic security in a time of hardship. As part of our 2011 Blueprint for Economic Security, Progressive States Network has highlighted a number of policies to reduce the unfair burden on moderate and low-income families and support the growth of a vibrant middle class.
Cristina Francisco-McGuire on February 16, 2011 - 3:55pm
This week, Vermont’s Senate will vote on S. 31, the National Popular Vote (NPV) bill that would allow the state’s electoral votes to be awarded to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide in 2012. Massachusetts and the District of Columbia are the most recent additions to the interstate compact that would only go into effect if enough states approve NPV to bring the tally of electoral votes to 270, the number needed to win an election. So far, the compact has been passed in states totaling 74 electoral votes - Vermont would add three.
Vermont’s legislature passed NPV in 2008, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Jim Douglas. The state senate passed the bill again in 2009, but certain of another veto, the House did not act on the measure. However, newly-elected Gov. Peter Shumlin is a former senate sponsor of the bill. According to the Burlington Free Press, Rep. Tim Jerman has collected 80 signatures in support of his bipartisan NPV bill.
In 2004, presidential campaigns spent two-thirds of their funds and campaign visits on just five states. Overall, more than 80% of resources were spent in nine states and over 99% of all funds went to just 16 states. Meanwhile, voters in the other 34 states were largely ignored. Unless the current state-centric system is changed, there is no incentive for political participation in electorally “safe” states like Vermont.
Charles Monaco on January 4, 2011 - 11:06am
This week, state legislatures across the nation are starting to convene for new sessions following an election dominated by voter concern about jobs and the economy. Yet if the first bills being proposed by newly elected conservative state lawmakers and governors are any indication, job creation will end up on the back burner.
The Associated Press reported this week that despite election season rhetoric on the importance of economic issues, the new leaders of Wisconsin's state legislature are focusing instead on real conservative priorities -- disenfranchising voters, attacking stem-cell research, and loosening restrictions on carrying guns in schools:
The new legislative leadership in the Badger State is also considering so-called "right-to-work" legislation (reportedly being pushed in multiple states by the American Legislative Exchange Council) that would cripple the rights and job security of workers. Wisconsin's new governor waited only a few hours after being sworn in to join the multi-state lawsuit attacking the health care law in one of his first official acts, despite the fact that repealing the law would explode the federal budget deficit. Even before he was sworn in, Gov. Walker had already cost his state jobs by indicating he would refuse hundreds of millions in federal funding for high-speed rail -- funding that ended up going to other neighboring states.
Wisconsin is no outlier. As they prepare to take power in many states, conservatives across the country are hard at work demonstrating that job creation and economic development are not true priorities. In North Carolina, they are preparing to destroy their state's public financing system and reward their big campaign donors. In Minnesota and many other states, they are planning to make it harder for already disenfranchised communities to vote in future elections. In Kansas, they are launching new attacks on reproductive rights. In Iowa, they are considering the impeachment of Supreme Court justices for having the temerity to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. And in at least a half dozen states, anti-immigrant lawmakers plan to introduce bills to repeal the 14th Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees citizenship to children born in this country.
For many newly-elected and newly-empowered state legislators and governors, creating jobs will not be job one in 2011.
Fabiola Carrion on December 17, 2010 - 1:27pm
A middle-school student needs to do her homework: she needs the internet.
A small business owner needs to purchase supplies for his inventory: he needs the internet.
A recently laid-off head of a household needs to file for unemployment benefits: he needs the internet.
And they just don’t need the internet. They need high-speed internet, otherwise known as broadband.
Dial-up access may have been sufficient for a 20th-century economy. But as our nation becomes more and more reliant on the internet in everyday life, dial-up doesn’t allow a middle-school student to download museum files from her rural home in Arkansas, a small business owner to purchase needed supplies from a vendor, or a father who was just laid-off to apply easily for unemployment benefits to feed his family.
Still think that broadband is a luxury? Think again. Broadband is the infrastructure needed for our nation’s economic survival.
More than one-third of the U.S. population is currently digitally disconnected. Our country languishes in 15th place in the world in broadband penetration. If we are going to be truly committed to educating and training the workers of the 21st century, we must do all we can to ensure that they are on equal footing with their global competitors.
Thankfully, more and more people understand the pressing nature of the digital divide. Hundreds of local and national organizations are advocating for their communities’ access to broadband. And now, after years of submitting comments and meeting with government officials, they eagerly await a Federal Communications Commission’s ruling next week on how it plans to regulate high-speed internet.
Regardless of the outcome of the FCC’s decision, progressive state legislators can and must lay the framework for how broadband access and adoption will take place in their communities. Because just like with other basic community needs like education, health care, and transportation, broadband access requires the involvement of state legislators to determine how these critical public structures will take shape.
As we have seen with health care, the environment, and workers’ rights, progressive accomplishments at the state level can drive a national movement. State legislators can take the four following revenue-neutral and widely supported steps to lead in broadband policy (for a complete analysis, please see PSN’s Broadband Policy Options Report for 2011):
1. Create a Broadband Task Force
2. Map High-Speed Internet Infrastructure
3. Create and expand programs to bridge the digital divide
4. Launch Digital Literacy Programs
If enacted, policies like these will encourage true access to, as well as adoption and utilization of broadband - sparking job growth and securing infrastructure needed to grow the American economy. Legislative oversight over broadband does not undermine competition, it encourages it by creating mechanisms that assess the need for broadband access and takes the steps to stimulate broadband adoption by making it affordable and usable. Modernizing communications policy does not mean deregulating it, but ensuring that no one is left in the digital dark.
In short, state government must propel action that will result in more investment and broadband for all.
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