All of us at Progressive States Network remain deeply affected by the events of this past weekend in Tucson, Arizona. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all affected by this tragedy.
As we continue our work in the states, we do so with a keen awareness of the impact this horrific incident — one that took place at an event and setting that defines American democratic traditions — has had on all elected officials, including so many state legislators and other public figures. In an increasingly volatile political atmosphere, we also do so with a shared sense of renewed determination to move forward with the important work of advancing positive solutions for families and ensuring the continued health and vitality of our democracy.
As we reported last week, legislators and advocates in several states are gearing up to oppose legislation that would roll back long-accepted labor standards and weaken prospects for a meaningful economic recovery. Proponents of those measures are polarizing the political climate by vilifying unions and public sector workers. While, in most of these cases, the subject legislation may never be enacted, there is a danger that under cover of such divisiveness, other major anti-labor initiatives could quietly squeak through by being packaged more moderately.
Recent Census figures show that the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009 had a substantial impact on low-income families across the country. Provisions of the Recovery Act, including extension of unemployment insurance, assistance programs for low-income Americans, and tax credits for working families, kept 4.5 million people out of poverty that same year.
As states prepare for the worst and steel themselves against attacks on voting rights, a coalition of advocates in New Mexico celebrated a remarkable triumph just prior to the holidays. In response to a lawsuit filed by groups including Project Vote, Demos, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, claiming that New Mexico public assistance agencies were not offering clients the opportunity to register to vote as required under Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera made history by issuing the first legal ruling on the issue of whether clients must “opt in” to receive voter registration materials.
A report commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission underscores that, while most libraries and schools have some sort of Internet connection, many are not at a level that meet their needs. About 80 percent of the libraries and schools that receive funding through “e-rate” programs said that slow connections hamper their ability to access e-mail and view online reference materials, both essential for students and library patrons.
Conference Call - Fighting Back Against Misguided Voter ID Legislation: On Wednesday, January 19th at 3pm EST, Progressive States Network is hosting a call to provide advocates and legislators with resources and effective messaging strategies for fighting back against efforts to pass voter identification legislation. While these laws are touted as a catch-all way to prevent voter fraud, in reality they only address voter impersonation, an extremely rare form of fraud. More importantly they will cost states money that could be better spent in these difficult economic times and serve primarily to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.
On Friday, January 21st, in Washington D.C., the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices (NLARx) is hosting a meeting on drug pricing and affordability. The meeting will run from 9:30am - 3pm at the Washington College of Law at American University, and is only $25 for legislators and staff. The NLARx Winter Meeting will focus almost exclusively on prescription drug pricing and rebate issues, and changes in funding and rebates under the Affordable Care Act.
Public-Private Power Grab: The Risks in Privatizing State Economic Development Agencies - Recently, several right-wing governors have proposed privatizing state economic development agencies. A new report by Good Jobs First assesses the problems these misguided policies, and finds that, in states that have undertaken this effort, “the track record is filled with examples of misuse of taxpayer funds, political interference, questionable subsidy awards, and conflicts of interest.”
Controlling Risk Without Gimmicks: New York’s Infrastructure Crisis and Public-Private Partnerships - The Office of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently released this analysis of the use of privatization to address the state’s significant infrastructure needs. The report identifies four major risks to undertaking such efforts: underestimation of the value of public assets and the likelihood of short-changing the public; the potential to place unwarranted expenses on the backs of taxpayers; poorly drafted agreements; and budget gimmickry.
Constructing Buildings and Building Careers: How Local Governments in Los Angeles are Creating Real Career Pathways for Local Residents - This report by the Partnership for Working Families looks at three case studies in the Los Angeles area that show that effective implementation of community workforce agreements — negotiated, legally binding agreements signed by a local government unit, unions, and the general contractor — creates career opportunities for low income workers. The agreements, binding as well across sub-contractors, provide for prevailing wages, benefits and training access for workers on the job, conflict and dispute resolution mechanisms, workplace safety, and outlines of hiring practices. The study found that they put a significant number of local residents to work, have a proven record of retaining those workers, and lifted up wages for those workers, creating middle-class career paths.
Smart Cities Prevail- This new web resource provides messaging and aggregates a variety of resources on the benefits of prevailing wage standards for public construction and contracting projects. It also puts a human face to the issue by showcasing personal stories of workers, contractors, and elected officials that illustrate how prevailing wages change lives, strengthen families, generate high-quality construction standards, and bolster local economies.
44 Million U.S. Workers Lacked Paid Sick Days in 2010 - This fact sheet from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that 42% of private sector workers lack access to paid sick leave – 4.2 million more workers than previously estimated – and fully 77% of food service workers lack access to a single paid sick day. IWPR corrected original estimates by taking into account workers who are not eligible to access sick leave benefits because they haven’t worked for their employer long enough.
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Progressive States Network works to build a network of progressive legislators, grassroots advocates, progressive policy institutions, unions and community groups to move progressive policy and transform the political debate across the fifty states."