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DISPATCH: Town Halls Heat Up Over Voter Opposition To Cuts, Anti-Discrimination Efforts On Gender Identity Advance, Prison Priva

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Town Halls Heat Up As Legislators Get Earful On Cuts

Tax and Budget Reform   *   Charles Monaco

Faced with the lasting effects of the Great Recession on state revenues, governors and legislators across the country have spent much of the 2011 legislative session proposing unpopular and economically destructive cuts  to education, health care, and other critical services in state budgets. In many states, cuts to services that largely affect working families have been accompanied by unpopular tax giveaways to millionaires and big businesses – trickle-down policies mirrored in the proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2012 authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), which would privatize Medicare while extending tax breaks for the super-wealthy.

In recent town hall meetings and other community gatherings across the nation, legislators have started to feel the heat from constituents angry over these politically toxic and fiscally irresponsible proposals.  In public meetings in Florida, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New York, and across the nation, conservative members of Congress have been directly confronted over voting to privatize Medicare and refusing to raise taxes on the wealthy, part of what the New York Times reported  on as a national trend of right-wing representatives “increasingly on the defensive, facing worried and angry questions from voters.

States Advance Protections Against Gender Identity Discrimination

Respect all Families   *   Nora Ranney

As the Nevada legislative session draws to a close, two bills protecting transgender individuals passed the Senate and now head to a favorable vote in the Assembly. Senate Bills 368 and 331  passed 13-8 and 11-10 respectively, both outlawing transgender discrimination in housing and public accommodations. A third bill, Senate Bill 180, failed 10-11, and would have designated violence based on gender identify or expression a hate crime.

State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas stated, "I view this bill as not being about creating special rights… It is about explicitly extending equal protection of law to those who are often the target of discrimination."
 

Right-Wing Pushes Costly and Inefficient Prison Privatization Schemes

Accountable Government   *   Altaf Rahamatulla

This session, right-wing officials have been peddling costly, inefficient, and socially damaging prison privatization schemes. Several states, including Louisiana, Florida, and Ohio, have considered proposals to hand over the operation and management of prisons to private entities.

Private corporations have eyed the profitability of prisons, and in turn, heavily donated to politicians across the country. In Florida, the two largest prison contractors and affiliate entities donated over $1.5 million to state Republicans in the past decade. In 2009, the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison firm, donated $15,000 to the California GOP, $7,500 to the state’s Democratic party, and $100,000 to former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Budget Reform Now coalition.  Privatization often comes at the expense of constitutional safeguards, fiscal sustainability, accountability, proper oversight, and public trust.

Steps Forward

MA: House adds $1.4m for mental health

FL: Florida lawmakers reject governor’s tax cuts

CT: Connecticut moves one step closer to becoming first state to enact Paid Sick Days law


Steps Back

IA: Branstad vetoes tax break for low-income workers

MA: House votes to strip police officers, teachers of collective bargaining rights on health care

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Research Roundup: State Partnership Banks, Living Wage, Worker Safety, Broadband Availability and More

In this week’s PSN Research Roundup: reports from DEMOS on the many benefits tthat “Main Street Partnership” banks bring to local economies, the Connecticut Action Alliance for a Fair Economy on Bank of America’s ability to avoid paying state taxes, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies on the distribution of broadband wireline and wireless services in low-income communities, the Center for Labor Research and Education on how living wage polcies would affect the growing expansion of "big-box" retailers into major cities, the AFL-CIO on a state-by-state profile of worker health and safety protections, the Center for American Progress on the dire need to create a sustainable path towards fair and equitable economic growth, and the Pew Hispanic Center on Latino participation during the 2010 midterms.

Read the full Research Roundup.

Banking On America: How Main Street Partnership Banks Can Improve Local Economies – In this recent report, DEMOS explores the potential benefits of a state partnership bank, modeled after the Bank of North Dakota, which can foster an environment to create jobs and spur economic growth, generate new revenues for states, lower debt costs, strengthen local banks, and build up small businesses. The authors conclude, “Main Street Partnership Banks could provide states a way to put local tax dollars to work supporting the local economy – providing an innovative solution to a rising problem... After operating in relative obscurity for nearly 100 years, the Bank of North Dakota is now serving as a bi-partisan model for public finance and sustainable local lending in the 21st century.”

Bank of America in Connecticut: Profiting Without Pitching In – This report by the Connecticut Action Alliance for a Fair Economy, analyzes how Bank of America, the largest bank in the state, has been able to avoid paying state taxes through credits and subsidies, all while refusing to increase lending to small businesses that would create jobs. The report outlines suggested steps that Connecticut can take to increase jobs, aid small businesses, stop foreclosures, and protect working families.

Does Place Really Matter? Broadband Availability, Race and Income – This working paper by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies assesses new broadband availability data released by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to address the distribution of broadband wireline and wireless services in low-income, minority communities. The study concludes that states must address broadband service availability if they want to improve the economic potential of their citizens. Individuals that live within communities with a poor digital infrastructure will continue to live within places that offer little to no promise for individual improvement or connection to the economic mainstream.

Living Wage Policies and Big-Box Retail: How a Higher Wage Standard Would Impact Walmart Workers and Shoppers – This research brief by the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzes how policies requiring workers be paid a living wage would affect the growing expansion of "big-box" retailers like Wal-Mart into major metropolitan areas. Among the conclusions reached are that establishing a higher minimum wage for large retailers like Wal-Mart would have a significant impact on workers living in poverty or near-poverty" while costing the company only about one percent of its annual sales of $305 billion. It also concludes that even if the costs were passed entirely onto shoppers, giving Wal-Mart employees a living wage would barely impact consumers – only about 46 cents per shopping trip.

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect – A National and State-by-State Profile of Worker Safety and Health in the United States – The 2011 edition of this comprehensive report from the AFL-CIO on the state of worker protections marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City and the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Among its conclusions are that "workers in the United States need more safety and health protection, not less," and that "forty years after the passage of OSHA, there is much more work to be done."

Prosperity 2050: Is Equity the Superior Growth Model? – In this publication, the Center for American Progress assesses the country’s dire need to create a sustainable path towards fair and equitable economic growth. The authors note disturbing trends of the recent decades, including rising income inequality, stagnant wages, growing wealth gap, stunted economic mobility, persistent poverty, and racial disparities, and conclude, “our future depends on integrating everyone—but particularly those who are currently isolated—into the mainstream economy. We should do so not only because equal opportunity is a fundamental American value or because excessive inequality could threaten civil society, but because our future prosperity as a nation will depend on the people and places that have been left behind.”

The Latino Electorate in 2010: More Voters, More Non-Voters – This new report from the Pew Hispanic Center analyzes Latino participation during the 2010 midterms and finds that, despite rapid population growth, Latinos are disproportionately underrepresented in the electorate.

Please email us leads on good research at research@progressivestates.org

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The Stateside Dispatch is edited by:

Charles Monaco, Press and New Media Specialist

Contributors to the Dispatch include:

Nora Ranney, Legislative Director
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Director
Devin Boerm, Health Policy Specialist
Fabiola Carrión, Broadband and Green Jobs Policy Specialist
Cristina Francisco-McGuire, Election Reform Policy Specialist
Tim Judson, Workers' Rights Policy Specialist
Suman Raghunathan, Immigration Policy Specialist
Altaf Rahamatulla, Tax and Budget Policy Specialist
Mike Maiorini, Online Technology Manager
Ben Secord, Outreach Specialist

Please send us an email at dispatch@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms,or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

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