Over a year after the passage of SB 1070, what happened at the ballot box in Arizona this November was indicative a national backlash against not just anti-immigrant policies, but similar extremist overreach in state legislators on a number of issues. The verdict that Arizonans handed down on State Senator Russell Pearce this November was an historic one, as he became the first state lawmaker in Arizona history and the first Senate President of any state to be recalled. His support for extremist policies – including his close ties with the controversial, corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council – resulted in a bipartisan group of activists leading an ultimately successful charge to rein in his radical agenda.
A healthy civic society requires protecting citizens' fundamental right to vote while ensuring the integrity of our electoral system. Sadly, this goal is being jeopardized by a coordinated, nationwide effort to enact voter ID laws that will not solve the challenges facing our electoral systems and will instead disenfranchise voters and infringe upon the fundamental American right to free and fair elections.
Working families across the nation may find themselves feeling thankful that state legislative sessions have either reached or are nearing their finish lines for 2011. After an historic shift in the partisan control of state legislative chambers following last November’s elections, conservatives found themselves controlling new levers of power in many states. They used them. 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.
Policies that seek to exclude, segregate, and stigmatize foreign-born residents might be politically helpful to a small group of extremists, but they are also an assault on America’s values as a nation of immigrants committed to "liberty and justice for all." Thankfully, as the Arizona approach fails in state after state, we are seeing that elected officials and voters across the nation already recognize this fact.
As we look forward to 2011, paid sick days campaigns in the states are reaching critical mass: since President Obama was elected, a majority of states have taken up the issue, with twenty-three legislatures introducing bills, and city campaigns moving in three other states. Several more states will introduce paid sick days bills in 2011, and the broader movement for work-family balance has even more steam when you count states that are advancing other family-friendly labor standards, such as paid family leave. We are now at a tipping point where we can change the national debate on paid sick days – but we need some tools to ensure that the whole adds up to more than the sum of all of our parts.