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Iowa Enacts Election Day Registration - EDR Moving Nationwide

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Iowa Enacts Election Day Registration - EDR Moving Nationwide

Conference Call Announcement

Conference Call: Eliminating Corporate Tax Abuses

In recent weeks, we've highlighted abusive tax loopholes used by Wal-Mart and other companies, and highlighted policies states are promoting like "combined reporting" and individual corporate tax return disclosure to highlight abuses.

This Friday, April 6th at 1pm EST, Progressive States Network will be sponsoring a conference call to discuss the details of tax reform policies states can enact as well as proposed tax disclosure options.  We will also be discussing how state legislators and other advocates can participate in "Tax Day" organizing actions to bring attention to these corporate tax abuses

Speakers
Maryland Senator Paul Pinsky
Montana Senator Jim Elliott
Michael Mazerov, Center for Budget & Policy Priorities
Jason Judd, Change to Win's Wal-Mart Campaign Director
Nathan Newman, Progressive States Policy Director

Please RSVP at:
http://tinyurl.com/2vsvl3

Increasing Democracy

by Nathan Newman

Iowa Enacts Election Day Registration - EDR Moving Nationwide

On April 3rd, Iowa Governor Chet Culver signed into law HF 653, which provides Iowans with the opportunity to register and vote on Election Day. Governor Culver stated,

Here in Iowa , we want to make it as easy as possible for Iowans to be involved in the democratic process. This bill achieves this goal. I strongly believe getting more people to vote is good for democracy and good for the future of this state.

Iowa is now the eighth state that permits same-day voter registration, also known as Election Day Registration (EDR). Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming also currently all allow registration on Election Day.

Nationwide, momentum is building for the adoption of EDR. Currently, Washington, Hawaii and North Carolina have all passed some form of EDR through at least one chamber. EDR bills are being seriously discussed in several other states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts and Oregon.

North Carolina is likely to be the next state to move on the issue. A bill sponsored by State Representative Deborah Ross, establishes a window from 19 to 3 days before an election, during which time those eligible can register and vote at the same time at designated locations. Having recently passed the House 66-45, it is scheduled for the Senate as S195.

As North Carolina State Representative Joe Tolson, a sponsor of the bill, said, “Anything we can do to get more people voting is the right thing to do.”?

More Resources

Strengthening Communities

by J. Mijin Cha

Supreme Court Rules for State's Rights and the Environment

In a huge win for the states, and more importantly for the environment, the Supreme Court ruled this week that the EPA has the authority to regulate heat-trapping gases in automobile emissions.  12 states filed the suit to challenge the Bush Administration's claim that the EPA does not have the responsibility to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases under the Clean Air Act, and even it if did, it would not use the authority.

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, stated that the EPA's refusal to regulate must be based on science and "reasoned justification," and that the Bush Administration had failed to meet this burden by providing nothing more than a "laundry list of reasons not to regulate," as required under the Clean Air Act.

Getting a Day in Court: Even beyond the substance of this case, the ruling is a victory that has positive implications for future cases.  Justice Steven's opinion lowers the barrier for when and how states can bring suit in environmental cases.  His opinion also recognizes "the special position and interest of Massachusetts" as a sovereign state in the case and that "special solicitude" should be shown to state standing claims. This seems to create a special provision for states bringing suit.

Standing, the legal requirement plaintiffs must meet before a case can be heard, is notoriously difficult to meet in environmental cases because one element of standing requires an "injury in fact."  Yet in environmental cases, often the idea is to stop something, such as global warming, before an injury occurs.  Over time, standing requirements have become increasingly more strict, largely as a result of the conservative nature of the court, which often prevents a case from even being heard.

While individual citizens may still face significant hurdles to challenging illegal actions by the government, the decision by Justice Stevens means that states now have new standing (and responsibility) to act as plaintiffs to make sure the federal government is following the law on the environment and a range of other issues. On the substantive level, the decision will undermine efforts to refuse regulation of emissions. 

Another Environmental Victory: The Court also handed down another favorable environmental opinion the same day.  The Court ruled against Duke Energy.  In this case, Duke Energy made modifications to a number of its power plants without obtaining permits beforehand.  Duke Energy argued that it was exempt from permitting but the Court ruled 9-0 that it did have to obtain a permit because the plant modifications would result in greater emissions.

Before the rulings, the EPA had stymied state attempts to regulate greenhouse gases.  Now, the EPA has revived California's request to set tough tailpipe emissions standards to reduce greenhouse gases.  Previously, the EPA had refused, stating that only the Department of Transportation could set fuel economy standards.  The Supreme Court's ruling effectively eliminated that argument.  The EPA is running out of excuses and will have to let the states do what the EPA hasn't and start regulating climate change to begin the fight against global warming.

More Resources

Valuing Families

By Adam Thompson

Preventing Hospital Debt Among the Uninsured

With debt collection for medical bills a lead cause of bankruptcy for families without health insurance, Families USA, in a new brief, highlight a range of policies states have enacted in recent years to protect the uninsured and underinsured. 

Part of the problem is that the uninsured are charged far higher prices for the same medical procedures than those with insurance, since insurance companies negotiate deep discounts in exchange for patient referrals.  Here are some key state policies that help make a difference:

California:  In 2006, California enacted AB 774, which requires hospitals to (1) charge uninsured patients no more than what they charge Medicaid and Medicare patients, (2) inform patients of their consumer rights and potential access to public coverage, and (3) require hospitals to give families 150 days to negotiate their payments before sending bills to collections agencies.

Colorado:  For patients with health insurance, Colorado in 2006 enacted a law requiring hospital patients who, as part of their care are unknowingly treated by "out-of-network" specialists who may not be in their health plan's network, be charged at no greater cost than if the services were provided by an in-network provider.

Connecticut: In 2003, Connecticut enacted a law that requires hospitals to notify patients about the availability of free and discounted care, caps the interest rates hospitals may charge on medical debt, and creates special legal protects for medical debt.

Illinois:  In July 2006, Illinois established new protections for the uninsured against unfair hospital billing and collection practices, including better notification of patients of their rights and restricting legal action against patients with insufficient income and assets.

New York: In 2006, New York enacted Section 2807-K Amendment to their Public Health Law to reduce hospital charges for the uninsured with a sliding scale of payments based on patient income, a prohibition on foreclosing on a patients home to collect a bill, and reports by hospitals on financial assistance provided to patients.

Other states have negotiated similar agreements with hospitals through legal actions as well. All of them highlight demands that hospitals act on their historic missions to treat the poor and uninsured decently-- and charge no more than what they charge those with insurance.

More Resources

Research Roundup

Research Roundup

The American Federation of Teachers released its annual report on teachers' salaries-- and with average teacher pay only $47,062 and average beginning pay only $31,753, you have to wonder how we can attract our best college graduates to the profession.  While inflation-adjusted pay in the private sector rose by 12.7 percent between 1995 and 2005, average teacher pay rose by only 1 percent in that whole decade.

In testimony before Congress, Economic Policy Institute President Larry Mishel discussed the relationship between the undermining of the freedom to form unions and the squeeze on the middle class.

The Drum Major Institute has release a report, Saving Our Middle Class, that finds that the middle class is under pressure in New York City, with high rents and public policies often making it hard to survive.  The report proposes more progressive taxes, inclusionary zoning to promote mixed-income housing, full-day pre-K, and expanded health care options as key policies to help middle class families.

The Urban Institute has two new reports on the special challenges for older Americans to maintain economic security.  "Job Changes at Older Ages: Effects on Wages, Benefits, and Other Job Attributes" finds that older workers often move to jobs with less stress and physical effort, but often see sharp drops in income as well.  "How Economic Security Changes During Retirement" finds a sharpening of inequality even in old age, with two-fifths of retirees seeing sharp declines in income between age 67 and age 80 (median decline of $16,000 for current retirees), while two-fifths have significantly more income by age 80 (median income increase of $14,000). 

Iowa Enacts Election Day Registration - EDR Moving Nationwide

Progressive States Network, Election Day Registration

Demos, Election Day Registration  

EDR Bills: WA SB 5561, HI HB 1133, IA HSB 204

Supreme Court Rules for State's Rights and the Environment

Massachusetts et. al, v. Environmental Protection Agency

Environmental Defense, et. al v. Duke Energy Corp.

EPA revives California's Request to Set Tough Emission Standards

Preventing Hospital Debt Among the Uninsured

Families USA, A Pound of Flesh: Hospital Billing, Debt Collection, And Patients’ Rights

Laws: CA AB 774, CO SB 06-213, CT Public Act 03-266, IL HB 4999

Eye on the Right

Recent plans in Congress to expand coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program threefold are being resisted by the administration. Officials say the expansion would stray from the "original intent" of the program. However, the intent is set by Congress, who 1. sees a successful program 2. is hearing from Americans that it's time we covered all kids. Yes, it will cost money, but it will save it by eliminating the bureaucratic redundancy of the private system. And of all the things to fight against, should it be insurance coverage for the eight million children who don't have any? As Representative John D. Dingell said, “One of my problems with this administration is that there are people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”?

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Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate

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

John Bacino
Editor, Stateside Dispatch

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