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Living Wage: Maryland Enacts First State Law in Nation

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Living Wage: Maryland Enacts First State Law in Nation

Rewarding Work

by Nathan Newman

Living Wage: Maryland Enacts First State Law in Nation

This week, Maryland became the first state to enact a "living wage" law, HB 430, requiring government contractors to pay their employees a decent wage, in the bill ranging from $8.50 an hour in rural areas to $11.30 an hour in areas of the state with higher costs of living.  Maryland follows the 120 local governments around the country that have required that public money go to companies that pay their workers above the poverty line.

"It doesn't make them rich," said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, chairman of the Maryland Senate Finance Committee. "We're just lifting them a little bit more out ... of poverty."

The bill exempts small businesses with fewer than 10 employees working on smaller government contracts and non-profits from the laws rules. 

Some opponents of the bill complained that the living wage law will add to the state's deficit, but recent studies on jurisdictions that have enacted living wage laws (see here and here), show little if any increased costs from requiring increased wages by contractors, and such laws have often saved money given that the employees of contractors are less likely to end up using government welfare and health care services if paid above a poverty wage. 

Maryland and California legislatures approved state living wage bills in past years, only to see them vetoed by their governors then, so this revival of the Maryland living wage law under a new, more progressive Governor who will sign the law is a welcome development.

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Valuing Families

by Adam Thompson

Washington State Approves Domestic Partnerships - Leading Gay Rights Trend in 2007 Session

The Washington State Legislature has sent a domestic partnership bill,whose lead sponsor was Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, to Gov. Christine Gregoire for her signature -- just part of a new burst of domestic partnership legislation in the states.

An Oregon bill providing marriage benefits to same-sex couples and another bill banning discrimination against gays and lesbians are moving through the Legislature and to Gov. Ted Kulongoski's desk, where a signature has been promised.    And in the traditionally conservative New Hampshire, the newly Democratically-controlled House voted overwhelmingly in favor of allowing civil unions for same-sex couples. 

This progress is on the heels of victories in Arizone and New Jersey.  In November, voters in Arizona rejected a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, making it the first state to reject such a ban.  And, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine signed into law same-sex unions in December, after the supreme court ruled that same-sex couples were guaranteed all of the legal benefits of marriage under the state constitution.

Other Victories:  Oregon's Senate Bill 2, which after 34 years of repeated introductions and defeats appears on its way to becoming law, would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, the workplace and public places-- although the discrimination ban does not apply to religious institutions, including schools, thrift stores, shelters, and even hotels owned by churches. 

The Colorado Senate also just approved a measure to allow gay couples to jointly adopt children, and the measure is being sent onto the governor who has indicated he will sign it.

And the bad:   But the news for gay rights in 2007 isn't all good.  While New Hampshire, Washington and Oregon are reducing barriers to equal treatment under the law, the Massachusetts legislature is poised to send a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to the voters and a Michigan appeals court recently ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage prevents governments and public universities from offering health benefits to partners in same-sex relationships.

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Strengthening Communities

by J. Mijin Cha

This Little Light of Mine: States Push Changing Light Bulbs for Energy Savings

What if we told you that you could save money, energy, and carbon dioxide emissions just by replacing your light bulbs?  Many states are pushing new policies to encourage or even require the replacement of traditional wasteful incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) as a key step to achieving energy independence.

New CFLs provide bright, steady light, and a 15-watt CFL produces as much light as a 60-watt incandescent.  CFLs are four times more efficient than standard, incandescent bulbs and last nine to thirteen times as long.  If everyone bought just one CFL and replaced their old standard bulb, America would save $8 billion in energy costs, prevent the burning of 30 million pounds of coal, and save greenhouse gas emissions equal to two million cars.  Convert all the bulbs and the savings would be in the tens of billions of dollars.

Several countries, most recently Australia, have banned incandescent light bulbs by 2010.  Congress has introduced a ban on the inefficient bulbs.  At the state level,

  • California AB 722 would ban incandescent bulbs by 2012.
  • Connecticut HB 6550 would authorize the Commissioner of Environmental Protection to study whether energy efficient bulbs were available for consumers at competitive prices and create a list of inefficient incandescent bulbs, which would then be banned from sale.
  • Rhode Island SB 806 would also ban incandescent bulbs by 2012.
  • North Carolina HB 838 would ban the sale of incandescent bulbs by 2016.

Short of banning incandescent bulbs, a number of states already have programs that have programs through their utilities to give consumers economic incentives to use CFLs:

  • Washington gives a $2-$6 rebate on CFLs
  • Energy trust of Oregon gives incentives for using CFLs.  Oregon SB 1149 creates the Energy Trsut of Oregon, which administers this program and other energy efficiency programs.
  • In Iowa and Minnesota, Alliant Energy gives customer $2/bulb rebate for CFLs. Minnesota's Energy Conservation Program requires utilities to invest 1.5 percent of their revenue in energy conservation programs.
  • Connecticut is proposing HB 5937, whichwould provide an income tax credit for the purchase of compact fluorescent bulbs.

Decoupling Utility Rates to Encourage CFLs: Most dramatically, Southern California Edison has given away more than a million CFLs to its customers, because California has created a policy incentive program that rewards utilities when energy is conserved.  Crucially, California decoupled its regulations so that utilities' profits are no longer linked to simply increasing sales. Instead, the decoupling program sets separate targets for utility revenue and electricity usage; excess revenue is returned to consumers, shortfalls in revenue are added to the next year's consumer bills, so utilities find giving away CFLs is more profitable than burning more energy in its power plants.  Edison even has a novel program to provide students at Green Schools programs with bulbs to take home.

What these policies all have in common is a recognition that replacing the simple light bulb is a surprisingly important tool in cutting energy costs -- and saving the planet.

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Research Roundup

Research Roundup

As we noted in our tax reform conference call last week, there are movement in many states to enact "combined reporting" reforms to prevent companies from using accounting games among corporate subsidiaries to avoid state taxes.  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has a new report highlighting this trend, while a number of local organizations have reports on the need in their states:

In a broad economic review of why wages have stagnated in the post-1973 period, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) has a new analysis highlighting the far lower productivity growth in the 1973 to 2006 period compared to 1948 to 1973, a period when wages grew dramatically.  CEPR emphasizes that this recent period of lower wages and rising economic inequality coincides with the enactment of conservative trade policies, deregulation of major industries, and tax breaks for the wealthy. 

Some have defended the subprime predatory lenders by arguing that they at least expanded home ownership, but a new report by the Center for Responsible Lending found that because so many people were ensnared in unsustainable debt leading to foreclosures, subprime lending has led to or will lead to a net loss of homeownership for 1 million families.

Showing that tech jobs are not an economic panacea, Working Partnerships USA examines life for working families in Silicon Valley in a new report and finds that wages and jobs are still below their peaks in the early part of the decade, even as living costs remain high and foreclosures are up.

Living Wage: Maryland Enacts First State Law in Nation

Progressive States Network,
Progressive Maryland, Living Wages
HB 430, Maryland Living Wage Law
SPIN Project, Winning Wages: A Media Kit for Successful Living Wage Strategies
ACORN, Living Wage Resource Center
Jen Kern and David Reynolds, Living Wage Campaigns: An Activists Guide to Organizing a Movement for Economic Justice
Political Economy Research Institute, Living Wage Resources







Washington Approves Domestic Partnerships - Leading Gay Rights Trend in 2007 Session

Human Rights Campaign: National and State Information on Marriage Rights for Same-Sex Couples

New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition
Domestic Partnership Bills: NH HB 437, OR House Bill 2007, WA Senate Bill 5336

GLAD - Defending Equality

Progressive States Network - Voters Repudiate the Rightwing Agenda

Stateline.org - Gay marriage ripe for decision in 3 courts

This Little Light of Mine: States Push Changing Light Bulbs for Energy Savings

Alliance to Save Energy

How Many Light bulbs Does it Take to Change the World?

Southern California "Green Schools" Light Bulb Exchange Enables Students to Reduce their Families' Home Energy Bills

Incandescent Light Bulb Bans: California AB 722 , Connecticut HB 6550, Rhode Island SB 806 , North Carolina HB 838
Apollo Alliance New Energy for States (pg. 6):
Regulatory Assistance Project: Decouplng/Financial Incentives



Eye on the Right

A proposal in South Carolina to raise cigarette taxes (theirs are the lowest in the nation) is encountering resistance from state lawmakers who have signed a "no new tax" pledge. Nevermind the fact that this long-overdue increase will impact teen smoking, fund healthcare programs, and lower the state's absurd grocery tax. The current 7 cents a pack tax hardly reflects the cost tobacco use places on society, but nevermind that. Some supposedly "anti-tax" legislators would rather you to pay for the impact through taxes on bread, milk, and baby formula.

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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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