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National Popular Vote Victory in Massachusetts Adds Momentum to Changing Presidential Vote System

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National Popular Vote Victory in Massachusetts Adds Momentum to Changing Presidential Vote System

Clean And Fair Elections

Last week, the Massachusetts Senate passed National Popular Vote (NPV) legislation, a little more than a month after the state’s House of Representatives approved NPV by an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority. With final approval by the legislature likely soon, this will add Massachusetts' 12 electoral votes to approval of NPV by Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington, bringing the electoral votes of states approving the NPV interstate compact to 73.

Extended Unemployment Benefits Approved by Feds - But Debates Continue on Raiding Already Approved Recovery Funds

UNEMPLOYMENT AND RETRAINING
This week, the U.S. Senate finally broke a filibuster by conservatives to approve an extension of unemployment insurance (UI) for 2.5 million people who lost their benefits when the program expired last month. The House is expected to approve the bill today, which extends the program through November, offering the long-term unemployed up to 99 weeks of aid and making benefits retroactive to June 2 when the program expired.

New Health Insurance Plans Required to Provide Free Preventive Health Care

Healthcare for All
New federal regulations were issued that will guarantee affordable preventive care services for millions of Americans. The new interim final regulations specify that new health insurance policies beginning on or after September 23, 2010, must include preventive services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, as well as preventive services recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in their coverage plans. In addition, health plans will be prohibited from charging co-payments, co-insurance or deductibles for these services when they are delivered by network providers.

Meet Us at the NCSL Legislative Summit!

If you’re planning to attend the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit in Louisville, Kentucky next week, be sure to visit Progressive States Network at our exhibit hall booth (#701) and at our several hosted events.

You can also find all of the attending progressive organizations and events in the Progressive's Guide to the 2010 NCSL Legislative Summit, located online at http://www.progressivestates.org/progressiveguide2010.

With the help of friends and allies, Progressive States Network has assembled the Progressive’s Guide to provide the progressive community with a one-stop source for finding out what progressive organizations will be attending the conference, how to get in touch with them and a comprehensive listing of events organized by them. We encourage you to visit the booths of progressive organizations in the conference exhibit hall, where you can connect with progressive advocates and find the latest state policy resources. Plus, if you do, you could enter to win a digital camera!

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National Popular Vote Victory in Massachusetts Adds Momentum to Changing Presidential Vote System

Clean And Fair Elections * Cristina Francisco-Mcguire

Last week, the Massachusetts Senate passed National Popular Vote (NPV) legislation by a 28-10 vote, a little more than a month after the state’s House of Representatives approved NPV by an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority.

With final approval by the legislature likely soon, this will add Massachusetts' 12 electoral votes to approval of NPV by Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington, bringing the electoral votes of states approving the NPV interstate compact to 73. When enough states approve NPV to bring the tally of electoral votes to 270 (the number needed to win an election), the NPV interstate laws will award those state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes nationally, replacing the current system where votes are awarded on a winner-take-all system state-by-state.

The momentum nationally for National Popular Vote remains strong: both chambers in four other states (Rhode Island, Vermont, Colorado and California) have approved NPV in the past few years, while at least one chamber in ten other states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Oregon) have approved it.

Support in Massachusetts reflected broad public support, including a survey of voters conducted in May, which showed that 72% of Bay Staters want a system that will make every vote count, regardless of whether it is from a battleground state or not. Before the bill can go to Governor Deval Patrick for his signature, state law requires that it be formally affirmed, or enacted, one last time by both chambers. The enactment vote passed the House on Tuesday, while the Senate is still working to schedule its final vote.

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Extended Unemployment Benefits Approved by Feds - But Debates Continue on Raiding Already Approved Recovery Funds

UNEMPLOYMENT AND RETRAINING * Altaf Rahamatulla

This week, the U.S. Senate finally broke a filibuster by conservatives to approve an extension of unemployment insurance (UI) for 2.5 million people who lost their benefits when the program expired last month. The House is expected to approve the bill today, which extends the program through November, offering the long-term unemployed up to 99 weeks of aid and making benefits retroactive to June 2 when the program expired.

However, UI is only one part of job creation. Congress is currently considering further aid for state programs such as schools and Medicaid. Many opponents of state fiscal relief continue to demand that the government rescind other recovery funds to pay for programs, effectively calling for the firing of one set of workers to promote employment and services for other groups. Furthermore, it is quite telling that right-wing representatives who are purportedly concerned with the deficit, took issue with how the government would pay for the UI extension, but desire to maintain the Bush tax cuts, which are major sources of the long-term deficit and as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates, "will continue to harm the budget outlook throughout the next decade."

Robbing Broadband to Pay for Schools: Just this month, for example, the House approved an Appropriations Committee amendment to the supplemental war bill that would have added funds to avoid massive teacher layoffs along with funding for expanded Pell Grants, the Gulf Oil Spill, and other programs, but paid for this aid through $11.7 billion in cuts in other programs. With inflated deficit hysteria poisoning the debate, the amendment cut funding for a special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, some other education programs, and cut over $700 million from key broadband and technological investments allotted in the Recovery Act, including $602 million the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce for broadband grants, $112 million in funding for digital television, and $15 million for National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) construction. Several advocates are concerned that a loss of crucial funding for broadband will compromise economic development, growth, and access provisions to un-served and under-served areas of the country. On top of that, due to current state budget shortfalls, ARRA broadband investments are the only direct source of funding states have at their disposal to improve and expand high-speed Internet access.

Jobs Now, Plan for Deficit Reduction Later: With unemployment hovering at 10 percent, most economic experts see the focus on short-term deficits as misguided and dangerous, since, if anything, we need more immediate spending to create jobs, not less. As Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute, and David Walker, the president and CEO of the anti-deficit Peter G. Peterson Foundation, relate jointly in a recent article, the nation can effectively engage in planning for long-term deficit reduction even as we run short-term deficits to create jobs that promote systematic federal investments in public structures, education, and benefits for the long-term unemployed as a means to spur recovery and future fiscal stability:

A focus on jobs now is consistent with addressing our deficit problems ahead... We must accept higher deficits in the short-term in order to put people back to work. At the same time, we must take immediate steps to agree on a path and a process for reducing the structural deficits that lie ahead.

Cutting short-term recovery dollars now does little or nothing to deal with long-term structural deficits and not definitively moving on necessary job creation measures can prolong economic pain and likely make those long-term deficits worse. So as Mishel, Walker and a range of other experts emphasize, the short-term spending cuts suddenly being debated in Congress are a distraction from both immediate economic recovery and from any genuine debate on long-term deficit reduction.

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New Health Insurance Plans Required to Provide Free Preventive Health Care

Healthcare for All * ENZO PASTORE

New federal regulations were issued that will guarantee affordable preventive care services for millions of Americans. The new interim final regulations specify that new health insurance policies beginning on or after September 23, 2010, must include preventive services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, as well as preventive services recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in their coverage plans. In addition, health plans will be prohibited from charging co-payments, co-insurance or deductibles for these services when they are delivered by network providers.

These new rules supplement other provisions in the Affordable Care Act that support prevention, such as the creation of a National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy and a Prevention and Public Health Fund to invest in prevention initiatives. Another policy in the federal law will increase the number of primary care professionals in order to increase access to preventive services. The elimination of cost-sharing for preventive care will make it easier and more affordable for Medicare and Medicaid enrollees to access critical preventive screenings and services.

Plans covered by these rules must offer coverage of a comprehensive range of preventive services that are recommended by physicians and other experts. The covered services will include: mammograms, colonoscopies, immunizations as well as screenings for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, breast cancer, depression, HIV and obesity. Children would qualify for more than two dozen services, including vaccinations for influenza, diphtheria and tetanus and screenings for autism, hearing and vision impairments. A full list of the covered services is available at HealthCare.gov.

It is estimated that by next year, 41 million people in employer and individual plans will benefit from the new prevention provisions under the Affordable Care Act. By 2013, the total number of Americans who will benefit from the improved prevention coverage will increase to 88 million.

These rules will not apply to grandfathered health plans, which are group or individual plans that existed at the time the federal law was enacted and are therefore not subject to a large majority of the new insurance reforms. However, HHS officials expect the number of grandfathered plans to decrease over time.

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Research Roundup

Job Creation and Training:

  • Expanding Opportunity: Employing the Formerly Incarcerated in the Green Economy - An estimated 87,000 jobs will be created through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to help weatherize one million low-income family homes. This new report from the National Employment Law Project, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and PolicyLink discusses tools and strategies to enable equitable hiring in the green economy for those with criminal records.
  • Reducing Poverty and Economic Distress after ARRA: Next Steps for Short-Term Recovery and Long-Term Economic Security - This new report by researchers at the Urban Institute and Georgetown University highlights strategies for fighting poverty after Recovery Act funding expires. It recommends targeted investments in job creation, training, income support and children and youth to prevent continued damage from the current recession.
  • Opening Doors: How to Make the Workforce Investment Act Work for Women - The Center for American Progress reports that Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs discriminate significantly against women, with disparity in earnings between women and men placed in jobs exceeding the national average. Women are disproportionately tracked into lower-paying and low-skilled jobs, where men are more heavily placed into higher-paying, skilled jobs, such as construction. They recommend instituting gender parity requirements for placing WIA clients in better-paying job tracks.
  • Cities Pave the Way: Promising Reentry Policies - This report from the National Employment Law Project describes what cities are doing to lead the way in assisting ex-prisoners with community reintegration and staying out of prison. In addition to enacting legislation prohibiting discrimination against job applicants on the basis of past criminal records – such as the “Ban the Box” bill passed in Connecticut this year – cities are using contract standards and other measures to lower incarceration costs and improve public safety by helping people find gainful employment, one of the leading factors in helping people stay out of prison.

Health Insurance Exchanges Under the Affordable Care Act: Key Policy Issues - The health insurance exchange is the centerpiece of the private insurance reforms in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). as is detailed on the Commonwealth Fund Blog. If the exchanges function as planned, they will expand coverage to more Americans, reduce insurance costs, and improve the quality of coverage and perhaps of health care itself. This article outlines some of the major policy issues and decisions that state policymakers need to consider in establishing state exchanges.

Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2009 - The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women’s earnings were 80.2% of men’s in 2009, slightly down from their peak in 2005-06. In addition, researchers found a more entrenched problem impeding women’s economic progress: men are disproportionately represented in higher-paid occupations, while women "are far more concentrated in administrative support jobs.” This holds true even for professionals: men are concentrated in high-paying jobs (e.g., engineering), and women are far more concentrated in lower-paying ones (education and health care).

Importance of College Opportunities for Undocumented Immigrants through the DREAM Act:

  • DREAM Versus Reality: An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries - This recent report from Migration Policy Institute details the importance of passing the federal DREAM Act, which would grant conditional legal status (and eventual US citizenship) to undocumented high school graduates with a minimum Associate's Degree and who meet a stringent set of requirements. 800,000 young people could gain legal status with the passage of the DREAM Act - including more than one in ten Latinos in the immigrant new destination states Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and North Carolina. Each immigrant college graduate would generate an annual fiscal benefit of over $9,000 per year, including paying $5,300 more in taxes and cost $3,900 less in government expenses than if they had dropped out of high school.
  • The DREAM Act: Creating Opportunities for Immigrant Students and Supporting the U.S. Economy - This analysis from the Immigration Policy Center includes a detailed explanation of the federal DREAM Act, who stands to benefit from the federal legislation, the economic benefits of passing such legislation, how many states have been ahead of the curve with respect passing legislation to support in-state tuition, and details Congressional support for the legislation.

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

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Steps Forward

AR: Immigration Ballot Measure Fails to Make Ballot

OR: Appeals Court Ruling May snuff Out Property Rights Claim

PA: Gov. Rendell Wants Gas Tax Hike


Steps Back

FL: Legislature Rejects Oil Drilling Ban Vote, Adjourns

IN: State Accused of Cutting Aid to Food Stamp Users

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Full Resources from this Dispatch

National Popular Vote Victory in Massachusetts Adds Momentum to Changing Presidential Vote System

National Popular Vote
Boston Globe- Mass. Legislature Poised to Enact Electoral College Bypass Bill
Progressive States Network- National Popular Vote Approved in Chambers in New York and Massachusetts
Progressive States Network - National Popular Vote - A Voter Turnout and Civil Rights Issue

Extended Unemployment Benefits Approved by Feds - But Debates Continue on Raiding Already Approved Recovery Funds

Committee on Appropriations - House Consideration of the 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act: Amendment on Fully Offset Education
Education Week - Some State Officials Worried About Race to Top Cut
Lawrence Mishel and David Walker - Address Jobs Now and Deficits Later
Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
- Obey Pushing for $10 Billion to Save Teacher Jobs
Progressive States Network - Broadband and Recovery
Stimulating Broadband - Alert: House Appropriations Cuts $602 Million from Broadband Stimulus
United States Senate - Bayh Letter to Inouye

New Health Insurance Plans Required to Provide Free Preventive Health Care

HealthCare.gov - Background: The Affordable Care Act's New Rules on Preventive Care
HealthCare.gov - Implementation Center
HHS.gov - Press Release - Administration Announces Regulations Requiring New Health Insurance Plans to Provide Free Preventive Care
LA Times - New Healthcare Rules Issued for Preventive Services
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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Executive Director
Nora Ranney, Legislative Director
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Director
Fabiola Carrion, Broadband and Green Jobs Policy Specialist
Cristina Francisco-McGuire, Election Reform Policy Specialist
Tim Judson, Workers' Rights Policy Specialist
Enzo Pastore, Health Care Policy Specialist
Suman Raghunathan, Immigration Policy Specialist
Altaf Rahamatulla, Tax and Budget Policy Specialist
Julie Bero, Outreach and Administrative Specialist
Mike Maiorini, Online Technology Manager
Charles Monaco, Press and New Media Specialist

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

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