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California Progressives Score Key Transparency Victory


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California Progressives Score Key Transparency Victory

In August, California lawmakers approved AB 2666, a bill sponsored by Asm. Nancy Skinner that requires the state's Franchise Tax Board to compile information on corporate tax expenditures and publish the information on California's Reporting Transparency in Government website. In 2009 alone, the state spent $14.5 billion on corporate tax expenditures with no oversight or accountability mechanisms.

Department of Justice to States: Don't Sue Polluters

In a blow to states' leadership over clean energy, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that states cannot sue power plant operators that generate pollution. The Justice Department alleges that: (1) the Environmental Protection Agency has already started to regulate greenhouse emissions; and (2) states lack standing to assert a federal nuisance claim.

Fremont, NE Considers Steep Property Tax Hike to Defend its Anti-Immigrant Law

Outlining just how costly it is for states and municipalities to be anti-immigrant, the City Council of Fremont, Nebraska is weighing a hefty 18% property tax hike to bankroll defending its controversial anti-immigrant local ordinance in court. The law was set to go into effect on July 31, but had been put on hold pending a lawsuit in federal court.

New Resource on How to Respond to Arizona Copycat Bills

To date, legislators in up to 22 states have expressed interest in introducing legislation based upon Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, despite a current federal court injunction barring implementation of many of its most draconian provisions.

Announcements

 

Webinar: Messaging Health Care Reform - Friday, Sept 10th, 1pm-2pm Eastern

This year, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the American people achieved a historic victory in moving our country towards quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Unfortunately, negative attacks and flat out lies by the opposition has diverted attention from the large gains for working families from passage of the law.

Public support for the law continues to grow, but effective messaing by supporters of health reform can not only respond to attacks the Affordable Care Act, but strengthen public support as we move into elections and state implementation of the law in 2011.

Progressive States Network and the Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform will be sponsoring a webinar outlining effective messaging strategies on Sep. 10th, where we will be joined by Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners and representatives of the Herndon Alliance, a multi-organization alliance that has just completed major polling and focus groups on how to talk about the health reform law effectively.

Please reserve your spot for this timely, important webinar at https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1665/event/hc-msg-webinar.



National Calendar of Events around Sept. 23rd, Health Reform's 6-month Anniversary

With the approach of six-month anniversary on Sept. 23rd of the signing of federal health reform -- and the coming into effect of a number of key provisions -- legislators and advocates around the country will be holding events to highlight how the law will end insurance abuses and extend coverage for tens of millions of Americans.

Progressive States Network has been working with advocates and legislators to assemble a national, state-by-state listing of events on and around Sept. 23rd to help people learn about and participate in activities happening in their communities. Check out the calendar at www.progressivestates.org/statefedhealth/events.

If you are sponsoring or know of events being planned in the next month in support of health reform and its provisions, please email us details at hcevents@progressivestates.org.

 

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California Progressives Score Key Transparency Victory

Accountable Government * Altaf Rahamatulla

 

In August, California lawmakers approved AB 2666, a bill sponsored by Asm. Nancy Skinner that requires the state's Franchise Tax Board to compile information on corporate tax expenditures and publish the information on California's Reporting Transparency in Government website. Pedro Morillas, a Consumer Advocate with CALPIRG, commented on the bill's movement, "[c]orporate tax breaks will no longer be a bottomless pit for taxpayers. We'll still be sending money down the hole, but now we'll be able to see where it lands." In 2009 alone, the state spent $14.5 billion on corporate tax expenditures with no oversight or accountability mechanisms.

In recent years, California has taken steps to improve transparency of state spending, but significant work still remains. In U.S. PIRG's Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data - a comprehensive analysis and ranking of each state on the development of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility - California's online transparency efforts received a "D" for poor search-ability and lacking complete information about current and past contracts. The report also discusses some of the major benefits of corporate transparency, which can promote sound fiscal practices, identify spending inefficiencies, reduce corruption, and encourage a more focused budget process.

The legislation now awaits the signature of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been a strong advocate for accountability throughout his gubernatorial tenure. For instance, in June 2009, the Governor signed an executive order that augmented the scope of the state's transparency website. He emphasized, "[t]he people of California have a right to know what they are getting for their money. In this time of deep recession, it is more critical than ever that state government operates efficiently and is accountable to the people."

A confluence of factors have contributed to greater legislative and activist interest in pursuing transparency, including: the lingering effects of the economic downturn, budget shortfalls and plummeting revenues, the abuses of the financial sector and their major role in the recession, and the transparency requirements in the Recovery Act. Within this framework, progressive state legislators have been advancing transparency and accountability initiatives in order to safeguard taxpayers, foster better budgeting practices, promote good jobs, and garner savings. As part of our 2010 Shared Multi-State Agenda, the Progressive States Network has been working with lawmakers nationwide to promote Corporate Transparency in State Budgets policies.

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Department of Justice to States: Don't Sue Polluters

Consumer Protection & Corporate Accountability * Fabiola Carrion

 

In a blow to states' leadership over clean energy, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that states cannot sue power plant operators that generate pollution. The Justice Department alleges that: (1) the Environmental Protection Agency has already started to regulate greenhouse emissions; and (2) states lack standing to assert a federal nuisance claim.

The brief was filed in connection with litigation where Connecticut and seven other states (New York, California, Iowa, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin) as well as New York City sued a group of utilities that emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide. The suit contends that utilities are creating a "public nuisance" through their greenhouse-gas emissions, contributing to global warming, and consequently injuring the states in their capacities as sovereigns or property owners.

States have been able to sue harmful emitters under the nuisance theory since a 1907 Supreme Court decision that required Tennessee copper companies to reduce emissions that were damaging to Georgia farmers' crops. Should the DOJ's second legal reasoning of standing be adopted by the courts, the 1907 decision would be trumped and federal nuisance law will not be able to act as backstop against carbon dioxide emissions.

Environmental organizations have criticized the Department's stance and acknowledge states' actions to combat climate change in the absence of legislation from Washington DC. Further, they note that although the EPA has adopted regulations to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, the agency has not defined how it expects power plants, factories and other stationary sources to control their greenhouse-gas emissions. Moreover, they point out, EPA's regulation over greenhouse gas is still not in effect and is only applicable for the largest and newest sources of pollution.

As we have discussed in previous Dispatches, states are often the laboratories where good policies are first created; and clean energy reform is undoubtedly one of them. If the federal government were to prevent states from exercising their authority over environmental policy, this decision could have detrimental effects on further policy innovation at the state level.

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Fremont, NE Considers Steep Property Tax Hike to Defend its Anti-Immigrant Law

Integrating Immigrants into Our Communities * Suman Raghunathan

 

Outlining just how costly it is for states and municipalities to be anti-immigrant, the City Council of Fremont, Nebraska is weighing a hefty 18% property tax hike to bankroll defending its controversial anti-immigrant local ordinance in court. The law was set to go into effect on July 31, but had been put on hold pending a lawsuit in federal court.

In June 2010, Fremont voters approved a local law that bars local landlords from renting to undocumented residents and also prohibits employers from hiring undocumented workers. The ordinance, the first and so far only successful anti-immigrant proposal to be approved in the wake of Arizona's infamous SB 1070, met with swift legal challenges from the ACLU of Nebraska and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and is currently being debated in federal court. In preparation, the town of 25,000 residents is aiming to raise roughly $750,000 to cover the legal fees to defend Fremont's anti-immigrant law - which have reportedly already been lowered by attorney and Kansas Secretary of State candidate Kris Kobach, who is the author of many state and local anti-immigrant bills and is affiliated with the controversial Immigration Reform Law Institute and its parent organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

As PSN has discussed in previous Dispatches, anti-immigrant laws at the state and local level have largely been struck down by the federal courts, which generally find these proposals to be unconstitutional. Arizona's SB 1070, by far the most sweeping and draconian anti-immigrant state law, made it a state crime to be undocumented; required all state and local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of individuals they believed were undocumented, ; prohibited individuals from seeking work on the street; and made it a crime to aid or transport undocumented immigrants in the state. Most of SB 1070's most troubling components, which effectively pre-empt the federal government's authority over immigration laws, were struck down in a federal court decision in late July. Many other similar local ordinances in relatively small towns were also struck down by the courts after protracted and costly legal battles. Hazelton, Pennsylvania's ordinance cost its taxpayers $2.4 million; the legal fees to defend Farmers Branch, Texas's anti-immigrant law cost its taxpayers $4 million; and Valley Park, Missouri's ordinance cost its taxpayers $270,000.

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New Resource on How to Respond to Arizona Copycat Bills

Integrating Immigrants into Our Communities * Suman Raghunathan

 

To date, legislators in up to 22 states have expressed interest in introducing legislation based upon Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, despite a current federal court injunction barring implementation of many of its most draconian provisions.

Many anti-immigrant proposals have already failed this year in states across the nation including in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Arkansas, and Kansas. Arizona's law is currently barred after a federal court decision. Yet even as the US Department of Justice continues to investigate SB 1070 for preempting federal immigration law and legal experts underline the law's unconstitutionality, anti-immigrant legislators and advocacy groups continue to attempt to bring similarly mean-spirited and regressive laws to other states.

A new briefing document, Fighting Back Against Copycat Immigration Laws Like Arizona's, prepared by Henry Fernandez of the Center for American Progress in close consultation with Progressive States Network; Immigration Policy Center; National Immigration Forum; Media Matters Action Network; and the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides a useful set of talking points and facts that outline how anti-immigrant proposals such as Arizona's are misguided, unconstitutional, based upon fake data, and extremely expensive for states and localities. In addition to highlighting how advocates and state legislators can shift the immigration debate by introducing and advancing positive, pro-immigrant legislation, the briefing document is also designed to provide you with effective and well-researched arguments and talking points should an Arizona 'copycat' proposal come to your state.

Some additional resources to bolster the talking points, facts, and arguments outlined in the Center for American Progress memo include more on Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's anti-immigrant crusade; how lawsuits against SB 1070 seek to maintain clear federal responsibility over immigration law; and more from PSN on how many anti-immigrant legislators falsely claimed crime rates in Arizona were soaring as the state's number of immigrant residents increased - thereby justifying the need for laws such as SB 1070.

States and legislators can provide a powerful counterpoint to anti-immigrant legislation by introducing legislation that provides solutions and expands opportunity for all residents, immigrant and native-born alike. Legislators can also join forces with other progressive elected officials to stand up against anti-immigrant politics and divisive rhetoric. Coalitions such as State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy, a dynamic and growing set of progressive elected officials from 32 states (affiliated with Progressive States Network), are calling for common-sense approaches to immigration policy via media briefings and introducing pro-immigrant legislation in states nationwide.

Progressive States Network encourages state legislators to support pro-immigrant policies and to join State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy (SLPIP) by signing on to our principles for Progressive Immigration Policy here.

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Research Roundup

 

Realizing Health Reform's Potential: Small Businesses and the Affordable Care Act of 2010 - The Commonwealth Fund just released a new report that shows that up to 16.6 million workers are in firms that would be eligible for the small business tax credit included in the federal health reform law from 2010 to 2013. According to the report, over the next 10 years, small businesses and organizations could receive an estimated $40 billion in federal support through the premium credit program.

Review of City of New Orleans Contract with Telecommunications Development Corporation - The New Orleans Inspector General released this analysis of a private contract the city awarded to Washington DC-based Telecommunications Development Corporation (TDC) in October 2009 to provide staffing to two city agencies. The Inspector General concludes that not only did the procurement process lack competition and transparency, but the city wasted over $750,000 over an eight month span by utilizing TDC's services. Further, the city would save almost $1 million annually by using public employees to perform these functions.


On Immigrants and Employment:

 

The Effect of Immigrants on U.S. Employment and Productivity - This research paper from Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco visiting scholar Giovanni Peri finds immigration has no significant effect on the number of jobs available to native-born workers and in fact expands incomes and productivity over time for all residents. Peri, who is also an associate professor of economics at the University of California Davis, found that immigration pushed wages up by $5,100 on average from 1990 to 2007 after adjusting for inflation, accounting for 20 percent to 25 percent of the economic gain during that period.

Costly in Every Way: Anti-Immigrant Laws Hurt States Financially - As 46 states continue to grapple with a total of $121 billion in budget shortfalls, this updated fact sheet from the National Employment Law Project details how implementing and defending anti-immigrant laws costs states and their taxpayers millions of precious dollars. A 2008 study by the Perryman Group found removing all undocumented workers from the US would reduce annual economic output by $651 billion and reduce annual spending by $1.8 trillion. Arizona is projected to lose $90 million in economic boycotts after it passed SB 1070, a broad anti-immigrant proposal already enjoined by the federal courts.

From Anti-Immigrant to Pro-Worker: What States Can Do About Immigration and Workers' Rights - This updated fact sheet from the National Employment Law Project exposes the flawed nature of many state laws that seek to present immigrant workers as responsible for high unemployment rates and the current economic crisis - and then proceed to target these workers with harmful policies that seek to, among other things, criminalize day laborers seeking work, impose harsh penalties on employers who hire undocumented workers, and bar the undocumented from accessing workers compensation. The fact sheet goes on to explore how states can actually address concerns about wage levels and workplace enforcement by raising the wage ceiling and ensuring they enforce existing wage and hour protections - thereby strengthening and enforcing protections for all workers rather than targeting those who are foreign-born.

Not In Competition : Data Underscores Differences Between Immigrant and Native-Born Workers - This fact sheet produced by the Immigration Policy Center analyzes the labor force participation and unemployment rates of native-born and immigrant workers in search of about immigration's true effect on employment rates. The fact sheet, which is based upon the most recent labor and employment data from the US Census Bureau's 2009 Current Population Survey, finds that immigrant and native-born workers generally do not compete with each other for jobs, as they largely differ in terms of the jobs they perform, where they live, and their level of education. The analysis also establishes that even when immigrant and native-born workers work in the same industry or firm, they often occupy disparate positions. The analysis serves to effectively dispel a connection between higher levels of immigration and unemployment rates.

State-by-State Fact Sheets on the Foreign-Born - These updated fact sheets from the Migration Policy Institute based on 2008 American Community Survey data (the most recent available), provide valuable information on each state's immigrant residents and workers. The information provides separate, state-by-state fact sheets in four key categories: 1) demographics and social characteristics; 2) language and education; 3) workforce data; and 4) income and poverty rates.

 

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

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Steps Forward

NY: First-Ever Law Protecting Domestic Workers' Rights Signed in New York State

WV: Low-Income Families to Receive Stimulus Funds for School Clothes and Supplies

CO: Payday Lenders Lose, Consumers Win


Steps Back

MN: Pawlenty Attempts To Block Health Law by Executive Order, State Could Lose $1 Billion

PA: Pennsylvania Roads Hit Dead End Without Funding

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Full Resources from this Dispatch

California Progressives Score Key Transparency Victory

CALPIRG - Bill To Test Governor's Commitment To Government Transparency Passes Legislature
Office of the Governor - Gov. Schwarzenegger Expands Transparency Web Site Creating Greater Accountability to the People
Office of the Governor - Gov. Schwarzenegger Furthers Commitment to Government Transparency
Progressive States Network - Budget Transparency Advances Across Country

Department of Justice to States: Don't Sue Polluters

The Wall Street Journal - Obama Stance on Climate Suit Stuns Allies
The Wonk Room - DOH Asks Scotus to Vacate Environmental Victory Against Greenhouse Gas Emitters
Progressive States Network - Obama Affirms Importance of State Policy Innovation by Making California Emissions Rules a National Standard

Fremont, NE Considers Steep Property Tax Hike to Defend its Anti-Immigrant Law

The Omaha World-Herald - City Weighs Tax Hike to Defend Law
Media Matters Action Network - Meet Kris Kobach: Lawyer for the Anti-Immigrant Movement
Progressive States Network -Anti-Immigrant Proposals Continue to Fail in the Wake of Arizona's Anti-Immigrant Law
Progressive States Network - Wage Theft by Employers Surging in Wake of Arizona's Anti-Immigrant Law, Even As Judge Blocks Implementation of Key Provisions

New Resource on How to Respond to Arizona Copycat Bills

Center for American Progress - Fighting Back Against Copycat Immigration Laws Like Arizona's
The Pitch -
Kris Kobach Wants to Rescue Kansas (and America!) from its worst enemy: illegal immigrants
Progressive States Network - Lawsuits Against AZ SB 1070 Seek to Maintain Clear Federal Responsibility for Immigration Law
Progressive States Network - Anti-Immigrant Laws Increase Crime and Hamper Community Policing Efforts
The Omaha World-Herald - City Weighs Tax Hike to Defend Law
National Employment Law Project - Costly in Every Way: States that Have Implemented Harsh Anti-Immigrant Laws Face Grave Economic Risks
Progressive States Network -Immigration-Related Bills to Move in 2011 State Legislative Sessions
Progressive States Network and the National Immigration Law Center - Press Briefing: State Legislators, Proclaim 'No More Arizonas', Unite to Form Group to Advance Progressive Immigration Policy

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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
Suman Raghunathan, Immigration Policy Specialist
Altaf Rahamatulla, Tax and Budget Policy Specialist
Mike Maiorini, Online Technology Manager
Charles Monaco, Press and New MediaSpecialist
Ben Secord, Outreach Associate

Please shoot 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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