This week, the new leadership of the House of Representatives made good on their campaign promise to bring repeal of the health law up for a vote as their first legislative priority of the 111th Congress. The House passed HR 2 without proposing anything to take its place, despite the repeal effort facing certain failure in the Senate.
This past week, Illinois lawmakers approved legislation to raise the state corporate and personal income tax. In explaining the need for the effort, Gov. Pat Quinn explained that the state's "fiscal house was burning." Indeed, faced with a revenue shortfall of $15 million, legislators garnered the political will to enact sensible means to generate sorely-needed revenue.
As the nation’s unemployment rate ticks close to ten percent, the Obama administration has announced it will push for early 2011 passage of the largest trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is modeled on NAFTA, with provisions which undermine the power of governments to enact labor, environmental, and other public interest standards; weaken regulatory authority over the finance sector; and grant investors special rights to sue governments in foreign tribunals.
A Guide to Asset Privatization - This recent publication by In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and responsible contracting, details different types of asset privatization (including recent debacles such as Chicago’s parking meters, as well as various parts of the contracting process) and identifies key issues that lawmakers and advocates should consider in evaluating any asset privatization deal. These include understanding the asset and terms of the contract, costs to the public and government, and encouraging a fair and accountable process,
Writing Reform: A Guide to Drafting State & Local Campaign Finance Laws - The latest edition of the Brennan Center’s seminal 2008 publication offers bill-drafting tips and judicial analysis for those interested in campaign finance reform issues in the post-Citizens United legal landscape. Writing Reform is focused primarily on state-level statutes and initiatives, with the two-fold purpose of helping drafters avoid lawsuits and giving activists the legal background necessary to push the envelope of permissible reform.
Misunderstandings Regarding State Debt, Pensions, and Retiree Health Costs Create Unnecessary Alarm - The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds in this report that recent media coverage has misrepresented state fiscal circumstances by combining “current fiscal problems, stemming largely from the recession, with longer-term issues relating to debt, pension obligations, and retiree health costs, to create the mistaken impression that drastic and immediate measures are needed to avoid an imminent fiscal meltdown.” This skews perception of what actions should be taken in the short-term, but additionally removes focus from the need to modernize and alleviate the regressivity in most state taxation systems.
Unions and Upward Mobility for Asian American and Pacific Islander Workers - Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have doubled as a percentage of the U.S. workforce over the last twenty, a rate of demographic growth matched only by Latinos. This study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that AAPI workers who are members of unions enjoy markedly better wages and working conditions, even when controlling for characteristics such as age and education level.
Leaves That Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences With Paid Family Leave in California: In 2004, California became the first state in the nation to enact a Paid Family Leave (PFL) program that provides partial income replacement for employees who exercise their right to take a leave of absence from their job under the Family and Medical Leave Act. New Jersey enacted its own program in 2008, and about a dozen states are considering doing so. This Center for Economic and Policy Research study finds that employer concerns about California’s program – excessive cost, inconvenience, and inefficiency for businesses, and extensive abuse by employees – have proven to be unfounded, and that the program has been underutilized for a number of reasons, including insufficient public awareness and inadequate wage replacement for lower-income workers.
All Work and No Pay: Day Laborers, Wage Theft, Workplace Justice in New Jersey: This study by the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law finds that day laborers in New Jersey are subject to significant abuses by employers: 54% of workers surveyed experienced wage theft in the last year, 48% had not been paid at all on at least one occasion, and 94% of those eligible for overtime do not receive it. Despite hazardous working conditions, 43% receive no safety equipment, and 26% have been injured seriously enough that they could not work for a time. 26% have been physically assaulted by an employer, but only 14% of those so attacked felt they could report it to the police. However, where support and services for day laborers exist, such violations are less frequent, and improvements to enforcement provisions of the state’s wage and hour law would better enable workers to access their legal rights.
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