January has seen the minimum wage emerge as a major issue in 2012 policy debates, with a virtual consensus for raising the wage emerging among all but the extreme conservative fringe. Prominent conservatives from former Massachusetts Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have come forward urging just that the minimum wage be raised automatically every year. State legislators championing minimum wage increases are also playing a pivotal role in driving the salience of inequality and economic security issues on the national stage.
With conservatives continuing to back state efforts to suppress the vote as a critical election year begins, Connecticut officials chose the anniversary of Martin Luther King's birthday last Monday to announce a package of election reforms that would boost voter participation and protect the right to vote. The legislation announced by Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, and Secretary of State Denise Merrill includes Election Day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and online voter registration — reforms that have proven successful and popular in a bevy of states.
"We need to create a clear path to citizenship for these kids who we've invested in... A lot of these kids are the best and brightest in our system." - State Rep. Tom Massey (R-Colorado) on why he is now looking with an “open mind” at a bill to be debated by Colorado’s legislature this year that would allow more immigrant students to be able to afford college tuition in state.
Research Roundup: ALEC in MN and TX, Economic Benefits of Paid Family Leave, and More
In this week’s Research Roundup: Reports from Minnesota Common Cause, Progress Texas, the National Partnership for Women & Families and the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University, Retail Action Project, the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, and more.
Legislating Under the Influence – How Corporations Write State Laws in Minnesota, ALEC Exposed in Texas – These two reports by Minnesota Common Cause and Progress Texas shine a spotlight on the hidden influence that corporations wield in their respective states’ legislatures through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In its report, Minnesota Common Cause highlights more than 60 bills "written by ALEC corporate lobbyists" that have been introduced in Minnesota's legislature over the past two years and exposes the corporate interests behind them and the "impact that the legislation will have on Minnesotans." Progress Texas' report takes a look at how the corporations that underwrite ALEC "funneled $16.2 million to Texas lawmakers from 2001-2011," and describes how the organization is able to "increase corporate profits at public expense."
Pay Matters: The Positive Economic Impacts of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the Public – This study, commissioned by the National Partnership for Women & Families and conducted by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University, looks at the positive economic effects of paid family leave policies. Among its findings are that women who take paid leave after giving birth to a child benefit from higher wages in the year following a child’s birth, and that both women and men who take leave receive lower levels of public assistance in the year following a child’s birth when compared to those who do not take leave. The report also notes that "given local, state, and national attention to workplace policies that address the integration of work and family life, better national‐ and state‐level data collection on leave‐taking is needed."
Discounted Jobs: How Retailers Sell Workers Short – This report by the Retail Action Project looks at retail jobs in New York City - one of fastest growing sectors in the city and the nation - and tracks the wages and working conditions of “frontline non-managerial workers in New York’s booming retail industry." Through interviews with workers, the report finds that "race and gender matter a great deal" when it comes to wages, and that approximately one third of surveyed retail employees support a family member on their wages, despite the median wage for surveyed workers being only $9.50 an hour. It concludes that, "as a leading industry in job growth, creating family-sustaining jobs in the retail industry must be a part of any strategy to address the growing inequality in America."
State of Working Mississippi 2012 – This report by the Mississippi Economic Policy Center looks at the state of the workforce the economy in Mississippi as compared to the last decade. It finds that the state's population and workforce is growing, that the median wage has increased only slightly over the past decade, that unemployment is higher for African-Americans, and that household income and poverty rates are both headed in worrying directions. In addition, the report finds that Mississippi's tax collections per capita rank among the lowers in the nation. The study also includes policy prescriptions for advancing the state of working Mississippi, such as job training, affordable higher education, encouraging savings, and restoring investments in public structures by updating the state's tax system.
Fighting for our Health – This new book by Richard Kirsch, an Institute Fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, gives an insider’s account of the fight for the passage of national health care reform from 2008-2010. As national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now, Kirsch relates his experiences from the front lines of the legislative and advocacy fights.
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