DISPATCH: Two States Where a Progressive Agenda is Moving, Webinar Tuesday, and More

Stateside Dispatch
Saturday, March 9, 2013

Welcome to the Stateside Dispatch, Progressive States Network's roundup of the latest state policy news. Here's what happened in the states this week:

Webinar: What States Need to Do on ACA Consumer Protections:

Did you know that only one state has passed new legislation on all of the consumer protections due to go into effect in 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act?

Join Progressive States Network and The Commonwealth Fund for a webinar this Tuesday March 12th at 1pm ET with leading experts and state legislators to learn about what states need to do to enforce the consumer protections in the ACA. Register for the webinar here.

Spotlight on: Minnesota and Colorado

Over the past few years, progressives have grown accustomed to the same disturbing pattern: conservatives winning full control of a state's government, then swiftly advancing a destructive anti-worker, anti-middle class agenda. From Wisconsin to Maine to North Carolina, the attacks have come across the nation -- and, as a new study released this week showed, they've promoted a conservative agenda that is often severely out of step with the public.

Perhaps the phenomenon should not be surprising. Unified partisan control of state governments is now at levels not seen since 1952, and conservatives and their corporate backers have long targeted the states as "laboratories" where their views would be shaped, tested, and enacted into policy.

But in contrast to the conservative policies we've seen move in the states over the past two years, 2013 has so far seen at least a handful of states where progressive policies are being introduced and enacted across a range of issue areas. With legislative sessions about midway through, here's a roundup of the policies moving in a couple of those states -- Minnesota and Colorado:

In contrast to many of their midwestern neighbors, Minnesota is seeing a pro-worker agenda advance this session, including a bill that would allow unionization of child-care and home health care workers. [Star Tribune]

Minimum wage legislation is also moving in Minnesota, where a bill under consideration in the state House would increase the rate from $6.15 (below the current federal rate) to $10.55 an hour by 2015. [Pioneer Press]

Both houses in Minnesota gave final approval to health exchange bills this week, with some differences that must be worked out in a conference committee. [Pioneer Press]

A great infographic from Take Action Minnesota on the differences between the two health exchange bills. [Take Action MN]

Gov. Dayton's budget calls for higher taxes on the wealthy, and voters approve. [Star Tribune]

An omnibus election reform bill moved in a Senate committee this week that would include early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. [MinnPost]

Another bill advanced in the state Senate that would increase funding for education in an effort to equalize funding across districts. [MPR News]

The leader of the Minnesota College Republicans this week joined a bipartisan group of legislators, members of clergy, and others who are supporting a marriage equality bill. [Minnesotans United]

Meanwhile, Colorado's landmark ASSET tuition equity bill won final approval from the state legislature on Friday with a bipartisan vote and is now on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk. [Denver Business Journal]

State Sen. Angela Giron, Chair of PSN's National Immigration Working Group and co-sponsor of the bill: "We are now going to be able to reward young people who have played by the rules. They are now going to be able to give back." [Denver Post]

Mark Kelly, the husband of former U.S. Representative and gun violence victim Gabrielle Giffords, testified in front of a committee in Colorado this week as seven bills to prevent gun violence advanced. [AP]

Gov. Hickenlooper is on record as supporting three of the bills, including universal background checks and magazine limits, and a formal vote is set for Monday. [Denver Post]

A state House committee advanced a civil unions bill this week, one supported by 70% of Colorado voters. [ThinkProgress]

A new joint (and "joint") committee was established this week to craft laws to regulate marijuana in the state, following a constitutional amendment approved last year that directed the state to authorize retail sales. [Denver Post]

@MikeJohnstonCO: The issue that brought me to the capitol: the end of the dream deferred, at last opportunity for all - #coasset passed!


Map of the Week:

Map: The U.S. and Maternity Leave

In celebration of International Women's Day, a reminder that the United States remains one of only 6 nations around the world with no paid maternity leave standard. [Mother Jones]

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Also this week:

The public sector lost another 10,000 jobs nationwide last month, almost all of them at the state and local level -- and all before the cuts from the sequester are set to kick in. [Marketplace]

Arthur Delaney on how states are "scrambling" to implement the unemployment cuts in the sequester [Huffington Post]

Another roundup of local front pages showing how the cuts are already hitting home. [BuzzFeed]

The sequester is threatening California's economic recovery. [New York Times]

Florida student leaders delivered their own State of the State address at the state Capitol, pressing for immigration reform. [Miami Herald]

A partial in-state tuition proposal backed by members of both parties "sailed ahead" in the Florida House. [Miami Herald]

The state of Arizona lost an appeal in federal court over a section of SB 1070 aimed at day laborers. [Los Angeles Times]

Governors are taking varying paths on boosting education funding. [Education Week]

A new report from Wisconsin shows how same-day registration is good for state budgets as well as for democracy. [The American Prospect]

Is the Voting Rights Act still needed? One analysis shows that the six southern states fully covered under Section 5 of the VRA are "6 of the 7 most prejudiced in the nation." [Election Law Blog]

A roundup from George Zornick at The Nation on the state of the paid sick days fights in the states. [The Nation]

New York Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, a member of PSN's Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform, introduced a single-payer bill this week. [LoHud]

A rally in support of Medicaid expansion drew 1,200 supporters to the Texas state Capitol, many in wheelchairs. [Burnt Orange Report]

A new study says states with stricter gun laws have fewer gun-related deaths. [USA Today]

A map of post-Newtown legislative action on guns, state by state. [Hartford Courant]

More states are seeking to ban the practice of employers asking for prospective employees' social media passwords. [EFF]

Michigan voters are still really opposed to their state's anti-union "right-to-work" law, 3 months after conservatives rammed it through the legislature. [PPP Polls]

@staceynewman: A Sandy Hook mom wrote me today re my MO Background Check gun bill. Touched my heart. Fuels me to work even harder. #momsdemandaction

Follow @PSNwire on Twitter for the latest state policy news.

Research Roundup

What Politicians Believe About Their Constituents [David E. Broockman, Christopher Skovron]
"David Broockman and Christopher Skovron, graduate students at Berkeley and Michigan, respectively, have released a working paper… and the findings are rather astonishing. Broockman and Skovron find that legislators consistently believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are.

Discredited: How Employment Credit Checks Keep Qualified Workers Out of a Job [Demos]
"Today, it is common for employers to look at job applicants’ personal credit history before making a hiring decision. A wide range of positions, from high-level financial posts to jobs doing maintenance work, offering telephone tech support, working as a delivery driver or selling frozen yogurt, may require a credit check. Yet despite their prevalence, little is known about what credit checks actually reveal to employers, what the consequences are for job applicants, or employment credit checks’ overall impact on our society. This report uses new data from Demos’ 2012 National Survey on Credit Card Debt in Low- and Middle- Income Households to address these questions. Overall, we find substantial evidence that employment credit checks constitute an illegitimate barrier to employment."

Living in Dual Shadows: LGBT Undocumented Immigrants [Center for American Progress]
"In a first-of-its-kind analysis, the Williams Institute at UCLA -- which researches sexual-orientation and gender-identity law and public policy -- today estimates that there are at least 267,000 LGBT-identified individuals among the adult population of undocumented immigrants."

The Gender Wage Gap: 2012 [Institute for Women's Policy Research]
"In 2012, the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly full-time earnings was 80.9 percent, a decline of more than one percentage point since 2011 when the ratio was 82.2 percent. This corresponds to a weekly gender wage gap of 19.1 percent for 2012. Women’s median weekly earnings in 2012 were $691, a marginal decline compared to 2011; men’s median weekly earnings were $854, a marginal increase compared to 2011."

A $10.10 Minimum Wage Would Give Economy (and More Low-wage Workers) a Bigger Boost [Economic Policy Institute]
"Raising the minimum wage would help reverse the ongoing erosion of wages that has contributed significantly to growing income inequality, while providing a modest stimulus to the entire economy, as increased wages contribute to GDP growth, which in turn leads to modest employment growth. Following are the major national findings of an upcoming EPI report on the impacts of a $10.10 minimum wage for the country and individual states."

Getting our Money's Worth? Promoting Transparency and Accountability for Corporate Tax Subsidies in Massachusetts [MassPIRG Education Fund]
"This study provides analysis of Massachusetts’s special business tax breaks and finds taxpayer dollars are being put at risk due to a lack of accountability measures in many programs. The report proposes straightforward and proven policy reforms to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure Bay Staters get the best bang for their buck."

Community-Owned Internet, Long Targeted by ALEC and Big Telecom, Under Fire in Georgia
 [Center for Media and Democracy]
"Members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the Georgia Legislature are pushing a bill to thwart locally-owned internet in underserved communities, an industry-sponsored effort that effectively reinforces the digital divide. If Georgia passes the bill it would be the twentieth state to eliminate community control over internet access."

Email us at with research roundup suggestions.

Quote of the Week

"The legislature needs to step away and allow health care professionals, who are trained, to make those decisions with women."
-- Texas state Rep. Jessica Farrar on a bill she is set to file that would eliminate the forced 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion.


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