DISPATCH: Another New Frontrunner in the Race to Restrict Reproductive Rights, The End of the No New Taxes Era, and More

Stateside Dispatch
Saturday, March 23, 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:

Another New Frontrunner in the Race to Restrict Reproductive Rights 

Not to be outdone by Arkansas or any of the record number of other states advancing restrictions on abortion in recent years, North Dakota this week passed anti-choice legislation so draconian it is alienating even self-described "pro-life" lawmakers. Legislatures in states including Texas and Kansas also tried to keep up in the race to be the most backward state on reproductive rights this week, passing legislation that would shut down clinics and endanger women's health. Texas Gov. Rick Perry told lawmakers back in December that his goal was to "make abortion, at any stage, a thing of the past" in his state -- and it looks like lawmakers in other states have also set that as a key priority for legislative sessions this year:

North Dakota lawmakers passed legislation defining life as beginning at conception, in an "effort to essentially ban abortion." [AP]

"We have stepped over the line." -- pro-life State Rep. Kathy Hawken (R-ND) on North Dakota's abortion ban. [ThinkProgress]

Anti-choice conservative lawmakers are planning to join a pro-choice rally on Monday in protest. [ThinkProgress]

Late Friday, the North Dakota House also passed a personhood amendment and two other anti-abortion bills. [MSNBC]

Texas legislators approved a bill this week that could close 37 of the state's existing 42 abortion clinics. [Huffington Post]

A Kansas state Senate committee advanced its own "sweeping" anti-abortion bill this week that included a statement that human life begins "at fertilization." [Kansas City Star]

More on Kansas' anti-choice "omnibus bill" -- all 70 pages of it. [RH Reality Check]

An Iowa state senator planned to offer an anti-choice amendment to a bill to prohibit the use of handcuffs on pregnant inmates. [Quad City Times]

Two recent victories for reproductive rights in Minnesota and New Hampshire. [RH Reality Check]

A new poll in Virginia shows that voters in both parties are strongly opposed to proposed new restrictions there. [NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia]

Follow @HealthPSN on Twitter for the latest on reproductive rights news and other state health policy updates. 

The End of the "No New Taxes" Era?

Following a national debate over the Bush tax cuts that saw federal income tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans this January, state legislatures continue to diverge sharply on their approach toward taxes in the first few months of 2013. Anti-tax conservatives in some states, looking to hold fast to a Norquistian vision of tax cuts for the wealthy, are running into opposition. Meanwhile, other states are moving in the opposite direction on revenue for the first time in years. Reports this week show this divergence continuing, even as new research revealed the inefficacy of personal income tax cuts as a strategy for economic growth:

A new report released this week showed how state personal income tax cuts are in fact a "poor strategy" for economic growth. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

After more than a decade since enacting any significant revenue increase, Minnesota is witnessing the end of its own "no new taxes" era. [Stateline]

"This idea that we just cut, cut, cut because we’re always in a financial crisis and we don’t make the investments we need; that’s going to leave Minnesota in a downward spiral."  -- Minnesota State Rep. Paul Marquart. [Stateline]

A tentative budget deal reached this week in New York included an unexpected extension of increased tax rates on high-income earners that were scheduled to expire in 2014. [BusinessWeek]

Maryland's House voted to increase the state gasoline tax. [Washington Post]

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is still seeking the total elimination of his state's income tax and an increase in the sales tax (with, as one lawmaker put it, "no coherent response" on how to address the increased burden on the poor). [Uptown Messenger]

After killing Gov. Dave Heineman's proposal to eliminate the state income tax in Nebraska, the state legislature advanced a bill this week to create a commission to study tax modernization proposals instead. [AP]

While most states seem to be heading in one direction or the other, a bipartisan tax reform proposal may be in the early stages of development in Oregon. [The Oregonian]

Learn more about Progressive States Network's work on Tax Fairness here, and follow @FairTaxPSN for the latest updates.


Chart of the Week:

Chart: State Cuts to Higher Education

The drastic state-by-state cuts to higher education over the past five years -- Wyoming and North Dakota aside. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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Also this week:

In Indiana, the sequester is causing Head Start to resort to random drawings to decide which students will be dropped. [AP]

The NRA's lobbying in statehouses is having a horrific effect on victims of domestic violence, according to a devastating report this week. [New York Times]

Some states are balking at enforcing the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act. [Kaiser Health News]

"The White House is encouraging skeptical state officials to expand Medicaid by subsidizing the purchase of private insurance for low-income people, even though that approach might be somewhat more expensive." [New York Times]

A bill that would have blocked New Hampshire from expanding Medicaid was defeated in a bipartisan vote in the state House. [AP]

A new policy in Washington, D.C. prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against transgender people. [ThinkProgress]

Michigan's state Senate used a procedural move this week to delay consideration of repeal of their anti-union law until December 28th. [Detroit Free Press]

Bills that would prohibit misclassification of truck drivers are moving in states including NJ, KY, WA, OR, and AK. [We Party Patriots]

The state Senate in Vermont approved legislation granting collective bargaining rights to about 6,000 home-care workers. [Rutland Herald]

A tentative deal was reached in New York on raising the state minimum wage to $9 -- but it doesn't include everyone. [MSNBC]

A minimum wage increase in Maryland -- that would have also raised the tipped minimum wage -- was voted down by a Senate committee. [AP]

Iowa's Senate voted this week to increase the state earned income tax credit. [The Gazette]

Great news for Oregon as the state Senate approved a tuition equity bill that now heads to the governor's desk. [The Oregonian]

North Carolina's state DMV is giving up on a plan to issue pink-striped driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. [News Observer]

A federal judge blocked Georgia from enforcing a provision of their anti-immigrant law that criminalized driving undocumented family members. [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

The New York City Council held a hearing on increasingly politically contentious paid sick days legislation. [RH Reality Check]

The state House in New Hampshire voted this week to prohibit the privatization of prisons. [Union Leader]

Oregon's legislature may be looking to adopt a carbon tax. [Demos]

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

Research Roundup

States at Work: Progressive State Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class [Center for American Progress Action Fund]
Progressive States Network policy reports are cited in this Center for American Progress Action Fund report released this week. The report includes "more than 100 policy reforms that will improve job quality, reduce the costs of health care, reform the tax code, fix the housing market, improve the quality of education, ensure civil rights are respected so that everyone can fully participate in the economy, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and strengthen local communities."

Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary [Bureau of Labor Statistics]
"Regional and state unemployment rates were little changed in January. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia recorded unemployment rate increases, 8 states posted decreases, and 17 states had no change. Forty states and the District of Columbia registered unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, seven states experienced increases, and three states had no change."

Interactive map: What your state stands to lose with the looming across-the-board cuts [Education Votes]
An interactive map on the sequester that allows users to "find out how much your state stands to lose in education funding and how many students will be hurt by these draconian cuts," with state-specific infographics.

Email us at with research roundup suggestions.

Quote of the Week

"I think it’s funny Mr. Kobach, because when you mention 'illegal immigrant,' I think of all of you."
-- Native American State Rep. Ponka-We Victors (D-KS) addressing Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as he testified in front of a state House committee in favor of legislation to repeal in-state tuition rates for immigrant students. (The gallery reportedly "burst into cheers and applause.")

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