DISPATCH: State Legislators On The State Of The Union

Stateside Dispatch

Welcome to the Stateside Dispatch, Progressive States Network's weekly newsletter! Here is the latest on the news and developments worth knowing. 

Spotlight On Progressive Leaders

Last night, the President gave his State of the Union address -- prompting state legislators to weigh in. Here are key excerpts from their responses:

Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin: "Ultimately, our work comes down to our shared vision for our country -- an America where even those who will never become rich or powerful can live with dignity and respect. As one of the sponsors of Rhode Island's new paid family leave law, I thank the President for acknowledging the importance of leaving outdated workplace policies behind and highlighting the need to fix the gender wage gap and the benefits of paid leave policies for our whole economy."

Connecticut State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield: "Although the action is increasingly shifting to the states, we've long been tackling these challenges head-on -- even as we watch for federal policymakers to make their move. We look forward to a continued partnership with our federal counterparts in Washington, but at the same time, we won't wait to press forward on our shared agenda."

Iowa State Senator Joe Bolkcom, the Chair of PSN's Board of Directors: "It's time to raise the minimum wage -- across the states. It's time to reward hard work and support our working families. Just as the economic problems facing our country didn't happen by accident, solving them won't happen unless we take strategic action -- state by state, issue by issue."

Nebraska State Senator Jeremy Nordquist: "In his address, President Obama confronted major questions about the future direction of our country -- especially whether we will have an economy that works for everyone or just the rich and powerful few. I applaud the President for lifting up common sense solutions to secure real prosperity for all Americans, no matter how wealthy they are, where they live, or what they look like."

Wisconsin Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chris Larson: "On issues ranging from addressing climate change to ensuring access to health care for all citizens, we have made great progress as a country. At the same time, we must do more to address income inequality, take up immigration reform, ensure our troops coming home from war are taken care of, and much more."

As for noteworthy statehouse action, lawmakers in the Washington House recently passed the Reproductive Parity Act, sponsored by Rep. Eileen Cody, to ensure that most insurance policies in the state will cover abortion services. As Rep. Laurie Jinkins affirmed, the decision on whether to have an abortion should be made by a woman and the people she chooses to consult – her doctor, family or faith community -- and this legislation is a reflection of this understanding. 


Don't Miss It

Be sure to sign up for PSN Public Education Working Group's special Expanded Learning Time Webinar on February 6 -- slots are limited!

Given the increasing focus on inequality and opportunity today, we encourage you to learn more about this innovative strategy to close the opportunity gap for students. Just as lessons from the universal pre-K policy world tell us that more time in high quality educational settings matter to young children, we know that Expanded Learning Time once they're in school matter, too. Join us to explore these issues, as well as funding streams that are available to help you expand the learning day in the schools and the communities you serve.                            

From February 4 to 5, the America Votes State Summit will be held in Washington, DC. This annual event provides an extensive preview of the challenges ahead for progressives, as well as state level strategies for tackling them.


Eye On The Right

Death Penalty Legislation. Several bills have already been introduced in January to limit appeals for death penalty cases and speed up executions -- raising strong concerns as these changes cost more, confuse courts and advocates, and entail greater risk of executing the innocent, among other things. Referenced by such names as “fast track,” “swift justice,” and “fair justice” bills, proposals have been filed in Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, and Louisiana, with more such proposals expected. If you would like to get involved, get prepared, or learn more, please contact or your local ACLU affiliate. 

Tea Partiers Across The States. The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, based in Missouri, recently issued a report on the Tea Party movement, which includes the following map of where members are located. According to the Institute, New York was home to the fewest tea partiers per capita while Alaska had the highest per capita number.

Pulse Of The Community

On The Road For Immigration Reform. The Fast for Families Across America Tour launched its nationwide tour this week, with visits planned in more than 100 congressional districts in the coming months. The Fasters will engage ordinary Americans in a dialogue about our broken immigration system and encourage them to fast, act, and pray in support of reform. Check out their website for the list of scheduled stops and cheer them on!

Minimum Wage Momentum. In his State of the Union address, the President generated new energy among supporters by announcing that he would use his authority to raise the minimum wage for workers under new federal contracts and advocating for a higher minimum wage for everyone else. Against that backdrop, the states and cities are continuing to press forward to raise the minimum wage -- an idea that is supported by 3 in 4 Americans 

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