For many American teenagers, hearing criticism of their supposed apathy towards the issues of the day is almost a routine occurrence. But not for this group of Florida students. Dream Defenders, a Miami-based group of young people organized in reaction to the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin, is now working alongside Florida state lawmakers, including Progressive States Network member Sen. Dwight Bullard, to call for the passage of "Trayvon's Law" -- a package of legislative proposals that affect them directly. Last month, forty students belonging to the group took part in training on how to speak effectively about the proposal to lawmakers. Then they did exactly that, meeting with state legislators and their aides in the Florida state capitol. It's the kind of advocacy work that would impress professionals who do it for a living.
The plain hypocrisy of "small-government" conservatives backing state efforts to preempt local communities from passing their own wage and benefits standards continues to gain attention, even as more local efforts to pass paid sick days and living wage laws advance. But, as reports this week showed, corporate-backed state legislative intrusions into local communities have not been limited to attacking wage and benefits standards -- they have also extended to blocking local environmental regulations and redrawing district lines for local offices:
Recent scandals in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. that revealed coordinated efforts by teachers and administrators to manipulate student test scores are shining an even brighter spotlight on the failure of standardized test-centric policies in the states. A backlash is brewing in many states as more and more parents and legislators alike start asking questions about corporate education "reform":
With more and more sessions drawing to a close, the latest count shows 15 states that have rejected expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 20 that have agreed to comply with the law and expand coverage, and the rest still debating expansion. In many states -- including Florida and Ohio -- that debate is playing out in a contentious intramural fight among conservatives themselves. Conservative governors supporting expansion are running into opposition from ideologically opposed lawmakers in their own party, as the political debate over Medicaid increasingly appears to be taking place entirely on one side of the aisle:
Taxes are on the minds of many this week as April 15th approaches. They're also on the minds of many conservative governors -- in states such as Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Nebraska -- who have seen their radical tax proposals to further enrich corporations and the wealthy run into major resistance from voters, businesses, and even conservative lawmakers. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who this week withdrew his regressive plan that would have eliminated the state income tax while raising the sales tax, has seen his standing drop sharply in the polls. In the run up to Tax Day, increasing attention is being focused on how tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations increase burdens on the middle class.
"The practice of wage theft has reached epidemic proportions and it's imperative that it be stopped," Beckner said. He cited the Progressive States Network in saying that Florida has "zero" laws on the books to prevent wage theft, ranking it only with Alabama and Mississippi in that regard.
For-profit charter school companies and their allies were hoping to push so-called "parent trigger" bills this year in over a dozen states -- bills which purport to "empower" parents of poor-performing schools by allowing them to vote to turn over their neighborhood schools to private companies. But in state after state, parents themselves have been pushing back.
A longtime staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act decided to support expanding Medicaid in his state this week, adding to the list of conservatives who are having a change of heart on the issue, as advocates (as well as hospitals and other industry forces) continue to lobby hard for states to take full advantage of the federal funding provided in the ACA. At the same time, lawmakers from states including Mississippi continued their efforts to push for expansion as well. As full enactment of the law draws closer and closer, progressive lawmakers are growing bolder in their advocacy for full implementation of the ACA, and events this week signaled a clear shift in the political terrain in favor of supporters of health reform:
Out sick this week? You weren't alone. In the midst of one of the worst flu seasons in years, states and municipalities across the nation are seeing an increasing focus on workers' lack of access to paid sick time. Unfortunately, in some places, that has also meant conservatives focused on pre-empting and reversing existing protections, including taking away the rights of local municipalities to determine what's best for their communities: