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Obama Allows California to Adopt Car Emission Standards - New Day for State Regulatory Authority

In a positive step forward for federal respect of state regulatory powers, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider a previously denied waiver to allow California to set more stringent auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required by federal law.  In a statement by the White House, President Obama said "the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."  The directive represents not only greater respect for state authority, but also a sharp break from the climate policies of President Obama's predecessor. 

Providing Immediate Services to Families in Crisis: The New Paradigm for Status Offender Systems

The Vera Institute of Justice recently released a report, Making Court the Last Resort: A New Focus for Supporting Families in Crisis, that outlines the significant improvements some states are making in how they respond to chronically disobedient children.

Indexing Minimum Wage to Inflation Critical for Low-Income Working Families

Washington State minimum wage workers got a raise January 1st to $8.55 per hour -- now the highest minimum wage in the country.   Like nine other states, Washington automatically increases its minimum wage each year at the rate of inflation to make sure families don't face a de facto pay cut as rising costs eat into family budgets.  Because the federal minimum wage is not indexed to inflation in this way, we have seen a decline in its value from $9.34 in inflation-adjusted dollars down to just $6.55 per hour this past year.  This trend highlights why state efforts to index the minimum wage to keep up with inflation are so critical.

Maine Religious Leaders Mobilize Around Gay Marriage - On Both Sides of the Issue

Soon after the November elections and the dispiriting setbacks for gay marriage equality in California, Arizona, and Florida, a group of religious leaders in Maine formed a coalition to advocate for gay marriage rights and actively seek equal treatment for gay and lesbian couples within Maine law.  The group, Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine, includes 120 clergy from across the state and 14 different faith traditions, including United Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Unitarian Universalist, Congregational, and the United Church of Christ.

Privatization Update: Recent News from across the Country

As states face mounting deficits, corporate lobbyists have been promoting the idea that privatization of public services and assets is a free lunch -- services can be delivered more cheaply than by public employees and public assets like highways can be sold or leased for a hefty return to the taxpayer.  As PSN has detailed in our December 2007 report Privatizing in the Dark: The Pitfalls of Privatization & Why Budget Disclosure is Needed, the promises of privatization too often yield to a reality of lost money and degraded services, weak oversight and lost expertise, assets sold off for short-term gains but long-term loss, lost democratic accountability, and the corruption of the political process.

Taking Action on Job Creation: Invest Michigan! Fund

In the past few years states have become increasingly unwillingly torely on the chance that volatile global investment markets will chooseto invest in their local communities. Instead, states are choosing todirectly invest themselves in local emerging opportunities.  The greatadvantage of direct investment, instead of simply raiding the statetreasury and giving away corporate welfare, is that by making directinvestment in local businesses, states create a financial stake infirms.  If these businesses are successful, they will return equity tothe tax payers that can be reinvested in other projects.  According to the National Association of Seed and Venture Fund, as of 2006, all but six states had state venture capital funds.