Running for the US Senate representing Illinois in 1858, Abraham Lincoln said,
"A house divided against itself cannot stand." In present-day
Illinois, animosity between Democratic leaders - Governor Rod
Balgojevich and Speaker Michael Madigan - may bear this out. The hostility
between the two men, who are not on speaking terms, is the result of
fierce disagreements over past and current budget provisions and a
federal investigation into gubernatorial appointments and campaign
donations. The Speaker recently sent a memo to Democratic legislative
candidates with talking points concerning when and how to bring
impeachment proceedings against the Governor. The breakdown in
communication has clearly effected the state's business.
Many states have suffered from public officials being involved in
ethics scandals. While sometimes there is talk of reform and other
overtures, comprehensive reform is most often elusive. However, some
states have managed, either in response to one particularly egregious
event or a history of problems being overturned in a wave of
dissatisfaction, to truly make a fundamental change. This year
Connecticut once again moved forward with a multi-year ethics reform
initiative, and Louisiana enacted one of the most far-reaching ethics
overhauls any state has in generations.
Illinois stands out as a state famous for corrupt politics. For
generations, patronage and pay-to-play politics have been raised to an
art form by state and local politicians. The state's last governor is in jail for racketeering. The current governor
is under federal investigation for allegedly giving jobs and no-bid
contracts to campaign supporters, more than 200 of whom have given the
governor checks for exactly $25,000. Advocates of good government such
as the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform have fought for years to bring the states' corrupt government officials to heel.
Voter suppression is growing rapidly in America today.Over half of states now have voter ID requirements more stringent than that required for first time voters in federal elections.Several states are clamping down on voter registration drives or are considering proof of citizenship requirements.
Showing the frustration over abusive lending practices by even many right-leaning legislators, the Ohio legislature has taken a huge step to protect its citizens against predatory lenders by passing HB 545.
The bill slashes the payday-lending interest rate from a sky-high 391
annual percentage rate to 28 percent. In real terms, instead of having
to pay $15 interest for every $100 loaned, borrowers will now pay no
more than $1.08 per $100 borrowed. The bill also limits borrowers to
four loans per year, requires that loan terms be at least 31 days
(instead of the current average of 14 days), and bans internet payday
lending. HB 545 is now before Governor Strickland, who is expected to
sign the bill into law.
In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the US health care system 37th in the world despite spending more than any other country. In 2007, according to the US Census Bureau, the US ranked 42nd in life expectancy.
If you are a person of color, a low-wage worker, non-English speaking,
or live in a low-income community, the picture is much worse. For
instance, the life expectancy for African-Americans
is 73.3 years, five years shorter than it is for whites. For
African-American men, it is 69.8 years, just above averages in Iran and
Syria, but below Nicaragua and Morocco.
The Iowa Senate on Tuesday approved SF 2416,
a bill to sharply increase fines on employers violating Iowa state wage
laws, crack down on the practice of misclassifying employees as
"independent contractors" to evade those laws, and protect workers
reporting violations from retaliation.
On April 2nd, the Maine Senate passed a National Popular Vote bill, LD 1744, that would guarantee that the Presidential candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states wins the Presidency.The
bill is an interstate compact, which would take effect only when states
possessing a majority of the membership of the Electoral College (that
is 270 of 538 electoral votes) enact similar statutes.
Decoupling increased utility profits from increased energy use is a key policy for promoting energy savings. Yet, some proposals, like the four-year decoupling pilot program just approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), may just be masking abuses of consumers under the guise of energy conservation.