With 2013 legislative sessions largely adjourned in statehouses across the nation, this is the fourth in a series of issue-specific session roundups from Progressive States Network highlighting trends in different policy areas across the fifty states.
Earlier this year, the conservative theory of austerity was thoroughly debunked, with leading economic experts concluding that there is not “even a shred of evidence” that austerity promotes growth and that it instead worsens economic downturns. Despite the conclusions of empirical research, state policymakers have proposed widely divergent ideas about how best to collect and invest taxpayer dollars in 2013. Some states raised revenue to help stimulate a robust economy over the long term by investing in education and other infrastructure. Other states bought the conservative snake oil and refused to fund critical programs and services that contribute to a prosperous and sustainable economy. Below are some highlights and significant trends we saw in state tax policy over 2013 legislative sessions.
The last few years have seen a wave of proposed and enacted restrictions on abortion rights. 2013 began no differently, with the first three months of the new year seeing legislators in 14 states introduce bans, including 10 proposals that would ban nearly all abortions. But recently, from Texas to Ohio to North Carolina, the pace and intensity of these attacks has picked up even more, drawing local protests, national attention, and displays of solidarity from state lawmakers across the country.
This year, the national call for progress on immigration energized state fights for more inclusive immigration policy and, notably, stemmed the flow of anti-immigrant bills that seemed omnipresent just two short years ago. While the long-awaited federal package for immigration reform makes its way through the legislative process, here’s a recap of the action legislators took in states across the country.
State Senator Joe Bolkcom (Iowa), Chair of the Board of Progressive States Network, released a statement in reaction to the 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Arizona law passed in 2004 requiring that voters prove their United States citizenship in order to register to vote. The Court ruled in a 7-2 decision authored by Justice Antonin Scalia that states could not impose additional requirements for registration beyond those included in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (also called the "motor voter" law).
For the past four years, the focus of progressive state lawmakers has largely been on shaping, passing, implementing, and securing the very survival of the Affordable Care Act. But following last year’s historic U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the law, that focus shifted in legislative sessions this year to preparing to implement the law fully and effectively before critical elements of the legislation take effect in 2014 — a focus made more urgent by the Court’s decision to leave the question of Medicaid expansion up to the states. At the same time, and despite the political consequences, conservatives continued to ramp up their War on Women in statehouses across the nation, attacking abortion rights and making it more difficult for women to receive much needed care.
Following last year’s devastating attacks on voters’ access to democracy, conservatives have held true to their mission to make voting harder in a number of states. Thankfully, in response to previous threats, progressive advocates and legislators came together this year to support a proactive, positive agenda for reform. As a result of coordinated campaigns, many states were successful in passing legislation that protects the right of eligible citizens to register and vote.
Progressive States Network is hosting a webinar this Monday, June 10th at 4pm ET on what lawmakers need to know about the Affordable Care Act before 2014. Learn about game-changing market reforms, how state legislative offices can assist constituents in enrolling in exchanges, and more.
From tax policies to public education funding to sick leave, health care, and housing, state policies can play a huge role in ensuring the economic security of families. Yet right now, none of the fifty states are making the grade. That's the conclusion of a new national scorecard from Wider Opportunities for Women, which looked at 85 different policies across all 50 states and sees much room for improvement on economic security policies.
This week saw the case for budget austerity at both the state and federal levels continue to rapidly fall apart. A new Congressional Budget Office report showed that the federal budget deficit problem may not actually be that much of a problem anymore, and debates over what to do with budget surpluses began to percolate in the states as treasuries started to count tax revenues that came in last month, even as the pain from sequestration cuts also continued to be felt in all fifty states: