This Dispatch is a roundup of what ballot initiatives will
appear on state ballots across the country this November. Whether it's
workers rights, energy policy, education, transit, abortion or health
care, ballot initiates give voters a chance to directly vote on an
In a case with national implications for state health reform across the country, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week in Golden Gate Rest. Ass'n v. San Francisco upheld the employer responsibility provisions of the San Francisco universal health care plan. The decision follows a preliminary decision earlier in the year that allowed the plan to be initially implemented.
Milwaukee has a paid sick leave referendum
on the ballot for November that would allow employees to take leave for
medical treatment, preventive care, or diagnosis for themselves, as
well as to care for a close family member who is sick or who needs
diagnosis or preventive care. Additionally, employees would be allowed
to use the time to deal with domestic violence or sexual assault (for
example, using accrued time to flee to safety.) Employees at firms
with 10 workers or less could accumulate up to 40 hours, whereas larger
companies would have to provide up to 72 hours of paid sick leave.
According to The Boston Globe,
a national shortage of primary care doctors is hitting Massachusetts
especially hard. The state's 2006 health insurance mandate has
resulted in an additional 439,000 newly insured residents trying to
seek care from an already over-stressed medical profession. According
to an annual survey by the Massachusetts Medical Society, wait times
for new patients to see primary care doctors are running an average of
50 days, though some doctors report delays up to 100 days.
Instead of allowing the right-wing to scapegoat undocumented immigrant
workers, Progressive States Network will be working with progressive
leaders across the country to introduce wage enforcement laws that
emphasize that native and immigrant workers both suffer under illegal
working conditions. See State Immigration Project: Policy Options for 2009 for the full range of immigration policies Progressive States Network is supporting in upcoming legislative sessions.
To address the misuse of health insurance premiums, legislators in
California recently passed tougher standards regulating how insurance
companies use premiums. The law is designed to put teeth into the
basic expectation that health insurance premiums paid by families and
businesses should be used by insurance companies for actual medical
care. Sponsored by State Senator Sheila Kuehl, legislators passed SB 1440,
which creates a "medical loss ratio" of 85% - or "care share" -
requiring insurance companies to spend at least 85-cents of every
premium-dollar on actual medical care. Governor Schwarzenegger has yet
to act on the bill, but the legislation was amended at his request to exempt new plans from the 85% threshold for the first two years they are available, signaling that his signature is likely.
In this year's presidential primary, 1.7 million Massachusetts voters
cast a ballot. That's over a million more than the number that voted in
the 2004 primary. Such an increase in turnout is unprecedented in the
state, and similar increases took place in states throughout the
country. What made for such a jaw-dropping surge in democratic
participation? The answer is simple: people in every state felt their
voice mattered. Wouldn't it be great if Massachusetts voters felt that
way in November as well?
To close funding gaps in the state's new health care law and encourage
more employers to provide health coverage for their employees,
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick this week proposed raising an additional $33 million
from employers with more than 10 workers who don't contribute at least
one-third of workers' premiums within the first 90 days of employment
and don't have at least 25% of their employees enrolled in insurance
plans. The plan would raise additional funds by assessing fees on
insurers' reserve accounts.
With food and gas prices rising rapidly, low-wage workers can at least
welcome an increase in the federal minium wage to $6.55 per hour
scheduled to go into effect on July 24th. Even better, a number of
states will also be increasing their minimum wage rates even higher than the federal rate: