On Monday, March 23rd, the Vermont Senate overwhelmingly passed (26 to 4) a bill legalizing same-sex marriage,
making the state the first in the nation to take legislative rather
than judicial steps toward granting marriage rights to same-sex
couples. Although House Speaker Shap Smith was confident a majority of
representatives would vote in favor of the "marriage equality" act,
Governor Jim Douglas revealed in a press conference Wednesday that he
would veto the bill, though he did say he would accept a legislative
As we noted in the Dispatch a couple weeks ago, despite a dearth of recent successes and mounting fiscal crises in most states, rightwing voter ID legislation designed to suppress voter turnout continues to be pressed around the country. So far this year at least 17 states have seen bills introduced to institute or enhance ID requirements for voting or registration (AL, CO, GA, IN, MD, MN, MS, MO, NY, OK, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WY). It appears we now know enough to predict the landscape of the voter ID battles in this legislative session.
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.
With legislative sessions getting underway around the country, this
Dispatch provides a list of key bills and policies that we encourage
legislators to consider introducing. While not exhaustive of the range
of needed reforms in states, they emphasize initiatives of strategic
importance that are being considered in multiple states. Working with
our various partners, Progressive States Network is providing staff
support for these policies and will work to use movement in multiple
states to generate national media and attention. This in turn will
create greater momentum to assist individual states in pushing bills to
passage. The following is a quick checklist of key policies with links
to model legislation and policy summaries.