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Montana Defeats Attack on Minimum Wage, Cost-of-Living Increases for Working Families

Recently conservatives in Montana sought to roll back the annual cost-of-living wage increases for minimum wage workers that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2006 by 73-27%. Montana is one of twenty-seven states (plus the District of Columbia) that has a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage, and one of eleven states that index the minimum wage to the consumer price index. Montana progressives successfully fought a conservative push by the restaurant industry to keep wages stagnant.

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. 

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.

Voting Rights 2008: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Fallout from Montana Voter Challenge Plan Continues:  Last week we highlighted the tremendous job that Forward Montana and other local advocates did in bringing a massive attempt to challenge voters in Montana to a stop.  In just a few days the plan was abandoned amid serious public backlash.  This week there has been additional fallout as the executive director of the state GOP has stepped down.  Clearly trying to keep people like deployed soldiers from voting wasn't a popular activity in the big sky state.

Voter Suppression Update

A couple of weeks ago, we outlined the rash of voter suppression activities cropping up, like clockwork, around the nation. This week we cover the new suppression efforts that have come to light since.

Left in the Cold — Utility Shut-Offs and State Responses

Working families struggling to make utility payments are feeling the chill as companies shut off their gas and electricity. Shut-offs are up across dozens of states, particularly Michigan where unemployment is high, with a 22 percent increase in the number of families left without heat or electricity. The state's Heating and Warmth Fund, which helps those in need pay delinquent heating bills, has seen a record 42 percent increase in people applying for heating payment assistance.