There are few more potent tools for impacting the outcomes of elections
than changing what appears on the ballot. And there are no more direct
paths from public outcry to passed legislation than through ballot
issues. For years, the rightwing has been advancing policy goals,
shaping message, and marshalling voters through ballot issues (we've
already highlighted many of their current-year endeavors in this very
newsletter). Progressives increasingly are fighting back using ballot
issues -- which shouldn't be surprising, since initiatives and
referedenda were originally a progressive reform.
Working Americans get some good news today out of three states -- Montana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania -- where progress is being made on the minimum wage. In Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell signed a staggered, two-dollar increase into law. In Montana, signature gatherers succeeded in qualifying for the ballot an initiative to increase the minimum wage and tie the minimum to inflation.
The reality for working Americans is that wages have been largely stagnant for
over three decades. For many workers -- especially those without a
college degree -- pay has actually gotten worse, meaning that this
generation is the first one in American history which is not doing
signficantly better than the previous one. Part of the reason for
these stagnant wages is that inflation was allowed to erode the federal
minimum wage-- its inflation-adjusted value dropping from $9.12 per hour in 1968 down to just $5.15 per hour in 2005.
Does it take two to tangle? Two New Jersey legislators are embarking on a six-month project to evaluate whether New Jersey can copy Massachusetts'
recently adopted plan. Before they start hustling around the state,
they ought to take a look at whether the Massachusetts plan is even
going to work in Massachusetts and also think hard about whether it
should be the starting point for negotiations.
Apparently we anonymous bloggers scare some legislators. New Jersey Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi (R-Somerville) is scared of defamation by anonymous folks posting on blogger and thinks it high time that anonymous blogging be banned.
He even has a bill, A1327, that would require operators of websites to keep a list of legal names and addresses of anyone who has the temerity to write something on the website.
I wonder what's next?
After winning the Governor's seat in New Jersey, Jon Corzine decided to keep
a Republican in the position of Agriculture Secretary. It was a good
move. Charlie Kuperus has held the position in 2002 and has won broad
support from both parties for his support of a number of measures in
support of rural New Jersey.