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:
Over the past decade, elections for state high court seats have gone
from sleepy, mildly partisan affairs to major political battles with
huge campaign spending, millions in independent special interest
advertising, and misleading and negative attacks in the forefront.TV advertising is now apart of virtually all (91%) contested state supreme court elections, up from about one in five elections in 2000.And in 2006 business groups were the source of more than 90% of those ads.Business groups are also the source of almost half of all campaign contributions in these races.
Absent a national health care
policy, states have found ways to expand the reach of Medicaid by
covering more low-income, senior and disabled people and expanding the
list of covered services. Because of state action, 58 million
Americans now have health coverage they would not otherwise possess.
To push back on the states, the Bush Administration put forward several new Medicaid regulations
last year that, if implemented, will shift the burden and costs to
states. This will result in reduced benefits for millions of Americans
unless already cash-strapped states find some way to pick up the slack
- to the tune of $50 billion over five years.
In the wake of a bitter 2004 Governor's election and state Supreme Court races that took in more money from third-party groups than any other high court campaign in the country, Washington State's House took the first step toward public financing by passing HB 1551. Introduced by Senator Joe McDermott, HB 1551 allows cities, counties, and other jurisdictions to provide local candidates with government financing. The bill only allows local taxes to be tapped for the public campaign accounts and the public funds cannot be used for campaigns for state offices or school boards.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared this
year's Nobel Peace Prize with Al
Gore, recently released a
report detailing the negative environmental changes that will result from
climate change, including higher temperatures leading to increased deaths
from more severe heat waves, increased incidence of infectious
diseases, and severe damage to ecosystems. The IPCC report
warned that there were only eight years left to act to prevent the
worst effects of global warming.
The California legislature is again on the verge of
universal single-payer health
840, the California Universal Healthcare Act, sponsored
by State Senator Sheila
Kuehl, was recently approved by the State Senate and is now
before the Assembly, where it too is expected to pass.
legislation, which is often compared to a Medicare-for-all system, would
provide comprehensive and seamless health care for all
residents. Everyone - individuals, employers and government - would
share responsibility for funding the program. Importantly, consumers
would have complete freedom to choose their providers who would be paid
according to actuarially-sound reimbursement.
Even as progressives are making major headway in this session on issues
ranging from renewable energy to the minimum wage to voting reform, the
corporate Right, led by the American Legislative Exchange
Council (ALEC) and its associated "research" front groups, is still out
there in the states pushing their model bills and corporate-funded
At the beginning of February, we reported
on an expose of special loopholes used by Wal-Mart to slash its state
taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars per year. The scam involves
Wal-Mart and other companies dividing themselves into separate
subsidiaries, buying land and buildings, then deducting the rent paid
to itself as a business expense. But states are moving to eliminate
the loophole and reclaim the lost revenue:
As we first highlighted in our Dispatch
last December, renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) are a great
way to stimulate renewable energy development. By requiring that a
certain percentage of a state's electricity come from renewable energy,
RPS jump starts economic development and job creation.