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
Common Cause and The Century Foundation have released the new version
of their joint biennial report on election administration in 10 swing
states and the findings are not very encouraging: while voters' desire
to participate is growing, states have only made fitful progress
improving the voting process, and in many instances things have moved
backward since the last federal election in 2006. Examining the most
recent election experiences of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia
the report details serious problems in every major aspect of the voting
process, along with a handful of bright spots where individual states
are moving important reforms.
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.