One of the most politically challenging, and politically assailable,
decisions a legislator can make is a vote increasing legislative pay.
Yet, with legislative pay a mere pittance in most states, increasing it
is necessary to prevent wealth from becoming a prerequisite to
hold public office.
As the first month of the 2007 legislative session comes to a close,
expanding access to health care is clearly a top priority for governors
and legislative leaders across the country. From comprehensive health care for all in California and Pennsylvania to incremental cover all kids
in North Carolina and to targeted program expansions in New Mexico, the
proposals represent an unprecedented focus in states to address the
health care crisis that grips our families and businesses.
The past thirty years have seen a marked decline in job quality for a substantial portion of the U.S. workforce: stagnant wages, shrinking health benefits and less job security.
While a number of factors explain this decline, there is little
question that the decline in the strength of labor unions in the US has
played a major role.
Since the Bush administration first recognized the genocide in Darfur, over 250,000 men,
women, and children have died. This number does not count the countless
women and children that have been raped or attacked as a result of the
Sudanese government's campaign to kill and drive out Darfur's ethnic
African populations. The violence and genocide is now spilling over
into Chad and the Central African Republic. Yet, even with such
horrifying statistics, the situation deteriorates day by day.
One of the biggest challenges in raising voter turnout is address the
rate of voter registration. The vast majority of states have
registration deadlines weeks before Election Day. The schedule poses
problems for busy Americans who simply forget to register or
re-register and find themselves unable to vote on Election Day. During
the 2000 Presidential election alone, nearly 3 million voters were disenfranchised due to registration problems. Luckily, a simple solution is available: Election Day Registration (EDR).
In states across the country, progressive leaders are stepping up to
discuss how to achieve universal coverage for health care. At the same
time, many on the Right are trying to define "health care coverage" to
mean bare-bones care with often unaffordable cost-sharing for
individuals and families.
Oregon has wrestled with campaign finance reform since at least 1994, when voters enacted Measure 9, which imposed limits on campaign contributions. In 1997, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled Measure 9 unconstituional, saying it violated the free speech rights guaranteed in the state's constitution. Fast-forward to Tuesday, when would-be reformers offered up two ballot initiatives: Measure 46 would have changed the constitution to allow limits on campaign contributions, paving the way for Measure 47.
Even with the good news that came last Tuesday, all too much evidence exists that the basic machinery of democracy in America is broken. Election Day is like Groundhog Day and the first stories of problems with voting machines, long lines, or voter intimidation hit the wires in the early A.M. Fortunately, with progressives in control in more states than ever before, we have an opportunity to get the machinery working, so that the engine of democracy starts humming again.