Oregon held an experimental even-year session in February that
lasted just three weeks. Designed as a test for a possible switch to
yearly legislative sessions (Oregon is one of 6 state legislatures that
only meets once every two years), the short duration left little time
for resolving controversial issues. Several bills, however, were
passed that implement small but important progressive reforms. These
reforms were focused on children, families, and the environment.
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 effects of the sub-prime lending disaster are
being felt as the stock market has been rocked in
recent weeks and many families find themselves locked out of the
mortgage market. As we
in the past, the subprime mortgage market was largely aimed at
economically-strapped families trying to find some way to afford
homes. For low-income renters who never had the money to
even be in the game, rising rents have increasingly priced them
out of their homes.
session, the Iowa legislature broke a long standing stalemate
and added sexual orientation to its civil rights laws.
427 makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, public
accomodation, credit, housing and education based on a person's sexual
orientation or gender identity. In passing the bill, the Iowa
legislature simply extended the protections they offer to everyone else to gay
and transgender citizens. As House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy
"This was not some sort of liberal social agenda. This is just saying
that under housing and employment, people shouldn't be discriminated against
because of their real or perceived sexual orientation."
Despite real progress over the last generation in overcoming discrimination in our society, the reality is that Americans are still regularly refused employment, housing or equal treatment under the law because of their nationality or the color of their skin. The numbers highlighting this racial discrimination are stark:
little fanfare, the New York General Assembly and Governor
Eliot Spitzer enacted a budget in early April that includes
care for essentially all children. The budget increased SCHIP
eligibility for children in families with incomes up to 400% of poverty
($80,000 for a family of four) and allows families above 400% without
other options to purchase the SCHIP coverage at full-cost, which is still
cheaper and likely more comprehensive than private options. Premiums for
families below 400% of poverty will be set at $20, $30 and $40 per child
depending on income.
While the Bush Administration has reduced taxes on the wealthiest Americans
and undermined social welfare programs over the past 6 years, 5 million
more Americans have fallen into poverty, bringing the total to 37
million. That means at least one in eight Americans are now living in
This past week, the Washington State House voted to
five weeks of paid leave for parents with a new born or adopted child,
following earlier approval of a broader Senate measure,
5659, that would have also included paid leave to to take care of a
seriously ill parent. Another advantage of the law is that parents
in employers with 25 or more employees would have their jobs protected while
away, more job protection than under federal law which covers only employers
with 50 or more employees.
We spend more than twice on health care than any other industrialized nation in the world, yet we don't have universal access and our outcomes are worse. The reason we don't have universal access to quality health care is that too much of our health care spending -- our premiums, co-pays, prescriptions -- is wasted on profits, CEO bonuses and inefficient health care.