Many states have suffered from public officials being involved in
ethics scandals. While sometimes there is talk of reform and other
overtures, comprehensive reform is most often elusive. However, some
states have managed, either in response to one particularly egregious
event or a history of problems being overturned in a wave of
dissatisfaction, to truly make a fundamental change. This year
Connecticut once again moved forward with a multi-year ethics reform
initiative, and Louisiana enacted one of the most far-reaching ethics
overhauls any state has in generations.
Showing the frustration over abusive lending practices by even many right-leaning legislators, the Ohio legislature has taken a huge step to protect its citizens against predatory lenders by passing HB 545.
The bill slashes the payday-lending interest rate from a sky-high 391
annual percentage rate to 28 percent. In real terms, instead of having
to pay $15 interest for every $100 loaned, borrowers will now pay no
more than $1.08 per $100 borrowed. The bill also limits borrowers to
four loans per year, requires that loan terms be at least 31 days
(instead of the current average of 14 days), and bans internet payday
lending. HB 545 is now before Governor Strickland, who is expected to
sign the bill into law.
In the age of Google, citizens expect to be able to find core
information on the Internet about government operations, but as a major
new report being released today highlights, most states are failing on
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).
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.
With the 2006 elections quickly approaching, a small group of highly energized right-wing activists are working hard to export a failed policy from Colorado to other states around the nation. The idea is known variously as the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR), the Stop OverSpending Amendment (SOS), or as Tax and Spending Control (TASC). Fundamentally, though, all of the amendments boil down to a single policy idea: arbitrarily capping increases in state spending based on only two factors -- population growth and the consumer price index.