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Two States With Tarnished Images Make Strong Gains on Ethics in 2008

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.

Ohio Passes Strong Payday Lending Protection

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.

States Criminalizing Immigrant Workers through State "Identity Theft" Legislation

Right-wing interests have been mounting a political assault on university professors they do not like, led by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), which is promoting so-called "Intellectual Diversity" (ID) Legislation in various states across the country. The concept was pioneered by right-wing activist David Horowitz (see this profile site for more on Horowitz).  

Mapping and Deploying High-Speed Broadband

Despite claims by the Bush administration that most Americans now have access to affordable broadband, many people might disagree and would probably argue that their Internet access is to slow and to expensive.  Most analysts are nowhere near as optimistic as Bush's "Networked Nation: Broadband in America." These analysts highlight that the U.S. has fallen to 15th in world rankings for broadband connectivity and that Americans pay much higher fees for much slower speeds than most of the industrial nations in the world.  Misguided regulatory policies and substandard infrastructure have helped create a sub-parbroadband network in the United States.  

Election Day Registration

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).

Cleaning up Election Day Disasters

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.

Child Care: A Valuing Families Campaign Issue

In state elections across the country, how to create quality, affordable child care has become a potent campaign issue.

Illinois Joins Pre-School for All Movement

This past week, Illinois Governor Blagojevich signed the first law in the nation that establishes the goal of universally-available public preschool for all 3- and 4-year olds in that state.

The Taxpayers' Bill of Goods

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.