As we noted in the Dispatch a couple weeks ago, despite a dearth of recent successes and mounting fiscal crises in most states, rightwing voter ID legislation designed to suppress voter turnout continues to be pressed around the country. So far this year at least 17 states have seen bills introduced to institute or enhance ID requirements for voting or registration (AL, CO, GA, IN, MD, MN, MS, MO, NY, OK, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WY). It appears we now know enough to predict the landscape of the voter ID battles in this legislative session.
As states face mounting deficits, corporate lobbyists have been promoting the idea that privatization of public services and assets is a free lunch -- services can be delivered more cheaply than by public employees and public assets like highways can be sold or leased for a hefty return to the taxpayer. As PSN has detailed in our December 2007 report Privatizing in the Dark: The Pitfalls of Privatization & Why Budget Disclosure is Needed, the promises of privatization too often yield to a reality of lost money and degraded services, weak oversight and lost expertise, assets sold off for short-term gains but long-term loss, lost democratic accountability, and the corruption of the political process.
Legislatorsin both Tennessee and Louisiana have heavily promoted statewide videofranchising legislation this session. Just this past week the Tennessee House approved HB 1421, the "Competitive Cable and Video Services Act," while Louisiana legislators have introduced multiple statewide franchising bills, with SB 807 having the most momentum. The common thread between each Louisiana bill is that they are all bad for consumers.
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.
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.