The imposing columns. The ornate and soaring ceiling. The hushed tone. The Supreme Court feels like a place where justice happens. There is a sense of importance, reverence, and loftiness. I've worked on every reproductive rights case to reach the Supreme Court in the last 15 years, and, as corny as it sounds, it is always thrilling for me to watch a Supreme Court argument.
Dozens of tired, bedraggled men line up in shackles to plead guilty en masse. A judge claims his personal best is sentencing 70 people in 30 minutes: an average of twenty-five seconds per person to review the charges, hear his or her plea, and hand down a sentence.
No, this is not Egypt or Russia. It's the United States, in federal courthouses along the Southwest border.
What happens in Texas's educational system is closely watched by the rest of the nation, from its textbook selection to a recent rollback of the state's high-stakes testing requirements. We can add funding for public education and universal pre-K to that list. During the 2011 legislative session, the Texas legislature had cut $5.4 billion from public education for the 2012-2013 biennium, slamming students and teachers with the brunt of the first education cuts the state enacted in more than four decades. The cuts also came as the $3 billion in emergency aid that Texas received from the 2009 federal stimulus was drying up.
The last few years have seen a wave of proposed and enacted restrictions on abortion rights. 2013 began no differently, with the first three months of the new year seeing legislators in 14 states introduce bans, including 10 proposals that would ban nearly all abortions. But recently, from Texas to Ohio to North Carolina, the pace and intensity of these attacks has picked up even more, drawing local protests, national attention, and displays of solidarity from state lawmakers across the country.
This week saw the case for budget austerity at both the state and federal levels continue to rapidly fall apart. A new Congressional Budget Office report showed that the federal budget deficit problem may not actually be that much of a problem anymore, and debates over what to do with budget surpluses began to percolate in the states as treasuries started to count tax revenues that came in last month, even as the pain from sequestration cuts also continued to be felt in all fifty states:
After a year that started off with a wave of efforts to suppress the vote - many of which continue - more and more states are now looking at enacting significant reforms to modernize voter registration and protect and expand voting rights. Here's a roundup of recent developments:
Taxes are on the minds of many this week as April 15th approaches. They're also on the minds of many conservative governors -- in states such as Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Nebraska -- who have seen their radical tax proposals to further enrich corporations and the wealthy run into major resistance from voters, businesses, and even conservative lawmakers. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who this week withdrew his regressive plan that would have eliminated the state income tax while raising the sales tax, has seen his standing drop sharply in the polls. In the run up to Tax Day, increasing attention is being focused on how tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations increase burdens on the middle class.
A longtime staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act decided to support expanding Medicaid in his state this week, adding to the list of conservatives who are having a change of heart on the issue, as advocates (as well as hospitals and other industry forces) continue to lobby hard for states to take full advantage of the federal funding provided in the ACA. At the same time, lawmakers from states including Mississippi continued their efforts to push for expansion as well. As full enactment of the law draws closer and closer, progressive lawmakers are growing bolder in their advocacy for full implementation of the ACA, and events this week signaled a clear shift in the political terrain in favor of supporters of health reform:
Eight years ago, progressives were recovering from an Election Day that saw a full 11 states ban same-sex marriage at the polls. The environment in early 2013 could not be more different. Coming off of historic successes at the polls in four states in November, momentum behind marriage equality efforts continues to grow in state after state in advance of what is likely to be a landmark Supreme Court decision on the issue this term:
As goes California, so goes the nation? The conservative anti-tax revolt that began in the Golden State over 30 years ago was rebuked by voters this past November when they approved Prop 30. Early in sessions in 2013, other states are showing signs of following a similar path and refusing to rely on economically destructive cuts: