Since state legislatures around the country have started their sessions in 2012, legislators and governors alike have been recognizing the importance of broadband (or high speed Internet) to growing state economies. Governors in states as diverse as Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, and Wyoming highlighted broadband initiatives in their state of the state speeches, as more and more of our leaders are realizing that without broadband, the U.S. economy is not going to produce jobs or the highly-skilled workers needed to compete in a global marketplace.
A proposal to create a state-owned bank is gaining momentum in Washington State, where a bill modeled after the successful Bank of North Dakota was introduced in January with 44 co-sponsors in the House. In a speech at the outset of the legislative session, Speaker of the House Frank Chopp called it one of the caucuses’ key priorities this year.
As conservative state Attorneys General prepare to take their efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act all the way to Supreme Court arguments this spring, an outpouring of support for the health law from state legislators last week made it clear that those seeking to scuttle health reform are not the only ones speaking for the states. Over 500 state legislators representing all 50 states signed on to an Amicus Brief backing the constitutionality of the mimimum coverage provision of the law that was submitted to the Supreme Court last week, a broad show of support for the ACA coming at the beginning of both a pivotal election year and new legislative sessions which will see many lawmakers address the implementation of state exchanges provided for under the law. In addition to the filing of the Amicus Brief, legislators in a number of states held press conferences last week to highlight why they are standing up for the health law. Here are some state-by-state highlights of the coverage of both the brief and of the events held in state capitals across the nation last week.
Many states are finally taking a more balanced approach to their budget troubles by looking to raise revenue to avoid further deep cuts to education and health care, including New York who recently restructured their tax structure to generate more revenue from millionaires and California who is considering the same. These kinds of reforms will help states shore up their immediate revenue shortages, but will also bring long-term stability and flexibility as they look to rebuild their economies in the years to come. However, there are a handful of states that don’t currently have the option of generating revenue this year by taxing wealth because they lack a state income tax, making them more vulnerable to lagging revenues in a prolonged downturn like we’re experiencing now. This is certainly the case for a state like Washington, which has experienced some of the most severe budget deficits over the past three years, because they are too dependent on the state sales tax as a revenue stream. That’s why the Washington State Budget & Policy Center is building support for a proposal to tax the capital gains of the state’s wealthiest residents.
Facing another round of deep cuts to health care and education as a result of ongoing revenue shortages caused by the slow economic recovery, and on the heels of a new national survey reporting that most state budgets have now seen spending fall below pre-recession levels, some states are signaling that they will be pursuing more balanced approaches to their budget troubles in 2012 than they have in previous years.
This week, Seattle’s City Council voted 8-1 to make their city the fourth major city in the nation — following Washington, D.C., Milwaukee and San Francisco — to enact legislation ensuring that workers will not have to choose between keeping their jobs and getting the health care they or a family member need. Earlier this year, conservative state legislators struck down Milwaukee’s law, enacted by a 70-30 percent majority in a 2008 ballot initiative, by passing a bill stripping local governments of the power to regulate family and medical leave. This victory for Seattle families continues the positive national momentum of paid sick days legislation, which was also enacted statewide in Connecticut earlier this year, and which promises to continue to be a priority for lawmakers seeking economic security for their constituents across the nation in cities and states next year. It also comes at a time when some tragic, real-life stories of families affected by a lack of paid sick days are emerging, reinforcing the need for this critical measure.