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West Virginia

Judicial Elections Public Financing: Balancing Independent Courts and Voter Choice

Once the sleepy backwater of electoral politics, judicial elections have recently become a battleground where right wing and corporate groups spend large sums to fill the courts with jurists who will support their interests.  This is perhaps the most troubling example of money corrupting our politics, because instead of pay-to-play politics it gives us pay-to-win justice.  The independence of the judiciary simply cannot be maintained in an environment where jurists are competing for votes in high-priced, bare-knuckle political brawls. 

Paid Sick Days on Ballot in Milwaukee

Milwaukee has a paid sick leave referendum on the ballot for November that would allow employees to take leave for medical treatment, preventive care, or diagnosis for themselves, as well as to care for a close family member who is sick or who needs diagnosis or preventive care. Additionally, employees would be allowed to use the time to deal with domestic violence or sexual assault (for example, using accrued time to flee to safety.)  Employees at firms with 10 workers or less could accumulate up to 40 hours, whereas larger companies would have to provide up to 72 hours of paid sick leave.

States Still Leading Feds on Minimum Wage

With food and gas prices rising rapidly, low-wage workers can at least welcome an increase in the federal minium wage to $6.55 per hour scheduled to go into effect on July 24th.  Even better, a number of states will also be increasing their minimum wage rates even higher than the federal rate:

Corporate Influence on State Supreme Courts Show Need for Reform

Over the past decade, elections for state high court seats have gone from sleepy, mildly partisan affairs to major political battles with huge campaign spending, millions in independent special interest advertising, and misleading and negative attacks in the forefront.  TV advertising is now apart of virtually all (91%) contested state supreme court elections, up from about one in five elections in 2000.  And in 2006 business groups were the source of more than 90% of those ads.  Business groups are also the source of almost half of all campaign contributions in these races.

Largest Privatization Deal in U.S. History Proposed for Pennsylvania Turnpike

In the largest privatization deal ever proposed in the United States, a consortium led by Spanish company Abertis Infraestructuras offered $12.8 billion to lease operation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 75 years.  The deal would allow the company to immediately hike tolls 25 percent and then increase tolls each year thereafter up to the rate of inflation.

Focus on Prescription Drug Reform

$287 billion -- that is how much the U.S. spent on pharmaceuticals in 2007, representing a significant driver of health care costs.  While spending on hospital and physician care surpass spending on prescriptions, drugs still account for 14% of all health care expenditures. Combine this with polls that show 70% of Americans believe the drug industry puts profits ahead of people, and it's no wonder that in 2008, at least 540 bills and resolutions are being considered by states across the country to reduce prescription drug prices, ensure the quality of medications covered by public and private health plans, and reduce the undue influence of pharmaceutical industry marketing - which itself tops out at $30 billion each year.

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.