Legislators in Arizona conceded defeat this week in an attempt to gut the state’s minimum wage law. House Majority Leader Steve Court admitted that the law, enacted in a landslide 2006 ballot initiative with 65% of the vote, is still unassailable. Court’s decision wraps up a rough couple of months for legislators and lobbyists intent on rolling back minimum wage laws.
As we approach the middle of the legislative session in many statehouses across the country, it’s clear that state legislators are continuing to abandon the unconstitutional, anti-immigrant approach modeled off of Arizona and Alabama’s economically disastrous laws. Legislators, responding to changing demographics and politics, have instead started to focus on plausible and inclusive strategies aimed at broadening prosperity and increasing opportunities for all – regardless of immigration status.
As the world marks the 101st International Women’s Day, more and more American women are finding their own health under rhetorical and legislative attack in the halls of Congress, on radio airwaves, and in state after state. From attempts to defund organizations providing women with basic health services, to placing intrusive and often humiliating obstacles before women exercising the right to choose, to retricting access to contraception, the past few weeks have seen a range of attacks on women in the states – and a growing movement of progressive state lawmakers standing up and fighting back.
As state legislatures begin to pick up speed early in the 2012 session, a growing number of states that passed broad anti-immigrant laws over the past two years are seeing the error of their ways. Citing widespread economic devastation, a dramatically-worsened business climate, and a loss of public support, four states out of the five that passed laws based upon Arizona and Alabama’s flawed models are now seeking to repeal their anti-immigrant laws.
Over a year after the passage of SB 1070, what happened at the ballot box in Arizona this November was indicative a national backlash against not just anti-immigrant policies, but similar extremist overreach in state legislators on a number of issues. The verdict that Arizonans handed down on State Senator Russell Pearce this November was an historic one, as he became the first state lawmaker in Arizona history and the first Senate President of any state to be recalled. His support for extremist policies – including his close ties with the controversial, corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council – resulted in a bipartisan group of activists leading an ultimately successful charge to rein in his radical agenda.
This week, as the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) convened its annual States & Nation Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, labor, civil rights, and activist groups took advantage of the opportunity to highlight ALEC’s role in advancing conservative legislation on everything from voter ID to SB 1070 copycat bills. National groups such as Common Cause and MoveOn joined the state AFL-CIO, Occupy Phoenix, and others to plan five days’ worth of events during the duration of the conference to highlight the detrimental effects that ALEC-backed policies have had on the economic security of families in both Arizona and states across the country — and to warn about elements of their destructive agenda that may be introduced in coming legislative sessions.
Last week, voters nationwide said no to the right-wing efforts of some state political leaders. Those in west Mesa's Legislative District 18 ousted one of Arizona's most powerful conservatives, partly because of his focus on illegal-immigration enforcement. Phoenix and Tucson elected Democratic mayors. In other states, voters overturned legislation that would have restricted unions and also rejected a ballot measure to ban all abortions. The outcomes of these elections have politicians and analysts wondering whether the nation is moving left.
Exactly one year ago, conservatives swept the states on Election Day, thanks to promises to focus on jobs and the economy. But in states where conservatives were able to advance their agenda in 2011 sessions, voters only saw attacks on workers, the middle class, women, immigrants, and historically disenfranchised communities. This week, voters from every corner of the nation - form Ohio to Maine to Arizona to Mississippi - sent a striking and direct message in response, rejecting the overreach of right-wing legislatures and governors in 2011 on a range of issues.