Direct democracy through popular intiatives and referenda began a
century ago as a grassroots, progressive reform aimed at circumventing
corrupt legislatures and increasing civic involvement. The long history of this reform
indicates that in the whole this experiment in direct popular
participation in the legislative process has been successful as an
avenue for passing populist policies that maintains the favor of
the public over time. However, throughout this history there have
also been attempts, sometimes successful, to manipulate the process and
the electorate into passing legislation that would not garner majority
support had voters possessed an accurate conception of its content and
Last week, Connecticut's high court struck down the state's
civil union law and ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional
right to marry. Connecticut joins Massachusetts and California as the
only states that recognize gay marriage. As the New York Timesreported,
the Connecticut ruling is notable because it found for the first time
that a state civil union law, while providing all the legal rights of
marriage to gay couples but limiting marriage to heterosexual couples,
violated the state's "constitutional guarantee of equal protection
under the law."
After an Arizona federal district court, relying on a recent US Supreme Court decision, declared
a provision of that state’s clean elections law unconstitutional,
other states are having to decide how to move forward on clean
elections in their states.
Given that this was just one decision by a lower court, the California legislature approved AB 583 on August 30th, one day after the Arizona ruling. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Loni Hancock,
creates a public financing pilot program for the Secretary of State
race in 2014. For the law to go into effect it must first be approved
by voters next year. On the other hand, New Jersey legislators
overreacted to the decision and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr. announced that he would not seek to renew clean elections legislation (AB 100) in the upcoming session.
The benefits of a post-secondary degree are plentiful. For example, an employee with a four year college degree earns 60 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma. Paying for college, however, has become a daunting task and strain for many American students and families. The cost of higher education across the country is rapidly increasing, at almost double the rate of inflation, outpacing increases in financial aid and many families ability to pay. The combination of these factors result in too many students being unable to earn or complete their degrees due to financial constraints.
Arizona, it was a session marked by papering over a large fiscal
deficit, the approval of a ballot measure to ban gay marriage, and a
number of nasty initiatives that were thankfully vetoed by the
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:
Voter suppression is growing rapidly in America today.Over half of states now have voter ID requirements more stringent than that required for first time voters in federal elections.Several states are clamping down on voter registration drives or are considering proof of citizenship requirements.
The Iowa Senate on Tuesday approved SF 2416,
a bill to sharply increase fines on employers violating Iowa state wage
laws, crack down on the practice of misclassifying employees as
"independent contractors" to evade those laws, and protect workers
reporting violations from retaliation.
$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.