As of this week, more than half of the fifty states had already seen their 2013 legislative sessions adjourn. In many of those that are still going, budget debates are front and center as lawmakers race to the finish line. In some states, issues that had previously been pushed to the backburner are back on the front one, in others, major provisions are being inserted into the budget at the midnight hour, and everywhere, final showdowns are shaping up as sessions wind down.
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:
Virginia's Senate leadership chose the occasion of Martin Luther King Day on Monday to push through a partisan redistricting bill, taking advantage of the absence of a legislator attending President Obama's inauguration. A separate effort in Virginia to change the way the state awards electoral votes in presidential elections ran into bipartisan opposition, even as lawmakers in other states were considering doing the same:
Yesterday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law controversial so-called “right-to-work” legislation intended to weaken unions and which studies have shown depresses wages and lowers quality of life for all. The signing followed the rapid passage of the bill in a lame duck legislative session, and came on the same day that massive protests took place in Michigan's state Capitol. Across the nation, state lawmakers and others spoke out against the legislation, proclaiming their solidarity with workers in Michigan and promising to continue to fight against similar efforts in their states.
If 2011 was “The Year of Voter ID,” then 2012 is shaping up to be “The Year of Voter ID Challenges.” In addition to the Department of Justice’s decision in December to deny preclearance to a voter ID law in South Carolina – a requirement under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, under which the state still qualifies – Wisconsin Circuit Judge David Flanagan issued a temporary injunction this week against his state’s new voter ID law. The order bars Governor Scott Walker and the Government Accountability Board from enforcing or implementing the law until a second trial in mid-April can be held to consider a permanent injunction.
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.