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Ballot Initiatives 2008

This Dispatch is a roundup of what ballot initiatives will appear on state ballots across the country this November.  Whether it's workers rights, energy policy, education, transit, abortion or health care, ballot initiates give voters a chance to directly vote on an issue.

Helping Poor and Working Families Build Financial Assets

By one estimate, the federal government spent over $367 billion in 2005 aloneon subsidizing Americans' retirement savings and tax breaks to build upother assets like buying a home.  Unfortunately, those subsidies gooverwhelmingly to those Americans who already have high-incomes; almostnone of it goes to the poorest Americans who need the most helpbuilding the financial assets that can lead to long-term economicopportunities and security.

Ohio Passes Strong Payday Lending Protection

Showing the frustration over abusive lending practices by even many right-leaning legislators, the Ohio legislature has taken a huge step to protect its citizens against predatory lenders by passing HB 545.  The bill slashes the payday-lending interest rate from a sky-high 391 annual percentage rate to 28 percent.  In real terms, instead of having to pay $15 interest for every $100 loaned, borrowers will now pay no more than $1.08 per $100 borrowed. The bill also limits borrowers to four loans per year, requires that loan terms be at least 31 days (instead of the current average of 14 days), and bans internet payday lending.  HB 545 is now before Governor Strickland, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Overcoming Racial Discrimination

Despite real progress over the last generation in overcoming discrimination in our society, the reality is that Americans are still regularly refused employment, housing or equal treatment under the law because of their nationality or the color of their skin.  The numbers highlighting this racial discrimination are stark:

An Agenda to Reduce Poverty

While the Bush Administration has reduced taxes on the wealthiest Americans and undermined social welfare programs over the past 6 years, 5 million more Americans have fallen into poverty, bringing the total to 37 million.  That means at least one in eight Americans are now living in poverty.  

Gay Adoption Gains, Children Win

This week, an Arkansas bill to ban gay adoption collapsed in the House, after passing the state Senate earlier this month.  In New Hampshire, the state House overwhelmingly passed a bill affirming the right of gay couples to jointly adopt children.  Earlier this month, the Colorado House approved a similar "second-parent adoption" bill in a bipartisan vote.

 

"National Popular Vote" Fix for Electoral College Passes MD Senate

Yesterday, the Maryland Senate approved legislation that would grant Maryland's 10 Electoral College votes to the Presidential candidate receiving the most votes nationally, rather than to the winner of the state-- a system that would go into effect if enough other states approve similar legislation to guarantee the Presidency to the candidate winning the popular vote nationally.

Defining Health Care Down

In states across the country, progressive leaders are stepping up to discuss how to achieve universal coverage for health care. At the same time, many on the Right are trying to define "health care coverage" to mean bare-bones care with often unaffordable cost-sharing for individuals and families.

One Eye on the Ballot

It's a big year for ballot issues. Mid-term elections, when no President is being elected, typically see less activity on the ballot issue front than Presidential years, but 2006 is proving to be an exception. Eighteen states will consider 76 ballot issues this fall, as high as its been since 1914 for a non-Presidential year.