This fall, voters in some states and cities will have the chance to do more than just push back. Initiatives are on the ballot that would directly confront the destruction that austerity economics has wrought on communities, while building national momentum behind policies to revitalize our economy and protect our democracy. All kinds of issues are at stake, from workers’ rights to corporate influence in politics, to whether corporations and the luckiest few will pay their fair share in taxes. While voters will be electing a president, governors, Congress, and thousands of state legislators this November 6, here are a few places where a progressive vision will also be on the ballot:
Yesterday afternoon, the California State Senate affirmed their state’s commitment to smart and cost-effective immigration enforcement by passing the TRUST Act (AB 1081) by a 21-13 vote. The bill’s focus on maintaining trust with community members statewide by prioritizing violent and serious criminals instead of casting a wide, expensive, and counter-productive dragnet has spurred many to call it the “anti-Arizona.” Introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, a member of PSN’s affiliated State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy, the legislation seeks to clarify the relationship between local jurisdictions and the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities (S-Comm) program.
A spate of destructive broadband bills has been sweeping across the country, spurred on by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Unbelievably, just as broadband Internet becomes an essential tool for millions of Americans, these states, following the pattern of the model ALEC bill, are making moves toward depriving states of any power to ensure reliable, competitive, and affordable service that serves all state residents — from small businesses to those on the other side of the digital divide. The companies behind these bills want the ability to choose to serve only the locations and the individuals that yield the greatest profits. It is simply not smart governance to leave state authorities without the power to ensure everyone can use such a critical asset.
Sometimes states operate against stereotype, and this legislative session is no exception. In contrast to a forward-thinking bill put forward in West Virginia earlier this year, which would have explicitly granted authority over high speed broadband Internet services, it seems the typically consumer-friendly and technologically savvy California legislature is considering moving in the opposite direction, taking up a policy that was endorsed by the ultra-right wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) when it was under consideration in New York State.
Facing another round of deep cuts to health care and education as a result of ongoing revenue shortages caused by the slow economic recovery, and on the heels of a new national survey reporting that most state budgets have now seen spending fall below pre-recession levels, some states are signaling that they will be pursuing more balanced approaches to their budget troubles in 2012 than they have in previous years.
States looking to avoid making devastating budget cuts following the Great Recession have turned in recent years to closing tax loopholes, including requiring online retailers with a physical presence in-state to collect state sales taxes. Unsurprisingly, states who have pursued this approach have been fought every step of the way by huge corporations, specifically the online retail giant Amazon. This week, the battle came to a head in California, where lawmakers — who had earlier this year passed a measure requiring large online retailers to collect sales taxes — compromised in the face of a multimillion dollar effort by Amazon to take the issue to the voters in a ballot referendum by agreeing to delay the implementation of the law by one year.