As we noted in the Dispatch a couple weeks ago, despite a dearth of recent successes and mounting fiscal crises in most states, rightwing voter ID legislation designed to suppress voter turnout continues to be pressed around the country. So far this year at least 17 states have seen bills introduced to institute or enhance ID requirements for voting or registration (AL, CO, GA, IN, MD, MN, MS, MO, NY, OK, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WY). It appears we now know enough to predict the landscape of the voter ID battles in this legislative session.
In a positive step forward for federal respect of state regulatory powers, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider a previously denied waiver to allow California to set more stringent auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required by federal law. In a statement by the White House, President Obama said "the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." The directive represents not only greater respect for state authority, but also a sharp break from the climate policies of President Obama's predecessor.
Early Voting Shows Big Gain Nationally, Hits Majority in Ten States
The final numbers for early voting have been posted by the United States Elections Project
at George Mason University and they are big: 30% of votes nationwide
were cast early and a majority of voters cast their votes either by
mail or in person before Election Day in ten states. The total
increase is 50% over the number cast in the 2004 presidential election.
And even more striking, Coloradans cast 79% of their
votes early, the vast majority through mail-in ballots. These numbers
make clear that the electoral landscape is changing in many states, and
the endorsement by so many voters will likely fuel further adoption of
early voting this session and beyond.
Washington State minimum wage workers got a raise January 1st to $8.55
per hour -- now the highest minimum wage in the country. Like nine
other states, Washington automatically increases its minimum wage each
year at the rate of inflation to make sure families don't face a de facto pay
cut as rising costs eat into family budgets. Because the federal
minimum wage is not indexed to inflation in this way, we have seen a
decline in its value from $9.34 in inflation-adjusted dollars down to
just $6.55 per hour this past year. This trend highlights why state
efforts to index the minimum wage to keep up with inflation are so
With legislative sessions getting underway around the country, this
Dispatch provides a list of key bills and policies that we encourage
legislators to consider introducing. While not exhaustive of the range
of needed reforms in states, they emphasize initiatives of strategic
importance that are being considered in multiple states. Working with
our various partners, Progressive States Network is providing staff
support for these policies and will work to use movement in multiple
states to generate national media and attention. This in turn will
create greater momentum to assist individual states in pushing bills to
passage. The following is a quick checklist of key policies with links
to model legislation and policy summaries.
As states face mounting deficits, corporate lobbyists have been promoting the idea that privatization of public services and assets is a free lunch -- services can be delivered more cheaply than by public employees and public assets like highways can be sold or leased for a hefty return to the taxpayer. As PSN has detailed in our December 2007 report Privatizing in the Dark: The Pitfalls of Privatization & Why Budget Disclosure is Needed, the promises of privatization too often yield to a reality of lost money and degraded services, weak oversight and lost expertise, assets sold off for short-term gains but long-term loss, lost democratic accountability, and the corruption of the political process.