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From the Dispatch

MA: Deal on Health Care -- But Is It Enough?

On Friday, legislative leaders in Massachusetts appear to have agreed to a compromise bill that would assess a modest fee on any business with ten employees or more which does not provide health care to their employees -- a key element of a broader plan to move towards universal health care coverage.

Smart Growth to Protect Rural America

After winning the Governor's seat in New Jersey, Jon Corzine decided to keep a Republican in the position of Agriculture Secretary. It was a good move. Charlie Kuperus has held the position in 2002 and has won broad support from both parties for his support of a number of measures in support of rural New Jersey.

Supremes May Undercut State Tax Powers

State governments offer businesses tens of billions in tax incentives each year to invest in their states-- corporate subsidies that many advocates see as wasteful giveways but that others see as a lifeline for their communities.

Reforming Three Strikes

Twelve years ago, California led the country in passage of a three strikes law that threatened to lock up repeated offenders and throw away the key. Now, having seen the cost to the state and realizing that 60% of three strike offenders are non-violent, a realization is growing that a different route may be more effective.

The Fight for Fair Coverage

Following Maryland's adoption of a Fair Share Health Care Act requiring that large employers adequately fund employee health care or help shoulder the burden of Medicaid costs, similar efforts are afoot across the nation and Wal-Mart, one of the primary targets of the legislation, is moving into full-court press mode attempting to find ways to convince the public that it isn't shirking its responsibilities to its employees.

IDing the Real Problem and Preventing Voter Intimidation

The right wing has a magnificent tendency to solve problems that don't exist in a way that tilts the playing field for their own side. For the latest example, we need look no further than Pennsylvania, where Governor Ed Rendell is poised to veto legislation that serves little real purpose other than helping conservatives build power. As Tom Ferrick, Jr., aptly described, HB1318 would have made it less likely that low-income citizens were voting by instituting rigorous ID requirements and shutting down polling places. The regulations are a joke as fraud is extremely rare, but the provisions being advanced are widely acknowledged to undermine turnout among low-income and urban residents.

Feds Propose Gutting State Protections Against Predatory Lending

North Carolina was the first state to pass a law reining in shady predatory lending practices, such as steep prepayment penalties, balloon payments and the sale of high-cost loans to borrowers who could qualify for lower rates. Soon a number of other states followed with similar laws and the result, according to a new study, is that homeowners now save $9.1 billion per year.