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.
Legislators in Arizona conceded defeat this week in an attempt to gut the state’s minimum wage law. House Majority Leader Steve Court admitted that the law, enacted in a landslide 2006 ballot initiative with 65% of the vote, is still unassailable. Court’s decision wraps up a rough couple of months for legislators and lobbyists intent on rolling back minimum wage laws.
As we approach the middle of the legislative session in many statehouses across the country, it’s clear that state legislators are continuing to abandon the unconstitutional, anti-immigrant approach modeled off of Arizona and Alabama’s economically disastrous laws. Legislators, responding to changing demographics and politics, have instead started to focus on plausible and inclusive strategies aimed at broadening prosperity and increasing opportunities for all – regardless of immigration status.
A rash of backward thinking appears to be taking hold in a number of states that might be better spending their time considering how to create modern technology jobs and skills at home. Some states are considering how best to deploy modern high-speed Internet to ensure their local economies and residents are ready to compete in the global marketplace. But in other states, legislators are debating whether telephone service should be offered at all - leaving many observers wondering whether they would prefer to live in the 19th century, before Alexander Graham Bell's invention became ubiquitous.
As the world marks the 101st International Women’s Day, more and more American women are finding their own health under rhetorical and legislative attack in the halls of Congress, on radio airwaves, and in state after state. From attempts to defund organizations providing women with basic health services, to placing intrusive and often humiliating obstacles before women exercising the right to choose, to retricting access to contraception, the past few weeks have seen a range of attacks on women in the states – and a growing movement of progressive state lawmakers standing up and fighting back.
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.
Conservatives have long wanted state lawmakers to believe that enacting sweeping tax cuts is the key to spurring economic growth. As most legislators across the country grapple with another year of difficult budget choices, controversial economist Arthur Laffer and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been pushing a comparative analysis which aims to prove that the nine states with no state income tax (Alaska, Florida, Tennessee, Washington, Nevada, Texas, South Dakota, New Hampshire and Wyoming) have dramatically outperformed the economies of the nine states with the highest income tax rates (California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont).
In the furor surrounding the Obama Administration’s decision this month that contraceptive coverage be provided to women by their employer or insurer, the leadership provided by states in the debate about women’s health has often been overlooked. States have been on the forefront of the fight to ensure that women have access to contraceptives, with 28 states having laws on the books requiring access.
A proposal to create a state-owned bank is gaining momentum in Washington State, where a bill modeled after the successful Bank of North Dakota was introduced in January with 44 co-sponsors in the House. In a speech at the outset of the legislative session, Speaker of the House Frank Chopp called it one of the caucuses’ key priorities this year.
Faced with a rapidly approaching deadline for establishing state-based health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more than half of all states — including several with conservative control of their legislatures and governor’s offices — have already taken steps to implement this critical piece of the health law set to come online in 2014, according to a report released this month by the White House. By January 1, 2014, consumers will be able to use exchange as one-stop marketplace to find health care plans that fit their needs and will be able to enroll starting in October 2013. With those dates drawing nearer and nearer, many state legislative sessions are opening with implementation of the exchanges at the top of their priority list.