This Week on Main Street – February 17, 2012

UW students packed the Wisconsin capital rotunda to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their “I Love UW” protest that sparked the Wisconsin uprising. Photo via @JacquelynGill on Twitter.

Hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day! We received a couple of great gifts in honor of that lovely holiday – but a few stinkers as well.

Bad news first. On Capitol Hill, House Republicans and Democrats agreed to a compromise on the payroll tax extension, the Medicare “doc fix,” and at long last, the extension of unemployment insurance for millions of Americans. Unfortunately, the GOPers used their cruel and selfish proposals to extract concessions from Democrats – the so-called compromise involves cutting UI from 99 weeks down to 63 or 73 weeks, depending on the state. All this at a time when the average length of unemployment is at an all-time high, as high as it’s been since the Labor Department started keeping track.

However, out in the states, there are a few hopeful signs. Arizona’s insane collective bargaining ban might be canceled due to lack of interest – from Republican legislators! Even Governor Jan Brewer, who loves unnecessary fights, is only lukewarm on pursuing this particular part of the attack on workers’ rights.

Over in Indiana, we heard from the Lunchpail Republicans, a group of Indiana pro-workers moderates who are incensed with Gov. Daniels and Speaker Bosma for ramming through a ban on fair share clauses in union contracts. Turns out that there are still conservatives out there who yearn for the old days, when you could vote for a Republican without voting for the ALEC agenda. These guys aren’t messing around either: they are running eight pro-worker candidates in primaries against legislators who voted for the fair share ban.

But wait, there’s more! Down in Florida, where Rick Scott is breaking new ground in low public approval, a proposal to privatize state prisons was defeated in a bipartisan vote. It was a rare instance of Tea Party groups and progressives seeing eye to eye: after all, why would you want to increase costs to the taxpayer just to line the pockets of a small number of super-wealthy prison executives? Oh right, if you’re Rick Scott.

One more bright spot this week was in Maine, where pro-worker candidate Chris Johnson won an upset in a special election to fill an open State Senate seat. Congrats Chris! We’re glad you’re joining our friend Rep. Diane Russell to keep tabs on Governor Paul “I Hate Beautiful Murals” LePage.

Meanwhile, Susan fought Medicare fraud, Seth sent us #unionvalentines, Chase showed us the real-life effects of restricting UI, Catherine dressed up as the Tin Man, Ali showed Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman what’s what, Doug found a really awesome metaphor to explain “right to work” laws, and we joyously celebrated the one year anniversary of the Wisconsin uprising.

We’ll see you next week on Main Street – and don’t forget to sign up for our weekly Main Street Digest email. Have a great weekend!