A new article from the Guardian reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) is planning a significant assault on the rights of working families in 2014 state legislative sessions. Through the Searle Freedom Trust, a foundation it created in 2011, SPN plans to offer sizable grants to supposedly independent, non-partisan think tanks in the states. SPN collected 40 grant proposalsfrom these think tanks and will grant funding through Searle to 20 of them. The proposals are for numerous extreme right-wing policy options, very similar to those proposed by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the think tanks already receive funding from the typical extremist anti-working family funders like the Koch brothers.
While SPN claims tax-exempt status that limits their lobbying efforts and the group says that it and the groups it funds don’t engage in lobbying, those claims don’t quite pass a commonsense examination. As the Guardian notes:
Most of the “think tanks” involved in the proposals gathered by the State Policy Network are constituted as 501(c)(3) charities that are exempt from tax by the Internal Revenue Service. Though the groups are not involved in election campaigns, they are subject to strict restrictions on the amount of lobbying they are allowed to perform. Several of the grant bids contained in the Guardian documents propose the launch of “media campaigns” aimed at changing state laws and policies, or refer to “advancing model legislation” and “candidate briefings,” in ways that arguably cross the line into lobbying.
Depending on which 20 proposals it chooses to fund, here are 12 ways that SPN could assault the rights of working families in 2014:
1. Alabama Policy Institute: Requested $25,725 to fund the “spark plug” for eliminating the state income tax. Such a plan would lead to the cutting of services for working families. (Also requested for tax cuts or elimination: Advance Arkansas Institute, $35,000; Georgia Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Nebraska’s Platte Institute for Economic Research, $25,000; New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, $30,000; Ohio’s Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, $40,000; and Opportunity Ohio, $35,000).
2. Delaware’s Caesar Rodney Institute: Requested $36,000 to fund strategies to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which would lower wages for working families.
3. Florida’s James Madison Institute: Requested $40,000 to fund efforts to promote vouchers (which they call Education Savings Accounts), which would reduce funding for public schools. Lower public education funding would lead to worsening student performance and teacher layoffs. (Also requested on this topic: Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute, $40,000.)
4. Georgia Center for Opportunity: Requested $65,000 to fund opposition to Medicaid expansion, which would mean fewer residents have health care. (Also requested on this same topic: North Carolina’s J.W. Pope Civitas Institute, $46,500; Texas Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Utah’s Sutherland Institute, $50,000.)
5. Illinois Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to fight to change Chicago’s public employee pension system to a defined-contribution plan, which would mean less retirement security for working families. (Also requested on cutting public employee pensions: Arizona’s Goldwater Institute for Public Policy, $40,000; Minnesota’s Center of the American Experiment, $40,000; Missouri’s Show-Me Institute, $25,000; Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation, $35,500.)
6. Maryland Public Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to push for cuts in corporate tax rates, which would lead to the cutting of services for working families.
7. Maine Heritage Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to eliminate state and local income taxes and institute “right to work” for less in one county as a model for future endeavors. If the campaign succeeds, working families will face service cuts and lower wages.
8. Mississippi Center for Public Policy: Requested $30,000 to oppose gas tax increases and privatize the state Department of Transportation, which would lead to weakened services for state residents and lower accountability on transportation issues. (Also requested on privatization: Massachusetts’ Pioneer Institute, $40,000).
9. Common Sense Institute of New Jersey: Requested $50,000 for a campaign to eliminate the compensation of public employees for unused sick leave, which would lower the overall compensation package for employees and encourage public employee absenteeism.
10. Nevada Policy Research Institute: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to get union members to leave their unions, which would weaken the collective bargaining rights of working families.
11. Empire Center for New York State Policy: Requested $36,500 to fund efforts to eliminate the estate tax, which would lead to service cuts for working families and shift the tax burden in the state from the wealthy toward working families.
12. Washington Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to launch a campaign to require local governments to have a super-majority to raise taxes, which would cripple local governments and lead to cuts in services for working families.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Alabama, ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, maryland, mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, State Policy Network, washington
The following is a post from Maine Rep. Diane Russell
The most memorable moment I have in my political life, by far, is leaving the Maine House in tears, stunned that the majority party had repealed four decades of Election Day Registration – all so they could win elections. It was the moment when I truly questioned whether our democracy would survive, or whether people were even listening.
We had been blindsided by the sudden and unexpected onslaught of anti-voter rhetoric. OpEds and FAQ sheets circulated faster than we could imagine. Those of us fighting the bill in the Legislature were outmaneuvered even when we exposed the hypocrisy and even lies that were being put before us. For every legislative aid in Maine, there are about ten to twelve lawmakers – so how was such a coordinated push even possible? We couldn’t catch up, let alone respond.
Thankfully, the people were listening. In fact, it was the people of Maine who restored my faith in our future. One by one, they picked up petitions and in under a month had collected enough signatures to put the question to the ballot. On Election Day, 60 percent of Mainers resoundingly voted to protect the voting rights for themselves, their neighbors and even students.
But where did this even come from? This was four decades of sacred ground, upended overnight with a well-coordinated legislative and public relations offensive.
The source, it turns out, was the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). While our registration laws were under attack in Maine, a chorus of cries began to erupt from across the country as newly red states pushed restrictive voter ID bills effectively disenfranchising voters. At one point, the Brennan Center estimated 5 million people would be left behind under the new laws. It was only when Ari Berman outlined what was happening in his Rolling Stone article, “The GOP War on Voting,” did the tide finally begin to change – and the truth finally get told.
We now know, of course, that it’s not just voter rights that ALEC had set its sights on. They were pushing the castle doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws; rollbacks to environmental protections; opposition to women’s rights; anti-worker legislation and the list goes on. They worked with the GOP to effectively gut Maine’s model public campaign financing laws – enacted by the people through referendum – that open doors for good people to run for office, devoid of the potential for quid-pro-quo donations. Citizens are again picking up pens to put Clean Elections back on the ballot and to restore it.
In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, people and companies began piecing together the connection between castle doctrines and voter suppression – and the blatant racial bias inherent in both. Under unprecedented pressure from the public, companies began canceling their ALEC memberships. ALEC, itself, even dismembered its notorious task force that tied public safety with voter laws, formerly chaired by the NRA. (Yes, the NRA actually chaired the committee that approved the vigilante and voter registration model bills.)
Flash forward a bit, and it turns out tech companies such as Yelp are now partnering with ALEC. Let’s set aside the intelligence of climbing on board the Titanic after even the rats have left, and analyze their rationale for a moment.
Yelp, a highly popular online consumer review company, has stated that its support is related specifically to so-called SLAPP legislation which uses lawsuits to effectively undermine free speech. If consumers write negative reviews about a company and then are “slapped” with a frivolous lawsuit, they might become less inclined to write said reviews. In legal terms, this is known as “chilling speech.” On the point of protecting Free Speech in this one legal area, Yelp and ALEC agree. Working with the other side is just part of politics, right?
While this generally is true, the problem in this case is that it ignores all the other rights that are being stripped from people because of this organization. It ignores the fact that a young kid was gunned down because he was armed with a hoodie, some skittles and an iced tea. It ignores the fact that they are the architects of laws that suppress voting rights for minorities. It ignores their work to write and pass (with the Corrections Corporation of America) legislation like Arizona’s SB1070 that used racial profiling to target undocumented workers.
On a simply pragmatic note, it ignores the fact that countless other companies – who had previously aligned with ALEC to work on their own “very specific” issue areas – canceled their memberships as soon as they realized the host of other laws with which their name was now being associated. For a company like Yelp who has built its brand entirely on the consumer reviews of other brands, this concept should be rather self-evident.
It was pretty self-evident to Yelp’s members who, in just one day, posted more than 2,500 reviews (nearly all negative) about ALEC and Yelp’s new relationship – on the company’s own web platform. Further, @Yelp was peppered all day with outraged tweets from across the country.
If Yelp – and other tech companies – are serious about protecting First Amendment rights then I’m all in and will commit to working with them to do just that. However, there are better, more ethical means to accomplish this goal than joining an organization who helped lay a foundation for the “he was armed with Skittles” defense.
The reviews are in; it’s time for Yelp to end its relationship with ALEC. Send a message now.
Reposted from DailyKos
Photo by Protect Maine Voting Rights on Facebook
Tags: ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Maine, voting rights, yelp
In Arizona, 300,000 people will get the health care coverage they need, thanks to Gov. Jan Brewer’s change of heart on a key program of the Affordable Care Act. Brewer signed a bill into law accepting federal funds to cover low-income families under Medicaid—a bill that she had to fight against members of her own party in the state legislature to get passed in a special session she called.
It was a hard fight, but one we’re glad to see turned out the right way. The Medicaid provision was one of the key components of the ACA, but it was put at risk by a Supreme Court decision that left it up to the states to accept or decline the funds. Many states have—but others, like Texas, are refusing, leaving millions without coverage.
In other states, the process is still unfolding:
- About half a million people are waiting on the Michigan state Senate, who should vote this week on a state House-passed proposal to accept expanded Medicaid funds. Gov. Rick Snyder has promised to sign the bill into law.
- As the state legislature in Ohio debates accepting expanded funds, a new poll shows 63 percent of Ohioans want the expansion, which would cover an estimated 275,000 people.
- In Virginia, a commission to study accepting expanded Medicaid funds had its first meeting this week. The next meeting will take place in August.
- In New Hampshire, the state House—which supports accepting expanded funds—is working to craft a measure that will be able to get through the Republican-controlled Senate. This may mean a commission will be created to review the issue.
- Unfortunately, in Maine, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a measure to accept expanded funds. The bill, which would cover 60,000 people, passed by strong but not quite veto-proof margins, so the fate of Medicaid in Maine remains unclear.
Tags: ACA, Affordable Care Act, Arizona, Health Care, Maine, Medicaid, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour and an increase facing stiff opposition from congressional Republicans, coalitions of union, community, faith and other groups are mobilizing to win increases in state and local minimum wage levels. Here’s a look at some recent wins and campaigns where AFL-CIO state federations and central labor councils are playing big roles.
In late March, the New York state legislature approved a measure increasing the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour over three years. New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento says:
Raising the minimum wage will make a real difference in the lives of workers, many of whom are adults working full-time, and many of whom have families to support.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising New York’s minimum wage to $9.00 per hour will benefit more than 1.5 million New York workers—more than one in five workers in New York. The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that increasing New York’s minimum wage to $9.00 per hour will generate more than $1.1 billion in new economic activity, supporting the creation of 10,200 new full-time jobs as businesses expand to meet increased consumer demand.
San Jose, Calif., recently increased its minimum wage to $10 an hour after a campaign that united the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and San Jose Downtown Association in winning a ballot measure to boost the city’s minimum wage.
Meanwhile in Hawaii, the state House passed legislation to raise the Aloha State’s minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2017 in four steps. The state Senate is expected to vote on the bill next month.
In Maine last week, the state House also voted to boost the state’s minimum wage, from the current $7.50 an hour to $9 an hour by 2016 in in three steps. The bill also protects the wage from losing its value inflation by indexing it to inflation. The bill awaits state Senate action.
A bill to increase the Minnesota minimum wage to $10.55 an hour over three years is making it way through the House. It already has been approved by three committees and further action is expected later in the spring. It also is indexed against inflation. The bill is a key part of the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s Agenda for Dignity and Middle Class Fairness.
Looking down the road, New Jersey voters will decide this fall on a ballot measure to raise the Garden State’s minimum wage to $8.25 an hour and index it against inflation. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO plans a major effort around the measure. In January, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a minimum wage bill.
There are also campaigns or legislation under way to increase the minimum wage in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico and Rhode Island.
On the federal level, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) earlier this year introduced legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour; and a new report reveals the American Legislative Exchange Council is engaged in a widespread campaign to weaken or repeal state minimum wage laws and other low-wage worker protections.
You can find out more about the minimum wage from the National Employment Law Project and from the group’s Raise the Minimum Wage website.
Tags: aflcio, California, hawaii, Jobs, Maine, minimum wage, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, san jose
Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog
Not quite two years ago, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) ordered the removalof an 11-panel, 36-foot mural depicting the state’s labor history from the Department of Labor. LePage, who supports “right to work” for less laws and has pushed to weaken child labor laws, claimed the mural was anti-business and akin to North Korean propaganda.
The mural had been held in a secret location while the controversy gained nationwide attention. But it is back on public display after the state Department of Labor and Maine State Museum reached an agreement to display the mural for three years at the Augusta Museum. It was unveiled at its new location today.
Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, told the Augusta Morning Sentinel:
At last the labor mural will see the light of day. The governor’s actions disrespected generations of hard-working Maine people. It’s unfortunate the mural was put in hiding for two years. Where was it hidden?…That’s the million-dollar question.
The mural, by artist Judy Taylor, was commissioned by former Gov. John Baldacci (D). The scenes it depicts include a 1986 paper mill strike, “Rosie the Riveter” at the Bath Iron Works, the enactment of child labor laws, the first Labor Day and Frances Perkins, the first female secretary of labor and promoter of New Deal policies that improved workers’ rights on the job.
In the fall of 2011, a reproduction of the mural was displayed at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. The reproduction was exhibited at several sites as the fight over the mural, which made its way through the federal courts, continued.
Visit the Judy Taylor Studio & Gallery website for a closer look at the 11-panel mural.
Photo from Maine AFL-CIO on Facebook
Tags: Maine, Paul LePage, Rights At Work
by Matt Caston – Augusta, Maine
For the past week, Working America canvassers have been knocking on doors and calling our members in order to defeat a bill that would endanger Maine’s Workers’ Compensation System, which is currently one of the best in the country.
As I write this, the entire Working America team is currently stuffed into an overflow room where injured workers wait to testify in opposition to this legislation. One reason we’re in here is the sheer number of injured workers who have come to the state capital in Augusta to share their stories. The other reason? The large group of insurance industry representatives, who have rallied as a buffer to our testimonies, are taking up a healthy amount of the seating.
The public hearings for “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Workers’ Compensation” are being held today in the midst of a legislative session where we have seen repeated attacks on workers.
As we sit here with workers who have been severely injured on the job and even permanently disabled from the workplace, it’s appalling to think that this bill would deny many of these people long-term support for permanent impairment in the workplace due to severe physical and mental trauma.
In spite of the odds against us, I’ve been buoyed by the amount of support that we’ve encountered from our members; going door to door, answering our calls, and getting fired up enough to be here with us during the testimony.
Larry, one of our members who came to our Labor Lobby Day last Thursday, remarked to me: “I had always viewed unions as a classically Democratic institution; at least that’s how the media and my party seem to portray it. I’ve learned a lot today about a side to these issues and unions that I never knew before. It’s interesting that there is a whole side that you don’t even hear.” He now sits with us in solidarity during workers’ testimony, eager to learn more about an issue of which he was only exposed to one side.
Tags: Jobs, Maine, Rights At Work, workplace safety
Maine legislators vote to kill Voter ID. From Think Progress:
Though Republicans enjoy full control over Maine’s lawmaking process, they’ve dropped a push to require certain photo identification in order to vote.
Though Maine Republicans were considering voter ID legislation at the beginning of the year, Democrats vociferously objected because the bill could prevent thousands of Mainers from voting, particularly elderly individuals. On Friday, Republicans acceded to those objections, striking the voter ID language from an election law bill. This is the second time voter ID has failed to pass the GOP-controlled Maine legislature. Last year, a voter ID bill failed in the Senate after first being passed by the House.
It does speak well for them that they were concerned about disenfranchising elderly voters. But:
Maine Republicans were chastened during the 2011 session after they passed a bill to eliminate the state’s 38 year-old law allowing for Election Day registration, only to see their move overturned by a citizens veto in November. More than 60 percent of Mainers rebuked the legislature and voted to restore Election Day registration.
This is the real bottom line. Over 60 percent of Maine voters trounced them with a citizen’s veto. They don’t want to get that kind of a public spanking again any time soon.
In place of this bill, the legislature voted in favor of a resolution. From Maine Public Broadcasting Network:
Put in its place was a resolve calling on the Secretary of State to study changes that might need to be made to Maine’s election system, “So that when we do do something there won’t be this tugging back and forth and running out to a people’s veto,” says Republican Committee member Sen. Deb Plowman of Hampden.
Plowman is referring to a vote that happened over another voting rights issue. In November, Maine voters soundly overturned a new law pushed by Republicans that banned the decades-old practice of allowing Election Day voter registration.
But Shenna Bellows of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine challenged the need for legislators to call for a study. “In these difficult economic times, it’s irresponsible to waste taxpayer resources on a study to tell the secretary of state to do his job. It is not necessary to use a study to fix clerical errors or administrative errors,” Bellows says.
Summers says his primary concern is people voting when they shouldn’t be. He says his office is actively investigating instances of non-citizens participating in elections.
In September 2011, I wrote about Maine’s GOP Chair trying to create proof of widespread voter fraud by coming up with a list of 200 students that he claimed were voting fraudulently in Maine. This proved to be untrue, in all 200 cases – but this was the “reasoning” used to gin up folks to support a Voter ID law.
The resolution isn’t necessary, given that the Secretary of State was the one who investigated the nonexistent student voter fraud From the Bangor Daily News:
After a two-month investigation into possible voter fraud by college students and noncitizens, Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers said Wednesday his evidence showed that none of the students committed fraud and only one noncitizen voted in Maine.
Nevertheless, Summers said his investigation confirmed his belief that Maine’s election system is “fragile and vulnerable,” and he vowed to submit legislation in January to fix some of the problems
Given that Summers has already announced his intention, the legislative resolution really isn’t needed.
This is good news for Maine voters and taxpayers – who really taught their legislature a lesson with the people’s veto of the bill to eliminate same day registration.
Voter ID continues to be a solution looking for a problem.
Tags: Maine, voting rights
From the New York Times:
This winter has been especially austere. As part of the drive to cut spending, the Obama administration and Congress have trimmed the energy-assistance program that helps the poor — 65,000 households in Maine alone — to pay their heating bills. Eligibility is harder now, and the average amount given here is $483, down from $804 last year, all at a time when the price of oil has risen more than 40 cents in a year, to $3.71 a gallon.
As a result, Community Concepts, a community-action program serving western Maine, receives dozens of calls a day from people seeking warmth. But Dana Stevens, its director of energy and housing, says that he has distributed so much of the money reserved for emergencies that he fears running out. This means that sometimes the agency’s hot line purposely goes unanswered.
So Mainers try to make do. They warm up in idling cars, then dash inside and dive under the covers. They pour a few gallons of kerosene into their oil tank and hope it lasts.
In cold climates, people with outside oil tanks burn kerosene, because regular heating oil turns into a gel when it freezes, and clogs up the pipes. Kerosene doesn’t freeze. It’s also even more expensive than regular heating oil.
For older Mainers who live in drafty houses, that $483 isn’t going to go very far. It’s not even enough to fill up the tank once. A standard oil tank holds 275 gallons. Right now in Maine the cost of oil is approximately $4.00 a gallon.
From the Huffington Post:
How the cuts affect low income households varies by state. In Vermont, the effect will be minimal: State lawmakers are dipping into reserves to make up the shortfall from Washington’s cuts.
No such luck in Maine, which saw its allotment drop from $56 million to $38.5 million. Last year 64,000 Maine households received LIHEAP assistance, with an average benefit of $804. The quasi-state agency that manages LIHEAP will make sure no fewer people receive assistance, partially by shifting funds and partially by slashing the average benefit to $483.
John and Joan McAdams, a Maine couple in their 70′s, are doing this:
“At night we leave it down to 50 and during the day right now we run it at 60 degrees,” he said. “This is ludicrous. The wealthy can handle it. We haven’t got any money. I go to the food bank. All I get is outdated cans and a lot of spaghetti. There’s a rich versus poor situation in this country. It’s bad.”
He’s right. This is bad. This is the end result of the austerity we heard mentioned so proudly: older people freezing in their homes in what is considered the wealthiest country in the world.
Tags: austerity, Maine
In state capitals across the country, the legislators who should be accountable to voters are busy pushing ways to keep more voters away from the polls. Harsh crackdowns on voting are a disturbing trend that could block millions from exercising their basic rights.
Behind these laws is the heavily corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, which wrote sample voter-restriction legislation for numerous states—legislation later introduced by state legislators who are members of ALEC. And they fall hardest on young voters, elderly voters, minorities and those struggling economically—the people whose voices are already too frequently excluded from the political conversation, drowned out by corporate interests like those who fund ALEC.
This isn’t a tricky issue. Voting is the fundamental building block of participatory democracy. Everyone should have access to it, without having to jump through hoops or pay to take part. (That’s why restoring democracy by ensuring full voting rights is one of the 9 Demands of the 99 Percent.)
Fortunately, there are some signs of pushback against the war on voting. On Saturday, thousands marched in New York to demand full and fair voter access. The League of Women Voters and the NAACP are among the organizations fighting for voting rights. And this evening, Attorney General Eric Holder is making a major address on the need to ensure that those who want to vote can.
Across the country, instead of fighting for good jobs, state legislators are spending their time on unnecessary, undemocratic roadblocks to voting. In Michigan, the state legislature is pushing new limits on voting and voter registration. In Wisconsin, a schoolteacher and an 84-year-old woman who has voted in every election since 1948 are the latest people to be ensnared by the state’s new voter ID law. In New Hampshire, the state House Speaker is blunt about the fact that he wants to put limits on young people’s participation because he doesn’t like how they vote. And in Pennsylvania, where the legislature is looking at limits on voter access, the Philadelphia Daily News rightly notes:
It seems to us that the state should find some evidence that fraud is a problem before embracing a solution that will make it harder for some folks to vote — and cost a bunch of money, too.
These limits on voter access are justified with tales of large-scale “voter fraud” that are, to put it generously, misleading.
There are many serious studies that have looked at whether vote fraud is really an occurrence that commonly happens and commonly distorts elections—and the evidence says the answer is no. A New Mexico study found the rate of fraudulent registration was less than one ten thousandth of one percent and the rate of actual fraudulent voting was around two hundred thousandths of a percent. An investigation into suspected voter fraud by Maine’s Attorney General found exactly zero actual infractions. A study of Wisconsin in 2004 found only seven cases of fraud out of 3 million votes cast. (Even the people who want to push the voter fraud myth can’t seem to come up with significant numbers.) These are just not the kind of numbers that indicate a public policy problem, especially one that could deter so many legitimate voters from participating.
Indeed, the Brennan Center—which has done great work on examining claims about voting—found that harsher rules on voter registration and access to the polls could prevent up to 5 million people from participating. The push for voter ID laws is like amputating an arm to tackle the problem of a chipped fingernail.
Thankfully, in Ohio, the legislature’s proposed limits on voter access will go to the voters as a referendum before they take effect. Other states might not be so lucky, and we could see the next election marred by deliberate efforts to undercut the high levels of participation we saw in 2008.
Tags: ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, voting rights, Wisconsin
For political newcomers, here’s what you need to know: the good guys won.
Not only did we win. We won big. We won in friendly territory and difficult terrain. And the credit for our victories belongs firmly to the working men and women – union and non-union alike – who were fighting for their rights, their jobs, their values, and their future.
When John Kasich was sworn in as Ohio’s Governor at the beginning of this year, he didn’t immediately focus on job creation, as he had promised during the 2010 campaign. Instead, he launched a full scale attack on the rights of Ohio’s teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public workers. Senate Bill 5 was signed into law, restricting the collective bargaining rights of over 350,000 workers in Ohio.
What happened next was incredible. Working Ohioans joined petition drives all across the state to get a repeal of Senate Bill 5 on the November ballot. Among them were Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, and moderates who were outraged over Kasich’s overreach and callousness toward the working people of the Buckeye State; the idea that public workers should serve as an ATM while corporations saw tax reductions offended them. Many police officers and firefighters who traditionally voted for Republicans joined the effort against SB 5; they knew that public safety workers, not politicians, know best about the staff and equipment they need to protect Ohio’s communities.
In June, 1.3 million signatures to repeal SB 5 were delivered to the Secretary of State in Columbus. It became Issue 2 on the ballot.
John Kasich’s allies, including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, and a host of other shadowy out-of-state groups, poured millions into Ohio to protect Senate Bill 5. They tried every dirty trick in the book. But in the end, Issue 2 was defeated by a massive 21 point margin. In fact, more people voted to repeal Senate Bill 5 than to elect Governor Kasich. We’ll have more on what this Ohio victory means later today.
In June, Maine Governor Paul LePage signed LD 1376, which banned the practice of registering to vote on Election Day. Same-day registration had been in place in Maine for 38 years without any problems, but backers claimed it would “cut down on election day mistakes,” and “cuts down on voter fraud.” Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster was less subtle, saying same-day registration allowed Democrats to “intentionally steal elections.” Did Webster fail to notice Maine’s two Republican U.S. Senators and Republican Governor? This was just another attack in the nationwide war on voting rights, which has spread to Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and many other states.
Luckily a collection of organizations including the Maine People’s Alliance and Working America formed Protect Maine Votes, and gathered 70,000 signatures to restore same-day registration. Question 1 on yesterday’s ballot passed by a wide margin, with nearly 60 percent of the vote. With last nights victory, the people of Maine have started the fight back against the war on voting.
In Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, Democrat Rich Fitzgerald defeated Republican D. Raja to become the next County Executive. The election was not close – Fitz was up 25 percentage points when they called it.
Why does this matter? County Executives often become candidates for statewide office. The Democratic candidate for governor in 2010, Dan Onorato, was Allegheny County Executive. In Wisconsin, a certain Mr. Scott Walker held the seat of Milwaukee County Executive from which he launched his gubernatorial campaign.
It’s what Chris Savage calls “the little recall that could.” Of all the races last night, it was the recall of anti-teacher Michigan Rep. Paul Scott that faced the steepest climb.
Paul Scott is the kind of politician we all wish we could remove from office: Ambitious, ideological, and a outspoken opponent of his state’s teachers and teachers’ union. His attacks on education as the Chair the House Education Committee lead to a grassroots campaign to unseat him. Of the 47 attempts to recall Michigan legislators this year, only Paul Scott’s succeeded.
The story then has a lot of legal twists and turns. But for us, the most amazing part of this story happened last night, when the recall passed by 197 votes out of 24,371 cast. Talk about “every vote matters!”
Iowa has a Republican Governor and a rabidly conservative House. The lower chamber in Iowa has passed measures attacking the state healthcare system, making huge cuts in education, and restrictions in collective bargaining rights.
The only reason Iowa hasn’t become the next Wisconsin or Ohio is because of the Democratic-controlled State Senate, where they have a margin of one. Last night, that majority was preserved when Democrat Liz Mathis won a special election for the decisive Senate seat with 56 percent of the vote, despite some really gross tactics on the part of her opponents.
State Senate President Russell Pearce was known as a key mover and shaker behind Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070. He was also an opponent of workers’ rights, once “joking” that he wanted to throw union protestors in desert tent prisons. We didn’t find that joke very funny, and neither did the people of Arizona. By a seven point margin, voters removed Pearce from office and replaced him with moderate Republican Jerry Lewis.
Did we miss any races? What were you watching last night? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @WorkingAmerica.
Image courtesy of Progress Ohio.
Tags: Arizona, Education, immigration, Iowa, Issue 2, John Kasich, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, SB5, voting rights