New Hampshire officially expanded its Medicaid program this week, enabling about 50,000 more people in the Granite State to afford health coverage.
Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan signed the bill into law on Thursday, enacting a bipartisan compromise plan that would use federal Medicaid funds to buy private coverage for adults making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, rather than providing state-funded health insurance.
When the Supreme Court declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional in July 2012, they left the option open for states to reject the federal funds that would be used to expand their Medicaid programs. As of now, 25 states and the District of Columbia have accepted the expansion in full. 21 states, all with Republican governors or Republican-controlled legislatures, have formally rejected Medicaid expansion.
On the same day, legislators in Maine granted final passage to a bill that would expand Medicaid to about 70,000 low-income Mainers. The bill now goes to Republican Governor Paul LePage for his signature or veto.
While Republicans in Washington, D.C., are doing their best to stop a federal increase to the minimum wage, working families and their allies across the country are fighting to increase the minimum wage at the state and local level. America’s working families consistently support a minimum wage increase, supporting the idea that jobs should lift workers out of poverty, conservatives continue to rely upon disproven criticisms of increasing the wage. But Americans aren’t buying the conservative lies and are demanding that Congress and the president raise the wage for millions of workers, including tipped workers. And many of them aren’t waiting for Washington to get the job done, they’re taking action across the country. The federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 an hour since 2009 and wages for tipped workers have been frozen at $2.13 an hour since 1991. Here’s the latest news on the push for a higher minimum wage across the nation:
Alaska: More than 43,000 signatures were collected in favor of an August ballot initiative that would raise the wage to $9.75 over two years, with an annual increase for inflation.
Arkansas: Labor and community groups are pushing for a ballot measure that would raise the the state minimum wage to $8.50 over the next three years.
Connecticut: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) proposed increasing the wage to $10.10 an hour. The legislature is now considering the bill.
Idaho: Labor and community groups are working on legislation that would increase the wage in the state that has the highest percentage of minimum wage employees in the nation.
Iowa: With the rallying cry “We can’t survive on $7.25!” working families in Iowa are pushing for a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10.
Los Angeles: The Raise L.A. campaign is working on raising the minimum salaries of hotel workers to $15 an hour while the L.A. County Federation invited Pope Francis to visit the city to help champion economic equality for low-wage workers.
Maryland: Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has joined with Raise Maryland in calling for the state’s wage to be raised to $10.10 an hour. They also are calling for tipped workers to earn at least 70% of the minimum wage.
Massachusetts: The Raise-Up Massachusetts campaign is collecting signatures to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot and is organizing a low-wage worker listening tour.
Minnesota: Working families and their allies are pushing to raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2015, with future increases tied to inflation.
Missouri: Low-wage and tipped workers organized and testified at a critical committee hearing for a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour. The bill is active in the state Senate.
Nebraska: The legislature is considering a package of bills backed by local labor groups that would raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour and require employers to provide paid sick days.
New Hampshire: The state’s labor movement and community allies have made raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour one of their top priorities for 2014.
Pennsylvania: A community coalition launched a campaign to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Seattle: Working families in Seattle are trying to recreate the success of allies in SeaTac in an effort to raise the local minimum wage to $15 an hour.
South Dakota: TheSouth Dakota AFL-CIO and allies successfully placed a minimum wage increase on the ballot that will be voted on in November, raising the state’s wage to $8.50 with an annual cost-of-living increase.
West Virginia: The legislature passed a bill championed by the West Virginia AFL-CIO that would raise the minimum wage to $8.75 and would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers.
Four out of five of the states with the highest quality of living, according to the study, are free bargaining states: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, and Massachusetts.
The study confirmed something that more and more working Americans are learning every day: “right to work” laws are wrong for everyone.
Quick review: “Right to work” laws require unions to extend their services to all employees in a bargaining unit, whether or not they pay dues. By making dues optional, “right to work” laws force unions to spend more resources on collecting dues than on advocating for their members–both at the workplace and in the political arena. It’s a roundabout method of de-funding unions that has been instituted in 24 states.
The Politico Magazine study used rankings from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, and data on math and reading scores, average income, life expectancy, crime, home ownership, infant mortality, and more.
As 2014 kicks off with legislators and big-money donors pushing “right to work” and other collective bargaining restrictions in–at the very least–Missouri, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, it’s important to make it very clear what effects these laws actually have, versus what their proponents claim they have.
A few effects of “right to work” are not disputed by its proponents. The key sponsors of the collective bargaining restrictions Missouri, for instance, openly admit that wages would go down if the law is passed. Indeed, wages in “right to work” states are 3.2 percent lower that in free bargaining states. Essentially, it’s like the average worker is paying an annual $1,500 fee for living in a “right to work” state. (Other reports have found “right to work” states have higher poverty rates, fewer workers with employer-based health insurance, and higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities.)
But when you combine income with a host of other factors, as the Politico Magazine ranking does, the picture doesn’t get better for “right to work” states. Overall, 15 “right to work” states rank in the bottom 20.
The Politico Magazine ranking is not the definitive scientific report on quality of life. But it does confirm yet again that in places where workers’ right to organize is deceptively circumvented and wages decrease, other important life-quality factors decrease as well.
As legislators push these laws across the country, we should consistently require proof to back up their claims. The actual numbers don’t look too good for them.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has a plan. She says that to pay for extending unemployment insurance (UI), we should cut off the Child Tax Credit for 2 million families (5 million children), most of them Latino.
Let’s repeat that because it sounds kind of important.
To help the families of the 1.3 million workers who have been out of work for six months or more and lost their UI payments just before Christmas, Ayotte’s solution is to take money away from poor Latino children whose families are taxpayers.
That may be a valid solution to the extremists who run the Republican Party these days, but it comes across as a vindictive and mean-spirited move to most people, including a coalition of organizations that condemned the proposal in a Monday press conference.
“Senator Kelly Ayotte says she understands families, but her proposal to deny a child tax credit to a taxpaying immigrant family is an attack on innocent children. Pitting children against the long-term unemployed is nothing more than an ugly attempt to derail legislation to extend emergency unemployment for struggling families,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice group that is part of the coalition. “Her proposed amendment should be soundly defeated as antithetical to the Gospel call to care for children and those at the margins of society, and to long-held values in our nation.”
The AFL-CIO is also part of the coalition and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre also condemned Ayotte’s plan: “This cynical proposal doesn’t reflect the America I have come to know and love as an immigrant. My America doesn’t need to pit the jobless against the children of immigrants. We are better than that.”
The proposal targets not only aspiring citizens, but any individual not eligible for a Social Security Number, something that isn’t limited to undocumented immigrants. Ayotte’s proposal would deny Child Tax Credit eligibility to families using the alternate option for those who can’t obtain a Social Security Number, the Individual Tax Identification Number, and who are legally eligible for the Child Tax Credit. This would deny the credit to approximately 5 million children in low-wage families, making it harder for those families to feed and provide housing for these children.
A recent poll on the topic found the obvious that voters oppose cuts to the Child Tax Credit, with 68% of those surveyed in opposition.
Unfortunately, politicians in 25 states have actively refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would pay for 100 percent of costs through 2016, and never less than 90 percent after that.
Rep. Mike Michaud, the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Maine, has made an issue out of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s outright refusal to expand Medicaid. “It’s not just good economics; it’s the morally right thing to do,” Michaud writes on his campaign website.
However, the big win would be in Texas, which has the most uninsured of any state in the country. Nearly 2 million Texans would benefit from expansion, but Gov. Rick Perry refuses to take any action on the issue.
Sure, working families have been under attack for years, but people across the country are rolling up their sleeves and fighting back to protect workers’ rights and raise living standards for everyone. Here are 10 ways they’re doing it:
1. Increasing the Minimum Wage
Four states (California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island) have increased their state minimum wage in 2013, and on Nov. 5, New Jersey voters will vote on a ballot measure to increase their minimum wage.
2. Passing “Buy America” Laws
Three states (Colorado, Maryland and Texas) passed laws in 2013 to ensure that the goods procured with public funding are made in the United States.
3. Ensuring Paid Sick Days
Portland, Ore., Jersey City, N.J., and New York City became the latest three cities to adopt standards for paid sick days in 2013.
4. Protecting Immigrant Workers
In 2013, six states (California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont) have enacted protections for immigrant workers, including access to driver’s licenses and education.
5. Cracking Down on Businesses That Cheat Workers
Texas passed legislation in 2013 to crack down on businesses that cheat employees by treating them as “independent contractors” who lack worker protections (such as minimum wage and overtime protection, and eligibility for unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation).
6. Giving Workers the Right to a Voice on the Job
In 2013, some 15,000 home care workers in Minnesota won collective bargaining rights through state legislation, as did 10,000 in Illinois and 7,000 in Vermont. Thousands of other workers around the country have enjoyed organizing wins, too: 7,000 electrical workers, more than 5,000 Texas public school teachers, taxi drivers in New York and other cities, telecom workers, college and university faculty, EMS drivers, hotel and casino workers and domestic workers, to name a few.
7. Protecting Your Privacy on Social Media
Nine states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) have passed legislation in 2013 to prohibit employers from requiring access to your social media passwords or information as a condition of employment.
8. Fighting for LGBTQ Equality
Five states (Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont) have passed legislation banning workplace discrimination or recognizing marriage equality.
9. Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers
Two states (California and Hawaii) have passed legislation in 2013 to protect the rights of domestic workers. California’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will benefit about 200,000 domestic workers, and Hawaii’s will benefit some 20,000 domestic workers.
10. Protecting Voting Rights
Twelve states (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia) have passed legislation protecting voting rights in 2013, while voting rights legislation was vetoed by the governors of Nevada and New Jersey.
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 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.
Last week, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch vetoed the Republican-controlled House’s redistricting plan, on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. His press release is very clear on what his objections were:
The population of New Hampshire based on the 2010 census is 1,316,470. A straight division into 400 districts yields an ideal population per district of 3,291. Under federal and state law, towns and wards that equal or are within 5 percent of this ideal population are entitled to their own representative. Based on the 2010 census, there are 152 towns and wards in New Hampshire that qualify for their own representative.
HB 592 denies a total of 62 New Hampshire towns and wards their own seats in the House. For example, the towns of Atkinson, Hudson, Meredith, and Pelham all have sufficient population under state and federal constitutional standards to have their own representative, but all are denied their own representative under the House-approved plan. This is completely contrary to what the citizens of New Hampshire called for in the state constitutional amendment adopted in 2006.
Lynch also points out that the plan needlessly breaks up municipalities:
For example, in Manchester, the state’s largest city, HB 592 combines Wards 8 and 9 with the town of Litchfield. Pelham will again share its representatives with Hudson. Strafford will share a representative with New Durham. And Concord’s Ward 5 will now be made part of a district that includes the Town of Hopkinton. The leaders and governing bodies of each of these communities have expressed their strong opposition to HB 592, noting that it unnecessarily and unconstitutionally dilutes local representation, and have asked me to veto this bill.
He wrapped it up with this perfectly reasonable request:
I urge the House to take up my veto quickly in order to allow time for alternative plans to be brought forward, or for litigation in the event of the absence of agreement on a constitutional plan. The House was presented with alternative plans by members of both political parties that would go further to satisfy the requirement for equal representation and fairness. There is still time before the candidate filing period to enact redistricting legislation that will assure equal voting rights of all New Hampshire citizens.
The lesson with this legislature is: be careful what you wish for. They did take up his veto right away. In fact, yesterday, the House voted to override the veto. Or, to put it properly, the House voted to violate the state’s constitution in order to override the veto of an unconstitutional bill. From the Concord Patch:
The controversy began when House Speaker Bill O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, called for a recess for a 15-minute private caucus for Republicans, forcing Democrats, media and the public to leave the House chamber.
According to a release from the House Democratic office, O’Brien called for the private caucus “to present a legal opinion that he said allowed him to override the New Hampshire constitution and centuries of New Hampshire House tradition.”
The arrogance on display here is positively breathtaking.
Not everyone in the majority party was in agreement.
Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican, pleaded with his caucus yesterday to sustain Lynch’s veto and try to amend the bill before it may be found unconstitutional by the courts. Ten years ago, Democratic former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed the redistricting plans brought forward by the Republican Legislature and the court had to draw up the current House map, which has been challenged for putting groups of legislators into multi-town districts. House Republicans note their plan creates twice as many districts as the current map.
Vaillancourt said by overriding the governor’s veto yesterday, House Republicans are “virtually guaranteeing that you’re going to be in court.”
He’s correct. This will end up in court. Presumably our courts will find this blatant gerrymandering unconstitutional, and a new plan will have to be hastily adopted – given that the window for filing candidacy papers for state elections is open from June 6 through June 15.
The New Hampshire voter ID bill has just cleared the senate. From the Nashua Telegraph:
“This bill is very workable,’’ said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro. “It does not disenfranchise any voters. It does not create a single barrier. What it does do is ensure our elections are clean. As long as you are who you say you are, you will not have a problem. If not, then don’t try to vote in New Hampshire.”
Unlike other failed voter ID bills of the past, this bill permits those without an ID to vote. They would have to sign a challenged voter affidavit under penalty of perjury.
This bill is the latest in a nationwide push by state legislators to restrict voting. Pennsylvania’s state Senate also passed a voter ID bill this week.
New Hampshire has same-day voter registration, and anyone who registers on election day is required to sign a domicile affidavit. Of course, this article doesn’t point out that New Hampshire doesn’t actually have voter fraud issues.
Sen. Amanda Merrill, D-Durham, said up to 5 percent of voters could be disenfranchised by this mandate.
“There have been no indications of anything approaching widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire,” Merrill said. “There are approximately 50,000 residents of our state without photo identification, which is roughly the population of an entire state Senate district. This bill threatens the Constitutional right to vote for thousands of citizens without any clear evidence of a problem.”
Given that this is a highly partisan issue, the chair of the New Hampshire GOP disagrees:
Republican State Chairman Wayne MacDonald disagreed and noted that in the state’s presidential primary, conservative activists were able to successfully pose as deceased voters and initially obtained ballots at targeted polls in Nashua and Manchester.
He’s referring to James O’Keefe (an acolyte of the late Andrew Breitbart) who is most famous for the “pimp” sting on ACORN, with highly edited film footage. It would be so much easier to take McDonald’s outrage seriously if O’Keefe and his pals were actually prosecuted for attempted voter fraud. There’s been no suggestion of that from the NH GOP.
Now that this bill has cleared the Senate (which has behaved slightly more responsibly over the last 2 years than the New Hampshire House) it goes back to the House, which is eager to pass the bill.
Photos will be taken at the polling places, which means a cost to the taxpayers, and more work for the community volunteers who run elections in New Hampshire small towns. As has so often been said, this is a solution in search of a problem. It also seems to be a rather blatant attempt at disenfranchising voters before the elections in November.
In June of last year Governor Lynch vetoed a Voter ID bill. The old bill was rewritten, so desperate is the New Hampshire legislature to pass a Voter ID bill.
Thirty-three states have introduced Voter ID laws this year. Coincidence? Hardly. It’s another gift from ALEC.
In Indiana, a group of pro-worker, moderate Republicans is recruiting candidates to run in primaries against several of the state legislators who helped ram through a “right to work” law earlier this year.
Workers’ rights wasn’t always a partisan issue. Even the lionized President Ronald Reagan was a supporter of collective bargaining rights, and over the years there have indeed been state and federal GOP elected officials who have carried on that tradition.
But lately, because of the growing, pervasive influence of ALEC, the Koch Brothers, Wall Street, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other radical anti-worker groups on the Republican Party (and as protecting the ultra-wealthy has increasingly become the GOP’s singular goal), collective bargaining and having a voice on the job have been transformed – at least in the eyes of the media and the broader public – into partisan issues.
The state house fights since 2010, we’ve seen instances of Republicans standing up to their leadership over workers’ rights issues. Some, like Wisconsin’s Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), have been successful; with a reduced Republican majority in the Wisconsin Senate, Schultz now carries more clout than ever, as well as the distinction of being the only Republican to vote against Gov. Walker’s union-busting bill.
Others have fallen victim to political retaliation. In New Hampshire, a state with a long-standing tradition of moderate Republicanism, former union member Rep. Lee Quandt (R-Exeter) was removed from his leadership position after speaking out against his party’s anti-worker agenda. House Speaker William O’Brien used every tactic imaginable to whip Republicans into passing a “right to work” bill, yet failed consistently.
Part of the reason that the repeal of the union-busting Senate Bill 5 in Ohio was so successful was that it was not a partisan issue. The repeal campaign reached out consistently to those describing themselves as “conservatives,” and had the support of Republicans like the outspoken Sens. Bill Seitz and Tim Grendell, former U.S. Senator George Voinovich, and even right-wing radio host Bill Cunningham. The “Republicans Voting No On Issue 2” Facebook page has 3,500 members. In the end, more people voted No on Issue 2 to repeal Senate Bill 5 – in an off-year election – than voted to elect current Governor John Kasich in 2010.
What’s different about Indiana is that this is the first time that a moderate, pro-worker faction has broken off and formed a PAC with the expressed purpose of waging an intra-party fight over collective bargaining and workers’ rights.
In Indiana, five GOP Representatives and nine GOP Senators voted against right to work. 82 Republicans voted for its passage. While the pro-worker contingent is small, they are bold, and vocal. As the Chair of the Lunchpail Republicans David Fagan bluntly told Rachel Maddow, “If you can’t defeat right to work, we will defeat those elected officials who voted for it.”