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Five things we are legisloving

Buslympia 2If there's one thing we here at the Bus really, really like, it's registered voters. And we should - over the years Bus volunteers have registered thousands upon thousands of young people to vote. Literally.

As young people, there are a lot of things between us and staying registered: we move a lot (once every three years on average) and sometimes we change our names (Marriage Equality anyone?).

The biggest challenge to youth voter participation is not apathy - it's access. Access to a political system that can, and should, meet us where we are.

That's why we're excited about five simple and simply awesome bills that will help make sure everyone can sippeth from the cup of democracy.

Five bills that are cause for legis-elation:

  • Election Day Registration: Know what's a bummer? Not getting the opportunity to vote. Know how many Americans didn't vote in 2008 because they missed their registration deadline? 6. Effing. Million. (That's about four Idahos). That's why we're pleased as punch about these bills to extend the online voter registration deadline to up to 8 days before the election and registration in person before 5pm on election day. Learn more on Hella Bus.
  • Motor Voter 16 and 17 year old Pre-Registration: This bill would allow 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote at the department of licensing. That means, when young Timmy shows up at the DOL to  take his driving test, he can also pre-register to vote so when he turns 18 he's good to go. For more, see this attic dwelling philosopher.
  • Washington State DREAM Act: Speaking of access to good things, the WA version of the DREAM Act would extend state-based financial aid to young aspiring citizens in Washington to make sure that talented young Washingtonians can pursue their higher education dreams. Yes.
  • Increasing Ballot Dropboxes: Did you know that there are only 15 ballot dropboxes in all of King County?  That is one dropbox per every 31 Seattle Starbucks locations. I know! Shock! Outrage! Luckily, there are several proposals requiring more ballot dropboxes including requiring ballot receptacles (we don't name these things) on college campuses. The best proposal is still under construction, but stay tuned for more.
  • Washington Voter Rights Act: This was that extra wonky bill we've mentioned a bunch recently. The Voting Rights Act will make sure all communities will have a chance to elect the candidate of their choice in local elections. It's awesome. For info, check out wavotingrights.org.

Bus volunteers, interns, and staff are already on the ground making moves to support better democracy. Keep any eye out for updates on the bills above, and news about other fabulous bills that encourage voter participation. Want to get involved? Sign up for one of our weekly phone (pronounced "fun") banks on our events calendar! Wednesday's no good for you? Email Abigail at abigail[at]washingtonbus[dot]org and we'll find a time that works!


"Antithetical To The Notion Of A Functioning Government"

Posted by Devin Glaser at Feb 28, 2013 12:03 PM |
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Earlier this morning the Washington State Supreme Court finally released their ruling on the constitutionality of requiring a 2/3rds supermajority in order to raise taxes.

Their finding: Unconstitutional! In a 6-3 ruling (aka 2/3rds!) the Justices found that requiring a supermajority in order to raise revenue represented "a tyranny of the minority", and that "such a result is antithetical to the notion of a functioning government and should be rejected as such".

Strong words and about freaking time. Tim Eyman ran and passed his first 2/3rds requirement in 2007.  Once implemented, it gave 17 Senators the power to stop any legislation that would raise revenue.  Even in those good economic times this was crazy.  Then the housing market crashed.


 

Since Washington State's regressive tax system brings in a huge proportion of its revenue from sales and property taxes, we were hit hard.  Year after year the state legislature was forced to cut vital state services because they were unable to do so much as close a tax loophole on private jets or plastic surgery.

Name your pet issue, this 2/3rds requirement hurt it.  College tuition skyrocketingBus routes closing downWashingtonians without health care.   Failing to fund Basic Education at a constitutional level.

This is a big freaking deal.


DREAMing Big

Posted by Devin Glaser at Feb 22, 2013 06:35 PM |
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The Washington State Dream Act passed out of Committee Thursday morning with strong 14-4 approval.  The bill (HB 1817) extends access to tuition assistance to low-income undocumented immigrants who have been granted deferred action under Obama's Deferred Action executive order.

"The bill grants access to state-based financial aid to young aspiring citizens," explained Emily Murphy, Policy Manager at OneAmerica.

The bill earned strong support during its public testimony earlier this week, when 110 supporters showed up to testify and absolutely no one came to oppose the bill.

"Our normal practice is to hear a pro panel and a con panel on bills, in this particular case we had no cons signed up," remarked Larry Seaquist (D-26), the Chair of the House Higher Education Committee.

Washington would join four other states who offer tuition assistance to aspiring citizens: Texas, California, New Mexico and Illinois. The diversity of those states illustrates an important fact: The DREAM Act is a bipartisan issue.

"There is probably no community in the state that is more affected by this bill than mine," testified Rep. Bruce Chandler (R-Yakima), one of the sponsors of the bill.  "These are kids that have grown up in our communities."

"I absolutely believe that every student who graduates from a Washington State High School ought to be given the same opportunity, ought to be treated the same."

One such student is Elizabeth Lara Velázquez, a 20-year-old undocumented immigrant currently attending Yakima Valley Community College.  Velázquez came to Washington State when she was 8 years old.

"My parents were always struggling to pay for my sibling's and my education," said Velázquez.  "They had a full time job but that wasn't enough to cover their weekly expenses. They wanted to make sure their children had a better life."



Velázquez and other DREAMers testifying in Olympia. 
Photo by OneAmerica.

Velázquez grew up attending Washington State Public Schools, and is now holding a 3.9 GPA in Community College.  But lacking access to financial aid, she is only able to afford to take a few classes at a time, paying out of pocket as she goes.

"Every summer I work in the fields and in a warehouse," explained Velázquez.  "That is how I am able to pay for my college tuition.  I also crochet and make scarves, doing that helps me save up money that helps me pay for college textbooks."

DREAMers are already members of our community.  The Washington State Constitution guarantees all residents, regardless of immigration status, access to public education.  These students are invested in the state, and the state has already invested heavily in them.  Allowing these students access to higher education provides the same economic benefits to local economies as it does for people fortunate enough to be born here.

Velázquez is determined to complete her education, no matter the hurdles.  "Once I graduate college I want to have a good stable job, help out my parents, and continue giving back to my community."

"But I know a lot of students who feel discouraged because of their immigration status, feel like they can't go to college because they can't qualify for financial aid."

"I just tell them there is a way, to continue doing good in school, and never give up on their hopes and dreams, to continue with their education."

Next Wednesday, February 27th The Washington Bus is holding a phone bank in support of the DREAM Act, 16 and 17-year pre-registration, The Washington Voter Rights Act, and Same Day Registration.


The Doctor Will See You Now

Posted by Devin Glaser at Feb 13, 2013 12:50 PM |

Cynthia Miceli of Vancouver did everything right.  She worked hard as a nurse for 35 years, settled down and got married, and even started her own business, one of those job creators politicians are always raving about.

"We were going along living our life as middle class people like a lot of people," explains Miceli.  "Then there was the downturn in the economy and my husband lost his job so we didn't have insurance for a couple of years."

In 2007 Cynthia's husband Frank was laid off and both lost access to their health insurance.  Cynthia continued to run her own business, but was unable to pay insurance premiums on the private market.  Then in 2009 Frank started losing weight.  His back would hurt him without reason.

"We knew that if we went to the ER it would cost a lot of money and he didn't want to do that," says Miceli.  "We were busy living our lives.  He was home helping with paperwork since he was unemployed."

Frank's problems got the best of him one day - as he was exiting the bath tub he lost feeling in his legs and fell.

"You can never be prepared for that moment, financially or otherwise," says Cynthia Miceli.  "We were thrown into crisis mode."

Frank was paralyzed and needed immediate surgery.  Doctors operated on his spine, removing multiple tumors.  He underwent chemotherapy.

"He had two 30 day hospitalizations.  We couldn't even think.  With all of this, the bills go up.  We were finally approved for Medicaid and that part worked out - he got disability thank god."

Cynthia is now unemployed, working full time as a caretaker for her husband.  Although he receives coverage under current Medicaid guidelines, she is ineligible for coverage and has no health insurance.  With cruel irony, she is forced to go without preventative care because she has no way to pay for it.  If she were to find a job, her husband would lose his Medicaid eligibility.  Even though she falls below the income thresholds, she is unable to receive Medicaid under current guidelines.

But the Washington State Legislature has a chance to help Cynthia and other people in similarly vulnerable positions.

Medicaid Expansion and the Supreme Court

When the Affordable Care Act passed (a.k.a. Obamacare), one of its provisions was a rather drastic expansion of Medicaid to each of the 50 states.  Individuals earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level, or less than $16,000 a year, would be eligible for the premium-free program.  When the Supreme Court took up the case last summer, they ruled that states had the right to opt out of the Medicaid expansion.  This was somewhat of a surprise - opponents of Obamacare believed the individual mandate would be found unconstitutional.

Now individual state legislatures are able to choose whether or not to accept the expansion of Medicaid.  Which brings us back to Washington.

"We are looking at providing coverage to over 250,000 more people who have previously fallen through the cracks," says Molly Firth, Director of Public Policy for Community Health Network of Washington.  "Right now the programs that we have have very limited enrollment opportunities."

"There will be 80,000 young adults between 19 and 24 who would be eligible for the Medicaid expansion.  That's a pretty high number."

The Federal Government will pick up 100% of the price of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years.  After that they are set up to pay 90% of the cost of expansion in perpetuity.  This expansion alone is estimated to save Washington State around $225 million in the first two years alone.  That's $225 million that could make a good down payment towards McCleary.

A 100% federal match is very different from what we pay now," explains Firth.  "Right now we get a 50% match.  This is a good deal, especially if we can save money at the same time and cover 250,000 more people." 

What's the Hold Up?

A recent Elway poll finds that Medicaid Expansion is incredibly popular.  A poll of 407 Washington residents found that 67% thought expanding Medicaid would help their communities.  That means Washington residents want Medicaid expanded by a 2 to 1 margin.

 

The House of Representatives is widely expected to pass the Medicaid expansion through their chamber.  But it's unclear how the Republican controlled Senate will act. The Washington State Republican Party released their platform last June.  In it, they call for "the repeal of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare."

But the Republicans only have a majority because two Democrats, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon decided to form the Majority Coalition Caucus. This leaves a fair amount of uncertainty around how this caucus will approach Medicaid Expansion.

"There are a lot of people who are supportive," says Firth.  "It's still not a done deal, anything that has to pass the legislature is going to be tricky.  We need a bipartisan majority and we can't take it for granted when people are grappling with other issues.  All we can help them understand is that it is the clear choice for our state."


Your Valentine from King County Elections

Posted by Devin Glaser at Feb 08, 2013 11:29 AM |
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Holy S**t, another election!

King County is holding a special February election to renew two expiring school levies.  A yes vote would maintain the current level of school funding, a no vote would lower it.

I'm not gonna tell you how to vote, but Republicans and Democrats seem to be equally in agreement that we should be funding our schools more.

Ballots need to be postmarked by February 12th, which is Tuesday.  This ballot may not be as sexy as the last, but it's equally important.  And just as likely to end with another epic dance party on Capitol Hill.

 

 

Those lacking stamps (a.k.a. everyone) can drop off your ballot at one of the local Ballot Drop Boxes.  Bonus: there's a new one at the Rainier Community Center in South Seattle.

 

Vote.


Saturday Delivery Didn't Sink The Post Office

Posted by Devin Glaser at Feb 06, 2013 11:48 AM |
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The United States Postal Service is looking to cut Saturday delivery as a way to deal with its current budget problems.  CBS News first reported the story, calling the cuts necessary to deal with the $41 billion shortfall caused as "more and more Americans turned to private shippers, email, and online banking."

Completely absent from this discussion is why the Post Office is broke in the first place. As I wrote about last May, the reason the Post Office is broke is not the Internet, it's the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act signed into law by none other than George W. Bush.

The law set unreasonable standards for pre-funding retirement accounts for postal workers.  No private business or other government entity was held to the same standards the Post Office was held to, and once those requirements went into affect: Blammo, Post Office went broke.

Halting Saturday delivery means that the Post Office will be cutting 1/6th of their service, which will mean laying off or forcing early retirement upon more postal workers.  Postal workers who up until this point had solid union-supported middle class jobs.

The private sector economy has been recovering from the recession pretty well, but public sector jobs haven't had that same uptick.  Teachers, postal workers, and police officers are still being laid off as state governments try to deal with huge budget shortfalls from the recession.

If our desired outcome is to stop letters from Grandma junk mail delivery on Saturday morning, then fine, stop the service.  But let's not pretend that this will solve the underlying budget issues.


"First Place, Where We Belong"

Posted by Devin Glaser at Feb 05, 2013 09:50 AM |

In order to to vote in Washington State, an eligible voter must submit a voter registration form at least 29 days before election day or show up in person at their county auditor's office at least 8 days before an election.  People who miss the deadline are out of luck even if they otherwise should have the right to vote.

Meanwhile, 10 other states in the U.S. currently allow voters to register up to election day.  But that could soon change.

Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) has introduced HB 1267, which would create same-day registration in Washington State.

"The states with the highest voter turnout in the nation are Minnesota and Wisconsin, both of which have had Election Day registration for many years," says a competitive Fitzgibbon.  "Washington is in 4th place, and passing Election Day registration will help get us into 1st place, where we belong.”

Eligible residents would be able to register to vote up till 5:00PM election day at the county auditor's office.  The window for online voter registration would be extended until eight days before election day.

"Online voter registration is the easiest and cheapest way for county auditors to process voter registrations," reports the frugal Fitzgibbon.  "By moving the online voter registration deadline to eight days before the election, we can not only increase the number of voters who are able to register, we can help save local governments money.

The state government is currently trying to find more than a billion dollars to fund Basic Education per the Supreme Court's McCleary decision. Saving a few bucks by not cutting back social services is beautiful.

Fitzgibbon's bill will have a public hearing this Wednesday, February 6th.  Senator Andy Billig (D-3) has introduced companion bill SB 5268 in the Senate.  A hearing has not been set for the Senate version.


What if Politicians Didn't Have to Fundraise?

Posted by Devin Glaser at Jan 29, 2013 12:11 PM |

The Washington Bus is teaming up with a host of amazing organizations to put on two panel discussions exploring the option of publicly financing elections in Seattle.


Dollar Dollar Campaign Finance Ya'll

Hella Bus has covered some of the groups hoping to take money's power out of our electoral system before. If the council decides to move ahead with some sort of public financing model, then we would likely see a ballot measure during the 2013 primary or general election. So, in a word, timely!

Come on down for what's sure to be a lively and riveting discussion.


The Word on Gerrymandering

Posted by Devin Glaser at Jan 23, 2013 04:38 PM |
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Anyone unfamiliar with how gerrymandering is drastically reshaping the electorate (and polarizing its members) needs to check out Colbert's The Word.

 

 

Colbert highlights gerrymandering's ability to swing the next presidential election, but its effects on local municipalities are just as aggressive (and perhaps more strongly felt).  Just this Monday the GOP in Virginia waited for one Democratic Senator to leave the state (for Obama's inauguration) and then pushed through a new district map which would prevent voters from electing Democrats in the future.

Similar mapping has happened in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and these newly created indestructibly Republican districts are behind some of the far-right legislation Republicans have attempted.  The same effect can be seen in the far-left lean of Jim McDermott (D-Latte Socialism) in Seattle's 7th District, which will never go to a Republican.

Washington's redistricting commission is a non-partisan (mixed partisan) group and tends to draw pretty fair maps, but in other states with Democratic leadership, the Democratic Party plays the same game. They are just arguably not as good at it.

Partisan gerrymandering encourages legislators to pander to represent their district's interests, and makes it harder to find moderation in the middle.  If the process continues into the future, the Senate (which does not redraw state borders every 10 years) and the House will continue to grow increasingly divergent.  That continued fracture could make it incredibly difficult to get any legislation passed.


Bang Bang Shoot

Posted by Devin Glaser at Jan 23, 2013 12:45 PM |
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Last month, an unstable gunman brought an assault rifle into Sandy Hook Elementary school and open fired, killing 20 children and 7 adults.  The horrific nature of this event has catalyzed the nation into addressing America's unique gun problem.

I work in an elementary school, and remember the day the news broke.  I was at home when a special report came on KUOW.  As the details came out, I felt this raw mix of sickness, anger, and sadness.  Schools have had procedures in place since the 1999 Columbine Massacre, reverse evacuations that pull children into locked bathrooms, closets and copy rooms.  Sandy Hook had similar policies, but in a world where automatic rifles can shoot 800 bullets in a minute, running and hiding is drastically too slow.

In response, groups from across the political spectrum are coming together in the hopes of preventing future tragedies, or at least lowering the all-too-American prevalence of them.  Below are some of the actions being taken in the attempt to leverage the right to remain unperforated with the right to bear arms.

King County's Approach

One idea to prevent future gun violence is voluntary gun buybacks, in which people are anonymously allowed to turn in guns for disposal for cash or gift cards.  King County is joining other municipalities around the country in launching a gun buyback program that will start January 26th in downtown Seattle.  The county will give out $100 gift cards for handguns, shotguns and rifles and $200 cards for assault rifles.  Because the program is voluntary, it's often the easiest to accomplish without treading on the 2nd Amendment.

Something being easy doesn't make it good public policy. In analyzing the effectiveness of gun buyback programs we can look no further than a 1994 National Institute of Health (NIH) study of a gun buyback program Seattle implemented 20 years ago.

In 1992, three shootings occurred in a single Seattle neighborhood over one weekend, sparking the buyback program.  The NIH studied the effects of the program two years later.  The study found no significant change in gun-related crimes the 6 months after the buyback.

According to the study, the 1,700 handguns collected amounted to less than 1% of handguns in Seattle homes. The authors concluded: "Even under the unlikely assumption that guns turned in during buyback programs are as likely to be used in a crime as the guns not exchanged, the effect of removing 1 percent of guns from the community on rates of firearm crimes is negligible."

Contrast programs like these with Australia's 1996 mandatory gun buyback law.  Following a mass shooting and subsequent assault weapon ban, Australia forced its citizens to sell their guns back to the state.  Since then, there have been no mass shootings and a drastic reduction in suicides.  Studies disagree on the effect on homicides.

But gun buybacks are one of the few options cities and counties have.  Currently cities are unable to enact any gun control measures if they are stricter than state regulations.  Seattle previously enacted a ban on guns in public places, but a King County Superior Court Judge ruled the ban violated state laws.  Which means any significant new legislation will have to come from Olympia.

What Will Washington Do?

Washington State's legislature is currently divided between a solidly Democratic House Majority and a tenuous Republican Majority in the Senate.  (After the 2012 election, Washington's Senate was 26 Democratic Senators to 23 Republicans.  Senator Rodney Tom (?-48) and Tim Sheldon (?-35) decided to switch to the Republican Minority to create an ostensibly bipartisan caucus.)

The House of Representatives has introduced HB 1114, which would allow the state to lock up individuals deemed a public safety threat who are otherwise incompetent to stand trial for up to 90 days.  Current law protects people from being locked up long-term if they are found incompetent.

The House HB 1147 which amends unlawful possession of a firearm laws to ban people who are found not guilty for reason of insanity.

All three House Bills have bipartisan sponsors.

In the Senate, Senator Benton (R-17) introduced SB 5015, a bill that would make killing a youth age 14 or younger an aggravated first degree murder, carrying harsher penalties.  Benton is also a co-signer of SB 5058, a bill that would increase penalties for assaulting law enforcement officers.  SB 5058 is currently sponsored by Democratic and Republican Senators.

These five bills represent a reasonable start, and we'll likely see more bills introduced as the legislative session goes on.  But compare these bills to New York State's sweeping gun control legislation, where a similar Republican Senate and Democratic Assembly agreed on reforms banning assault weapons and limiting magazine capacity to 7 bullets.  New York's bill also includes a statewide gun registry, gives law enforcement the ability to remove guns from the mentally ill, and establishes a life sentence for anyone who murders a first responder.

The Right To Bear Ballots

If Washington is going to be anything like New York, it'll take a groundswell of public support for sensible reform.  The Senate switcheroo put Senator Mike Padden (R-4) in charge of the Law and Justice Committee, which will limit which bills eventually move to the floor and get a vote.  Padden was endorsed by the NRA Political Victory Fund, an organization that has thus far reacted to the Sandy Hook shooting by requesting armed guards be placed in every school.  (Anyone believing children should be in close proximity to guns might want to consider how often elementary school children staple their own fingers.)  Also this.

If the legislature fails to act, activists could look to run a statewide initiative.  Ceasefire Washington, a gun safety group, released the results of a statewide poll Tuesday.

They found that 87% of Washingtonians support closing the gun show loophole, 66% supported banning semi-automatic weapons, and 68% of Washingtonians would like ammunition clips to be limited to 10 bullets.

Any initiative campaign would need to be heavily financed to withstand the influx of NRA money that would enter Washington State in response.  The NRA spent nearly $30 million in 2012 to prevent any new gun-safety legislation from being passed.

The 2nd Amendment isn't going anywhere, and no one is going to take away the American Right to responsibly own guns.  But as a nation, and as a state, we can mitigate the damage these weapons cause.  And we as a nation have a responsibility to the past and future victims of gun violence to have a serious discussion on how to best move forward.  I believe we can do just that.


Become a Bus Wintern!

Posted by Alex Miller at Jan 22, 2013 01:04 PM |

Want to learn how to put young people in the driver's seat of democracy in Washington State? Yes? Then apply for the best internship of your life..... the Washington Bus Winternship.

Email katie[at]washingtonbus[dot]org for the full application.

The mission of the Winternship is to develop a full-spectrum understanding of political advocacy and civic engagement in Washington State. The Winternship will provide interns with an introduction to legislative advocacy during the 2013 legislative session. Winterns will develop a strategy to educate their peers on a current issue of their choosing. The Wintern class will put on one large-scale education event and will also have the opportunity to participate in legislative work in Olympia.

See the full application here.

Timeline: February 4th, 2013 - April 28th, 2013 (3 Months), 10-15 hours a week.

Responsibilities:

  • Meet with Engagement Organizer once a week to review goals and weekly work plan.
  • Attend 1 Winternship team meeting each week with intern class.
  • Choose two work days in the office to continue work on individual project 2-3 trips to Olympia.


The Washington Bus internship program will provide:

Opportunity to pursue what you’re interested in
Professional development and resume building for future employment
Practical skills training and an educational component
An understanding of the U.S. political process and local politics

Desired Qualifications:

• Self-starter who can work in a fast paced environment
• Energetic and fun personality
• Relentlessly positive attitude
• Passion for civic engagement

• Interest in politics

Click here for the full application.

This internship is an unpaid volunteer opportunity, although some reimbursement for travel expenses and/or college credit may be available.


Seattle's Mayoral Race Has A Frontrunner

Posted by Devin Glaser at Jan 07, 2013 01:30 PM |

Seattle's next mayoral competition is going to have an intense and crowded primary.  Mayor Mike McGinn is up for re-election in November, and the list of challengers has been steadily growing.

So far, City Councilmember Tim Burgess, Former City Councilmember Peter Steinbreuck, State Senator Ed Murray (D-Equality Pants), Activist Kate Martin, and Businessman and Bow-Tie-Enthusiast Charlie Staadecker have all announced they will challenge McGinn.

And last Friday Seattle rapper Macklemore told MyNorthwest he too will run.... in 2025.

If Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) were to run this year instead, his odds look pretty good.  A 100% official SeattlePI.com poll currently has Macklemore far in the lead with 58% of the vote.

Macklemore's entrance into the race would make him the second rapper competing to be the head of Seattle's Executive Branch.  The first?


"Everything I do representative."

With or without Macklemore, it'll be an exciting primary.  And the other candidates have plenty of time to bone up on their freestyle skills before Candidate Survivor 2013.


State of the Unions

Posted by Devin Glaser at Dec 11, 2012 01:55 PM |
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President Obama gave a speech in Michigan yesterday attacking Governor Rick Snyder's aggressive push of "Right-To-Work" (RTW) legislation.  The legislation prevents unions from compelling union members to pay dues.

Obama calls the law "Right To Work For Less", referring to the fact that states with similar Right-To-Work legislation have seen wages drop significantly.  The non-partisan Economic Opportunity Institute found that union members in RTW states earned an average of $1,500 less than their counterparts elsewhere in the nation.

Michigan would be the 24th state in the U.S. to have RTW legislation, further damaging the ability of workers to bargain collectively for wages and benefits.  By allowing union members (in the short term) to benefit from union representation without paying for it, most unions see a drastic drop in dues, which in turn gives them less ability to bargain over the long term.

It'd be like allowing citizens to voluntarily opt out of paying taxes while still demanding state services.  Or you know, Washington.

Unions have been attacked by Republican Governors repeatedly over the last few years.  Last year Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker passed a law ending collective bargaining for state employees.  (A judge has since overturned the law as unconstitutional.)  Earlier this year Indiana passed a RTW law.  Republicans in the House of Representatives have tried and failed to pass a National Right To Work bill that would cover all states.

Union membership has consistently waned over the last 50 years. That same decline has led to growing income inequality: workers make less while CEO's keep more.

 

Recent attempts to unionize Wal-Mart employees and fast food restaurants in New York City could signal low-paid workers are fed up and ready to fight back.  But Right To Work legislation makes it all the more difficult to do so.


Bigger Than A Made Up Cliff

Posted by Devin Glaser at Dec 10, 2012 12:05 PM |
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There's been a lot of attention on the upcoming "Fiscal Cliff", a problem of our own making and one of the worst abuses of the English language since funner was added to the dictionary.

The reason behind this attention is purportedly because the series of tax increases and spending cuts happen automatically come January 1st.

But there are other crucial issues that expire at the end of this year that have importance beyond this so-called cliff.  (For more on why the "cliff" ain't no thing look here.)

One of the bills still in limbo is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  Congress passed VAWA in 1994 and reauthorized it twice along bipartisan lines.  But the bill was not reauthorized last year over disputes about protecting vulnerable LGBT, Native American and immigrant communities. The Democratically controlled Senate wants a VAWA that incorporates the needs of all women, while the Tea Party infused House of Representatives have called the extended protections a distraction.  Washington's own Cathy McMorris Rodgers called the protections "side issues" and claimed the House Bill protected only "the true victims of domestic violence".

Word in DC is that Vice President Biden (one of the original architects of the 1994 VAWA) is working with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to try to work out a deal. The sticking point?  Protections for Native American women.

Currently jurisdictional issues on reservations give non-native white men protection from prosecution for rapes or assaults against Native American women.  The Senate bill aims to make it easier to prosecute these offenders.

All of the protections provided by VAWA expire at the end of this year, but that's no excuse for congress to allow Native American women to continue to be victimized.

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women has an action page set up here.


It Takes a Village

Posted by Devin Glaser at Dec 10, 2012 12:03 PM |

Sunday, December 9th was the first day same-sex couples were legally allowed to marry in Washington State.  City Hall was brimming with couples excited to tie the knot on the first day ever.  Judges, city officials and members of the community came out in droves to volunteer their time in order to make everything come together.

And it was beautiful.

An amazing 138 couples were married in City Hall.  Many had been together for decades and are just now able to legally wed.

Couples were married at one of five temporary wedding altars, and afterward were led into a reception area where they could give video testimonials about their relationships.  These videos are all up on the Seattle Channel.

Yesterday was the culmination of years of work, from the dream Senator Ed Murray had for 17 years, to the Marriage Bill passed in January, to the Referendum that voters approved in November, and the weddings all over the state.  Being present yesterday was awe inspiring - Washington State affirmed these couples as being completely equal in the eyes of the law.

Way more photos of happily married couples after the jump.

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