Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Mapping State Interference

Source: Partnership for Working Families, 2018

What is State Interference? While attention focuses on Washington, aggressive corporate and special interests are systematically working at the state level to close critical avenues of power-building for poor people, people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, and immigrants. Their strategy: targeting local governments, which provide essential hubs of innovation, protection and progressive political power. The Koch Brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the architect of this strategy, has moved state legislators and courts to gut the ability of local governments in a vast number of states to alleviate unemployment, poverty and residential displacement and to protect their residents from threats to their health, safety and civil rights. In many cases such state interference laws are being used as a tool through which largely white state legislatures both deny cities of color of self-determination and preserve longstanding racial inequities.

To help shed light on this development, we created the interactive map below. Click on any of the nine issues to see which states block local standards and laws on that issue. Click on a state to see whether local authority has been preserved or preempted across all nine issues. For further information, you can click through to the actual text of the statute.

Our partners at Grassroots Change have a companion map that covers issues related to public health. Please visit that site to learn more.

As Wisconsin’s and Minnesota’s lawmakers took divergent paths, so did their economies – Since 2010, Minnesota’s economy has performed far better for working families than Wisconsin’s

Source: David Cooper, Economic Policy Institute, May 8, 2018

From the summary:
Since the 2010 election of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Governor Mark Dayton in Minnesota, lawmakers in these two neighboring states have enacted vastly different policy agendas. Governor Walker and the Wisconsin state legislature have pursued a highly conservative agenda centered on cutting taxes, shrinking government, and weakening unions. In contrast, Minnesota under Governor Dayton has enacted a slate of progressive priorities: raising the minimum wage, strengthening safety net programs and labor standards, and boosting public investments in infrastructure and education, financed through higher taxes (largely on the wealthy).

Because of the proximity and many similarities of these two states, comparing economic performance in the Badger State (WI) versus the Gopher State (MN) provides a compelling case study for assessing which agenda leads to better outcomes for working people and their families. Now, seven years removed from when each governor took office, there is ample data to assess which state’s economy—and by extension, which set of policies—delivered more for the welfare of its residents. The results could not be more clear: by virtually every available measure, Minnesota’s recovery has outperformed Wisconsin’s.

The following report describes how Minnesota’s and Wisconsin’s economies have performed since 2010 on a host of key dimensions, and discusses the policy decisions that influenced or drove those outcomes.

Key findings include:
– Job growth since December 2010 has been markedly stronger in Minnesota than Wisconsin, with Minnesota experiencing 11.0 percent growth in total nonfarm employment, compared with only 7.9 percent growth in Wisconsin. Minnesota’s job growth was better than Wisconsin’s in the overall private sector (12.5 percent vs. 9.7 percent) and in higher-wage industries, such as construction (38.6 percent vs. 26.0 percent) and education and health care (17.3 percent vs. 11.0 percent).

– From 2010 to 2017, wages grew faster in Minnesota than in Wisconsin at every decile in the wage distribution. Low-wage workers experienced much stronger growth in Minnesota than Wisconsin, with inflation-adjusted wages at the 10th and 20th percentile rising by 8.6 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively, in Minnesota vs. 6.3 percent and 6.4 percent in Wisconsin.

– Gender wage gaps also shrank more in Minnesota than in Wisconsin. From 2010 to 2017, women’s median wage as a share of men’s median wage rose by 3.0 percentage points in Minnesota, and by 1.5 percentage points in Wisconsin.

– Median household income in Minnesota grew by 7.2 percent from 2010 to 2016. In Wisconsin, it grew by 5.1 percent over the same period. Median family income exhibited a similar pattern, growing 8.5 percent in Minnesota compared with 6.4 percent in Wisconsin.

– Minnesota made greater progress than Wisconsin in reducing overall poverty, child poverty, and poverty as measured under the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure. As of 2016, the overall poverty rate in Wisconsin as measured in the American Community Survey (11.8 percent) was still roughly as high as the poverty rate in Minnesota at its peak in the wake of the Great Recession (11.9 percent, in 2011).

– Minnesota residents were more likely to have health insurance than their counterparts in Wisconsin, with stronger insurance take-up of both public and private health insurance since 2010.

– From 2010 to 2017, Minnesota has had stronger overall economic growth (12.8 percent vs. 10.1 percent), stronger growth per worker (3.4 percent vs. 2.7 percent), and stronger population growth (5.1 percent vs. 1.9 percent) than Wisconsin. In fact, over the whole period—as well as in the most recent year—more people have been moving out of Wisconsin to other states than have been moving in from elsewhere in the U.S. The same is not true of Minnesota.

House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill Would Increase Food Insecurity and Hardship

Source: Ed Bolen, Lexin Cai, Stacy Dean, Brynne Keith-Jennings, Catlin Nchako, Dottie Rosenbaum, Elizabeth Wolkomir, May 10, 2018

From the summary:
The nutrition provisions of the farm bill[1] that the House Agriculture Committee (the Committee) passed on April 18, if enacted, would increase food insecurity and hardship. The proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) would end or cut benefits for a substantial number of low-income people.

SNAP is the country’s most effective anti-hunger program, helping 1 in 8 Americans afford a basic diet, with most SNAP participants being children, seniors, or people with disabilities. Despite providing modest benefits — averaging about $1.40 per person per meal — the program combats food insecurity, alleviates poverty, and has long-term positive impacts on health as well as on children’s educational attainment. The Committee’s proposal would reduce SNAP’s effectiveness and put large numbers of families and individuals at increased risk of hardship.

Why Most States Are Struggling to Regulate Airbnb

Source: Elaine S. Povich, Stateline, May 7, 2018

Jeannette Belliveau lives with her dog and two cats in a 19th century house in the Upper Fells Point section of Baltimore, not far from Johns Hopkins Hospital, and rents out a couple of rooms for short-term stays to make a living.

In other parts of the city, Al Hallivis, a real estate investor and single dad, owns a half-dozen houses that he also rents by the night.

A few miles toward the city’s picturesque harbor, a variety of hotels offer traditional overnight stays.
All three models cater to Baltimore visitors, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Belliveau, Hallivis, and hotels have different business models, different perspectives and different agendas. These competing constituencies help account for the difficulty states have had in regulating and taxing the short-term rental industry, even as some cities have taken action to regulate short-term rentals….

….San Francisco this year began limiting the number of nights a year absentee owners can rent their properties through Airbnb or similar platforms. Owners who live in their residence can rent it out without limit. Owners also must pay a $250 registration fee to the city….

How Trump is reshaping the courts

Source: Sam Baker, Stef W. Kight, Andrew Witherspoon, Axios, May 10, 2018

President Trump has already appointed a record-breaking number of federal judges, but his judicial legacy is even bigger than that: More than half of those judges replaced Democratic appointees.
Why it matters: Some of our most contentious political debates are ultimately settled in the courts. If Trump can keep replacing liberal judges with conservatives, he’d be giving conservatives an upper hand that would last for decades.

The numbers:
– The Senate has confirmed 17 Trump nominees for federal district courts, most of whom replaced Democratic appointees.
– Trump has also filled 16 vacancies on federal appeals courts (the last stop before the Supreme Court). Six of those appointees replaced judges who were nominated by Democratic presidents.
– There are still 140 more vacancies in the federal district and appellate courts, and Trump has put forward nominees for about half of them.
– There could soon be 100 judicial nominees pending in the Senate, according to the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, an outside adviser to Trump on judicial nominations.

Fifty Years of Loving v. Virginia and the Continued Pursuit of Racial Equality

Source: Fordham Law Review, Vol. 86, No. 6, May 2018

From the introduction:
It has been ten years since this journal last published a volume exploring Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1967 decision invalidating antimiscegenation laws on equal protection and due process grounds. In that time, the American public has been treated to a virtual smorgasbord of new opportunities to love Loving. First, in a way few could have imagined fifty years ago when seventeen states criminalized interracial marriages, that decision has provided the impetus for a “global network” of celebrations designed to praise interracial relationships and families and to combat discrimination. …. Finally, Loving, and the right to marry it identified, was at the forefront of the national litigation strategy to secure the ability of gay and lesbian couples to enter into marital unions that concerned not only states but also the federal government. Advocates for equal marriage rights repeatedly invoked the Loving Court’s language recognizing marriage as “one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival,” in challenging legal provisions that limited marriage to individuals of the opposite sex. Unsurprisingly, Loving subsequently figured prominently in the Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which finally settled legal debates about the right of LGBTQ couples to marry. The Court held that states may not deny same-sex couples the opportunity to formalize their intimate relationships through legal marriage without violating the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal treatment and dignity under the law. ….

…..Our goal in organizing this Symposium was to explore how Loving has influenced U.S. society institutionally, demographically, and relationally. Doing so obviously required a focus on the present, where the disruptive effects of the interracial “mixing” and racial inclusion Loving endorsed can be seen in the growth of marriages and dating across racial lines. Nearly 15 percent, or one in seven, of all new marriages in 2008 were between people …. The four roundtable discussions and two keynote addresses that constituted this Symposium were designed to advance the multicontextual program of study just described through robust and wide-ranging conversation about Loving and the challenges to equality that attend racial mixture today. While legal issues figured prominently, we fostered a truly interdisciplinary discourse about interracial relationships and racial mixture, which drew on the insights of scholars from a variety of academic backgrounds. ….

Articles include:
The Loving Story: Using a Documentary to Reconsider the Status of an Iconic Interracial Married Couple
By Regina Austin

Hollywood Loving
By Kevin Noble Maillard

Enemy and Ally: Religion in Loving v. Virginia and Beyond
By Leora F. Eisenstadt

Loving’s Legacy: Decriminalization and the Regulation of Sex and Sexuality
By Melissa Murray

Prejudice, Constitutional Moral Progress, and Being “On the Right Side of History”: Reflections on Loving v. Virginia at Fifty
By Linda C. McClain

Residential Segregation and Interracial Marriages
By Rose Cuison Villazor

Loving Lessons: White Supremacy, Loving v. Virginia, and Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System
By Leah A. Hill

LGBT Equality and Sexual Racism
By Russell K. Robinson & David M. Frost

The Hope of Loving and Warping Racial Progress Narratives
By Jasmine Mitchell

Fear of a Multiracial Planet: Loving’s Children and the Genocide of the White Race
By Reginald Oh

Evolution of the Racial Identity of Children of Loving: Has Our Thinking About Race and Racial Issues Become Obsolete?
By Kevin Brown

Multiracial Malaise: Multiracial as a Legal Racial Category
By Taunya Lovell Banks

More Than Love: Eugenics and the Future of Loving v. Virginia
By Osagie K. Obasogie

Race and Assisted Reproduction: Implications for Population Health
By Aziza Ahmed

When a Wrongful Birth Claim May Not Be Wrong: Race, Inequality, and the Cost of Blackness
By Kimani Paul-Emile

Unstitching Scarlet Letters?: Prosecutorial Discretion and Expungement
By Brian M. Murray

The New Writs of Assistance
By Ian Samuel

Family Courts as Certifying Agencies: When Family Courts Can Certify U Visa Applications for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence
By Sylvia Lara Altreuter

Implicit Racial Biases in Prosecutorial Summations: Proposing an Integrated Response
By Praatika Prasad Read More View PDF

Campaign Finance Law Database

Source: Campaign Finance Institute, 2018

From the press release:
The Campaign Finance Institute is pleased to release a groundbreaking new tool, “CFI’s Historical Database of State Campaign Finance Laws”. The database covers all of the states’ campaign finance laws every two years since 1996. It is designed for everything from interactive and visualized lookups to downloadable datasets.

Anyone with a serious interest in politics is bound to have made, heard, or wondered about claims to the effect that the laws governing money in politics “make a difference”. These claims may be about who runs for office, how they campaign, who wins, how they govern, or what policies come out in the end. But until now it has been impossible to evaluate most of these claims properly. You cannot really understand a law’s effects unless you can compare jurisdictions with different laws to themselves and each other over time.

CFI’s new tool opens the door to let everyone make those comparisons. It covers every state since 1996 and is structured to handle queries from the simplest to the most complex. Because not everyone will want to use the tool in the same way, the material comes in two formats.

One is a remarkably compact and attractive visualization that will let users look up the answers to what we expect will be their most common questions. For example:
– What are the laws in my state? When did they change?
– Which states disclose what kinds of information about independent spending?
– Which ones changed their contribution limits after Citizens United?
– Which states offer public financing or political contribution tax credits? In rank order, which states had higher and lower disclosure thresholds (or contribution limits, etc.) in any given year?

All of these kinds of questions can be answered through the visualization tool. But the tool is based on only a fraction of what the data can offer. The full database has literally hundreds of pieces of information for each state and year. The visualization only covers about 10% of these. The full set can be downloaded in whole, or part. It then can be manipulated or merged with other data sets at the user’s pleasure. Downloading is the first step for answering “what difference” questions. For example:
– What difference does it make to have higher or lower limits?
– Is the law really responsible for a particular effect – whether positive or negative?

Federal tax law to squeeze local governments in tri-state region

Source: Valentina Gomez, Nicholas Samuels, Leonard Jones, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, April 11, 2018
(subscription required)

The recent federal tax legislation will have an adverse credit effect on local governments in the tri-state region of Connecticut (A1 stable), New York (Aa1 stable) and New Jersey (A3 stable). This is due to the region’s relatively high state and local taxes and unusually high home prices, particularly in the New York City metropolitan area. The impact, however, will vary from state to state depending on tax levy formulas, fixed cost burdens and state actions to blunt the effect of the federal changes

Waiting — and Waiting– For Corporate Tax Cuts to Deliver Those Wage Hikes

Source: Manuel Madrid, American Prospect, April 13, 2018

Though if you’re a CEO or shareholder, the new tax cuts are the gift that keeps on giving. ….

…. It’s been nearly four months since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law, and the good times continue to roll for shareholders and company executives. Corporate profitability is well on its way to hitting decade-long highs, and CEO pay, coming off of a record year in 2017, will be the cause of much champagne-popping. But if the new tax bill, which showered corporate America with an estimated $68 billion in savings, has been a party for Wall Street, folks on Main Street—the supposed primary beneficiaries of the tax-cutting bonanza, as Republicans told it—have yet to receive their invitations.

A new online database launched by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), a broad coalition of more than 400 groups championing progressive tax reform, tracks how corporations have responded to the new law. The ATF website, entitled “Trump Tax Cut Truths,” contains information on more than 800 companies, including the amount of tax savings those companies received along with details on planned bonuses, pay raises, and stock buybacks. The information is sourced from news articles, press releases, public corporate filings, independent analysis, and ATF research. ….

New Federal Tax Law Makes It Difficult for States to Provide Accurate Revenue Forecasts

Source: Lucy Dadayan, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, April 2018

From the press release:
A Rockefeller Institute review of recent state revenue forecasts shows that states are expecting tax revenue growth to be stronger in fiscal year (FY) 2018 compared to FY 2017. Those forecasts remain highly speculative, however, as the full effects of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) remain unknown.

The policy brief reviews forecasts for personal income, corporate income, and sales tax revenue in 42 states and finds a median forecast for personal income tax growth at 4.4 percent in 2018 and 4.7 percent in 2019 – significantly stronger than the 2.4 percent actual growth in 2017. Forecasts for corporate income and sales tax revenue are similarly strong compared to actual growth in 2017.

Forecasters in most states are facing higher-than-usual uncertainty as they do not yet have enough data to factor in the effects of the TCJA. California’s executive budget notes, for example, “These estimates do not include any impacts of the federal tax changes passed at the end of 2017…. Changes by individuals and businesses in response to the federal tax incentives will affect revenues in potentially unexpected ways.”

State revenue forecasts will continue to be updated as the effects of the TCJA become clearer.

Related:
Introduction