Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Between Public Service and Social Control: Policing Dilemmas in the Era of Immigration Enforcement

Source: Amada Armenta, Social Problems, Volume 63, Issue 1, 1 February 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While research provides numerous insights about the fear and insecurity that Latino immigrants experience at the hands of the police, much less is known about the experiences and practices of local police vis-à-vis Latino immigrant residents. This article contributes to research on street-level bureaucracies and immigrant incorporation by examining police practices in a new immigrant destination. Drawing on two years of fieldwork with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, it offers an extended ethnographic look at policing dilemmas in the era of immigration control. As the findings reveal, police bureaucracies respond to immigrant residents in contradictory ways. On one hand, the department has an official community policing program to increase trust and communication with Latino immigrant residents. On the other hand, street-level patrol officers undermine these efforts by citing and arresting Latino residents who lack state-issued ID. Thus, alongside ostensibly sincere efforts to incorporate immigrant residents, ultimately, police produce a form of social control and urban discipline through their discretionary decisions.

An Economy For the 1%: How privilege and power in the economy drive extreme inequality and how this can be stopped

Source: Deborah Hardoon, Sophia Ayele and Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, Oxfam International, ISBN 978-1-78077-993-5, January 2016

From the press release:
Pre-Davos report shows how 1% now own more than rest of us combined.

Runaway inequality has created a world where 62 people own as much as the poorest half of the world’s population, according to an Oxfam report published today ahead of the annual gathering of the world’s financial and political elites in Davos. This number has fallen dramatically from 388 as recently as 2010 and 80 last year.

An Economy for the 1%, shows that the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population – that’s 3.6 billion people – has fallen by a trillion dollars since 2010. This 41 per cent drop has occurred despite the global population increasing by around 400 million people during that period. Meanwhile the wealth of the richest 62 has increased by more than half a trillion dollars to $1.76tr. Just nine of the ’62’ are women.

Although world leaders have increasingly talked about the need to tackle inequality, the gap between the richest and the rest has widened dramatically in the past 12 months. Oxfam’s prediction – made ahead of last year’s Davos – that the 1% would soon own more than the rest of us by 2016, actually came true in 2015, a year early….
English summary
English methodology note
English Excel data file
Spanish paper
Spanish summary
French paper
French summary

Automatic Voter Registration: Finding America’s Missing Voters

Source: Liz Kennedy, Lew Daly, Brenda Wright, Dēmos, 2015

From the summary:
…..In the following report, we make a detailed case for Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) as a critical step forward for democratic participation in the United States. First, we take an objective look at the tens of millions of “missing voters”—the eligible citizens who are left outside of the political process by our current registration procedures. Second, we explain how AVR can increase political participation by lowering procedural barriers, reducing administrative errors, and increasing the reach of voter education and mobilization efforts. We project an immediate impact of approximately 27 million eligible persons added to voter rolls across the country if every state adopted automatic voter registration.6 Third, to help achieve this goal, we lay out the optimal AVR policy design with a step-by-step explanation of the automatic registration process and provide guidance about important considerations that need to be addressed. These include: ensuring that ineligible people are not registered to vote and are protected from legal consequences of inadvertent registration; providing an option to decline registration; building in privacy protections and data protections; and ensuring continued compliance with the National Voter Registration Act.

Finally, we look at how AVR can be aligned and coordinated with other voter registration policies, such as online registration, pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, and Same-Day (or Election Day) Registration. We explain how each of these other advances in election administration can help prepare a state for automatic voter registration and can work alongside automatic registration to achieve universal registration of all eligible American citizens. We conclude with a 50-state matrix indicating where these “building blocks” for AVR already exist, which can help advocates map the future of AVR on a state-by-state basis…..

Guild-Ridden Labor Markets: The Curious Case of Occupational Licensing

Source: Morris Kleiner, W.E. Upjohn institute for Employment Research, November 2015

From the summary:
In his third Upjohn Press book on occupational licensing, Morris M. Kleiner examines why the institution of occupational licensing has had such a curious evolution and influence in the United States, the European Union, and China. He also discusses the many similarities it has to guilds.

Welfare Reform: A 20-Year Retrospective

Source: Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 35 Issue 1, Winter 2016
(subscription required)

…This Point/Counterpoint provides a 20-year retrospective on this legislation and its consequences guided by the following three questions:
1. What were the major objectives of 1996 welfare reform legislation?
2. How have these reforms affected the behavior and economic well-being of single mothers and their families as well as subsequent welfare legislation toward them?
3. Given where we are now, what should have we done differently and what still needs to be done?

Ron Haskins, who is a senior fellow and Cabot family chair in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, and was the staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee most responsible for the architecture of this legislation, provides one response to these framing questions. The team of Sandra K. Danziger (Edith A. Lewis collegiate professor of social work and professor of public policy, University of Michigan), Sheldon Danziger (president of the Russell Sage Foundation), Kristin S. Seefeldt (assistant professor of social work and public policy, University of Michigan), and H. Luke Shaefer (associate professor of social work and public policy, University of Michigan) provide the other. Collectively, these team members have an outstanding record of poverty and public policy research since the 1970s….

Ron Haskins

Sandra K. Danziger, Sheldon Danziger, Kristin S. Seefeldt and H. Luke Shaefer

Ron Haskins

Sandra K. Danziger, Sheldon Danziger, Kristin S. Seefeldt and H. Luke Shaefer

Voter Suppression or Voter Fraud in the 2014 US Elections?

Source: Pippa Norris, Holly Ann Garnett, Harvard University – Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), HKS Working Paper No. 040, July 23, 2015

During recent years, U.S. states have often diverged by adopting either more lenient or stricter electoral procedures. What have been the consequences of these laws for the risks of voter suppression or voter fraud? Heated partisan debate surrounds this question. To consider new evidence, the paper studies variations in the logistical costs of registration and balloting in state laws to generate the most appropriate within-country comparison. Part I sets out the conceptual and theoretical framework. Part II describes the research design that takes advantage of a new dataset, PEI-US-2014, based on an expert survey of Perceptions of Electoral Integrity conducted in 21 U.S. states immediately after the 2014 U.S. Congressional elections. This data is combined with a new Convenience Election Laws Index (CEL) summarizing variations in the leniency of state laws for registering and voting. Multilevel (HLM) analysis is used to compare the state-level CEL index against expert evaluations of the integrity of the registration and voting process. Part III presents the results of the analysis. The conclusion in Part IV draws together the major findings and considers their implications.

….The new evidence we analyzed suggests that even after controlling for many factors which might influence expert’s judgments, including their ideological and partisan leanings, state laws for registration and balloting are indeed related to the performance of voter registration and belloting processes. In particular, the analysis suggests that more lenient registration and balloting procedures used in a state are significantly associated with more accurate and inclusive electoral registers, according to expert evaluations. At the same time, based on the analysis, we found no proof that convenience procedures led to more ineligible electors being registered, again according to expert judgments of the quality of state elections. From these findings, it does appear that the assumed trade off between convenience and security is false; we were unable to demonstrate that more lenient procedures increased the risks of voter impersonation, identity theft, or other irregularities in the electoral roll.

Secondly, however, the impact of these state laws should not be exaggerated; convenience state registration and balloting procedures do not affect the overall performance of state elections, as monitored through the standardized PEI index measuring more general perceptions of electoral integrity. This finding is not surprising in many ways. Although controversies about registration and balloting laws receive the most media attention in American, these procedures cannot account for the full electoral integrity score in each state.

This observation reinforces the necessity of broadening our conceptualization of electoral integrity and studying the entire electoral cycle, not just the end stages of the process. Cases around the world demonstrate that electoral integrity can also be undermined by partisan gerrymandering or by malapportionment favoring incumbents when drawing constituency boundaries. Party and candidate registration processes may prove equally problematic, for example where independent candidates or new parties face high thresholds before they can gain ballot access. Imbalanced campaign media coverage can also fail to provide a level playing field, and political finance regulations pose another range of challenges, especially where candidates need to accumulate large war chests to succeed. Voting processes in polling places can be flawed, including issues of ballot irregularities and broken machines, while inaccurate counts or insecure ballot seals can undermine the vote tabulation process. The credibility of the outcome can suffer from undue delays in announcing the results, or by lack of transparency and audit processes. And finally election officials are vital to administering electoral processes and implementing the rules, and problems can commonly arise where authorities lack knowRhow capacity, technical resources, or a culture of impartiality. This study therefore sheds light on some of the reasons why American elections perform so poorly compared with other established democracies – but clearly each of the stages throughout the electoral cycle need to be taken into consideration for comprehensive explanations of patterns of electoral integrity.

State Info

Source: National Association of State Retirement Administrators, 2015

In 1911, Massachusetts became the first state to offer a pension plan to general state employees. It took some time, however, for pensions to become available in most states, with just six offering any form of a civil service pension plan as of 1929.

Today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 2,500 public retirement systems in the U.S. that administer defined benefit pension benefits to employees of state and local government.

The largest 75 systems account for approximately 80 percent of all participants and assets. The largest public retirement system has assets of more than $200 billion, and more than one million active and retired members; the smallest systems have assets of less than $1 million.

While it is not feasible to make generalizations from one plan to another, or from one time period to another, and it is a misconception to hold that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to plan design and financing, there are core principles that are pervasive among public retirement plans: mandatory participation, shared financing, benefit adequacy, pooled investment and longevity risks, and lifetime benefit payouts.

To find information on public retirement systems by state, click on a state, or territory, listed at the left.

Criminal Labor Law

Source: Benjamin Levin, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 2016, Forthcoming

From the abstract:
This Article examines a recent rise in suits brought against unions under criminal statutes. By looking at the long history of criminal regulation of labor, the Article argues that these suits represent an attack on the theoretical underpinnings of post-New Deal U.S. labor law and an attempt to revive a nineteenth century conception of unions as extortionate criminal conspiracies. The Article further argues that this criminal turn is reflective of a broader contemporary preference for finding criminal solutions to social and economic problems. In a moment of political gridlock, parties seeking regulation increasingly do so via criminal statute. In this respect, “criminal labor law” should pose concerns, not only for scholars concerned about workplace democracy, but also those focused on overcriminalization and the increasing scope of criminal law.

Regulating Marijuana: A Year and a Half In

Source: Karmen Hanson, Legisbrief, Vol. 23 no. 37, October 2015

Since voters in Colorado and Washington passed referenda to legalize and regulate marijuana and cannabis products for adult recreational use in 2012, policymakers and others have been tracking their progress. Lawmakers have learned many lessons from at least 18 months of legal sales and regulations.
Regulating Marijuana: Taxes, Banking and Federal Laws
Source: Karmen Hanson, Legisbrief, Vol. 23 no. 43, November 2015