For the moment, most state legislatures are controlled by conservatives and there’s not a lot that progressives can enact in those states.
But most large cities, towns and counties are controlled by moderates or progressives. The question is, what can we do there? Lots. Here are just a few examples from the latest edition of the Progressive Agenda for States & Localities, including hyperlinks to model bills:
Ban the Box
Dozens of cities have removed the check boxes from employment applications that ask whether the applicant has a criminal record. This helps to reduce recidivism by providing qualified applicants with employment opportunities.
Climate change impact plan
Some of the effects of climate change can be predicted and some of its damage can be mitigated with planning. Localities should create commissions to study the local effects of climate change (e.g. flooding) and what policy changes could address them.
Earned sick leave
Forty percent of private sector workers and seventy percent of low wage workers lack access to paid sick time which is bad for workers, their employers, and public health.
Job piracy cease-fire
Many cities offer tax breaks and subsidies under the guise of “business recruitment” in order to lure companies from neighboring jurisdictions. This often degenerates into tit-for-tat job piracy. This model is based on a law from Missouri.
Electronic recording of interrogations
Innocent people are often jailed and guilty ones go free because of false confessions. Electronic recording of interrogations very effectively addresses this problem, protecting the innocent while helping convict the guilty.
Most cities and counties don’t protect LGBT residents from employment and housing discrimination and no federal law explicitly prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals. All localities should prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
Limit inquiries into immigration status
All of us are less safe when immigrants are afraid to report crimes because they fear harassment or deportation.
Language access for public services
Many Americans need language assistance in order to ensure access to city services and programs while navigating local bureaucracies.
People who work for the government or for government contractors must be paid a living wage. Otherwise they are forced to rely on taxpayer-funded programs to support their families, which makes no sense as public policy.
Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs)
Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (such as IUDs) are proven to dramatically cut both teen pregnancy and teen abortions. Every locality should adopt policies to increase access to LARCs.
Minimum standards for public money
Companies that are subsidized by a locality should be required to provide good wages and reasonable benefits. It makes no sense to subsidize poverty-level jobs.
Plastic bag fee or ban
Localities can cut litter by discouraging the use of single-use plastic bags that end up getting thrown away.
Pre-Kindergarten for all
Children in poverty often begin kindergarten already one or two years behind. Universal high-quality pre-K is the most cost-effective initiative to improve educational—and life—outcomes.
Millions of Americans are the victims of racial and ethnic profiling, which fuels hostility and distrust of police, undermining public safety for all.
Prevent fraud by “crisis pregnancy centers”
Crisis Pregnancy Centers are anti-abortion offices that try to lure in pregnant women by impersonating legitimate medical clinics. Localities can prohibit their fraudulent advertising, as San Francisco and Oakland have done.
Cities and counties can and should analyze the true costs of privatization and identify when outsourcing does not really serve the public interest.
A “clawback” is a subsidy contract clause that provides a money-back guarantee if developers fail to fulfill the promises they made to get a subsidy.
Support nonprofits that deliver social services
Localities should create an office that assists nonprofit service organizations in their interactions with government.
Tax expenditure sunset
Tax expenditures subsidize private companies but never receive the same scrutiny as budget items. Tax expenditure sunsets help ensure that public funds are used efficiently.
Americans need strong protections and effective services from cities, counties and towns and there is a great deal those jurisdictions can do. PLI is ready to help you promote these ideas!