Ideas for progressive state legislation

Posted on September 15, 2016

Here are just a few examples from the latest edition of the Progressive Agenda for States & Localities, including hyperlinks to model bills:

Demilitarize the police

More than 8,000 state and local police forces have received more than $5 billion in military equipment from the federal government. It’s dangerous, it’s expensive to store and maintain, and it’s useless in nearly all circumstances.

Disclosure of corporate taxes paid

Corporations, using arcane tax avoidance schemes, are contributing far less in state revenues than ever before. Transparency is the first step to fix the broken tax system.

Electronic recording of interrogations

Innocent people are often jailed and the guilty go free because of false confessions made during custodial interrogations. Electronic recording of these interrogations very effectively addresses this problem by protecting innocent people and preventing law enforcement abuse.

Employment fairness to pregnant women

Several states have enacted a pregnant workers’ fairness act to allow pregnant women to continue working with limited accommodations. Accommodations may mean use of a different chair, more frequent breaks, assistance with manual labor, or less hazardous work.

Hire tax investigators

Many wealthy individuals and corporations evade taxes. One study indicated that people who make between $500,000 and $1 million per year underreport their incomes by more than 20 percent. More tax enforcers will pay for themselves.

LGBT fairness

Too many states still don’t protect LGBT residents from employment and housing discrimination, but there is a growing movement in support of LGBT fairness.

Limit inquiries into immigration status

Immigrants often choose not to report crimes because they fear harassment or deportation and this can put the public at risk. To alleviate this fear, law enforcement and other government agents must be prohibited from inquiring into the immigration status of victims and witnesses of crimes in order to encourage cooperation and increase public safety.

Limit payday lending

Payday lending employs unfairly high interest rates, all but ensuring borrowers’ inability to repay loans, and trapping low-income Americans in a cycle of debt.

Minimum standards for public money

The Minimum Standards for Subsidized Jobs Act requires companies that receive economic development subsidies to pay their employees a minimum wage that is at least one dollar higher than the federal/state minimum wage. These companies are also required to provide their employees with health insurance benefits.

Pollinator protection

Bees are dying off at an alarming rate. The state of Maryland enacted this law to limit the use of bee-killing pesticides.

Prohibit profiling

The Racial Profiling Prevention Act prevents citizens and residents from being subjected to discriminatory policing practices. The act prohibits law enforcement officers from the stopping, detainment, and searching of any person based on their actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age or gender. It also requires data collection and transmission of the number of people stopped, as well as their characteristics, the nature of the stop, as well as the outcome.

Protect voters from intimidation

Too many Americans are prevented from exercising their right to vote because of voter intimidation or suppression, or by mistakes by election officials. Legislation can prevent these problems through three avenues.

Stop privatization

States can and should analyze the true costs of privatization and identify where outsourcing does not really serve the public interest.

Tax expenditure sunset

This bill would ensure that public funds are used efficiently, by leveling scrutiny at companies that receive expenditure subsidies. It provides for tax commissioners to review and appraise tax expenditures, as well as report on them. It also provides for the creation of a tax expenditure sunset review commission.

Transparency in school spending

With the rise of standardized testing, pre-packaged lessons, and charter schools, there has been a noticeable decline in public awareness of how education funds are spent.

Zombie debt

Third-party debt collectors are flooding courts with lawsuits attempting to trick consumers into paying charged-off debt, resulting in unfair and often erroneous default judgments.