You are the vanguard of the progressive movement

Posted on January 17, 2018

As we begin this crucial year, one that may determine the direction of American politics for decades to come, let us explain what we intend as the role played by the Public Leadership Institute.

We are here to support you because you are at the forefront of the progressive movement. You—at the state and local levels—win or lose the issues that are the most important for most people.

We’re trying to help with proactive policy. That’s because the only way to see progress is to turn from playing merely reactive politics to fighting for an inspiring proactive vision for our future. We’re trying to help you drive bold public policy in states and localities, even the ones controlled by conservatives.

When you are proactive, you are arming the progressive grassroots with proposals that represent their values, and that energize them to fight for something instead of just defending the status quo. Only a proactive strategy makes news, frames the debate, and dictates timing. Only a proactive strategy forces opponents to shift their resources and defend their unpopular positions. And only a proactive strategy guarantees that we are moving our communities, our states and our country forward.

To make our resources as accessible as possible, all of them are online. We have published more than 150 pieces of model progressive legislation on a wide range of issues. We suggest about 200 policy ideas in our Progressive Agenda for the States and Localities. We provide a message framing book called Voicing our Values: A Message Guide for Policymakers and Advocates and an advocacy book called Preparing to Win: A Guide for Successful Advocacy. We have a special project on proactive reproductive rights policy which revolves around the 29 model bills in the Playbook for Abortion Rights. And we continuously put on conferences, workshops and webinars that teach elements from the Progressive Agenda, Voicing Our Values, Preparing to Win, and the Playbook.

Since this is a critical election year, we have been suggesting that you lead on some policies that will play well in the fall. Although each state and locality is different of course, here are a few ideas (with hyperlinks to our models on our website) that might work anywhere:

Minimum wage and paid sick leave—They both poll very high (sick leave about 10 percent higher than minimum wage) and are easy for Americans to understand. Even states that have raised their minimum wage recently should consider a proposal to raise it again. Polling from places like Michigan shows that will work.

Holding down prescription drug costs—Everyone thinks Rx prices are too high and that drug companies are to blame. Politically, addressing prescription drug costs is a no-brainer but the problem has always been finding something that states could do that would make a real difference. A new Maryland price gouging law was upheld in court. A law stopping PBMs from preventing pharmacists from telling customers about cheaper options was recently passed in CT, GA, LA, ME and ND. Polls show both of these are wildly popular.

Equal pay—Such legislation always polls well (although support may lack intensity unless it’s paired with other bills). While most states have equal pay laws, almost all could introduce a bill that strengthens them.

Make willful wage theft a criminal offenseCalifornia has done some of this and Colorado has a good model. While I’ve not seen a poll, they has got to be popular because Americans hate it when somebody is “getting away with” something rotten.

Control debt collectors—Nobody likes debt collectors and in recent years they have employed tactics that are grossly unfair.

Fair Share tax reform—Americans believe that the rich are not paying their fair share in taxes. A bill in Pennsylvania would increase taxes on the rich while marginally lowering taxes for everyone else. Or lawmakers can simply find an existing tax giveaway for the rich and introduce a bill to end it.

Stop over-testing in schools—Americans overwhelmingly believe there is too much standardized testing in schools. Maryland enacted broad corrective legislation and there is also a narrower Too Young To Test Act.

Climate change—There are several types of bills, including a simple climate change impact study commission. The point is to force conservatives to show their anti-science stripes. Conservatives may be anti-science, but persuadable voters aren’t.

If anyone wants to use one of our model bills, s/he should understand they are not “branded.” We expect policymakers to edit bills to fit their own state politics and otherwise make them their own. You don’t have to credit PLI at all.

Again, we are here to help you and your colleagues realize your vision for what’s possible, so please call on us to assist you in any way you need.