We’ve just published our latest edition of the Progressive Agenda for States and Localities. You can read it in HTML text, download a PDF, or we’ll be happy to mail you a printed copy. Here are ten of the newest model bills featured in the Progressive Agenda. Most can be enacted at both the state and local levels of government.
Use government contracts to protect individual rights
States, cities and counties have routinely included language in government contracts that prevent certain types of discrimination, usually based on a few factors such as race, religion and national origin. Because the federal government is currently rolling back fundamental civil rights protections, it is important for states and localities to step in and do all they can. And one thing they can do is expand the types of discrimination forbidden to government contractors, adding factors such as gender, marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression.
Embrace diversity in public agencies
As a result of historic factors and, sometimes, outright discrimination, the employees in public agencies are often disproportionately white and male. Greater diversity is valuable not only to promote equity, build respect for others and better reflect the population served, but also to increase the cultural competence of any office which inevitably improves the services provided. Diversity is a strength which can be encouraged through the Public Agency Diversity Act.
Encourage community schools
Community schools provide comprehensive programs and services that are carefully selected to meet the unique needs of students and families in their particular neighborhoods. This is a proven strategy which has been adopted in more than 5,000 schools to address the real-world problems that keep students from doing their best. The Community Schools Resolution is a way to begin the process at the state, local or school district level.
Divest from fossil fuels
Maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel energy production will lead to a self-created catastrophe, threatening lives, livelihoods, and the very fabric of society. Every jurisdiction has the responsibility to do whatever it can to avert these disastrous results. One step is to divest the jurisdiction’s retirement fund from fossil fuels. Already, Ireland became the first country to fully divest from fossil fuels, New York became the first American state to enact a law to divest its retirement fund, and globally, about 1,000 institutions have divested more than $6 trillion from fossil fuels.
Make prescription drugs more affordable
Americans are struggling to afford the prescription drugs they need, often having to choose between their medication and other necessities, like rent and groceries. States can respond by creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, an independent body with the authority to evaluate high cost drugs and set a reasonable upper payment limit that applies to all purchasers and payer reimbursements.
Raise the dollar threshold for felonies
Laws differentiate felony theft from misdemeanor theft based on the value of the property stolen. Due to inflation, over the years, less and less value is required to trigger a felony. In effect, defendants are treated more harshly over time. An unnecessarily high felony threshold strains prosecutorial, judicial and correctional resources. The Felony Threshold Reform Act eases the strain so more resources can be aimed at serious offenders.
Require disclosure of freeloading employers
More than 60 percent of enrollees in Medicaid and CHIP belong to working families. This means the worker’s employer is being indirectly subsidized, which burdens the state treasury and puts responsible employers at a competitive disadvantage. The Fair Share Employer Disclosure Act directs the state to list the 50 companies with the highest number of employees who receive state health and welfare benefits in order to promote a clearer understanding of the problem.
Sunset tax expenditures
A “tax expenditure” is a form of stealth government spending. Giving exemptions, deductions or credits to certain groups or for certain activities has the same effect as handing them money, and governments divert billions of dollars this way. Tax expenditures never receive the same scrutiny that budget expenditures do. While budget line items are reviewed and adjusted every year, few governments have any mechanism for reviewing tax expenditures. The fact is, many tax expenditures are unjustified giveaways to the rich, many were not properly targeted to achieve their stated objective, and others were justified when enacted but no longer make economic sense. Thus, each tax exemption, deduction and credit should be examined periodically to weigh its costs, benefits and relevance to community goals. The only effective way to bring fairness to the tax expenditure system is to require each to undergo a thorough review and be re-approved through the legislative process. This is accomplished by requiring that all tax expenditures “sunset” every few years.
Require polling places at large colleges
Many state and local officials have been closing polling places located on college campuses in order to suppress student voting. Under federal law, students have the right to vote in their college town if they consider it their primary residence. So, instead, we should require on-campus polling places wherever there are large numbers of students, as Illinois has done.
Restrict non-disclosure clauses
Nondisclosure agreements are very common in business and it is widely accepted that such agreements are appropriate for a business to maintain its trade secrets. However, it has become fairly common for businesses to broaden nondisclosure clauses to cover more than trade secrets, including forbidding employees from making any critical comments that could harm the company’s or the company executives’ business reputation. Employment contracts should be explicitly prohibited from including nondisclosure for sexual harassment.
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