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Blue state blues and solid abortion news
Just don’t pull the alarm
Welcome to a Sunday evening edition of Progress Report.
My brother got married this weekend, and between the various commitments that come with any family wedding and the heartbreaking and increasingly suspicious way in which Liverpool lost on Saturday, my head was out of the news cycle for something like 48 hours.
Luckily, it seems as if the government isn’t shutting down just yet and the other big national political stories this weekend were trivial at best. I don’t think I’ve ever cared about anything less than I care about the fact that Rep. Jamaal Bowman pulled a fire alarm in the Capitol on his way to vote for a bill that he supported.
His explanation seemed plausible enough, and even if he’s lying, there’s no world in which Republicans, most whom assisted and/or celebrated howling insurrections who tried to overthrow the Capitol, should be granted a split second of airtime to stand on ceremony about decorum and respecting government institutions.
The elitist pearl-clutching has been truly unbearable of late, and it’s no coincidence that Senate dress codes and locked door protocols make for easy stories and ongoing distractions from things like the end of childcare subsidies, the return of student loan repayments, and ongoing Medicaid purging.
All that being said, there were some good stories to emerge below the radar this weekend as well. So to get your week started right, I’m going to review the positive news stories… while mixing in a couple of frustrating and complicated ones. Like a marriage, the tough moments only make you appreciate the good ones all that much more.
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Arizona: It was a huge deal when Michigan repealed its “right to work” law earlier this year because of the state’s rich history of labor activism and unionism. If the law gets repealed in Arizona, it would be an arguably even bigger deal due to the state’s historic conservative-libertarian bent.
Arizona Works Together, a coalition of unions and progressive groups, are moving closer to launching a campaign to qualify a ballot initiative that would repeal the law, which was first instituted by voters using the same process all the way back in 1946.
The home state of Barry Goldwater has generally been hostile to unions, though recent ballot initiatives and support for the striking teachers during the 2018 Red for Ed movement give some indication that this could be a successful campaign — if they’re able to stump up what leaders estimate to be anywhere between $6 and $14 million required to get it on the ballot.
Michigan: Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Michigan, the state Civil Service Commission is no longer requiring that most new state employees get pre-screened for weed before they start working.
There will still be consequences for being high and impaired at work, but I’m not going to argue against that.
Interestingly, the story mentions that the Michigan Civil Service Commission is looking to treat marijuana more like alcohol, which is a growing frame in the legalization movement. In fact, the activists behind this fall’s ballot initiative to legalize weed in Ohio is officially known as the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
Antitrust: This isn’t purely a workers’ rights issue, but economic concentration generally leads to fewer jobs and worse wages, so I’m counting it. And with that established, here’s a good summary of what has become the most significant few weeks in modern antitrust law history.
It’s a stunning series of lawsuits, investigations, and historic changes in the way that the government regulates an array of industries, including tech, agriculture, and private equity. The Amazon and Google lawsuits are the big ones, but there’s lots to dig into.
Blue State Blues, Part I
One of the biggest ongoing frustrations plaguing the Democratic Party is that the country’s two bluest states and some of its biggest cities are overseen by people who govern as if they’re trying to primary Bill Clinton from the right.
At the same time, in the swing states where it’d be easier (but still wrong) to suggest such an approach, progressive policies have passed at record speed. For a generation of Democrats, political imperviousness has been a permission slip to do favors for corporate donors. No more!
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is an interesting case, because in some ways he is a combative liberal who is willing to take on right-wing demagogues on issues such as abortion and gun control. But Newsom also has a bad habit of kowtowing to big business and throwing working people under the bus, something that he’s been doing more and more of late.
This weekend, Newsom vetoed a high-profile bill that would have granted unemployment benefits to workers who have been on strike for two weeks. It would have been a game-changer for organized labor and union workers, who often wind up settling for weaker contracts because they can’t afford to stay on the picket lines for very long or even go on strike at all.
Newsom also vetoed a bill that would have granted OSHA protections to domestic workers. This is the second time he’s shot down legislation to provide housekeepers, nannies, and other in-home workers the same safety protections as people working in more traditional places of business.
A few weeks ago, the California governor vetoed a bill to require a person to be aboard a “driverless” freight truck to ensure it safe passage, striking a huge blow to the Teamsters and workers in an industry that is already paying less than ever.
It hasn’t been all terrible: Newsom did just help broker a deal to get fast food wages up to $20-an-hour, but it did require unions to give up the effort to make massive corporations take responsibility for abuses by franchisees, which has held back organizing for decades and been a key focus of the Biden NLRB.
Newsom’s choice to replace the late Dianne Feinstein in the Senate, announced tonight, sort of embodies the vexing duality of his governorship.
In appointing Laphonza Butler to serve the final year of Feinstein’s term, Newsom kept the promise he made to appoint a Black woman to the seat after he tapped Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris when she ran for vice president. Butler will also be the first openly LGBTQ+ person to represent California in the Senate, which is pretty awesome.
The top line of her resume also gives one reason to be excited: Butler for years worked for the SEIU and eventually served as president of the union’s entire California branch. But there is ample reason to be concerned: Butler, a key confidant of VP Harris, led the labor movement and became a lobbyist for Airbnb and Uber, where she helped the ride share company beat back a law that would have turned drivers into employees and made them eligible for fair pay and the ability to qualify for benefits.
Where Butler will fall in regulating tech and siding with working people is truly a mystery right now. Fingers crossed she goes back to her roots.
Medicaid: As the brutal unwinding process brings more and more pain to families, the federal government continues to find new ways to step in and mitigate the damage.
On Friday, HHS sent a letter to all state administrators that reminded them that all children who are enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP must stay enrolled for at least 12 consecutive months. This includes during the unwinding process, which red states have used to aggressively clear the Medicaid rolls as quickly as possible, no matter whether someone still qualifies for government assistance.
In Florida, at least half of the 500,000 people to lose their Medicaid coverage have been children, an indicator of GOP barbarism.
This is actually a very good summary of why this is so critical:
Continuous coverage for children has been shown to reduce financial barriers to care for low-income families, promote health equity, and provide states with better tools to hold health plans accountable for quality care and improved health outcomes. Stable coverage also enables health care professionals to develop relationships with children and their parents, track a child’s health and development, and help a family avoid expensive emergency room visits. Additionally, when families maintain coverage year-round, it reduces the administrative burden on state agencies due to repeated eligibility reviews and re-enrollment after a gap in coverage.
Sorry, Ron DeSantis.
Blue State Blues, Part II
Here in New York, we have a double whammy of corporate conservatives masquerading as Democratic leaders. I’ve made no secret of my distaste for Gov. Kathy Hochul and NYC Mayor Eric Adams, and I regret to say that they continue to justify my dissatisfaction as a constituent and person of good conscience.
As New York was hit with torrential rains that overwhelmed the city’s drainage system and flooded parts of three boroughs on Friday, it emerged that Adams had spent the hours before the storm out partying with celebrities at a $2000-a-head birthday party fundraiser. Whereas Hochul had at least issued warnings about the coming storm and potential flash floods on Thursday evening, it took Adams until mid-Friday, when much of the city was underwater, to speak out publicly.
His words were less than reassuring — Adams later flippantly said that anybody caught off-guard by the storm “had to be living under a rock,” which is as flippant as it is absurd. I personally had I know the downpour or floods were coming — not everyone is constantly monitoring the weather.
I’m sure Adams will use that line again, because he’s got a tendency to go party when the rest of us are literally drowning — last year, he went to the Virgin Islands while the city experienced disastrous flooding.
When Adams isn’t insulting constituents or ignoring their needs, he’s busy trying to change city law to deny migrants their human rights and echoing right-wing talking points on the border. His top advisor did so on TV this weekend, and she was joined in repeating right-wing talking points and giving freebies to their campaigns by none other than Hochul herself, who will always prioritize the needs of her wealthy developer base over human rights.
This is painful to watch:
What does Hochul get from doing this? She’s now very clearly trying to keep pace with the conservative attacks that nearly undid her re-election last year, which were of course fueled by her own rhetoric. It’s a self-defeating cycle that causes both political and real-world damage.
Already, right-wing bigots like Elon Musk are seizing on the comments, which should make it clear that it’s now no longer possible for prominent politicians to make remarks that are targeted at one small group of people and otherwise go under the radar.
There is, however, some good news here: Progressives are beginning to get serious about running a primary challenge against Adams. It’s not just his partying or glib remarks that are causing problems; huge budget cuts are devastating schools and libraries, while the city has utterly failed to deliver basic services.
I’ve pledged my loyalty one potential candidate, and hope to say more this winter.
Ohio: Having been absolutely creamed during the initial ballot initiative vote to throttle constitutional amendments in the state, anti-abortion activists in Ohio can’t seem to figure out how to properly trick people into supporting their cause this coming November.
Kentucky: Something similar is going on with the state attorney general and GOP gubernatorial nominee, hardliner conservative Daniel Cameron. After publicly saying he’d support exceptions for rape and incest on any abortion ban, he got caught on tape contradicting himself Wednesday in a pretty brutal manner:
“My point was that ... we are in a fight with the courts right now," Cameron said in an audio recording of the conversation during a campaign stop in London, Kentucky. "And so if the courts were to strike down and say that we needed to add (exceptions), of course I would sign that because I still want to protect life. But that would just be based on if our courts made that change; it wouldn’t be me, proactively.”
Democrats, including Gov. Andy Beshear, have quickly jumped on the comments as proof that Cameron is a far-right Christofascist who wants to totally outlaw the procedure in Kentucky, where voters firmly rejected an anti-abortion ballot initiative last November.
Nebraska: Add another name to the list of states that have expanded Medicaid to new mothers for up to a year. Don’t love that it’s driven in part by abortion bans, but as a mitigating factor while work is being done to re-enshrine reproductive rights for all, it’s good news.
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