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Just as states with progressive lawmakers and activists have themselves initiated innovative programs over a wide range of issues, state-based progressive blogs have helped provide us with a point of view, inside information and often an edgy voice that we just don't get from the traditional media. This week in progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite state- or city-based blog you think I should know about. Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents.

At BlueOregon, Carla Axtman writes—We can honor Cindy Yuille by curbing gun violence in Oregon:

Blue Oregon
On December 10th of last year, Jenna Passalacqua wasn't feeling the Christmas spirit. She wasn't going to get a tree and was planning to keep the whole holiday on the down low. But her mom, Cindy Yuille, had a different idea. She left a Christmas tree and a box of ornaments and lights at Jenna's doorstep to surprise her and lift her spirits.

That's just the kind of person Cindy was. "She was kind and generous and accepting of people", Jenna said when I sat down with her and Cindy's husband Robert Yuille earlier this week.

A day after leaving the Christmas surprise for her daughter, Cindy was shot and killed by a masked gunman, the first victim in the shooting at Clackamas Town Center. [...]

But even this horrific, high profile act of gun violence hasn't moved the Oregon Legislature to action. Last session, four gun safety bills were scuttled during the session. Even a bill to close a background check loophole went by the wayside, leaving the door wide open for those with a history of violence or with a serious mental illness to have access to guns.

With 75% of Oregon GUN OWNERS in favor of background checks, this lack of action is ludicrous in the extreme. Not to mention shameful.

At Eclectablog of Michigan, Eclectablog writes—Debunking the Republican myth that Michigan is a “Comeback State”:
come·back – noun ˈkəm-ˌbak\ — A return to a former position or condition (as of success or prosperity)
Eclectablog logo
I feel like Governor Snyder and his administration have a different dictionary than I do. He has repeatedly claimed lately (as part of the non-launch of his 2014 campaign) that Michigan is the “Comeback State”. The only thing that I can figure is that when you look up the word “comeback” in their dictionary, it says “to stop developing, progressing, moving, etc. : to be or become stagnant”. [...]

It’s funny but, after going down for months, shortly after the governor signed the bill to make the birthplace of the modern labor movement a right to work state, the unemployment rate reversed course and started going UP. For the past three months, while most other states have enjoyed a decreasing unemployment rate, Michigan has flat-lined at 9%, nearly two percentage points above the national average of 7.3%.

At Blue Virginia, lowkell writes—Combating Revisionist History on Bob McDonnell and the Transportation Bill:
Among the many other absurd claims made by Bob McDonnell and his supporters to try and burnish his supposed "accomplishments" as governor of Virginia the past 4 years, perhaps the most absurd is how great he was on "fixing" transportation in Virginia. That's wrong on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin. Let's just review this history a bit, before the revisionism gets etched in stone.

1. See my 9/26/09 blog post, which summarizes a Washington Post editorial (entitled "Drunk Driving"), blasting then-candidate Bob McDonnell's transportation "plan" as "yield[ing] only disappointment." Why is that? Well, perhaps because it "relies on wildly optimistic assumptions, brazen exaggerations, gauzy projections and far-off scenarios: budget surpluses and revenue growth that may not materialize; interstate tolls that the federal government may not approve; royalties from offshore oil and gas wells that may not be drilled; borrowing that the state may not be able to afford anytime soon." As if that's not bad enough, the Post adds that the $500 million McDonnell promises he'd raise from selling off Virginia's liquor stores is nothing but an "invented" number or, "worse, an intentional distortion." The bottom line, in the Post's (and my) view, is that McDonnell's 2009 transportation "plan"—using the word very loosely—"crumbles under close scrutiny." #FAIL [...]

7. Finally - NO, we have NOT solved Virginia's transportation problems by any stretch, nor are we any closer to having a serious vision for where Virginia's transportation system should be headed for 10, 20, 30, 50 years down the road, at a time when we need to be slashing fossil fuel consumption. Nor is there any vision of how transportation might integrate with land use in a serious smart-growth vision for Virginia. Instead, it's more likely that this law will simply perpetuate the huge mistakes we've made for decades in promoting a sprawl model of growth and development, one that has failed on almost every level, and one that is completely unsustainable and incompatible with the enormous challenge of climate change. Yet this was the "best" our political system, "led" by Governor McDonnell, could produce. It's pitiful, and certainly shouldn't be touted as a great "accomplishment" by Bob McDonnell. Not that anything will stop him from doing so, self-promoting politician that he is. Ugh.

Below the orange gerrymander, you will find additional progressive state blog excerpts.

At Capital & Main of California (formerly Frying Pan News), Jon Zerolnick exposes a rip-off in Trucking Companies to California: Your Puny Laws Don’t Apply to Us:

Several leading port trucking companies have taken a bold new position in the ongoing battle over whether or not they are misclassifying drivers as independent contractors. In recent filings with the U.S. District Court, they have attempted to position themselves as beyond the reach of California’s employee protection laws. In effect, they are saying that whether or not they are misclassifying drivers there is nothing the State of California can do about it.

Some background: Of the approximately 12,000 port truck drivers in Southern California—about 110,000 nationwide—the overwhelming majority are improperly classified as “independent contractors.” This has dramatic repercussions, as these low-income, mostly immigrant drivers are thereby denied basic workplace rights and protections: no minimum wage or overtime or OSHA protections, no disability or workers comp or unemployment insurance, no legal right to organize a union. Instead, drivers are saddled with payments for the trucks they drive, leaving them to sometimes make pennies per hour for a 60+ hour work week.

Recently, various levels of government have taken notice and begun to address a scheme that deprives the public of millions in unpaid taxes. In recent years, both the federal and state governments have filed lawsuits against California port trucking companies over their misclassification of drivers, and the state Labor Commissioner has begun to hear some of the hundreds of driver claims seeking redress. Unsurprisingly, once the facts come to light drivers are being ruled employees: Of the 19 identified Labor Commissioner rulings in the past year or so, all 19 have found drivers to be illegally misclassified, and owed an average of about $66,000 each. (The Labor Commissioner uses a stringent, multi-factor test.)

At Scrutiny Hooligans of North Carolina, Sean McNeal writes—Raleigh Digest: News or Hackery?:
Scrutiny Hooligans
As many of you have no doubt seen in the media recently, a new “news” source has hit WNC. The Raleigh Digest, produced by InTouchNC, was distributed by the Asheville Citizen-Times along with other paid advertisements before the Thanksgiving holiday.

I put quotes around the word news in the preceding paragraph because of the complete absence of any attempt at journalistic integrity by the folks at InTouchNC. This essay will show why The Raleigh Digest is indeed not journalism, but partisan propaganda, despite representative Tim Moffitt’s attempts to portray it as otherwise. [...]

So what makes The Raleigh Digest political advertising and not a newspaper? Lois Boynton, a University of North Carolina journalism professor and a fellow at the school’s Parr Center for Ethics, puts it this way: “But since Tim Moffitt wants the Citizen-Times to insert the publication in its paper, then it appears that it falls in the category of paid advertisement and should be identified as such. The publication does include who publishes it, which is helpful, although there isn’t a lot of info about who InTouchNC is.“ -

At Uppity Wisconsin, Man MKE writes—YET ANOTHER POLITIFRAK: In latest Walker state-pay claim, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel largely avoids context:
Uppity Wisconsin state blog
Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Politifact column examined a supposedly burning question: Was Scott Walker truthful when he said most public employees in Wisconsin are paying more for health insurance, but still paying less than private sector workers? Politifact ruled he was being mostly truthful. "Mostly" because, said Poiitifact, Walker made it sound like all public employees in Wisconsin were paying more, when his union-busting law only ensured higher insurance premiums for state government employees, not necessarily other public employees like teachers or municipal workers.

There's other, more important context to consider regarding Walker's statement, but the newspaper utterly ignored it. Sadly, that's a recurring defect in Politifact analysis. The truthfulness rating of a statement by a public figure is too often marred by the statement's relative inconsequence, or by analysis that fails to put the statement into reasonable perspective.

At Cottonmouth of Mississippi, Matt Eichelberger writes—Greenwood Commonwealth: Gov. Bryant's "mulishness" bad for Mississippi:
The op-ed begins:
It’s obvious that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant erred terribly when he blocked Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney from setting up a state-run health-insurance exchange.

Bryant’s not just made it harder for the uninsured to get coverage, as required by Obamacare. He may also be costing them more when they do find it, according to an analysis published Sunday by The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson.

The entire article is required reading, but yeah, that's pretty much the whole story about Gov. Bryant (R) and his pigheadedness when it comes to anything at all Washington-related. I was actually mildly surprised to see Gov. Bryant's statement of support for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R) yesterday, considering how every other word out of Bryant's mouth is anti-spending Tea Party propaganda.
At Texas Kaos, Libby Shaw writes—Greg Abbott sues Obama while ignoring the foxes in his backyard:
Attorney General and 2014 gubernatorial candidate for Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, likes to boast about how he goes to work to sue Obama everyday and then go home.  

While the Texas Attorney General is pathologically obsessed with suing the federal government, it seems that Mr. Abbott has deliberately chosen to ignore the foxes guarding some of our state's agencies. Not to mention that our Attorney General and Governor wannabe is a total shill for himself. [...]

In 2007 the majority of Texas voters said YES to fund the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.

Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2007 establishing the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas.  CPRIT's goal is to expedite innovation and commercialization in the area of cancer research and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs and services throughout the state. Under the guidance of its governing body, the Oversight Committee, CPRIT accepts applications and awards grants for a wide variety of cancer-related research and for the delivery of cancer prevention programs and services by public and private entities located in Texas. All CPRIT-funded research will be conducted in state by Texas-based scientists and reflect CPRIT's mission to attract and expand the state's research capabilities and create high quality new jobs in Texas.
Although the goals of CPRIT were noble enough to attract some of the nation's most distinguished scientists who were committed to fast track research on cancer prevention and cures, greedy politicians and their crony donors had other plans.

Where voters and scientists envisioned miracles, politicians saw dollar signs.

Indeed, only in Rick Perry's Texas could cancer research become a cash cow.

At Daily Kingfish of Louisiana, bucktownpirate writes—Who Is The Fund For Louisiana?:
Daily Kingfish, state blogs
David Vitter’s VitterPAC has made some news lately, specifically in its attempt to blow the cap off of donations here in Louisiana. But who exactly is behind this thing?

First, we know the former Romney SuperPAC (“Restore Our Future“) council Charles Spies is the chair. As usual, teet-sucking Politico calls him a “politico to watch“:

Spies recalls his first political memory as his father — then a Republican-appointed U.S. attorney — was fired when Jimmy Carter won the presidency in 1976…“The verdict may be out on how helpful super PACs were in the general election,” he said. But “it’s indisputable that in a primary election, it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

So, Spies is the mover behind this, and other, rightwing SuperPACs. But who’s the local connection? Is there one?

At of Seattle, Darryl goes for the jugular, saying—UW President Michael Young is an Embezzler:
UW President Michael Young just got a raise to $570,000 . But, under his hiring agreement, he would receive an additional million in “deferred compensation” if he stays through 2016.
horsesAss blog, state blogs
Presumably, all this compensation is based on Young’s “fitness” to serve the lofty role as a University President. In creating that contract, the Board of Regents inherently expressed a belief that Young has the temperament, wisdom, and values to lead the state’s premier institution of higher learning—to serve as the state’s intellectual commander-in-chief, if you will.

But given his recent public statement, it’s a façade. Rather than serving as a thoughtful steward of our state’s intellectual life, he has succumb to FOX News style truth-is-whatever-makes-me-feel-redeemed punditry.

And that makes him an embezzler—after millions of our tax dollars.

I know, I know, that doesn’t sound like he is an embezzler in the classic sense. I mean, it’s not like he is actually stealing money he isn’t entitled to. And, granted, he really does have a contract for his salary. But hear me out….

At South Dakota Madville Times, writes—Buy-Back Program Seeks to Undo Tribal Land Fractionation, Boost Development:
Madville Times of South Dakota
One of the biggest obstacles to business and housing development on the Pine Ridge reservation is fractionated land ownership. In 1887, Congress deeded tribal land to individual Indian owners. Those original 80- to 160-acre allotments have been sliced and diced by inheritance into unworkably small plots. A developer who wants to acquire a few acres to build a factory or a housing subdivision may have to cobble together land deals with dozens of separate owners.

Fortunately, Uncle Sam is stepping in to clear this obstacle to private enterprise. As part of the landmark Cobell settlement, the Department of Interior and Oglala Sioux Tribe have agreed on a Land Buy-Back Program to get titleholders to sell their land and consolidate ownership under tribal trust. [...]

Notice that this program is cooperative and voluntary, not a land grab using eminent domain like the Keystone XL pipeline. This federal program will empower tribal entrepreneurs to invest in local economic development.

At Green Mountain Daily of Vermont, rosemarie Jackowski ponders—The Bennington Quagmire:
Those who say any publicity is good, might not be right this time.  The new Anti-panhandler law has brought focus to Bennington from far and wide. Most of the publicity has been very negative.  We need to find a way out of this quagmire.
Locally the law has generated the largest citizen protest since March 20, 2003.  That protest opposed The Shock and Awe war which caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

A few citizens are asking questions about a possible conflict of interest. Three members of the Select Board have connections to businesses on Main Street.  Whether or not any law was broken is not the issue. There is a perception of impropriety.  Select Boards represent all citizens, not only the business community.

Some citizens are circulating petitions so that the law will be the subject of a citizen vote.

Many others, have serious concerns about the impact of this law on taxes. Laws restricting free speech have been overturned all over the country. Legal battles are expensive. Will taxpayers be at risk if the law is challenged on Constitutional grounds?  The 'law-of-unintended-consequences' might come back to haunt us sometime in the near future.

Beyond all that, there is another question. Was the law based on 'misinformation'?

Green Mountain Daily of Vermont
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Comment Preferences

  •  For truckers, is an Executive Order the solution? (6+ / 0-)

    Seems like an easy thing to fix, no?  Maybe John Podesta can look into that.

    If cutting Social Security & Medicare benefits for low income seniors is what Democrats do after they win a budget standoff, I'd hate to see what they do after they lose one.

    by Betty Pinson on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 09:10:26 AM PST

  •  Governor Goodhair(Bob McD).. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, Puddytat, LinSea, akeitz

    probably couldn't see any traffic, given his habit of zooming around VA in the Ferrari his contributor let him "borrow."

    •  Isn't it more Governor Helmut Hair? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's a very sore point with me, how Governor McDonnell has handled transportation issues or rather NOT handled them.  These public private partnerships stink up to high heaven -- the governor gets to pretend he's doing something about traffic and enrich his cronies at the same time.

      Meanwhile the traffic around Fort Belvoir in Fairfax county gets more dangerous as more and more jobs move there as a result of bad BRAC decisions made.  Folks who used too work in Crystal City now drive south to Bevoir and I-95 has stopped cars backed up onto I-95 south from the intersection of Loisdale Road and the Fairfax County Parkway.  There have been fatal accidents where trucks have plowed into the line of stopped cars.

      I hope the new governor does something about this!

  •  Thanks for keeping us informed of (5+ / 0-)

    state news.  It's important to keep our eye on the ball and not focus exclusively on national elections and politics.  The fallout from 2010 should incentivize everyone to pay attention to state and local matters more than they normally do.

    We're seeing firsthand how the 2010 Red Tide election has impacted the ACA with GOP Governors sabotage in refusing state exchanges and Medicaid expansion.  

    There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

    by Puddytat on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 11:58:38 AM PST

    •  While I fumbled for the words, Puddytat says (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, Puddytat

      it all. Thanks, MB, for helping to widen my sometimes somewhat narrow viewpoints. And, thanks, Puddytat, for speaking what so many of us feel.

      Dance lightly upon the Earth, Sing her songs with wild abandon, Smile upon all forms of Life ...and be well.

      by LinSea on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 12:09:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  In RE: Walker/State Employee HC costs (0+ / 0-)

    The strawman of compartmentalizing compensation rears its ugly head yet again.

    It's simple logic: An employer can pay 100% of the costs of health insurance, and still compensate an employee less than someone else working somewhere else that pays only X% of the premiums instead of 100%.  If John Smith makes $50k/year as a lawyer working for ABC and gets 100% of his $15k/year health insurance premium paid by the state, and Jack Sixpack works as a lawyer for XYZ with a $75k/year salary and his employer only covers 75% of his $18k premium, Jack Sixpack is compensated better than John Smith, and John Smiths employer is getting a bargain even though they cover the full nut of Johns health care premiums.

    Compartmentalization of compensation costs is a huge, huge strawman, because it does not give a clear picture of how much an employee costs an employer compared to anyone else - it's the total cost of the employee that really matters.  So why some people are so naive that they can get so up in arms and pissed off over compartmentalized compensation costs is beyond my ability to comprehend.

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