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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 Eclectablog of Michigan, Eclectablog writes—The data is clear: Emergency Management not working in Detroit Public Schools:

The entire premise of Emergency Management is that it solves problems municipalities and school districts are unable or unwilling to solve on their own. Granted extraordinary powers, Emergency Managers are put in place to drastically change things and put them on the right footing.

What the Detroit schools situation shows is that the problems in Detroit aren’t simply financial and they aren’t simply a matter of poor management. Without addressing the core issues of poverty, blight, crime, and a host of other modern plagues experienced by our aging urban cores, no amount of cost-cutting, privatizing, experimental teaching models, or management gimmickry is going to have the desired impact.

We have a serious problem in Detroit when it comes to education. The question is whether our political leaders will have the courage, creativity, and desire to address them with something more than window dressing and un-democratic takeovers. At the moment, that answer to that question, at least from the Republicans in the legislature and our Republican governor, appears to be “no”.

As Dr. Pedroni asks: “For Snyder’s theft of Detroit’s children’s future, will a moment of accountability ever come?”

At Appalachian Voices of West Virginia, Brian Sewell writes—Appalachian Coal Companies Face Major Fines For Clean Water Act Violations:
Appalachian Voice state blog
The fine is the result of a proposed consent order in a federal district court. The order must still be signed by a judge. Declining to comment, an attorney for Nally & Hamilton simply said “the consent decree speaks for itself.”

The news comes just a few days after a settlement was reached between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Alpha Natural Resources—the largest mountaintop removal mining operator in the U.S.—stipulating that the company must pay a $27.5 million fine for violations of the Clean Water Act at mines and coal preparation plants in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. It is the largest ever civil penalty under the water pollution permitting section of law.

In addition to the record-setting fine, Alpha said it will spend approximately $200 million to install and operate wastewater treatment systems and reduce pollution discharges at its coal mines in those five states.

These types of violations are nothing new, nor are they isolated incidents. Indeed, the enforcement action against Alpha alleges more than 6,000 discharge permit violations between 2006 and last year.

Excerpts from other progressive state blogs can be found below the orange gerrymander.

At The Mudflats of Alaska, Jeanne Devon writes—Ms. Underestimated in Fairbanks:

Mudflats blog
Despite recent attempts by Republican Borough Assemblyman Lance Roberts to bully the Fairbanks Co-op Market into no longer carrying Ms. Magazine, this week a new shipment arrived and was stocked on the shelves. Roberts stated that he felt the magazine’s support of reproductive choice for women was tantamount to the Co-op Market condoning “genocide,” and announcing on his Facebook page that feminism was “heresy.”

When Roberts learned of the Co-op’s decision to discontinue selling the publication, he beat his chest in his own newsletter, reveling in the outcome of his threats to boycott the market, and the fact that the “extreme” magazine had been pulled.

After public outcry and national media attention, the Co-op Market’s management reconsidered the original decision to discontinue the magazine, and their change of heart seems to have paid off. The quarterly magazine sold out in less than 48 hours, and a second shipment of Ms. will arrive in the coming two weeks. Locals have stepped up to support the member run Co-op, and new memberships have even resulted from the decision to restock the magazine.

“I know many people who were planning to come down to purchase a copy, but didn’t get the chance Monday or Tuesday,” said Co-op Market member Kayt Sunwood. “Worthy of note: many of these people are new Co-op members. Ms. is good for business!” [...]

At Calitics, Brian Leubitz writes—San Bernardino Looks at Chemical Mining and Processing Facilities:
Nationwide, the impact of fracking on water supplies has been staggering. The Environment America Research and Policy Center estimated last fall that at least 250 billion gallons of water has been used in fracking operations for 80,000 wells in 17 states.

That's why a Tetra Technologies project in Southern California is beginning to attract attention. The Texas-based company has filed paperwork for a project in San Bernardino County with hopes of adding five additional production wells in order to expand its sodium chloride (aka salt) and calcium chloride mining production by 20 percent. (Both sodium chloride and calcium chloride are widely known to be chemicals used in fracking.)

Calitics logo
The company's January 2013 Mining Plan Amendment would seem to fit in with Tetra Technologies' recent growth in the fracking industry. Earlier this month, it bought WIT Water Transfer, a firm that provides water services for fracking. Last year, it purchased Patterson-UTI Energy Inc.'s fracking services unit for $42.5 million in 2012. Yet the company has said little, billing itself as a "salt mining operation" to anyone who asks. [...]

Yet San Bernardino County hasn't seemed to be taking the necessary steps to ensure full Tetra Tech's full compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. It's unclear what, if any, mitigation be required. Hopefully, answers will emerge soon.

At Blog for Arizona, Donna Gratehouse writes—Conservative women sure get away with being bossy:
Sheryl Sandberg has sparked a healthy debate with the campaign she started aimed at getting people to stop using the word “bossy’ to describe girls. While it may not seem like a big deal at first, when you think about it and look at the evidence, it’s clear that “bossy” is applied to assertive girls far more often than similarly outgoing boys and is really a euphemism for something else. As Amanda Marcotte puts it:

Indeed, “bossy” is a synonym for “bitch,” I’d say. I’m not here to rehash the tired Sandberg debates (nor do I care to debate the bossy nature of the “Ban Bossy” campaign), but I think it’s actually quite brilliant the way she and her people figured out that “bossy” is the training bra version of the word “bitch” or “bitchy”. It’s a way to call someone a “bitch” when she’s still a little kid and using the harsher word seems unseemly.

This #banbossy campaign also reminds me of how some women who are quite aggressive and domineering manage to do very well. I’m speaking, of course, of the many women who have become prominent in the conservative movement, such as Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, and the godmother of them all, Phyllis Schlafly. These women find lucrative employment with right wing think tanks and publishing houses, as well as the speaking circuit. They preach traditional gender roles for everyone else while personally enjoying the careers and independence that are the fruits of the feminist movement they constantly deride. It’s unbelievably hypocritical but they get away with it—indeed, they’re rewarded for it—because they’re bossing other women (and low status men) around.[...]

At The Seminole Democrat, Vin Fl writes—Unreported $500,000 Donation an ‘Accounting Error’, Says Rick Scott:
The Seminole Democrat state blog
How the hell do you "misplace" a half million dollars? Or do you just not want people to know where the money came from?


This is one of the many things that Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign can do that we apparently cannot. The donation, given by Florida Crystals to Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work”—a committee designed to help Scott during his campaign—was one of the largest donations in the race.

It’s also not on any of the books.

At Indy Democrat Blog of Indiana, writes—Lawmakers Roll Back Eleven Funding:
Indy Democrat Blog
Indiana lawmakers are wisely tapping the breaks on a giveaway stadium building deal for the Indy Eleven soccer team.

The Eleven hasn't played a game yet, and lawmakers were concerned that the numbers just didn't add up, according to WTHR.

The bill, which passed the House, bypassed the hearing process and is headed for a conference committee.  At that committee, members will be asked to take out the funding for the soccer stadium in SB 308.  If that holds up, the funding will be dead this session.  Senate President David Long told WTHR that he'd rather deal with the soccer team's funding next year during a long session.

It's a big setback for the Indy Eleven who were hoping to get $87 million plus a ten percent ticket tax to help pay off the bond over 30 years.  As for now, they have to pin their hopes on the conference committee not changing its mind and/or having a good first year in Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI.

At Progress Illinois, Aricka Flowers writes—Schneider Pushes For Unemployment Benefits Vote In House, Senate Reaches Tentative Deal:
U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL,10) has taken steps to push for the reactivation of long-term unemployment benefits in his chamber.
state blogs, Progress Illinois
On Wednesday, Schneider introduced a discharge petition that could force the House to vote on an unemployment benefits extension package that would help the two million Americans who have seen their jobless insurance lapse since the December 28 expiration, which immediately affected 80,000 Illinoisans. An average of 72,000 Americans are losing their unemployment insurance each week as a result of the expiration of benefits for the long-term unemployed.

“Failing to extend unemployment insurance, a critical lifeline for many of our families, is shortsighted and hurts our communities and businesses,” Schneider said in a  release announcing his plans. “If my colleagues want to vote against the extension, I respect their right to disagree; but failing to even allow a vote goes against the very progress that families and our constituents demand. Partisan politics must not be allowed to get in the way of doing the right thing for our middle class families. That’s why I will file a measure to end the gridlock and force a vote on extending unemployment insurance.”

At Hillbilly Report, Berry Craig writes—Was it Mitch McConnell's Mike Dukakis moment?:
Just about everybody says Mitch McConnell laid an egg at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Worse for Kentucky’s senior senator, he might have handed the opposition a golden Mike-Dukakis-in-the-tank moment.

The campaign of Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s almost certain Democratic foe in the fall (provided he beats tea party-tilting Matt Bevin in the May GOP primary), is already pouncing on McConnell’s misfortune. “Biggest Gaffe of the Year” says a fresh press release from Team Switch.

McConnell made his grand entrance at CPAC packing heat. He beamed and brandished what looked like a pioneer-style Kentucky Long Rifle. The smoke pole was a replica – an award from a grateful National Rifle Association to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who is retiring for health reasons.

Charlton Heston’s famous gun-hugging brought down the house at NRA conventions. McConnell’s reprise bombed at CPAC.

The only decent applause he got was when he passed the rifle to Coburn. After that, McConnell delivered a brief bloviation full of his usual anti-Democratic sound and fury. But it signified nothing based on the crowd’s not so gung-ho response.

At HorsesAss.Org of Washington, Goldy writes—A “Total Compensation” Minimum Wage Could Force Real Take-Home Wages to Fall:
Having already lost the local debate on the minimum wage in general, and on $15 in particular, the business interests on Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee have largely adopted a strategy of attempting to redefine the meaning of the word “wage” itself. The restaurant industry has long pined for a “tip credit” (or “tip penalty” from the perspective of workers) in which tips are counted towards meeting the minimum wage. But that wouldn’t lower the labor costs of businesses that rely on non-tipped employees, and so a strong push is being made to adopt the more sweeping notion of “total compensation.”

I’ll delve more deeply into the tip penalty debate in a subsequent post, but for the moment I want to focus on total compensation, which in addition to tips, would count the cost of providing  health insurance, sick leave, vacation leave, 401K matches, and other non-cash benefits toward the employer’s requirement to pay a minimum $15 an hour wage. And to better understand the impact of adopting a $15 an hour total compensation minimum wage, it is useful to start with a real-life example:

horsesAss blog, state blogs
Let’s say you are a dishwasher working full-time at a midrange Seattle restaurant, earning $10.50 an hour plus $3 an hour in pooled or shared tips. You’re taking home the equivalent of $13.50 an hour, plus benefits. I guess there are worse jobs, but it’s hardly a living wage.

Now let’s say we pass a $15 total compensation minimum wage.

Based on the monthly price I’ve been quoted for COBRA, minus my share of the premium that had been deducted from my paychecks, I can estimate that I had cost The Stranger about $1.60 an hour for our so-so medical and dental coverage—let’s assume that’s typical for a restaurant. Then there’s a shift meal, with a retail price of $12.00, or another $1.50 an hour over the course of an 8 hour shift. Add two weeks vacation for another $0.40 an hour. Paid sick leave, that’s another $0.20 an hour still. I’m sure there are other benefits I’m missing, but this is more than enough to make my point. That’s already $3.70 an hour in benefits just there.

So… $10.50 an hour in wages, plus $3 an hour in tips, plus $3.70 an hour in benefits, and after our wonderful new $15 minimum wage ordinance passes, you’ll magically be making $17.20 an hour! That’s great! Except your take-home pay won’t increase a penny. In fact, some unscrupulous employers may seize this as an opportunity to actually lower wages. Hooray for total compensation!

At BlueNC, scharrison writes—Undue influence: Duke Energy pulled DENR's strings on lawsuit:
This should go over well with Federal investigators:

The emails were provided Thursday to The Associated Press by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which had filed notice in January 2013 of its intent to sue Duke under the Clean Water Act.
Within days, the emails show a Duke lobbyist contacted the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, where staff exchanged messages discussing "how Duke wants to be sued."

The agency used its authority to intervene in the lawsuit, quickly negotiating a proposed settlement where the $50 billion company would pay a $99,100 fine but be under no requirement to stop its pollution.

Honestly, I didn't think they could be this stupid. Apparently I overestimated their ability to contemplate more than five minutes into the future.
At BlueOregon, Kari Chisholm writes—OR-2: Greg Walden draws a serious Democratic opponent:
Oregon's 2nd congressional district is tough turf for Democrats. Over the last seven elections, Congressman Greg Walden's vote total has hovered between 67% and 73%.
Blue Oregon
Over the years, his opponents have run the gamut from serious to near-comical. The good news for 2014? He faces one of his toughest opponents yet.

Meet Aelea Christofferson. She's a successful business owner from Bend who has served on the Oregon Health Fund Board advisory committee and on the board of Cover Oregon.
"Cover Oregon?", you say? That's right. And she's not afraid to mix it up with Congressman Walden over his many, many votes to repeal health care reform.[...]

It's going to be a tough hill to climb to beat Greg Walden. But even if she just succeeds in pinning him down here at home to campaign, instead of traveling the country raising money and supporting candidates as the NRCC chairman, well, that's a win for Democrats.

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Comment Preferences

  •  fines (15+ / 0-)
    The news comes just a few days after a settlement was reached between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Alpha Natural Resources—the largest mountaintop removal mining operator in the U.S.—stipulating that the company must pay a $27.5 million fine for violations of the Clean Water Act at mines and coal preparation plants in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. It is the largest ever civil penalty under the water pollution permitting section of law.
    Until fines cost more than going green, they accomplish nothing.  

    Actions speak louder than petitions.

    by melvynny on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:27:57 AM PDT

  •  Oh, gosh darn those (7+ / 0-)

    stupid accountants, misplacing a half-million simoleans. Of course Rick Scott wouldn't notice it initially. That's maybe a mere couple hours worth of work for him.

    This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

    by lunachickie on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:41:38 AM PDT

    •  Oh its nothing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lunachickie, Puddytat

      happens all the time. I was looking in my junk drawer the other day, and I found $20,000 given to me by an admirer, that I had forgotten about. Sheesh, he's not perfect.

      A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

      by onionjim on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 10:11:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good thing it wasn't a social program (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      like food stamps or Medicaid that lost that money.  He'd be slashing and burning those programs at the speed of light while screetching about fraud and "moochers".

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

      by Puddytat on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 01:39:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Coming soon: Rouge TV (4+ / 0-)

    Yuppers, Wassilly Sarah is getting her own channel.

    When we last saw Sarah she was making announcements on her ShoutyFace page about making announcements on her ShoutyFace page about doin’ some heavy vettin’, some hard homeworkin’ , and being very discernmental about the folks she wants her fans to vote for,  if the good Lord is willin’ and the Hoverounds start up.

    And of course, there is also her Death Metal Critter Killin’ Hour debuting soon on the Sportsman Channel (“Hold muh beer, I’ma piss and then kill sumpin‘ “) which is great news for people who are too lazy to get off the couch and go outside and torture small animals no matter how loud the voices in their heads scream at them.

    But is that enough Sarah Palin for God’s Chosen Country?

    Actually, it’s probably too much, but tough titties America, because Sarah Palin is going to get her own teevee network channel called Rogue TV and it will be in your cable box in your house and there is nothing you can do about it.

    The article is priceless. If nothing else, TBogg purr-fectly channels Bible Spice.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:49:18 AM PDT

  •  Don't see why it's Emergency Manager's fault... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It was failing before and it's still failing. All that's happened is maintaining the status quo.

  •  An Accounting Error (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Naniboujou, Puddytat
    How the hell do you "misplace" a half million dollars? Or do you just not want people to know where the money came from?
    From AATTP:

    This is one of the many things that Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign can do that we apparently cannot. The donation, given by Florida Crystals to Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work”—a committee designed to help Scott during his campaign—was one of the largest donations in the race.

    It’s also not on any of the books.

    This Florida Crystals?
  •  Hypothetical Dishwashers (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, LinSea, spacecadet1, Puddytat

    Dishwashers don't share in the tips, nor do cooks.  None of the restaurants I worked for back in the day provided paid vacation, paid sick leave or health or disability insurance.  If insurance was offered, the restaurants counted on high turnover and a 1-year period of continuous employment before an employee could be in the pool.  The employee's premiums, all or part, were deducted from the employee's pay.

    Tips in lieu of wages need to be abolished anyway.  They aren't fair and are subject to theft by the employer and even customers.

    Don't look back, something may be gaining on you. - L. "Satchel" Paige

    by arlene on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 09:12:51 AM PDT

  •  The Koch Brothers strike back? Utah call for Harry (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Reid to be "investigated":

    Two prosecutors in Utah say a corruption investigation looking at state politicians and online gambling interests has yielded evidence that could implicate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), ABC News reports.

     "The two district attorneys - one Democrat and one Republican - already working with a team of FBI agents, are urging federal prosecutors to pick up the case and investigate - something the Department of Justice has thus far declined to do. The Utah officials say the evidence relates to suspect campaign contributions and other financial transactions."

  •  ms mag heresy/indeed (0+ / 0-)

    decent wages don't eliminate jobs. Republicans eliminate jobs; and workers, and prospects, and then excuse it all and call for more austerity. there is no end to their ignorant, arrogant avarice. only political dinosaurs support their treachery.

    by renzo capetti on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 11:21:34 AM PDT

  •  Regarding the Indy Eleven soccer team ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    .... and the stadium controversy: how does a red state legislature even contemplate corporate welfare for the sport of international football (soccer) in the first place? The wingers normally consider it "womanly", "European" and "socialist" ... unworthy of "red-blooded" Americans.

      Unless the team's owner is a GOP stalwart?

    "We should pay attention to that man behind the curtain."

    by Ed Tracey on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 01:03:31 PM PDT

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