Get Engage{d}

Are you Engage{d}

Utah, Wisconsin Legislatures Convene for Special Sessions

StateTrack’s Cheryl Robins reports that Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) of Utah and Gov. Scott Walker (R) of Wisconsin have called their respective legislatures back into to the capitals for special sessions. The Utah Legislature convened Wednesday, Oct. 16, a day after Walker called Wisconsin lawmakers back.

The Utah Legislature is considering various actions to offset the effect of the federal government shutdown on state operations. Issues under consideration include the appropriation of state funds to open and operate national parks, authorizing unemployment benefits for furloughed employees, and funding for other obligations occasioned by delays in federal funding. To view a copy of the proclamation, please click here.

Walker called the legislature back into session to consider legislation to cut taxes for property owners by $33 over two years for a typical homeowner, spending down the state surplus by $100 million. Wisconsin ended its 2011-13 budget with a $759.2 million surplus, $89 million higher than expected. The extra surplus is largely due to $71.5 million in higher-than-expected tax revenue.  The Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported that the tax cut proposal would increase the estimated shortfall in the 2015-17 budget to $725 million from $545 million.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved the property tax cut by 28-5, with Democrats arguing that the  cut would barely amount to a dollar a month and the funds instead should go into the state’s rainy day fund, which is currently $278.5 million, after a $153.2 million addition in the most recent budget. The Assembly is expected to take up and pass the legislation on Thursday and Walker  is expected to sign it shortly afterwards.

To view a copy of the Executive Order, please click here.

What the Government Shutdown Means to Your Advocacy Effort

With the government shutdown now in its second week and officials on both sides saying this may last through mid-October, Americans across the country are beginning to feel the effects of the showdown in Washington. While many have taken to the phones, social media and other traditional methods of advocacy to voice their concerns, the question is, are these messages even getting through? Even better, if the messages are getting through, is anyone there to read them?

Keep Reading…

Immigration Policy and the Inalienable Rights of ‘Non-Citizens’

California is about to embrace one of the most progressive state immigration policies in the nation. A bill expected to be signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and legislation enacted earlier this year will expand the rights of non-citizens in ways considered unimaginable a few years ago.

These historic measures will permit certain non-citizens in California to sit on juries, monitor the polls during elections in which they may not vote and even be licensed to practice law. These sweeping changes are among many passed across the nation this year as states have begun to seriously reexamine their immigration policies in the wake of a 2012 landmark Supreme Court decision.
Keep Reading…

Oregon Legislature to Reconvene to Approve Budget Compromise

CQ StateTrack’s Connor O’Brien reports that Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) has called the state’s legislature into a special session to approve a budget compromise. During the special session, which is set to convene Sept. 30, lawmakers will likely vote on a series of revenue measures that include increases in the state’s cigarette and corporate taxes as well as the elimination of a $183 personal tax exemption. The legislative package also includes cuts to the state’s Public Employees Retirement System and eliminates certain tax deductions for medical procedures for seniors, while adding funds to education services.

“This is the Oregon way,” Kitzhaber said in a statement. “I applaud my legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle for once again coming together for the benefit of all Oregonians. This framework offers a balanced approach that will allow for a sustained reinvestment in Oregon education and other critical services, like mental health, over the long term. We’re delivering for Oregon’s children, for Oregon’s economy, for Oregon’s future.”

Keep Reading…

DOJ to Back Off Enforcement in Pro-Pot States; New Legalization Battles Expected in 2014

Flag of North CarolinaU.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole has signaled that the Justice Department will not enforce federal laws banning marijuana in states that have legalized its use. Cole’s August 29 memo simply urges the states and local governments where marijuana is now legal to conduct and implement enforcement systems that address any potential threats to public safety.

The announcement is expected to embolden states to pass legislation or initiatives similar to the voter-endorsed laws that have already taken effect in Colorado and Washington. Only a few legislatures remain in session this fall and no state is poised to pass legalization legislation in 2013. But lawmakers are already readying bills for 2014 and ballot measures are being considered in several states.