Abby Rapoport

Does Right to Work Actually Lead to More Jobs?

Flickr/quinn.anya

Most people watching the Super Bowl last night probably had no idea that only a few days before, in the same city of Indianapolis, Governor Mitch Daniels signed a law that will cripple unions. As I've written before, Indiana is the first Rust Belt state to pass a right-to-work law, which prohibits both mandatory union membership and collecting fees from non-members. The news, however, has hardly gotten the attention the labor-minded might have expected. Blame it on the big game or the GOP presidential primary. Or blame it on the loss of union power that allowed the law to pass in the first place.

State of the Week

Each Friday—well at least most Fridays—I'm going to sum up the big news happening in states around the country. To make it more interesting, I'm naming a State of the Week where the biggest news came from. See something that's missing? Tell me: arapoport@prospect.org or on Twitter @RaRapoport.

And this week's state of the week is ... Washington!

Gay marriage moves forward 

In Case You Were Underestimating ALEC's Role

Florida Representative Rachel Burgin recently filed a pretty typical bill for a conservative Republican, asking the federal government to lower corporate taxes. But there was one thing that made Burgin's measure a little unusual: It began by stating the mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That's likely because Burgin's bill had its origins with the corporate-funded nonprofit. 

Q&A: What to Make of Facebook's IPO

Flickr/Thos003

Not being particularly tech-savvy, I've found following the Facebook-going-public news to be a bit perplexing. Sure, I know that the Internet behemoth just filed its IPO registration yesterday, revealing for the first time that the company has been profitable for three years and brought in $3.7 billion in revenue in 2011. But what does that mean? And what does Facebook's entry into the public market mean for the Internet? For Google? For the hundreds of millions who use the site?

It Pays to Be Rich

Flickr/Yeshe

There's not a single state in the country in which the rich pay a higher percentage of their income in state (though not federal) taxes than the poor. According to a state-by-state scorecard from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), only Washington, D.C. has an equal tax burden for its wealthiest and poorest citizens.

Indiana Senate Passes Right-to-Work

The Indiana Senate has passed so-called right-to-work legislation, paving a clear path to Gov. Mitch Daniels' desk. The passage was expected—after Democrats in the state House ended their boycotts and efforts to water down the legislation last week, there were almost no major road blocks left. Republican majorities in both chambers were already in favor of the bill and Daniels has repeatedly voiced his support. As I wrote this morning, the move marks a major turning point in labor history as Indiana becomes the first state in the traditionally pro-union northern block to pass the measure. The legislation forbids mandatory union membership and keeps unions from collecting fees from non-members. 

When Semantics Mute Substance

Iowa Congressman Steve King would be a great guest if I ever get to make my surefire TV hit "Lawmakers Say the Darndest Things." King rarely misses an opportunity to make an over-the-top or exceedingly controversial statement. There was the time he said Barack Obama's policies come down on "the side that favors the black person." There was the time he said someone in Washington needed "to stand up for the lobby." Most famously, he argued if Barack Obama were elected, terrorists would be "dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11."

It's a Toss-Up for Gabby Giffords's Seat

Before the horrific shooting last year that left her struggling to stay alive, U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords shocked politicos as one of the only Democrats to keep a Republican-leaning seat in the wake of the 2010 Tea Party wave. While her colleagues lost seats in droves and her party lost control of the House, Giffords kept her seat by a point and a half. According to Arizona Democratic Party Executive Director Luis Heredia, it was a victory that could be won by only a "a superstar candidate like Gabby Giffords."

Does Gerrymandering Violate Free Speech?

Flickr/faul

State parties across the country have already taken out knives to hack up political maps in the bloody process of redistricting. Now, many states are going to the mat to defend the highly partisan maps that, in most cases, got passed by the dominant political party in the state to the detriment of the minority party. The legal battles—particularly the ongoing Texas saga—are usually based largely around whether maps violate the Voting Rights Act. 

Indiana Wades into the Culture Wars

Indiana is hardly a state known for its intense culture wars and political battles. Mostly, it's known for one of the greatest sports movies of all time. But this year, Indiana is entering territory usually occupied by places like Kansas and Texas. The state legislature is not only about to pass a controversial bill to decrease union power; a measure to teach creationism has already passed out of the state Senate's Education Committee.

Gay Marriage Moving Forward Around the Country

It's been a good week for gay-rights advocates. Washington state gained the crucial 25th vote needed to pass same-sex marriage. The news prompted headlines around the country, but it was hardly the only place where such legislation moved forward. 

Wisconsin Walk-Through

Wisconsin activists shocked onlookers last week when they presented more than one million petitions asking for Governor Scott Walker to be recalled. Since then, the pendulum has seemingly swung in the governor's favor: high fundraising numbers, a state of the state address celebrating his policies, and a poll showing him leading four potential opponents. But there's still a lot of time left to go: two months of verifying signatures, and then, assuming at least 540,000 are valid, an election six weeks later. If there's a Democratic primary, the process will be even longer.

Does Changing the Dropout Age Matter?

Among the many policy proposals in the president's state of the union last night, you may have missed his one-liner, urging states to adopt a dropout age of 18, with a goal of reducing the dropout rate. Right now, in most states students must attend school until they are 16 or 17. However, even before last night's speech, several states were considering legislation to raise the dropout age, like Wyoming and Kentucky. Many states—19 back in 2009—already had raised the age for compulsory attendance to 18.

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