Abby Rapoport

Tom Corbett's Scary Plan for Pennsylvania Welfare

(Flickr/401K 2012)
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's first stab at a budget for this year left the education community shaking. The Republican had balanced the budget in part through deep cuts not only to the state's colleges and universities but also to school districts. That's terrifying news for a state where some districts are already considering ending kindergarten to balance budgets. Miraculously, thanks to unexpectedly high tax collections, the state's schools have been spared the chopping block. But Corbett's other proposal, major funding cuts for human services, still looks alive and kicking. State lawmakers only have until Saturday if they want to pass a budget on-time. Over the weekend, according to The Patriot News , the governor and GOP leadership agreed to spend $26.66 billion —$1.5 billion more than Corbett's initial draft. But the governor is pushing the legislature to approve a proposal that would combine several human services programs into single block grants. The change also come...

What the SCOTUS Ruling on SB 1070 Means for Other States

(Flickr/ Fibonacci Blue)
Two years ago, when the Arizona Legislature passed the controversial SB 1070, immigration rights activists feared it was only the beginning. The anti-immigrant measure put new and significant burdens on non-citizens while seemingly encouraging law enforcement officials to rely on racial profiling. Many worried similar laws would start cropping up around the country, perhaps even more extreme versions. It wasn't a pretty picture. Since today the Supreme Court struck down three of the four central pillars to SB 1070 , it's an occasion to note that this scary vision of the future has not come to pass. Since SB 1070 became law in Arizona, copy-cat laws have only appeared in five other states. In all of them—Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah—at least some provision of the law has been blocked by the courts. Consider also that, according to the National Council of La Raza, in 31 other states, efforts to pass such a law have gone nowhere —lawmakers have either voted the...

Why Perry Stands to Lose the Texas Senate Race, No Matter Who Wins

(Flickr/eschipul)
Friday night, after candidates David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz finished their debate on who would be best to fill Texas' Senate seat, Cruz fired off a shot at his opponent. He argued that Dewhurst's key supporter, Governor Rick Perry, only endorsed the lieutenant governor so that he could replace his number two . Perry, of course, quickly dismissed the allegation, but the exchange raised a good question—why has Rick Perry waded so far into a Senate primary from which he has little to gain? The race began simply enough, with the personally wealthy Dewhurst as a giant amidst a field of lesser-known and lesser-funded candidates. Few expected the race to go into a run-off at all. But thanks to a lengthy legal fight around the state's redistricting maps, the Texas primaries were postponed again and again. The extra time gave Cruz a chance to build a coalition of conservative backers. He's gotten major contributions from Grover Norquist's anti-tax group Club for Growth—national Tea Party...

How Should Voter Purges Work?

(Flickr / dailyfortnight)
The mess that is Florida's voter-purge effort keeps growing by the day. Both the ACLU and the Department of Justice are suing the state, which in turn is suing the federal government. After the state's Division of Elections declared it had found around 182,000 noncitizens on voter rolls, the state sent letters to 2,600 people of them asking if they were citizens. Those who failed to respond risk being removed from the lists. The trouble, of course, is that 500 of them proved to be citizens . Less than 100 have so far been proved ineligible to vote. Because the list examines citizenship, Hatians and Latinos are disproportionately targeted. In the meantime, the 182,000-list looms in the background, though it has not been publicly released. As legal tensions boil over, the effort has been put on hold in just about every county . But with less than 90 days until the state's primaries, many worry there will be complications when people go to vote. The debacle, however, brings to mind a...

Public Employee Union Endorse (And Help) The Guy Who Supports Dictators

It's no secret that times are tough for public employees unions and that such groups need to foster support wherever they can. But in the effort to get pro-labor candidates into office, there may need to be some limits. For instance, regardless of his stances on workers' rights, one would assume unions would shy away from openly supporting a New York city councilman who's known largely for his support of human-rights-flouting dictators Robert Mugabe and Muammar Qaddafi—let alone spending money to campaign for him. But that assumption would be incorrect. Councilman Charles Barron is running in the Democratic Congressional primary to replace U.S. Representative Edolphus Towns. Two of New York's biggest public employee unions, District Councils 37 and 1707, have already endorsed Barron and now, according to the latest from Buzzfeed , their "federal parent union," AFSCME, is poised to spend money on the councilman's behalf. Here's how Buzzfeed characterizes Barron: The candidate, New York...

Wisconsin Recall: A Conservative Case for Election Day Registration

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)
As the nation waited for the Wisconsin recall results to come in, Twitter began to light up with conservative claims of voter fraud. "Please @ me with any stories of #WI #WIrecall voter fraud," tweeted conservative radio host and pundit Dana Loesch around 11 a.m . She noted stories on busing voters in across state lines and on supposedly suspicious high turn-out rates. "It's not 'fraud' if you didn't cheat enough to rob voters of the lawmakers they choose," she wrote. Others joined in. "@GovWalker needs to make sure he wins by an amount greater than the margin of fraud," tweeted @RickMoore. "Early results show #TomBarrett leading #ScottWalker amongst dead voters, illegal aliens and cartoon characters," tweeted @rovibe71. "Dems really need to embrace honesty for 'change' and rename themselves 'The Vote Fraud Party". [sic] Disgusting" wrote @Furrystoat. These tweets all arrived as news was breaking of huge turnouts around the state and pundits were speculating about a close finish. When...

The Union Fight You Might Not Have Been Watching

(Flickr/MaineDOE)
The fight around Wisconsin's public employee unions has in the national spotlight frequently over the last 18 months—culminating in Governor Scott Walker defeating an effort to recall him from office. But while most were at least a little familiar with the Badger State's turmoil around the right to organize and collectively bargain, few have watched the unfolding drama in Maine, where Governor Paul LePage has courted controversy in his discussion of the state's unions. The governor made headlines a year ago when he removed a mural, deemed too favorable to unions, from the side of the state's Department of Labor building. (In March, a federal judge ruled in favor of LePage's decision.) But the art was only the beginning. LePage has been in a protracted battle over a collective bargaining agreement with the public employee union Maine State Employees Association, which happens to be the biggest union in the state. Stateline has a great summary of the fights , which include various...

AFL-CIO Tries to Claim Some Victories in Wisconsin

(Flickr/Sue Peacock)
After Governor Scott Walker's win in Wisconsin last night, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka decided to walk a strange line on today's press call. WaPo's The Fix has a post arguing that the call was about distancing the union from the recall effort, but to me the union president seemed eager to point to victories—a strange tactic in the face of a devastating loss. "The best-funded politician in state history spent more than $50 million to hold on to his office but he could not hold on to a majority in the state senate!" he said. True, it looks like the Democrats won a single Senate seat last night, giving them control of the chamber. But as I've written , that doesn't necessarily mean much. Barring a special session, the legislature isn't meeting again until January of 2013 —so Democrats will have to hold on past the November elections. Guy Molyneux, a pollster with Hart Research Associates, walked everyone through an election-night poll of 390 union members (as opposed to "union...

Just How Hard Was It to Vote In Wisconsin?

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)
Last night's Wisconsin recall resulted in more than just Governor Scott Walker's re-election. It also showed the tremendous difficulties some voters in the state faced simply trying to cast their ballot. While Wisconsin has had same-day registration since 2006, which helps more people get to vote, the state passed a controversial photo-ID law last year that put up new barriers. The most stringent part of the law—requiring residents to show a form of photo-ID—is not in effect thanks to a court injunction, but other elements of the law came into play yesterday as new and old voters arrived at their polling places. The Election Protection Coalition, a non-partisan group that helps monitor elections, received 1,300 phone calls on Tuesday alone, as well as an more than 500 the previous weekend. "That's remarkable," said the group's lead attorney for Wisconsin, Dara Lindenbaum. (Lindenbaum is employed by the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups in the Election...

Wisconsin's Not-So-Silver Lining

(Flickr/wackybadger)
Around 1 a.m. Wednesday night, while most of Wisconsin's recall activists coped with their candidate's decisive loss, around 30 supporters in Racine cheered as John Lehman declared victory in a state Senate race. Taking the seat gives the Democrats control of the state Senate, which was split 16-16 with one vacancy. However, Lehman's opponent, Republican Van Wanggaard, has yet to concede. It's hard to blame him. The margin of victory— less than 800 votes —practically ensures a recount. But even if the Democrats gain control of the chamber, the victory isn't likely to make much of a difference. Ostensibly, controlling the state senate will allow Democrats to thwart Walker's legislative agenda. But as I noted Monday, the legislature isn't scheduled to meet again before the November elections, which means, barring an unlikely special session, there will be no legislation to block. "Whether [Democrats] can hold the Senate in November is an open question," University of Wisconsin political...

Despite Predictions, Turnout Looks Good and Recall Activists Are Flying High

(Flickr/Sue Peacock)
"I'm pretty confident that Walker's going to go," Roberta Retrum told me last night. "I know what I hear from the people on the ground. I know how much support there is here for getting rid of Walker." Retrum, a grandmother and recall activist who's decided to run for state Assembly in November, lives in the small conservative town of Eagle River. Her confidence was seemed well meaning, but I had my doubts. After all, to have a shot at beating Walker, recall activists need turnout numbers like those during the 2008 presidential election. Retrum is one of the thousands of activists that have invested months of their lives in the recall effort. Many have formed close bonds over the last several months, as the movement has galvanized Wisconsinites who weren't particularly political before. They're an optimistic bunch, but most know the only path to winning is an extraordinary turnout, like that of 2008's presidential election. But increasingly, it looks like turnout will be high—and,...

An Uphill Battle in Wisconsin

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)
If Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is indeed recalled today, it will be an unexpected upset for his supporters. Although the latest Public Policy Polling survey, taken yesterday, shows the race tightening—Walker leads challenger Tom Barrett by 3 points with a 2.8-point margin of error—pundits are not sanguine about the chances for a Barrett victory. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell called the effort a "mistake," and many argue despite some last minute help, the DNC has been lukewarm in its support and fundraising . The New York Times ' Nate Silver had a post yesterday evening about the uphill battle Barrett supporters face : We have not officially released a forecast for the race, but Mr. Walker’s lead of about six points would translate into almost a 95 percent chance of victory if we used the same formula we did to evaluate gubernatorial races in 2010, which derives its estimates from the historical accuracy of gubernatorial polls over the past 15 years. Campaigns that are...

The Other Wisconsin Recall

While the effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has received gads of attention, most people don't know there are a variety of other recall races tomorrow—including four for state Senate. Today, Mother Jones has a nice profile of Democratic challenger Lori Compas, who's running as an alternative to Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican and a Walker supporter. Meanwhile, WaPo 's The Fix has a post on a potential scenario in which Walker wins but the Democrats take control of the state Senate. Currently, the Post notes, the Senate is evenly divided with one vacancy, which means if any of the four Democratic candidates win, the party could retake the Senate. But even if the Dems win the Senate tomorrow, it's very likely a short-lived victory. The victors will only serve until November, when they'll be up for re-election. There's not a legislative session planned between now and then, meaning that unless the governor called a special session, the would-be...

Win or Lose, Walker Recall Was No Mistake

(Flickr/ Lost Albatross)
Tomorrow, after more than a year watching the Wisconsin saga unfold, the nation will see whether Governor Scott Walker stays or goes. Nationally, Democrats haven't been outspoken in their support of the recall effort—in May, the DNC took heat for not supporting activists and just this weekend , former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told MSNBC he though the recall was a "mistake" since Walker admitted he should have sold his anti-union policies in a more conciliatory fashion. For the risk-averse, it's easy to see why the recall might seem scary. The election has offered the GOP a chance to try new tactics, flooding the airwaves in what is a relatively cheap state for campaigning. Walker's plight has become a rally cry for groups like the Tea Party Express and the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama. The GOP's business wing has poured money into his campaign. If Walker wins, it will send Republicans a clear message: Even if a politician loses local support by taking extreme positions, the...

Are the Winds Shifting Towards Wisconsin Democrats?

(Flickr/ Lost Albatross)
There's been quite a bit of bad news for the recall activists hoping to oust Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. A close primary at the beginning of the month divided party supporters and muddied the unified front activists formed when they collected over a million signatures to prompt the recall. Then there was the money—Walker spent much of 2012 testing his stump speech with out-of-state voters. Thanks to a loophole, he could receive unlimited contributions while until the recall election was officially called, giving him months to raise over $14 million —more than some presidential candidates. While Tea Party groups continued to beat the drum and paint the race as a precursor to November, reports surfaced that the DNC wouldn't be showing up to help eventual Democratic nominee Tom Barrett , which left state Democrats "furious." With all the news, poll numbers showed a fairly consistent 5-point lead for the controversial governor for the first few weeks of May. It looked fairly bleak...

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