Abby Rapoport

Voter ID's $7 Million Ohio Price Tag

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)

The fight over voter identification laws generally gets debated over two major questions. 1) How important is it to stop in-person fraudulent voting (despite virtually no evidence that this is a problem)? And 2) How important is it to protect access to the ballot, particularly for those who have faced discrimination in the past? Poor and minority citizens are less likely to have photo IDs, meaning the laws may suppress voting among vulnerable communities. Though there are obvious partisan implications, voter ID debates are generally moral debates about the nature of voting and citizenship. 

But in Ohio, where lawmakers are considering a strict photo-ID requirement, one think-tank took a different approach: Just how much will this whole thing cost?

Move Over Housewives: The Real Governors of Virginia

(Flickr/videocrab)

I'm in the midst of reporting gig, so blogging's been a bit slow lately. But I rushed to my computer when I saw the news: Tareq Salahi has announced he's running for governor of Virginia.

The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, Focused Largely in Wisconsin

A 2009 Tea Party rally in Madison protesting then-Governor Jim Doyle. (Flickr/cometstarmoon)

Based on emails from the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, the Tea Party-affiliated political action committee seems more like the Campaign to Support Scott Walker. Daily—sometimes multiple times a day—the organization sounds out emails blasting the move to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 

The emails don't mince words. An April 15 email (subject line: Fox News + Wall Street Journal ALERT) tells subscribers that "If Obama's operatives and the union bosses win, they will export their tactic of million-dollar funded RECALLs against Republican governors across the country, and they will likely win Wisconsin's 10 Electoral Votes for Obama in November." 

Six States, Six Fates for Pro-Life Bills

(Flickr/SMN)

As states around the country consider legislation to limit access to abortion and reproductive rights, the outlook isn't bright for women's health advocates. Here's the latest from five states:

A New Kind of Gold Standard?

(Flickr/tao_zhyn)

In the latest issue of the magazine, I have a piece examining a strange and growing trend in some conservative circles—pushing states to adopt alternative currencies to the federal dollar. The basic concern is one you've probably heard from Ron Paul: The Federal Reserve can't be trusted, the national debt is out of control, so the U.S. dollar, backed only by faith in the government, may become worthless. (The story outlines some of the more obvious economic problems with this theory.)

To deal with the concern, problem-solving state lawmakers have started introducing bills to create a second currency, one of gold and silver. Sounds like a fringe concept right? 

Relax, Ladies! The Texas GOP Has Your Back

(Flickr/ Planned Parenthood Federation of America)

Texas health officials are telling low-income women not to worry. The Women's Health Program, the Medicaid program serving 130,000 women, will still be there for them. Of course, how it will be paid for and whether enough clinics will be left providing services are still subjects up for debate.

ALEC Gives In, But There's No Reason to Celebrate

(Flickr/Sunset Parkerpix)

After weeks of pressure, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) appears to be backing away from long-term efforts at creating barriers to voting (voter-ID laws) and pushing "Stand Your Ground" legislation. The latter allows those who feel threatened in public places to use force; Florida's version is currently at the center of the Trayvon Martin case. Giving in to public pressure, ALEC announced Tuesday that it was disbanding its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which promoted such legislation and helped see it proliferate.

To Infinity—and Alabama

(Flickr/NASA Goddard)

I have one word I want to say to you: Spaceports.

The space shuttle program may be over, but for some states, now's the time to get excited about the great beyond, thanks to the idea of launch sites for cargo, satellites, and—of course—commercial flights

The Federal Aviation Authority has already licensed eight such sites in six states across the country. Now Alabama is shooting to get one of its own.

Will Connecticut Abolish the Death Penalty?

(Flickr/League of Women Voters)

Connecticut may become the fifth state in the last five years to end the death penalty. The state Senate will likely vote today on a measure that would end capital punishment in all future cases. However, it would not have a direct impact on any of the 11 people currently on death row. If the Senate approves the measure, it will probably have an easy path forward; both the House and the governor support the repeal. But the vote will almost certainly be very close.

In New York, a Bipartisan Call for Reproductive Rights

(Flickr/M. Markus)

A few weeks ago, Teresa Sayward did the unthinkable. The New York state Republican assembly woman told a state news program that she'd consider voting for Obama. "I really, truly think that the candidates that are out there today for the Republican side would take women back decades," she said on Capitol Tonight. 

Tennessee Lawmakers Tackle Sagging Pants

(Flickr/ Tobyotter)

Tennessee's lawmakers have been on a roll with vital pieces of legislation, necessary to the well-being of their residents. There's the bill to protect teachers who tell students that scientific ideas like evolution and climate change aren't necessarily true. There's the bill to ensure public buildings can display the Ten Commandments (and other "historically significant documents") if they choose. But now, they've really hit the meat of important issues with a bill to outlaw saggy pants.

Is There An Actual Crisis in U.S. Education?

(Flickr/-Marlith-)

Over at the American Journalism Review, The Washington Post's Paul Farhi has a much-needed critique on how the "education in crisis" narrative cropped up in journalism across the country. Farhi, a veteran education reporter, notes how widespread the idea of school failure has become, pointing out that in January alone, there were at least 544 stories about "failing schools" (He doesn't even mention the report from the Council on Foreign Relations arguing education has gotten so bad it constitutes a national security risk).

With the Wisconsin Recall Official, Who's Winning?

(Flickr/Sue Peacock)

With the Wisconsin recall election now official, state Democrats are in a sticky place. Pro-recall forces were able to look united through much of the process, and the million petitions they turned in sent a powerful signal that folks were united against the governor. But there are currently four Democratic candidates hoping they'll be the one to displace Walker. Furthermore, there are no clear winners; two Democrats are in a virtual tie, both in their primary and against Governor Scott Walker.

It Takes an Election

Last year's Save Texas Schools rally produced thousands of people, but education funding was still slashed by $5.4 billion. (Flickr/matthewjuran)

Last year, Save Texas Schools held a rally that wowed most of us covering it. Around 10,000 people came from across the state, traveling hours on buses to demand lawmakers prioritize education funding, and forego the unprecedented cuts the legislature's initial budget had proposed. In a state with little history of organization and few structures for bringing people together, the rally was an impressive success. 

But here's the thing: Even with the public outcry, lawmakers went ahead and slashed education funding anyway.

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