Swept into office during the GOP-dominated 2010 midterms, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback pursued one of the most conservative political agendas ever hatched. Now, in the closing days of the 2014 campaign, the results of the agenda that Brownback championed have put the governor in serious danger of being defeated by a Democratic challenger.
The latest SurveyUSA poll shows Democrat Paul Davis, the state Kansas House Minority Leader, leading Brownback by a three-point margin, 46 percent to 43 percent. Brownback in recent weeks has narrowed the once comfortable lead Davis had built during the last few months of the campaign.
“There’s just a lot of negative momentum behind Brownback, and Davis has been hammering that home,” Chapman Rackaway, a political science professor at Fort Hays State University, told the New York Times.
The blowback that Brownback is facing is in large part due to the far right policies he has pushed, which include an expansion of gun rights, draconian cuts to the social safety net, and far-reaching restrictions on abortion access.
The Brownback administration in 2011 announced radical reforms to the state’s Medicaid program. The administration has come under fire for reports of possible corruption within the privatization program championed by the governor. The FBI is reportedly investigating the administration’s approval of $3 billion in contracts with companies to operate the state’s privatized KanCare program.
Brownback has come under the most criticism for conservative economic reforms that he supported and pushed through in the early years of his governorship. In 2012 the governor signed into law one of the largest tax cuts in the state’s history, which critics said would cost the state more than $2 billion over five years.
The nonpartisan legislature’s research staff analyzed the tax cuts and projected that the state would face a budget shortfall in 2014 that would grow to $2.5 billion by July 2018.
Brownback defended the tax cut in what would become one of his most iconic statements.
“On taxes, you need to get your overall rates down, and you need to get your social manipulation out of it, in my estimation, to create growth. We’ll see how it works. We’ll have a real live experiment,” Brownback said during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
The results of the experiment appear to spell trouble for the arch-conservative Brownback, who has said Kansas had $876 in its treasury when he took over as governor in 2011. The state in fact had more than $250 million thanks in large part to a one-cent sales tax hike that helped the government fund basic public services during the aftermath of the 2008 recession.
Brownback’s tax cuts have resulted in an 8 percent revenue loss that has had a negative effect on the state’s ability to fund public education and has busted the state’s economy, according to an analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The analysis also concluded that the tax cuts disproportionately benefited wealthy households.
In August, the state’s credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, and the credit bureau specifically cited the effect of the tax cuts pushed by Brownback and his conservative allies in Kansas.
Brownback has claimed that it’s too soon to judge his policies, because he says they have not had time to work.
He has blamed Democrats and the media for creating a false narrative that the experiment has failed. “I think they so desperately want what’s happening in this state to fail that they’re shopping for a factual setting to back that up because it’s working,” Brownback said during the CBN News’ The Brody File.
It’s not just Democrats that have criticized the Brownback experiment.
A collection of 100 Kansas Republicans in July announced their support for Davis. “We are deeply concerned by the direction Sam Brownback is taking Kansas,” Wint Winter, a former state senator, said during the press conference. “We are all Republicans. But we will always be Kansans first.”
The Republicans who are opposing Brownback credit not just his policies for their opposition, but also his cut-throat style of politics.
Moderate Republicans in the state legislature who voiced opposition to the administration’s policies faced primary challenges from candidates they say were backed by Brownback. “The nature of politics in Kansas has been poisoned for the next generation,” former state senator Dick Kelsey told Business Insider.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
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San Francisco lawmakers this week passed an ordinance creating protections for people entering and leaving the city’s abortion clinics. The ordinance, passed unanimously by the city Board of Supervisors, is meant to mitigate the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June buffer zone ruling.
The California city had passed a law in 2013, which like the Massachusetts law was modeled after, established a 25-foot “buffer zone” around reproductive health-care clinics, which protesters can’t enter. But in June, conservative justices on the Supreme Court struck down Massachusetts’ law, ruling that it infringes on protesters’ right to free speech. San Francisco stopped enforcing its own law as a result.
Since June, city policymakers have worked to create new clinic protections that are in line with the Court’s controversial ruling.
“When reproductive rights came under attack by the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority,” said David Campos, the ordinance’s sponsor, “our office stepped up to make sure patients here in San Francisco have access to health care without extreme harassment.”
Instead of creating a protest-free zone outside of clinics, the ordinance passed this week regulates the kind of protesting allowed within the zone.
Now, anti-choice picketers determined to yell or use megaphones will have to stand 50-feet away from clinic entrances, while those engaging in “quiet, consensual conversations” can stand closer.
Protesters are also barred from impeding access to entrances, and the law gives power to law enforcement to disperse protesters violating the provisions.
“It’s not a buffer zone in the way it was before,” Campos said in a statement. “It actually focuses on the conduct of the individual and if that individual is harassing someone.”
The new ordinance mirrors a law passed by the Massachusetts legislature in July in response to the Roberts Court’s buffer zone decision. At the time of its passage, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said that the law would protect women from facing “intimidation or threats when trying to access reproductive health care services.”
Campos echoed that sentiment in a statement on his Facebook page, saying that he’s “proud that our law balances First Amendment rights with the rights of patients to access medical care without having their privacy violated, their dignity insulted, and their health compromised.”
The post San Francisco Lawmakers Fight Back After Supreme Court’s Buffer Zone Ruling appeared first on RH Reality Check.
On November 4, control of the Senate will be in your hands. The elections are going to come down to the wire, so your vote will matter big time. And the differences between these candidates couldn't be more stark. In each race, one candidate will protect access to safe, legal abortion and affordable birth control - while the other will take away your rights. The choice in these Senate races is as clear as a stack of chocolate chip pancakes or a bag of rusty nails at Sunday brunch.
In response to the attacks of reproductive-health care, Sen. Udall has said, "It astounds me to that some still think the legality of birth control and access to reproductive health services should be subject to debate."
Sen. Kay Hagan
As a Latina Catholic and Coloradan, I care about my community. I hold a deep respect for all life, and an equally profound reverence for the respect due to every person’s conscience. I believe in social justice—the idea that each person has value, and that all of us have a moral duty to stand up for those who are poor and marginalized. I also believe in celebrating the diversity of beliefs held by my neighbors and friends by ensuring that each of us has freedom of and from religion. To me, these values are simply part of being a good person and a faithful Catholic. That’s why I am proud to be part of a statewide campaign of Catholics against Amendment 67.
Amendment 67 flies in the face of all my Catholic values. By banning birth control, abortion, and in vitro fertilization, this dangerous measure would prevent women from following their consciences when making critical moral decisions. By seeking to codify one narrow viewpoint on when life begins and whether abortion or contraception should be available, Amendment 67 would also prevent people from following their own beliefs—religious or otherwise—about these deeply personal issues. Bans on reproductive health care like Amendment 67 also particularly harm the poor and marginalized members of our communities, which is why such measures are unconscionable to me as a Coloradan and incompatible with my Catholic faith.
Throughout the Catholic tradition, from its earliest times to today, scholars, saints, and ordinary Catholics have had differing beliefs about when a developing life becomes a person. Neither St. Augustine nor St. Thomas Aquinas, two important Catholic theologians, considered the fetus in the early stages of pregnancy to be a person.
Today, not a single opinion on the subject has been pronounced as the one true Catholic belief, because there isn’t one. There are 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, and 780,000 of us right here in Colorado—we will not always agree on all things. There is no doubt, however, that our faith teaches us that a woman is a person with rights, responsibilities, and a conscience that must guide her to make the best decision for herself in light of her circumstances and beliefs, and the vast majority of Catholics have taken this to heart.
You don’t have to take only my word for it. You can listen to my fellow Coloradans Alison, Ruben, Kathy, Gina, and Mary Alice speaking out as Catholics who trust women to make these decisions for themselves with the support of family, faith, and friends they choose. Catholic civil rights and social justice champion Dolores Huerta lends her voice, too, reaching the community on the radio in English and Spanish.
At times, people are faced with the moral decision of continuing or terminating a pregnancy. For many women and men, the news of a pregnancy can be a cause for great joy, anxiety, or concern about this new life. Some experience all of these feelings, and they may change throughout a pregnancy. As a Catholic, I stand with my friends, family members, and neighbors by supporting their ability to make the decision that is best for them, even if it is not the same one I would make.
In countries where extreme proposals like Amendment 67 are the law, women suffer and die. In El Salvador, for instance, where the national constitution includes language similar to Amendment 67, more than 600 women have been jailed since 1998 for having abortions or miscarriages. This kind of extremism has no place in Colorado, a state that I love and where all people should be able to thrive.
As a pro-choice Catholic committed to social justice, I am speaking out—not in spite of my faith, but because of it. And I am proud to be part of a brave group of Catholics in Colorado and around the world who are doing the same. If you want to know what Catholics really think about the reproductive justice issues of abortion, contraception, and women’s moral autonomy, just listen to us—and stand with us in our struggle for justice for Colorado women.
The post A Colorado Catholic Speaks Out Against Amendment 67 appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Voters in 42 states on Election Day will decide an assortment of ballot measures, also known as initiatives or issues, that cover various largely polarizing political issues. Voters in five states—Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota—will decide ballot measures to increase those states’ minimum wage.
Each measure would increase the minimum wage above the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but how far above that threshold and the timeline for the increases vary by state.
Illinois is the only state of the five where the ballot measure is not legally binding. The ballot measure would only advise the state legislature to take action and increase the minimum wage. The Minimum Wage Increase Question would potentially lead lawmakers to increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 per hour.
If each measure is passed (and Illinois lawmakers acts on their constituents’ advice), it would increase the pay of at least 680,000 low-wage workers in those states, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.
Only two states, Alaska and South Dakota, include language on the ballot measures that would mandate an annual increase in the minimum wage to adjust for inflation. South Dakota is the only state in which the measure also addresses workers whose wages are made through gratuity or tips.
Each measure was placed on the ballot through a ballot initiative process, with the exception of Illinois. In order for the measures to qualify to be placed on the ballot, activists in the four states gathered and verified a total of more than 200,000 signatures.
There are organized campaigns and political action committees actively working to support the measures in each state, but there is no similar organized opposition to the minimum wage measures. While there is a partisan divide between supporters and opponents, Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate in both Alaska and Arkansas have voiced their support for boosting low wages.
Alaska Ballot Measure 3
In Alaska, Ballot Measure 3 would increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour beginning January 1. The minimum wage would be increased again to $9.75 per hour a year later. The state’s minimum wage would be adjusted for inflation or increased by $1 over the federal minimum wage—whichever is higher.
While the median household income is above the national average and the percentage of residents living in poverty is also below the national average, the cost of living in Alaska is significantly higher than most other states. Alaska has the fourth highest cost of living in the United States, behind only Hawaii, New York, and Connecticut, according to a report by the Department of Labor.
Republicans in the state house last spring introduced and passed HB 384, which would have increased the minimum wage to $9 per hour on July 1, and to $10 per hour in 2015. Even though the bill would have increased the minimum wage by more than the ballot measure, Democrats opposed it because they claimed Republicans would simply repeal the law the next year as they had done before.
Alaskan Republicans passed a bill in 2002 to mandate that the state’s minimum wage increase with inflation. That same year Democrats had successfully placed a measure on the ballot to increase the minimum wage. Once the legislation was passed, the measure was by law forced to be removed from the ballot. The next year, Republicans passed legislation to remove the inflation adjustment from the minimum wage.
When the legislative session was adjourned in April, HB 384 died in the state Senate Finance Committee.
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D) has come out in favor of raising the state’s minimum wage, and has also co-sponsored legislation to increase the federal minimum wage. Begich’s Republican opponent Dan Sullivan initially opposed the minimum wage increase, but later changed course to support the measure.
A Public Policy Polling poll found that 58 percent of Alaskans surveyed support the measure to increase the minimum wage.
Arkansas Issue 5
The $6.25 per hour minimum wage in Arkansas is lower than the federal minimum wage, but is superseded by federal law. Issue 5 would increase the state’s minimum wage to $7.50 per hour on January 1. It would also increase the minimum wage twice more, to $8 per hour on January 1, 2016 and to $8.50 per hour on January 1, 2017.
The ballot measure survived a court challenge, as the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday that it could remain on the ballot. Little Rock businessman Jackson T. Stephens challenged the measure on the grounds that the deadline to submit signatures was not met and that signatures submitted by supporters were invalid.
Federal Election Commission filings show that since 2010, Stephens has contributed $1.4 million to the Club for Growth Action independent-expenditure super PAC.
The Club for Growth endorsed Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle) for U.S. Senate in Arkansas and launched attack ads against incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D). Cotton has received more than $546,000 in campaign contributions from the Club for Growth, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Pryor and other Arkansas Democrats have made increasing the minimum wage a focal point of the campaign. Pryor criticized Cotton for his lack of support for measure. Cotton, who voted against increasing the federal minimum wage, announced his support for the measure, effectively blunting Pryor’s criticism.
Nebraska Initiative 425
Nebraska’s Initiative 425 would increase the state’s hourly minimum wage to $9 per hour over two years. The minimum wage would be increased from $7.25 per hour to $8.00 per hour on January 1, and then increase to $9.00 per hour at the start of 2016.
If passed, it will be the first time the state’s minimum wage was higher than the federal minimum wage.
The median household income in the state is just below the national average, but the percentage of residents living in poverty is also below the national average. Supporters of the measure claim the increase is needed in part because Nebraska had the second highest percent of hourly workers at or below minimum wage when compared with surrounding states.
Opponents this fall held a press conference and outlined their opposition to Initiative 425. They claim it would increase costs for small business and do little to help the working poor. The press conference was organized by the Platte Institute for Economic Research, a conservative think tank headquartered in Omaha that promotes right-wing economic policies.
The founder of the Platte Institute is Pete Ricketts, the Republican candidate for governor. Ricketts’ father, Joe Ricketts, is the founder of the online brokerage firm Ameritrade, and the founder of Ending Spending Action Fund, a 501(c)4 that has spent millions over the last few years supporting conservative candidates.
South Dakota Measure 18
Measure 18 would increase the minimum wage in South Dakota from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour beginning January 1. It would also mandate an increase in the minimum wage each year to adjust for inflation. Workers who earn wages through tips would also see a wage increase, as the measure would increase their hourly pay from $2.13 to $4.25 per hour.
One in six employed South Dakota workers would likely see an increase in their wages if the minimum wage were raised, according to an analysis by the South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute. The analysis also found that one in seven children in the state have at least one parent that would be affected by the minimum wage increase.
The Lincoln Journal-Star endorsed voting for Measure 18, because the benefit of increasing the minimum wage outweighed the possible negative impact.
“Fears of negative economic impacts have proved exaggerated in the past when the minimum wage was increased,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote.
Measure 18 appears to have significant support from South Dakota voters, as 60 percent of likely voters said they support the minimum wage increase, according to a recent SurveyUSA poll. Twenty-eight percent oppose the increase and 13 percent are undecided.
The post Minimum Wage in Five States Could Look Vastly Different After Election Day appeared first on RH Reality Check.
As Election Day draws near, many Republican candidates in tight races are making public statements in support of women’s reproductive rights that seem to conflict with their records.
Some Republican candidates appear to be trying to neutralize the “war on women” criticisms to narrow the gender voting gap that favors Democrats among women voters.
Iowa’s Joni Ernst, a staunch conservative who narrowly leads Democrat Bruce Braley, said during a recent debate that she supports women’s access to contraception, as well as exceptions to save a woman’s life if abortion were banned.
Braley said Ernst’s words contradicted her policies; her support for a fetal “personhood” amendment, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, and repealing the Affordable Care Act would make contraception less affordable or even ban it entirely.
A “personhood” amendment, which defines a fertilized egg as a person, could ban all abortion without any exceptions, as well as many common forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.
Hobby Lobby sets a precedent for unequal contraceptive coverage depending on the religion of a woman’s employer, and repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean women are no longer guaranteed no-cost birth control through insurance.
Ernst called it “laughable” that Braley would question her, a woman with three daughters, on the issue of contraception.
She said her support for Hobby Lobby “doesn’t mean a woman can’t get reliable, safe birth control. She can still go to her doctor and receive birth control.”
That wouldn’t necessarily be the case if Ernst’s “personhood” amendment had passed. And Ernst’s statements echo other Republican candidates who gloss over affordability issues and suggest the “access” debate is really about whether women are legally allowed to buy birth control at all.
Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner made headlines for advocating over-the-counter birth control while supporting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Just like Ernst, Gardner supported a “personhood” amendment that he dismissed as a mere “statement” on his “pro-life” principles. Gardner, in a move that confounded supporters and detractors alike, also denied that the measure he supported existed in the first place.
Colorado, where voters will decide on Tuesday whether to pass a “personhood” amendment that could criminalize abortion, boasts two other Republican candidates who have made statements that clash with their records on women’s health.
In one of the closest House races of the year, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) ran an ad that prominently displayed the logo of Planned Parenthood, which “surprised” a spokesperson from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains since Coffman had previously voted to defund the organization.
Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has extreme anti-choice views, including support for a fetal “personhood” measure, and he has bragged about his “100 percent pro-life voting record.”
But voters listening to Beauprez on Colorado Public Radio might have thought otherwise given his statements about supporting women’s “choice of whether to use birth control or not,” and “people’s right to choose.”
Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, yet he has run ads that use language about leaving the final decision up to a woman and her doctor.
Brown also co-sponsored a bill that would have allowed employers to opt out of providing any kind of health coverage, including contraception, due to moral objections.
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