While Federal Gridlock Dominates the News, State Legislators are Fighting for Families
By Jessie Ulibarri, Executive Director of the State Innovation Exchange
While many pundits and politicos have been focused on Washington this week, we at the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) are focused on the progressive legislators who are fast at work in state capitols advancing legislation to improve the lives of working families. That is why we created our #FightingForFamilies Week of Action: to highlight the work of state legislators who are taking on greedy special interests and fighting for people from all walks of life.
When it comes to education, health care, and raising incomes, the vast majority of policy change will happen on a state level.
And it is working! In New Jersey, a bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 was signed by Gov. Murphy and expanded paid leave (up to 12 weeks, from six) is already on his desk. And in North Carolina a bill was introduced last Friday to expand Medicaid and provide health care for more than 600,000 people.
These are not just progressive issues! Polling conducted in nearly a dozen states shows broad bipartisan support for economic issues like lowering cost of health care, investing in education, raising wages and increasing access to paid sick days.
This week also marks the 26th anniversary since the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law, guaranteeing many American workers unpaid time off from work to care for sick family members or to welcome a child through birth or adoption. While a majority of Americans understand that job security in the face of medical challenges is one of the things critical to make life better for working people, we know this federal measure falls short of what is needed for families to thrive. Today, state legislators are leading the fight for the next step: paid family and medical leave–because no one should have to choose between caring for a loved one and their paycheck.
And it’s not just paid family leave, across the country progressive state lawmakers are advancing a progressive agenda that that centers the needs of working families – issues like paid sick days,, equal pay, expanding overtime pay, combatting wage theft, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, increasing access to affordable housing and raising the minimum wage.
Progressive state legislators, in conjunction with SiX, are showing what responsive, transparent and accountable government should look like. For example, state lawmakers in Ohio and West Virginia hosted Facebook live town halls, in Maryland, there was a “Fight for $15” press conference and progressive legislators in Minnesota hosted a press conference focused on wage theft. Legislators in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Maine, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania are hosting tele-town halls that will connect with tens of thousands of Americans this week. In states across the country, people are being heard and lawmakers are acting on the priorities that impact families most.
Federal gridlock might dominate the news, but working families can’t wait any longer for bold action. State legislatures show that a different and more immediate path is possible. Progressive state lawmakers demonstrate daily the power of an inclusive and accessible democracy, and the world should take note.
Jessie Ulibarri is the Executive Director of the State Innovation Exchange. Before this role, he served as a Colorado State Senator, where he represented the community in which he was raised, including the trailer park where he spent his earliest years of his life. He currently lives with his family in Pennsylvania.