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Passage of Automatic Voter Registration in California, Renewable Energy and Equal Pay Laws Round Out a Year of Strong Progressive State Policy Victories

December 2015

DENVER – As we close out 2015, the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) has updated our year-end review of the top progressive policies from state legislatures this year. In August, SiX released an earlier version of this review highlighting key economic, environmental, civil rights, and public safety policies that round out the progressive agenda.

In the final round-up for the year, we’re thrilled to see California asserting itself again as a progressive leader, passing legislation that sets a model in the states. The most ambitious new policies in the “Top Ten” review include California’s groundbreaking laws aimed at closing the wage gap for women in the state, automatically registering voters through the DMV database, and aiming to generate 50% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2050.

“California has led the way by passing the strongest equal pay law in the country, with nearly unanimous, bipartisan support and the backing of the business community,” said State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, author of SB 358, the California Fair Pay Act. “We are hoping other states take notice and that this bill will serve as a template to follow. Equal pay isn’t just the right thing for women. It’s the right thing for our families, their pocketbooks, and our economy.”

Not all of this year’s progressive advances came from reliably blue states like California. Despite the recent dominance of conservatives in state capitols, 2015 saw important progressive legislation pass in states like Nevada, North Dakota, Nebraska, and South Carolina.

In this updated report, we added a new policy area where major advances were made – the re-enfranchisement of voters with previous felony convictions. Outgoing Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear issued an executive order in that state to re-enfranchise ex-offenders, and Maryland legislators passed a bill that would do the same – though it was vetoed by Governor Larry Hogan.

“Looking back at 2015, I am even more convinced that the progressive agenda is on the rise,” said SiX Executive Director Nick Rathod. “From advancing the economic security of working families to improving access to voting, we saw that even in a map that is deeply red, progressives were able to achieve some important policy victories this year. When progressives govern, we prioritize strengthening our democracy by increasing voter participation and growing our economy by investing in renewable energy. We’ve learned that good policy leads to good politics, and we expect that to bear out next year with progressive advances in the states.”

The policies featured in this year’s review are:

  • Closing the Wage Gap for Women & Minorities
  • Accommodating Pregnant Workers
  • Earning Sick Leave
  • Expanding Access to Higher Education
  • Tackling the Student Debt Crisis
  • Reducing Carbon Emissions
  • Modernizing Voter Registration
  • Repealing the Death Penalty
  • Increasing Police Accountability & Public Safety
  • Keeping Guns Away from Abusers & Stalkers

Read SiX’s 2015 year-end review here.