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Ed Fallon: Pipeline Is Assault On Land And Livelihood Of Farmers And Landowners Across Iowa

ed fallonEd Fallon To Hold Press Conference Prior To Court Appearance


fallonforum.com

On Wednesday, May 27 at 12:45 p.m. on the south side of the Polk County Courthouse at 500 Mulberry Street in Des Moines, former Iowa lawmaker Ed Fallon and his attorney Joseph Glazebrook will announce how they intend to respond to the charge of trespass against Fallon for his refusal to leave Governor Branstad’s office last Monday while protesting the Bakken pipeline. Following the press conference, Fallon will appear with Glazebrook before a judge at 1:00 p.m. in Room 201 of the Courthouse.

On Monday, May 18 at 1:30 p.m., Fallon entered Governor Branstad’s office and informed staff that he would refuse to leave until the Governor met with him, heard the stories of the landowners in the path of the proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline, and agreed to support the eminent domain bill (SF 506 and HSB 249). The Governor was in his office that day, but declined to meet with Fallon.

This will be Fallon’s second appearance at the Polk County Courthouse in response to a principled act of conscience. The first was in March of 2012, following his arrest as part of the Occupy movement, when on October 9, 2011, Fallon and 35 others refused to leave the public space on the west side of the State Capitol to demand that all levels of government respond to corruption on Wall Street and the growing crisis of income inequality. In response to that arrest, Fallon pled “not-guilty.” He was defended by Joseph Glazebrook. After a trial that lasted one week, Fallon was found “not guilty” by a jury of his peers on March 9, 2012.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the best course of action to take in response to my arrest last week at the Governor’s office,” said Fallon. “I take the matter very seriously, and have consulted not just with my attorney, Joseph Glazebrook, but with coworkers and others opposed to the Bakken Oil Pipeline as well.”

“Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s hearing, I reiterate my commitment to doing everything I can to continue the fight against this pipeline, which is not only an assault on the land and livelihood of farmers and landowners across Iowa, but an assault on our environment and planet as well,” concluded Fallon.

Fallon served 14 years in the Iowa House, from 1993-2006. He ran for Governor in 2006 and U.S. Congress in 2008. Since 2009, he has hosted the Fallon Forum, a public affairs talk show available on three Iowa radio stations and online at fallonforum.com.

Memorial Day Thoughts

Photo by Paul Deaton

Photo by Paul Deaton

We rightly turn our thoughts and our thanks to those who fought and the many who died in America’s wars. Sadly, we often find out long after a conflict is over that the reason we went to war in the first place was somewhat flimsy at best.

When we ask our often times young men and women to potentially die for their country there should be two very bottom line criteria:   1) that we have exhausted all other means to achieve our goals; and
2) that those who survive will be taken care of properly.

America is once again discussing the events that led us into invading Iraq. This is good. We need open and civil discussions on the march to war so that we do not make such mistakes again. As a nation, the subject of what led us into our various wars must always be open for discussion. With hindsight most of us agree that many of the recent wars have been unnecessary. Vietnam, the Gulf War, the invasion of Iraq should be studied thoroughly to avoid making such mistakes again.

The lives of our soldiers are precious. If we ask them to potentially die, there must be good reason and only after all other channels have been used.

Our soldiers are members of families, sons or daughters, fathers and mothers. Let us resolve to ask for their sacrifice only when necessary.

For those who beat the drum for a war with Iran, will you sacrifice your father or mother? Your sister or brother? Your son or daughter? Yourself? Or would you prefer peaceful settlement be worked on before one of your family members is sent to war?

As we get set to elect new leaders, this is one question that every candidate should answer.

Have a peaceful holiday.

Independent Survey Shows Bob Vander Plaats’ Irrelevance With Voters

progress iowa

Editor’s note: With the coming of the first in the nation Presidential test Iowa caucuses, Bob Vander Plaats is moving into the role of a potential king maker within the Republican Party. Since the Republican caucuses in Iowa have a preponderance of so-called evangelical voters, Republican candidates increasingly will be coming to Iowa to kiss the ring of the Don of this sector of the Republican Party. The note below reminds us that while Vander Plaats and his ilk may hold sway of an active sector of the small turnout of Republicans on caucus night, his beliefs and tactics turn off most common sense Iowans. Kissing up to Vander Plaats may be a short term gain for a candidate but come with a long term negative.

By the way, the next public ring (or butt) kissing of Bob Vander Plaats will be July 18th at the CY Stephens Auditorium in Ames. Might be a good time for some gay weddings in the area.

Increasing unpopularity comes in the wake of Vander Plaats & the Family Leader praying for the physical harm of their political opponents

Des Moines, Iowa — Surveys released by Public Policy Polling (PPP) of Iowa voters show the irrelevance of Bob Vander Plaats in the Republican Presidential caucus, as well as his lack of influence with Iowa voters. Just 13% of Republican primary voters say his support will make them more likely to vote for a candidate in the caucus, while 17% say his support makes it less likely. Vander Plaats’ approval rating with all Iowa voters is only 18%, while 36% view him unfavorably, and 46% do not have an opinion.

Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement in reaction to the poll results:

“The survey results released this week by PPP show the increasing irrelevance of Bob Vander Plaats and his organization, the Family Leader, with Iowa voters. After years of working to insert their influence in political races from Presidential caucuses to local ballot initiatives, it seems that Vander Plaats’ 15 minutes of fame is up. More Republicans say they are less likely to vote for a candidate than vote for a candidate based on Vander Plaats’ endorsement, many Iowans have never heard of him, and those who have do not have a favorable impression.”

“While Bob Vander Plaats loses relevance in Iowa politics, he and the Family Leader appear to be losing their grip on reality as well. Within the last few months, Vander Plaats and the Family Leader have prayed for the physical harm of their political opponents. The organization posted a prayer online suggesting that the organizers of the Governors conference on LGBTQ youth ‘be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ And Tamara Scott, a lobbyist for the Family Leader, prayed for someone to be struck down by lightning because they offered a non-Christian prayer at the Iowa Statehouse.”

“The hateful rhetoric and policy positions put forward by Vander Plaats and the Family Leader have no place in our political discourse. And they absolutely do not represent Iowa values. The survey results released this week prove that Iowans have had enough of Bob Vander Plaats’ divisive brand of politics.”

From the PPP survey of Republican primary voters, conducted from April 23-26:
If a candidate for President was endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats, would that make you more or less likely to vote for them, or would it not make a difference?
More likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats: 13%
Less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats: 17%
Wouldn’t make a difference: 62%
Not sure: 7%

From the PPP survey of all Iowa voters, conducted from April 23-26:
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Bob Vander Plaats?
Favorable: 18%
Unfavorable: 36%
Not sure: 46%

Progress Iowa is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization with a network of more than 60,000 progressives. Year-round, Progress Iowa advocates for a stronger middle class, first-class public education, and fairness for all Iowans under the law.

###

Background:

Public Policy Polling: Iowa Survey Results, Republican Primary Voters (Question 23)

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_IA_42815.pdf

Public Policy Polling: Iowa Survey Results, All Iowa Voters (Question 29)

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_IA_43015.pdf

The Family Leader: Unprecedented spiritual challenge hits Iowa

http://www.thefamilyleader.com/unprecedented-spiritual-challenge-hits-iowa/

Right Wing Watch: Bob Vander Plaats warns of divine retribution for Wiccan prayer in Iowa state capitol

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/bob-vander-plaats-warns-divine-retribution-wiccan-prayer-iowa-state-capitol

The Family Leader: Governors conference on LGBTQ youth not what you think (includes prayer for conference planners to ‘be drowned in the depth of the sea’)

http://www.thefamilyleader.com/governors-conference-on-lgbtq-youth-not-what-you-think/

Cedar Rapids Gazette: And how will they know us?

http://thegazette.com/subject/opinion/blogs/lynda-waddington/and-how-will-they-know-us-20150417

Write Grassley And Ernst Regarding The TPP

Charles Grassley, like it or not, will be up for re-election in 2016. There is no time like the present to let him know what he should be doing for the people of Iowa. Joni Ernst is in her first months and has already taken many steps that should be making her unpopular among voters. Like it or not, they are our senators and they need to hear from us.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) may be up for a vote in the senate next week. My expectation, as I am sure yours is, is that Grassley and Ernst will vote for fast-tracking the TPP in lockstep with other Republicans. Remember this vote is not to approve the TPP, but to give the administration the ability to negotiate and approve the TPP basically behind closed doors. This is not what representative democracy is about.

Approving a trade pact the size of TPP in the dark just tears at all the basic tenets of democracy. From what we know TPP will affect every segment of our society. We have also learned that there are many troubling aspects to problem resolution within TPP that may overrule our laws from outside. Not a situation that America should allow itself to get into.

There appear to be many other troubling aspects of the TPP but we do not know for sure what is in this pact since all negotiations have been under super secrecy. The latest rumor is that the TPP is based on the model of the recent (2011) trade pact with South Korea (KORUS) that has been disastrous for the United States. That agreement has sent yet more American jobs offshore while greatly expanding our trade deficit. TPP will do the same on steroids. America can not afford the TPP.

Here is what I will send to our senators:
Senator __________,
I am writing to ask that you vote against fast track authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership. This trade agreement will affect all aspects of the American economy and possibly aspects of out day tot day lives. In a democracy such as ours, any act that will have this much affect on the daily lives of our citizens should have open debate so that all sides may be brought out. There should also be plenty of time and opportunity for common citizens to offer input.

Please vote against fast tracking authority for the TPP when it comes to the senate floor.

Thank you,

Here are the email links for Grassley and Ernst:

http://www.grassley.senate.gov/constituents/questions-and-comments

http://www.ernst.senate.gov/content/contact-joni

What To Do Instead Of Arguing With A Conservative

tea party conservativesYes, you’ve seen these kinds of videos before but this one is actually pretty good.

“In MRI studies when people see information that contradicts their world view the parts of the brain involved in reasoning and logic would actually shut down. Instead it was the parts of the brain that handled attacks and the fight or flight response that lit up.”

 

School Funding, Payroll Debit Cards, Texting: The Courtney Report

tom-courtney-2

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of the weekly newsletter from Senator Courtney. For the full newsletter, please go to his website


CALL THE GOVERNOR: IOWA STUDENTS ARE WORTH MORE

If the future of Iowa children, job creation and economic growth matter to you, please make your voice heard on funding for our students and schools.

The House and Senate are in gridlock. The Senate has approved a 4 percent increase in funding for our K-12 schools. However, House Republicans have voted to scale back educational opportunity with a meager 1.25 percent increase. That is not enough to keep up with rising costs, let alone compete with other states.

When asked about the impact on their students, Iowa school superintendents said they would have to increase class sizes, fire teachers, delay buying new classroom materials and reduce course offerings. Iowa is already more than $1,600 below the national average in annual per-pupil investment. The result is that other states are increasing student achievement faster than Iowa and out-performing us.

Iowa is competing with the world for high-skill, high-wage jobs. We must increase our commitment to great schools, student achievement and teacher quality.

Contact Governor Branstad and tell him to break the gridlock on school funding. Call his office at 515-281-5211 or send him a message at www.governor.iowa.gov/constituent-services/register-opinion.

MAKING STATE GOVERNMENT MORE ACCOUNTABLE & TRANSPARENT
Over the last year, the Senate Government Oversight Committee has investigated numerous allegations of hush money, slush funds, black lists and lack of transparency throughout Governor Branstad’s administration.

This week, the Senate approved SF 321 to ensure state agencies that save money by purchasing through the state’s master contracts get those dollars back. The Department of Administrative Services would no longer be able to retain rebates and use them for its own purposes. Rebates would be returned to the rightful agency, rewarding them for their fiscal responsibility while adding accountability and transparency to state spending.

In addition, we hope to restructure the state’s infamous “black list.” In the past, Iowans had no idea they were on this black list — also known as a “do-not-hire” list — unless they applied for a state position and were denied.

Senate File 332 would establish procedures for putting somebody on the state’s do-not-hire list, which would make them ineligible for state agency employment. Under the bill, the Department of Administrative Services may only designate an individual as ineligible for state employment under specific circumstances. The individual must be notified of their status at the time of termination and has a right to appeal.

The bill also requires the Department of Administrative Services to post all vacant positions, with a public announcement of vacancies at least 10 days in advance of the application deadline. This will allow all qualified individuals the chance to find out about job openings.


PAYROLL DEBIT CARDS MUST BE FAIR FOR IOWA WORKERS

This week, the Senate approved legislation aimed at clarifying the law regarding payroll cards. A payroll card — which is similar to a debit card — is an increasingly popular way to pay employees.

Legislators recently heard from Iowans who came to the Statehouse to tell their stories. We learned that many Iowans don’t have a choice in how they are paid and may incur high fees when paid by payroll card. Nobody should have to pay a fee to collect their wages.

Senate File 460 is a simple, common sense bill that aims to protect the pay and rights of employees.

SF 460 requires an employee to agree voluntarily to payment via a payroll card. The agreement must be in writing, and the employee must have the option to withdraw all the wages due in a pay period without incurring a fee. The bill also requires the employer to keep the records of consent and to provide another payment method if an employee requests it at a later time.

GETTING TOUGHER ON TEXTING WHILE DRIVING
Texting while driving is dangerous. Between 2001 and 2013, more than 8,600 Iowa crashes were caused by drivers distracted by a phone or other device. These crashes resulted in more than 4,200 injuries and dozens of deaths.

In 2010, Iowa made it a crime to write, read or send a text message while driving, but the law is a secondary offense. That means officers can only write a ticket for texting if they pull you over for speeding or another violation.

Polls show more than 80 percent of Iowans want tougher laws for texting while driving. Texting behind the wheel is a primary offense in 39 other states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. That gives officers the authority to pull over a driver specifically for texting.

Iowa will join those states if Senate File 391, approved this week by the Senate, becomes law. The bill makes texting while driving a primary offense and clarifies that the texting ban is applicable to any electronic communication done by hand.

Texting makes the chance of an accident 23 times greater because it involves three types of distraction– it takes our mind off driving, our eyes off the road and at least one hand off the steering wheel. Drivers who text have slower reaction times, are 70 percent less likely to stay in their lane and often fail to notice traffic signs.

Teens have been the primary focus of Iowa’s texting and driving laws and education efforts. Texting results in car crashes that kill an average of 11 teens each day nationwide.

However, many parents don’t set a good example for their kids. When educators from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau talk with Iowa teens, half the students say their parents text while driving.

Learn more about the dangers of texting while driving at www.iowadot.gov/CurbItClickIt/facts_stats.html.

Simply Stated: A Party Is Its Budget

republican budget

Surely this is not the first time you have heard this: budgets are moral documents. They also are the means by which political parties translate all their rhetoric and advertisements into actual policy. When you hear Republicans claim that they support Social Security, check their budget. Do they support the lowly grunts in the military? Check the budget. Access to health care for all? Check the budget. What about education?

In simple terms, the Republican budget lays bare the plans of Republicans to take health care from large swaths of people, take food from families, take away unemployment compensation and in short totally shred what is left of the social safety net. In return they give more huge tax breaks to the wealthy. Trickle down is still their mantra. Trickle down didn’t work then and it doesn’t now. The idea that some rich person’s cup will overflow spilling some money on us peons is insane. The cups grow forever.

Beyond the cruelty to the mass of Americans, the biggest fallacy of a Republican budget is that it spurs the economy. An economy runs on money moving in the system, not on it being stagnant in a few hands.

Once more the Congressional Progressive Caucus has released their budget. This is a budget that puts the people first. Getting money into the hands of those who will spend it is also the best way to make the economy grow. Why you ask? Because demand creates economic activity. The poor and middle class have a huge amount of pent up demand that will drive the economy just as it drove the economy in the years before Ronald Reagan.

Meteor Blades over at dalykos has a good quick analysis of the budget being offered by the CPC. You had better read it there because you know our major media will totally ignore it.

Payroll Debit Cards, Accurate Court Records, Mental Health – The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

Note: This is edited from the weekly email report from Senator Courtney. To see the full report please go to Senator Courtney’s website.

PAYROLL DEBIT CARDS MUST BE FAIR FOR IOWA WORKERS
Imagine it’s payday, and you get your pay for the week. It’s on a payroll card (similar to a debit card) instead of a check or direct deposit. You didn’t have a choice in receiving your pay this way. You try to retrieve your money from the payroll card, and you discover you’re being charged a fee to receive your hard-earned pay.

Legislators recently heard from Iowans who came to the Statehouse to tell their stories. We learned that many Iowans don’t have a choice in how they are paid and may incur high fees when paid by payroll card.

Nobody should have to pay a fee to collect their wages. That’s why legislation aimed at clarifying the law regarding payroll cards is moving forward.

Senate Study Bill 1004 requires an employee to voluntarily agree to payment via a payroll card. The agreement must be in writing, and the employee must have the option to withdraw all the wages due in a pay period without incurring a fee. The bill also requires the employer to keep the records of consent and to provide another payment method if an employee requests it at a later time.

SSB 1004 is a simple, common sense bill that aims to protect employee’s pay and rights.

UPDATING COURT RECORDS FOR ACCURATE PUBLIC INFORMATION
The Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved a bill allowing those charged with a crime to apply to have court records of the criminal charge and proceedings expunged if the charges were dismissed or resulted in a “not guilty” verdict.

Sometimes people are wrongly accused of a crime. This can have all sorts of other negative consequences. Many employers access Iowa Courts Online during the hiring process and property owners check online court records when deciding whom to rent to. Just seeing someone’s name in the court records can hurt their chances of getting a job or finding housing.

Senate Study Bill 1110 will provide those who were never convicted of the crime a better opportunity to move on with their lives. A defendant in a case will be able to make application to the court to expunge a criminal record when all criminal charges in the case are dismissed, or the defendant is acquitted of all charges in the case and:

• All court costs, fees and financial obligations ordered by the court are paid.

• The case is dismissed permanently or is beyond the statute of limitations.

• The defendant is not being charged with a crime in a related case or has not been convicted of a crime in a related case.

• The defendant was not found “not guilty by reason of insanity” or incompetent to stand trial.

• All parties in the case have notice of the application to expunge and an opportunity to object.

If all requirements are met, the court must expunge the records of the criminal case. The expunged record will be a confidential record exempt from public access but will be available to the defendant and to various justice system agencies. It’s a step in the right direction toward a fairer system of justice.

ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES MUST BE MAINTAINED
I am committed to continuous improvement of Iowa’s modernized mental health system. That’s why I was as surprised as everyone else when Governor Branstad announced plans to close Mental Health Institutes (MHI) in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda.

These facilities offer specialized services that are not available in many areas of the state, including dual inpatient treatment for mental health and substance abuse, as well as psychiatric services designed specifically for older Iowans. Closing these MHIs could reduce or eliminate services for Iowans with severe mental health issues, forcing them to travel hundreds of miles to receive critical care.

It’s important that Iowans have access to mental health services close to home, from basic outpatient therapy to intensive, inpatient care for the most severe cases. The Legislature has been working to improve Iowa’s mental health system for years, but that work is not yet complete.

In the weeks since the Governor proposed the MHI closings, mental health professionals, community leaders, former patients and their families, and advocates have urged the Legislature to resist the proposed closings. The message is clear: Iowa needs to develop and invest in additional community based mental health services before we consider closing existing facilities.

The Governor’s proposal removes a needed mental health service with no coherent plan to ensure effective treatment for some of the worst mental illness cases in Iowa. The Senate is taking a different approach.

SF 333 requires that the state Department of Human Services admit eligible Iowans to the MHIs through the current fiscal year that ends June 30. This bill recently passed on a bipartisan, unanimous vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee. During last year’s budgeting process, the Legislature approved funding for this purpose and the Governor signed the legislation. The Governor should use those funds as approved.

The second bill, SF 308, sets up a process for the state to develop and implement crucial community based mental health services. Services outlined in the plan and approved by the Legislature must be in place before we consider closing the MHIs. The plan must include input from stakeholders and experts, ensure that transitional services are offered without hurting quality of care, ensure local access to highly trained community and institutionally based care providers, and identify stable funding for new services. The Senate Human Resources Committee has approved this bill.

Progress Iowa Announces The Academy Awards of Extreme Iowa

oscar iconProgressIowa.org

And the Oscars go to…Branstad, Ernst, Upmeyer, Blum and King *Updated Source Citations Below*

Des Moines, Iowa — Tonight, stars and celebrities will honor the best in movies over the past year. Today, Progress Iowa announced the winners of the 2015 Academy Awards of Extreme Iowa, in order to recognize and hold accountable Iowa’s most extreme politicians.

“These politicians represent the far right in Iowa, and have earned the dubious distinction of the 2015 Academy Awards of Extreme Iowa,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “Unfortunately there were a number of potential award winners, but from underfunding Iowa schools to embarrassing our state on a national stage, these five are by far the most deserving.”

This year’s Academy Awards of Extreme Iowa are presented to…

Terry Branstad, in The Clarinda Shutdown: for worst denial of public input

After proposing to close mental health institutes in Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant without legislative input, Governor Terry Branstad received a strong rebuke from Republican Representative Dave Heaton: “I think the governor is violating the budgetary process,” Heaton says. “He’s making a unilateral decision without input from the legislature…He’s saying: ‘I just want to close ‘em.’ And that’s not right.” [Source: Radio Iowa]

Linda Upmeyer in The K-12 Disaster: for worst performance on behalf of Iowa Schools

Iowa House Republicans, led by Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, are sticking with their inadequate proposal to fund Iowa schools at a 1.25% increase, which will lead to Iowa being ranked 40th in the country in per-student spending. [Source: Cedar Rapids Gazette  ]

Joni Ernst, in SOTU Response: for worst performance on a national stage

During her response to the State of the Union, newly elected Senator Joni Ernst embarrassed herself and Iowans on the national stage. Ernst refused to offer a single new policy idea, and instead spent her time spinning yarns and telling stories that earned her ridicule from local and national media. [Sources: Cedar Rapids Gazette, The New Yorker, Salon]

Steve King, lifetime achievement: for most shameful congressman in Iowa history

Congressman Steve King has consistently embarrassed Iowans during his time in office. From comparing immigrants to dogs, calling immigrants drug smugglers, and saying he doesn’t expect to meet gay people in heaven, King has a long track record of shameful statements that do not truly represent Iowa values. [Sources: Politico, ThinkProgress]

Rod Blum, in Strange Bedfellows: for best support of an extreme agenda

After winning election and campaigning as a moderate, Congressman Rod Blum cast his first vote in support of Steve King’s choice for Speaker of the House. [Source: The Des Moines Register] Blum appears to be following in lock step with King’s extreme agenda during his first months in office.

The Calm Before The Storm

willa cather quote“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”   – Willa Cather

December is the calm before the storm. I’ve delayed writing a post-election synopsis partly due to the fact that the gains Republicans made in the 2014 election are so enormous it is hard to digest what that all means into a cohesive blog entry.

But analyzing them is even more difficult to decipher since parallel to GOP electoral victories, 2014 also resulted in populist referendum victories.

In Illinois, though voters chose billionaire Republican Bruce Rauner by 50.8 percent over incumbent Governor Pat Quinn 45.9 percent, those same voters also approved progressive advisory referenda by wide margins. 67% of Illinoisans voted to raise the minimum wage, and 63.5% of them also voted to levy a millionaire tax.

They also voted to amend the Illinois constitution to protect voting rights with this language:

“No person shall be denied the right to register to vote or to cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or income.”

This far-reaching language now enshrined in the constitution isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a populace that selected for Governor a man whose private equity firm CTGR is named in over 150 lawsuits for negligence and wrongful deaths at nursing homes managed by the firm.

Other states had similar results. Voters chose Republicans overwhelmingly for state legislatures, and they now have majorities in a majority of states. Voters also elected more Republicans and the GOP now controls the US Senate.

However, like in Illinois, voters themselves when given direct authority on actual policy, showed remarkably progressive positions.

Other states that approved minimum wage increases through ballot measures in 2014 include Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Not exactly bastions of liberalism there.

Anchorage voters repealing an ordinance which had removed city employees’ right to strike, limited annual pay increases, outlawed performance bonuses or incentives in future contracts, and set up a system for outsourcing some work done by city employees. Has Sarah Palin land suddenly surged to the left?

Also, Phoenix voters defeated Proposition 487, which would have changed the city’s retirement system from a defined benefit system to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. Certainly there are a lot of retirees in Arizona, but they typically are anti-union conservatives, so what gives?

And it’s not just economic or voting issues that demonstrate that the electorate is far more liberal that the conservatives they elected. Marijuana expanded its legitimacy with legalization approved by voters or legislators in Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

So, come January, we will have a collection of conservative legislators at the state and national levels who will insist they were given a mandate to push through conservative positions even though just 36.4% of voters bothered to turn out.

We will have a Senate led by Mitch McConnell who will push the TPP, Keystone Pipeline (1st vote of the session!), and a repeal of Obamacare.

Wisconsin Republicans will introduce Right to Work legislation to weaken the private sector unions. In other states, where RTW hasn’t been able to pass the statehouse, Republican County Supervisors and City Council members will introduce it at the municipal level.

A bill in Missouri will be sponsored that requires a woman to get her husband’s permission to terminate her pregnancy.

Iowa’s Republican Governor promises to further drain the state’s revenues with income tax cuts, a move that will likely be supported by weak-kneed Democrats fearful for electoral retribution in 2016.

And beyond the walls of the legislative halls, the barons of Wall Street will have free reign to profit off toxic assets that are underwritten by you and me thanks to the bi-partisan budget bill just passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.

We will have to contend with a conservative dominated Supreme Court that just issued a decision that legalizes wage theft.

But we will also have a progressive dominated National Labor Relations Board and lower court appointments just approved by the Senate.

So what shall we do to prepare for the new year? Get a good pair of marching boots and hone your listening and speaking skills so we do not approach policy like a bunch of shrill reactionaries.

And do as we always say in the Labor Movement: organize, organize, organize!

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