Maine becomes 13th State to vote to overturn Citizens United

On Monday, Maine joined West Virginia, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico and Hawaii in calling for an amendment to the United States Constitution on campaign finance. Maine’s State House voted 111-33 with strong bipartisan support in favor of the measure while the Senate voted 25-9.

Polls indicate that 73% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans disagree with the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling and want to keep corporate spending out of political campaigns.

To take effect, an amendment must gain the support of two-thirds of the House and the Senate and be ratified by 38 states.

10 States To Increase Minimum Wage On New Year’s Day


— by Keystone Research Center

HARRISBURG, PA – The minimum wage will increase in 10 states on Jan. 1, modestly boosting the incomes of nearly 1 million low-paid workers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The minimum wage rates in those states will rise between 10 and 35 cents per hour, resulting in an extra $190 to $510 per year for the average directly-affected worker. Rhode Island’s minimum wage will rise as a result of a law signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee in June; the remaining nine states will raise their minimum wages in accordance with state laws requiring automatic annual adjustments to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

More after the jump.

Pennsylvania minimum-wage workers haven’t seen a meaningful increase since 2007, during which time the buying power of the minimum wage has fallen 10%, said Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, an economist with the Keystone Research Center. A minimum wage increase that would boost consumer spending is especially needed because of Pennsylvania’s recent lagging job-growth performance. Pennsylvania also needs a minimum-wage hike because it is among the states with the fast-growing income inequality.

Herzenberg also recommended that the state’s minimum wage be set to increase automatically each year to offset the impact of inflation, as Pennsylvania legislator salaries already do.

In the 10 states with minimum wage increases already on the books, the hikes will boost consumer spending, hence GDP, by over $183 million, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. While weak consumer demand continues to hold back business expansion, raising the minimum wage puts more money in the pockets of low-wage workers who often have no choice but to immediately spend their increased earnings on basic expenses.

We need policies that make sure workers earn wages that will at the very least support their basic needs, said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. But earning an income that meets basic needs shouldn’t depend on the state where a working family lives. We need to raise and index the federal minimum wage to help all of America’s workers.

The 10 state-level minimum wage increases scheduled for Jan. 1 will benefit a total of 995,000 low-paid workers: approximately 855,000 workers will be directly affected as the new minimum wage rates will exceed their current hourly pay, while another 140,000 workers will receive an indirect raise as pay scales are adjusted upward to reflect the new minimum wage, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Seventy-one percent of these low-wage workers are adults over the age of 20, and 69 percent work 20 hours per week or more.

As of Jan. 1, 2013, 19 states plus the District of Columbia will have minimum wage rates above the federal level of $7.25 per hour, which translates to just over $15,000 per year for a full-time minimum wage earner. Ten states also adjust their minimum wages annually to keep pace with the rising cost of living – a key policy reform known as “indexing” – to ensure that real wages for the lowest-paid workers do not fall even further behind: these states include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Nevada has not scheduled a cost-of-living adjustment to take effect this year.

Because the federal minimum wage is not indexed to rise automatically with inflation, its real value erodes every year unless Congress approves an increase. Without further action from Congress, the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour will lose nearly 20 percent of its real value over the next 10 years and have the purchasing power of only $5.99 in today’s dollars, according to a new data brief by the National Employment Law Project. The federal minimum wage would be $10.58 today if it had kept pace with the rising cost of living since its purchasing power peaked in 1968.


Rhode Island is this year’s greatest minimum wage raiser

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, introduced in July by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller, would help recover much of this lost value by raising the federal minimum wage to $9.80 by 2014 and adjusting it annually to keep pace with the cost of living in subsequent years. The Fair Minimum Wage Act would also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from its current rate of just $2.13 per hour, where it has been frozen since 1991, to $6.85 over five years. Thereafter, it would be fixed at 70 percent of the full minimum wage.

A large body of research shows that raising the minimum wage is an effective way to boost the incomes of low-paid workers without reducing employment. A groundbreaking 1994 study by David Card and Alan Krueger, current chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, found that an increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage did not reduce employment among fast-food restaurants. These findings have been confirmed by 15 years of economic research, including a 2010 study published in the Review of Economics and Statistics that analyzed data from more than 500 counties and found that minimum wage increases did not cost jobs. Another recent study published in April 2011 in the journal Industrial Relations found that even during times of high unemployment, minimum wage increases did not lead to job loss.

A recent report by the National Employment Law Project found that 66 percent of low-wage employees work for large companies, not small businesses, and that more than 70 percent of the biggest low-wage employers have fully recovered from the recession and are enjoying strong profits. An August NELP study showed that while the majority of jobs lost during the recession were in middle-wage occupations, 58 percent of those created in the post-recession recovery have been low-wage occupations. That shift towards low-wage jobs is a 30-year trend that is only accelerating, according to a recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Resounding Victory for Women


New Hampshire is the first state to have an all female delegation: Senator Kelly Ayotte (R, not pictured), Governor Elect Maggie Hassan D), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D), Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D) and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D).

Maggie Hassan will be the country’s only Democratic woman governor.


(TPM) Voters Tuesday elected a record number of women to Congress, thanks largely to gains on the Democratic side of the aisle.

In the Senate, where every incumbent Democrat won re-election, there will be a record 20 women Senators come January – a net gain of three. Women will also set a new record in the House of Representatives with 78 women elected – a number that could rise as a final handful of races are called.

In addition to the 12 Democratic women already in the Senate, Democrats will welcome newcomers Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin, Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota and Mazie Hirono from Hawaii. While two Republican women retired — Texas’s Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Maine’s Sen. Olympia Snowe — Republican Deb Fischer won in Nebraska.

The gains, of course, could have been even higher if not for a few losses. Democrat Shelley Berkley lost an uphill challenge to incumbent Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada. In Utah, Republicans had hoped Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love would become the first black, Republican woman elected to Congress. Love fell short in her challenge to incumbent Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson. In addition, both parties a few female incumbents in the House.

— by Sari Stevens and Audrey Ann Ross

HARRISBURG, PA – President Obama’s reelection is a historic victory for women’s health, driven by a substantial gender gap, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates and PAC said Wednesday morning.

“This is a resounding victory for women. More than ever before, women’s health was a decisive issue in this election. Americans on Tuesday voted to ensure that women will have access to affordable health care and be able to make their own medical decisions,” said executive director Sari Stevens.

“This election sends a powerful and unmistakable message to members of Congress and the Pennsylvania legislature that the American people do not want politicians to meddle in our personal medical decisions, and that politicians demean and dismiss women at their own peril.”

Women’s health issues played a defining role in the presidential election, with preliminary data showing candidates and advocates nationwide aired broadcast ads 46,141 times highlighting the issues — a 350% increase in spending from 2008. Throughout the campaign, these issues have presented one of the starkest contrasts between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Obama vowed to fully implement the Affordable Care Act and ensure that millions of women get preventive care at no cost, require insurance companies to cover birth control, protect funding for Planned Parenthood and federal family planning programs, and protect access to safe and legal abortion. Romney took the opposite position on all of these issues, and then tried unsuccessfully to cast himself as more of a moderate on women’s health in the final weeks of the campaign.

More after the jump.
In Pennsylvania, pro-choice candidates scored major victories with the stunning election of Rob Teplitz in the open seat of retiring Jeff Piccola, Steve Santarsiero’s crushing defeat of tea party challenger Anne Chapman, Matt Smith’s victory in the seat of retiring Senator John Pippy and Dave Levdansky’s defeat of far-right incumbent Rick Saccone in a moderate Western PA district.

In Senate District 15, Teplitz closed out the final two weeks of the race with a major TV ad buy highlighting opponent John McNally’s out of touch views on women’s health, specifically his opposition to legal abortion in cases of rape and incest. McNally went so far as to oppose sex education in public schools and protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation, positions highlighted in Planned Parenthood’s direct mail to a universe of 25,000 predominantly republican and independent women voters. “Rob trusts women to make their own health care decisions, and Rob won on Tuesday because voters want a strong advocate for women to represent them” said Stevens. Planned Parenthood PA PAC invested $50,000 in the Teplitz victory.

Representative Steve Santarsiero scored a resounding victory Tuesday night, proving once again that the voters of the 31st House District will not tolerate politicians with extreme, out of touch views on women’s health. His opponent, Anne Chapman, was the embodiment of that dangerous agenda. During the Republican primary, Chapman vowed to defund Planned Parenthood’s preventive health services – centering her campaign around limiting women’s access to health care and involving politicians in women’s personal health decisions. Chapman was so out of touch with the 31st district, she aligned herself with the Todd Akin view of women’s health through her opposition to legal abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Akin was another casualty of the Tuesday election, falling to Claire McCaskill after showing callous disregard for victims of rape.

A significant investment was also made on behalf of Matt Smith who was elected Tuesday night, demonstrating that Western Pennsylvania voters will not tolerate politicians with extreme, antiquated views on women’s healthcare.
In Senate District 37, the republican candidate, D. Raja, would have gone too far in interfering in personal health care decisions best left to a woman and her doctor – including support for an intrusive Pennsylvania mandatory ultrasound bill. Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC communicated with a universe of 25,000 female voters about the out of touch views of Raja, and Matt Smith’s strong support for women’s reproductive health care.

Additional victories for women’s health were in the election of Democrat Sean Wiley in the retiring seat of Jane Earll in Senate District 49 and Mark Painter over anti-choice Tom Quigley in House District 146.

Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC worked hard to educate voters across Pennsylvania about what was at stake in this race for women’s health. The PAC spent a record $250,000 on state races, with the biggest investments on behalf of Matt Smith in Senate District 37 and Rob Teplitz in Senate District 15. Over 250,000 pieces of mail, 80,000 phone calls and 10,000 door to door knocks were generated through months of efforts.

Nationally, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Vote’s spent more than $15 million dollars to educate voters in key battleground states, employing television and radio ads, direct mail, online ads, tele-townhalls, and a variety of other methods.

  • All of the messaging throughout the Planned Parenthood Action Fund campaign focused on Mitt Romney’s positions in his own words — to repeal the birth control insurance benefit, repeal coverage for preventive care, eliminate the nation’s family planning program, defund Planned Parenthood, and overturn Roe v. Wade – contrasted with President Obama’s strong record for women’s health.
  • Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Votes also invested in 20 Senate, Congressional, and gubernatorial races to elect candidates with strong records and positions on women’s health.  
  • In the final four days of the campaign, the Action Fund and local Planned Parenthood advocacy organizations collectively ran neighborhood canvasses in 22 states and phone banking operations in 24 states. In just these four days, the groups made more than 845,000 calls, knocked on more than 100,000 doors, and organized more than 2,000 volunteers in key states including Virginia, Ohio, Montana, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.

“Planned Parenthood Action Fund fought hard in this campaign to protect the programs and policies that millions of Americans, especially women, rely on to lead healthy lives,” Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates and PAC said. “We will focus on working with lawmakers at all levels, from all political parties, to ensure that millions more Americans can get the health care they need, while Planned Parenthood health centers provide the essential health care that one in five American women has relied on Planned Parenthood for at some point in their lives.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its 74 affiliates nationwide are underscoring their commitment to helping women, men, and young people lead healthy lives with a new tagline “Care. No matter what.” The refreshed logo and new tagline, which went live earlier today on websites and social media properties, are part of Planned Parenthood’s ongoing effort to reach millions more patients with quality, affordable, confidential health care.

“As a trusted and essential provider of health care in every part of the country, Planned Parenthood stands ready to serve the millions of people who will soon have access to health care under the Affordable Care Act — to provide millions more with care, no matter what,” Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates and PAC said.

The Socialist Gets Reelected To Washington

Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders was swept to a third term in the Senate by a 71-25 margin in the state of Vermont over Republican John MacGovern.

Maine also elected an independent. Former Governor Angus King took 54% of the vote in Maine while Republican Charlie Summers took 29% and Democratic Cynthia Dill took 14%. Last night King said will negotiate with both parties to determine who he will caucus with. He is looking for a party that will

  • allow him to vote independently according to his conscience,
  • give him committee assignments where he can advance the interests of Maine, and
  • change the filibuster rule so that a single Senator cannot put a hold on a nomination and a 60-40 majority is required to pass any legislation.

Most Democrats supported King instead of the actual Democratic nominee Dill so it is suspected that King will ultimately decide to caucus with the Democrats. If he does, this would increase the Democratic margin in the Senate to 55-45.

Earlier this year most pundits had thought that the Republicans would take control of the Senate but that did not come to be. Instead Republicans lost two seats:

  • Populist Attorney General Elizabeth Warren defeated Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown 54% to 46%.
  • Indiana Senator Richard Lugar lost his primary to Richard Mourdock whose campaign self-destructed after an abortion related gaffe giving the victory to Democratic underdog Joe Donnelly (50% to 44% to 6% for independent Andrew Horning).

Meanwhile the Republicans gained only one seat (Deb Fischer defeated incumbent Bob Kerrey 58% to 42%) while vulnerable Democratic incumbents sailed to reelection including Missouri’s Claire McCaskill who defeat tea-party favorite Todd Akin 55% to 39% after his “legitimate abortion” remark.

Agreement Among States to Elect President by National Popular Vote

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States. The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.

The bill has been enacted by the District of Columbiaand 8 states (VT, MD, WA, IL, NJ, MA, CA, HI) shown in green on the map. They total 132 electoral votes bringing us almost halfway towards the 270 necessary to activate the National Popular Vote.

Eleven more states (shown in purple) have passed NPV bills in at least one chamber of their legislature. For example, recently the Republican-controlled New York Senate passed NPV in a 47-13 vote. Republicans supported the bill 21-11 while Democrats supported it 26-2. Across the country, NPV has been endorsed by 2,124 state legislators.

The shortcomings of the current system stem from the winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state).

The winner-take-all rule has permitted a candidate to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide in 4 of our 56 elections – 1 in 14 times. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have elected Kerry despite Bush’s nationwide lead of 3,000,000.

Another shortcoming of the winner-take-all rule is that presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the concerns of voters in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign visits and ad money in the November general election campaign in just six closely divided “battleground” states — with 98% going to 15 states. This makes two thirds of the states mere spectators. (The maps on the left show a similar situation during the final five weeks of the 2004 Bush-Kerry election. Each purple hand represents a visit from a presidential or vice-presidential candidate and each dollar sign represents $1,000,000 spent on TV advertising.)

The winner-take-all rule treats voters supporting the candidate who comes in second place in a particular state as if they supported the candidate that they voted against.

Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives the states exclusive control over the manner of awarding their electoral votes:

“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”

The winner-take-all rule is not in the Constitution. It was used by only three states in our nation’s first election in 1789. The current method of electing the President was established by state laws, and that these state laws may be changed at any time.

Under the National Popular Vote bill, all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes – that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).

The bill preserves the Electoral College, while assuring that every vote is equal and that every vote will matter in every state in every presidential election.

The bill has been endorsed by New York Times, Sacramento Bee, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Common Cause, FairVote, LWVUS, and NAACP.


As seen in this state polls are extremely favorable. Supports ranges from a “low” of 67% in Arizona to a high of 83% in Tennessee. On this map, shades of blue represent the highest support and 50/50 support would be represented in purple.

The movement for the National Popular Vote is bipartisan: The national advisory board includes former Senators Jake Garn (R-UT), Birch Bayh (D-IN), and David Durenberger (R-MN) as well as former congressmen John Anderson (R-IL, I), John Buchanan (R-AL), Tom Campbell (R-CA), and Tom Downey (D-NY). Former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Governors Bob Edgar (R-IL) and Chet Culver (D-IA) are champions.

This Spring, Pennsylvania House Bill 1270 was introduced by Rep. Tom C. Creighton (R-Lancaster County) and Senate Bill 1116 was introduced by Senators Alloway, Argall, Boscola, Erickson, Fontana, Leach, Mensch, Solobay, Vance and Waugh. These bills have not yet be acted upon action by the State Government Committees.

Additional information is available in the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote.

Pennsylvania poll results follow the jump.

To support National Popular Vote efforts, donate money, contact your state legislator and get involved.
Pennsylvanians Strongly Support Popular Vote for President

Two out of three Pennsylvanians believe the President should be the candidate who “gets the most votes in all 50 states”, according to a recent poll conducted by noted Political Science Professor Dr. Terry Madonna.

The strong showing came in Madonna’s March Omnibus Poll involving a telephone survey of more than 800 Pennsylvania residents and voters. Among those interviewed, seven in ten agreed “it would be unjust to have a President who did not receive the most popular votes.”

The survey findings were released by the National Popular Vote Project even as state House and Senate sponsors are garnering additional support for enabling legislation on the matter.

Madonna said polling showed bipartisan public support for the project. “A clear majority of Republicans and Democrats favor popular voting in place of the Electoral College’s current method for choosing the President,” Madonna said. “The fundamental reasons the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College system no longer exist, and the voters of Pennsylvania understand that.”

The prime sponsor of the legislation in the House, Republican state Rep. Tom Creighton of Lancaster County, is quick to point out that his legislation (HB 1270) does not seek to supplant the Electoral College, but rather seeks to direct the electors as provided in the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution, Creighton notes, spells out in Article II, Section 1, that only the state legislatures may set rules on electors and that, in fact, the term “Electoral College” does not appear in the Constitution.

“Right now, most states allow electors to abide by a ‘winner take all’ approach which casts all of a state’s electoral college votes for the candidate who wins that state,” no matter if the candidate wins by a single vote or in a landslide. That “winner take all” practice has resulted in four elections where the candidate who received the most popular votes was not seated as President. A half dozen other elections resulted in “near misses.”

Only about one in four persons surveyed believe that electing a President by the national popular vote will favor one party over another. And of those who believe that, there is a clear split over which party would be favored.

Support was strong for the popular vote across the state although the most vigorous support was noted in Northwestern Pennsylvania, where 72% supported the concept. Philadelphia and suburban counties came next with 69% supporting a National Popular Vote. 63% supported the concept in both Southwestern(including Pittsburgh) and Northeastern Pennsylvania. A clear majority (58%) supported the idea in Central Pennsylvania.

The Madonna survey included the questions on the presidential election at the request of the National Popular Vote Project, a non-partisan, non-profit organization promoting the issue nationwide. Interviews were conducted with 807 residents, of whom 659 were registered voters, using a random digit telephone number selection system that allowed for the inclusion of cell phone users, in addition to regular landline respondents. The sample error was plus or minus 3.4%.

Results in the survey were similar to those reported in a 2008 automated survey of more than 1,000 Pennsylvania voters conducted by Public Policy Polling. In that poll about 70% favored the election of the President by the national popular vote.