How Will Georgia Voters Turnout for Equal Pay?

Oct 31, 2014Andrea FlynnKameel MirKathleen Wilson

The Georgia senate candidates' most interesting records on equal pay are in business, and they're worth close attention. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

The Georgia senate candidates' most interesting records on equal pay are in business, and they're worth close attention. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

Early observers pegged the Georgia midterm senate race as one to watch, and they’ve been spot on so far. Democratic challenger Michelle Nunn and Republican contender David Perdue – legacies of two of Georgia’s most established political families who both happen to be from the tiny town of Perry – have been polling neck and neck for the past few weeks. At this point, many project the election in November will result in a January runoff.

Currently Nunn is polling at 45 percent, three points behind Perdue’s 48 percent, and her lead among women voters is down from 13 points to two. Even though Georgia has historically ranked low on female voter turnout, it is likely women voters will determine the outcome of the race. And for good reason: the winner will influence a number of issues that impact the lives of women, particularly women of color, both at the state and national level.

Where do Women in Georgia Stand?

  • Georgia’s current poverty rate of almost 20 percent is 50 percent higher than it was in 2000. Among black and Latina women, the rate is even higher: 33 and 36 percent, respectively. Forty percent of families led by single mothers are in poverty.
  • Georgia has the fifth largest uninsured population in the country.  Thirty percent of women in Georgia – 20 percent of white women, 29.4 percent of African-American women, and 53.1 percent of Hispanic women – have no health coverage.
  • If Georgia were to participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nearly 350,000 women would become insured. Expansion would generate the development of 70,343 jobs statewide in the next decade, would bring $33 billion of new federal funding into the state, and stimulate $1.8 billion in new state revenue.
  • More women in Georgia die of pregnancy-related causes than women in all but two other states. The state’s maternal mortality rate (MMR) – the number of women who die for every 100,000 births – has more than doubled since 2004 and is now 35.5 (a shocking 63.8 for black women and 24.6 for white women). That is almost twice the national MMR of 18.5.
  • Georgia has the highest unemployment rate in the United States, at 7.9 percent. It also has the highest unemployment gap between men and women, with 1.5 percent more women unemployed than men.
  • Georgia women who do work receive only 76.4 cents to the dollar compared to their male counterparts. The minimum wage in Georgia is $5.15 per hour, the lowest in the country, though workers are paid the higher federal minimum wage of  $7.25 per hour. Women are particularly affected by low minimum wages, comprising two-thirds of all minimum wage workers. More than 75 percent of these women are age 20 or older, and, if they are single with children, a full-time minimum wage job will not provide enough income to keep them above the poverty line.

Where Do the Candidates Stand? 

Health Care

Perdue’s campaign platform seeks to repeal the ACA and “replace it with a solution that works to lower costs and put patients in control of their health care decisions.” He believes the health law is harmful to small businesses and argues that its repeal will help strengthen the economy.

Nunn states that she supports the ACA and adopting Medicaid expansion in Georgia, and she did not support the 2013 government shutdown, which was driven by GOP opposition to many of the law’s key provisions, such as mandatory coverage of contraceptives. Nunn’s emphasis has been on fixing, not eliminating the ACA. She has proposed adding a more affordable tier of coverage and extending the tax credit for small businesses. “Here in Georgia--because we did not accept Medicaid expansion--a number of our rural hospitals are now having cuts that are really problematic. So I am running as someone who wants to fix the things that are broken in the health care system and build upon the things that are good, including ensuring that people who have preexisting conditions have access to health care, that kids up to age 26 have the opportunity to be covered by their parents.”

Abortion

Perdue is anti-choice and opposes same-sex marriage. Perdue has been quoted saying, “I believe that we should promote a culture that values life and protects the innocent, especially the unborn. Being pro-life and believing in the sanctity of marriage are my deeply held personal convictions. I will not waver in defending them if I have the privilege of serving you in the U.S Senate.” In September, Perdue was endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund, a nationwide anti-choice group.

Socially, Nunn walks an understated yet relatively liberal line. She believes that abortion should not be severely limited. She has drawn attention for touting her “Safe, Legal, and Rare” abortion policy, which is a relatively conservative stance for an Emily’s List-endorsed candidate. “On the issue of abortion, Nunn said that she believes abortions should be ‘safe, legal and rare’ and that women should be ultimately able to make this very difficult personal decision in concert with their doctor and their family." She believes employers should be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees.

Economic Security

Perdue promises to pursue job creation policies that will “grow our economy, plain and simple.” During his tenure as CEO of Dollar General, Perdue created nearly 2,000 stores and 20,000 new jobs, although he has been criticized for his outsourcing of thousands of jobs in an attempt to cut manufacturing and labor costs.

Perdue has not yet taken a stance on raising the minimum wage or on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would help close the pay gap between men and women. However, while Perdue was CEO, over 2,100 female employees launched complaints against Dollar General for practicing wage discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that female store managers at Dollar General “were discriminated against” and “generally were paid less than similarly situated male managers performing duties requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility.” His critics fear this may lead to Perdue’s support of policies that are economically unfavorable to women, if voted into office.

Michelle Nunn describes herself as a “pro-business moderate and defense hawk who wants to cut deals and get things done.” Nunn is CEO and President of Points of Light, which is the largest organization in the country committed to volunteer service. Under her tenure last year, Points of Light facilitated 260,000 projects that delivered 30 million hours of labor, amounting to $635 million.

Nunn says she supports raising the minimum wage, and that she wants to lower the corporate tax rate and eliminate tax breaks for companies that close factories and ship jobs overseas. She has been a proponent of equal pay legislation, and her campaign website reads, “People should get paid for the work the do – not who they are. Equal pay is respect for hard work, and every minute we let go by without it hurts Georgia families.”

Read the rest of this series, to be published over the course of Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31, here.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Kameel Mir is a fourth year student of international affairs, English, and Arabic, writer, campus feminist, and policy researcher at the University of Georgia.

Kathleen Wilson is an advocate for gender equality, and a student at the University of Georgia, where she studies Economics and International Affairs. 

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Uneven Records on Health Care for Florida's Candidates

Oct 31, 2014Andrea FlynnAriel Smilowitz

Florida's voters must choose between two candidates who were once members of the same party, which complicates their records. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

Florida's voters must choose between two candidates who were once members of the same party, which complicates their records. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

Florida’s gubernatorial race is one of the highest-profile elections in the country this year, with incumbent Rick Scott (R) running against former Florida governor – and former Republican – Charlie Crist (D). The race has been incredibly close, with most recent projections showing Scott just a single point ahead of Crist. Women voters could certainly turn the tide for either candidate. Women make up approximately 50 percent of Florida’s population and their needs and concerns – and consequently their vote – play an integral role in determining not only the upcoming gubernatorial election, but also the well-being and prosperity of Florida’s overall population. But the question remains: where do women in Florida truly stand, and what does the future of women’s rights look like for the state?

Where Do Women in Florida Stand?

  • Nearly one in five women in Florida do not have health insurance. According to the Alliance for a Just Society's recently released report card on women’s health, Florida ranks 47 out of 50 states in terms of women’s health coverage.
  • In 2011, 21 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 were living in a county without an abortion provider.
  • As of 2012, over one million women between the ages of 13 and 44 were in need of publicly funded contraceptive services and supplies, but only 21 percent of this need was met.
  • The poverty rate for women is 16.4 percent, and significantly higher for women of color: 26.4 percent for black women, and 21.6 percent for Hispanic women. The poverty rate among female-headed households is 40 percent.
  • Women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers. Raising the minimum wage would increase earnings for more than 500,000 women workers in the state. And raising the wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce food stamps enrollment by as many as 195,813 individuals.
  • The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported that the rate of forcible rape has increased from 2012 by 1.7 percent. Today, 1 in 6 women in Florida have been raped at some point in their lives.

Where Do the Candidates Stand?

Affordable Care Act/Medicaid Expansion

Although Crist currently embraces the Affordable Care Act (ACA), over time he has vacillated on President Obama’s signature health law. During his 2010 senate campaign he promised to repeal the law, then later said he wanted to modify it, and now he claims to completely support it. During a 2010 debate with his opponent Marco Rubio, Crist said that he thought we needed to “go ahead and repeal this thing.” Yet during an interview with CNN this past March, Crist said he thought “it’s been great,” and that Scott should have implemented Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Scott does not support the ACA. “Our health care system needs to be improved – there is no doubt, but we cannot say that Obamacare is the answer.” He has also called Obamacare a “bad law that just seems to be getting worse.” Scott initially opposed Medicaid expansion, but then changed his mind in 2013. He has supported the idea of expanding Medicaid, but has not advanced the issue, claiming that he is only committed to expanding the program in the first three years, during which time the federal government foots the entire bill. Beyond that, the state would be responsible for no more than ten percent of the cost.

Family Planning

Christ has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, has come out in support of family planning access, and recently spoke out against the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. “Today’s Supreme Court decision inserts an employer into a decision that women should be able to make without interference. And it will make healthcare more expensive and less available for Florida women.”

Scott was supportive of the Hobby Lobby ruling, stating the Supreme Court “upheld our freedom of religion.” His feelings about this ruling are characteristic of his previous positions on the issue. In 2011, Scott signed into law “a landmark Medicaid overhaul” allowing Medicaid providers to opt out of providing family planning services, including birth control, on “moral or religious grounds.”

Abortion

When Christ was governor in 2010, he vetoed an ultrasound bill similar to the bill that Scott signed into law in 2011, claiming the bill was “almost mean-spirited.” Throughout his political career, dating back to his days as a state legislator, Crist has claimed that he is personally pro-life, but that he also believes in respecting the right of women to make decisions with their doctors. When Crist was running for the Senate for the first time in 1998, he stated that he believed abortion was a decision that “a woman should make and have the right to make after consulting with her family, her physician, and her clergy, but not the government.” Nonetheless, Crist’s stances on particular abortion laws have varied, ranging from supporting a bill requiring a waiting period for minors to rejecting the overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

Scott’s record on abortion has been consistent. In 2011, he signed four abortion-related bills, one of which mandated women to receive an ultrasound before undergoing the procedure. Earlier this year, Scott signed into law a new bill that completely redefined when women are legally able to obtain an abortion. Today, abortions in Florida are illegal at whatever point a woman’s doctor determines the fetus is viable. The current law does make an exception when a woman’s life or physical health is in danger, but makes no exception for mental health concerns.

Violence Against Women

Crist has long record of supporting domestic violence protection and prevention efforts. As Attorney General, he established the Cut Out Domestic Violence Program and as governor he signed several bills strengthening penalties for those who commit domestic violence and increasing protective injunctions in domestic and sexual violence cases.

Two years ago, Scott vetoed $1.5 million in funding for 30 rape crisis centers, money that state lawmakers had allotted to meet the increased demand for victim services. According to one of Scott’s spokespersons, “this new funding … would have been duplicative, since, as a state, [Florida] already fund[s] sexual violence programs. There was no information suggesting any needs in this area weren’t already being met.”

Pay Equity

During the gubernatorial debates over the past few weeks, Crist has supported raising the minimum wage from $7.93 an hour to $10.10 an hour. “You deserve a governor who will fight for you, fight for a minimum wage increase,” Crist said during a debate in October.

Scott opposed raising the minimum wage and signed a bill in 2013 that prevents local cities and counties from passing their own higher wages and implementing benefits like paid sick leave.

 

Read the rest of this series, to be published over the course of Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31, here.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Ariel Smilowitz is a senior at Cornell University majoring in Government and the Northeast Regional Policy Coordinator for the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network. She is from Aventura, Florida.

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Still Fighting for Insurance Coverage in Wisconsin

Oct 30, 2014Andrea FlynnShulie Eisen

In the Wisconsin gubernatorial election, Medicaid coverage for 120,000 people hangs in the balance. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

In the Wisconsin gubernatorial election, Medicaid coverage for 120,000 people hangs in the balance. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

In the upcoming Wisconsin Governor’s election, which may very well turn on women’s votes, Governor Scott Walker (R) and Mary Burke (D) are vying to show women that they have their best interests in mind. Recent polls show the candidates tied statewide, but with women favoring Burke by as many as 14 points and Walker favored by men by as many as 28 points. The two candidates stand in stark contrast on a number of issues vital to women and families.

Where do women in Wisconsin stand?

  • The poverty rate among women in Wisconsin is 14.4 percent, but rates among women of color are dramatically higher: 41 percent for African American women and 31.4 percent for Hispanic women.
  • One in five Wisconsin women work in low-wage jobs, and women are over twice as likely as men to hold a low-wage job.
  • Women in Wisconsin on average earn only 75 cents for every dollar a man makes, two cents less than the national average.
  • Many women and poor families with children that are eligible are not receiving state support such as food stamps and, as in most states, childcare options are few and expensive.
  • Over one in ten women (11 percent) in Wisconsin are uninsured, with 18 percent of African American women and 29 percent of Hispanic women lacking coverage. 
  • The state has no paid sick leave or family leave policies.

Where do the candidates stand?

Affordable Care Act

Under Governor Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin set up a state-based exchange but has not participated in Medicaid expansion, leaving over 500,000 low-income individuals without health coverage. If those individuals lived in any of the four neighboring states they would be covered under Medicaid. In 2013 he made changes to Wisconsin’s existing Medicaid structure that resulted in more than 60,000 people getting kicked out of the program. Technically, many of those individuals qualified for subsidies to purchase private insurance through the exchange, but it appears that the majority (61 percent, or about 38,000 people) did not do so, though they could have purchased a plan not on sold on the exchange, obtained employer-sponsored coverage, or gotten on a spouse’s plan. According to a recent report by The White House Council of Economic Advisers, Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin would mean coverage for an additional 120,000 people by 2016. The majority of Wisconsin’s voters (59 percent) say they’d like the state to accept federal funding to support Medicaid expansion.

Burke says one of the first three pieces of legislation she would prioritize in her first 100 days in office would be accepting federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

Reproductive Health

Walker identifies as “100 percent pro-life” and has received a zero rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. In 2013 he signed a law that would require women seeking abortions to get ultrasounds and require abortion providers to have admitting privileges as a hospital within 30 miles (though the law is currently blocked). In 2012, he indicated support for a complete ban on abortion and the adoption of a personhood amendment in the state constitution, and in 2010 he stated his complete opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. From 2011 to 2013 Walker cut more than $1 million in funding for Planned Parenthood, leading to the closure of five clinics. In 2011, Walker attempted, unsuccessfully, to repeal the state’s Contraceptive Equity Law, which requires insurance companies to cover birth control. Walker also eliminated the state’s comprehensive sex education program and replaced it with an abstinence-based curriculum.

Burke is endorsed by Planned Parenthood. She “strongly supports a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions in consultation with her doctor and in accordance with her faith.”  She believes the restrictions supported by Walker are simply a “road block” that prevent women from making their own healthcare decisions, and that “women should have the ability to make their own decision when it comes to decisions that concern their own bodies.” She has promised to veto a 20-week abortion ban if one arrived on her desk.

Fair and equal pay

Wisconsin law requires the minimum wage to be a living wage, defined as one that is “sufficient” and enables workers to have “reasonable comfort, reasonable physical well-being, decency, and moral well-being.” Labor groups in the state have argued that the current wage – $7.25 an hour – does not meet that standard, and one group recently announced that it is suing Governor Walker to demand an increase. Sixty-one percent of likely Wisconsin voters favor increasing the minimum wage, a move that would increase the incomes of 333,000 women in the state.

In 2012, Walker supported the repeal of a law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to take their cases to court. He is against increasing the minimum wage and recently accused those who are in support of it as being  “involved in a ‘political grandstanding stunt’ to make ‘a cheap headline.’” He has said that he wants to focus on creating new jobs that pay better, not raising the wage of current jobs. In 2011, Walker received national attention for his support of a bill that dismantled the rights of public sector unions, a move that was a key motivator of the recall election he successfully fought off in 2012.

Burke is in favor of gradually raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the next three years. “People working full-time should be able to support themselves without having to rely on government assistance. At $7.25 an hour, that's just unrealistic.” Burke also says one of the first three pieces of legislation she would introduce and make a priority in the first 100 days in office is raising the minimum wage. She has also come out in opposition to Walker’s attack on unions, saying it was more than an attempt to address budget concerns, and was really “about undercutting our unions and taking away what I believe should be their right to collectively bargain." In addition to her stance on the minimum wage, Burke was applauded by First Lady Michelle Obama, who recently campaigned for her in the state, for being a leader who would fight for pay equity.

Social Safety Net

Walker believes that safety net benefits serve as incentives that prevent people from working. As such, he has supported drug testing for unemployment benefits and food stamps. In September he said, “My belief is that we shouldn’t be paying for them to sit on the couch, watching TV or playing Xbox.”

Burke is generally supportive of safety net programs such as unemployment insurance. “Making sure that people can access unemployment insurance while looking for work, bridging the gap between jobs, is important to ensuring economic stability.”

Read the rest of this series, to be published over the course of Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31, here.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Shulie Eisen is an independent reproductive health care consultant. Follow her on Twitter @shulieeisen.

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In Colorado, a Question of Personhood

Oct 30, 2014Andrea FlynnShulie Eisen

In Colorado, the Senate race is particularly divided by issues of personhood and the minimum wage. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

In Colorado, the Senate race is particularly divided by issues of personhood and the minimum wage. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

In September, a writer for the Denver Post accurately summed up the heated Colorado Senate race: "If Colorado's U.S. Senate race were a movie, the set would be a gynecologist's office, complete with an exam table and a set of stirrups." Perhaps more than in any other state, women’s issues have indeed been front and center in the sparring match between incumbent Senator Mark Udall (D) and Representative Cory Gardner (R). All eyes are on Colorado’s women’s vote, which is likely to determine that state’s next U.S. Senator, and in the process, set the course on a broad range of socioeconomic issues that disproportionately impact women.

Where do women in Colorado stand?

  • At first glance, women in Colorado are faring better than their counterparts in other states. Colorado has more women in the state legislature than any other state, and ranks among the top ten for the proportion of women with a bachelor's degree or higher and for its share of women in the workforce. But as a report from the Colorado Women’s Foundation illustrates, those gains obscure the disparities facing poor women and women of color.
  • Colorado women face higher poverty rates than men, and women of color experience rates twice that of white women. Two-thirds of all low-wage workers in Colorado are women. Families of color are particularly affected – median incomes for Black and Hispanic households are about 35 percent below the statewide median, and for American Indians, 40 percent below.
  • Only about half of low-income households headed by single women receive food stamps, and childcare in Colorado is among the most unaffordable in the country.
  • Colorado women make nearly $11,000 less annually compared to their male counterparts and are paid only 77 cents to every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men (African-American and Hispanic women earn 61 and 53 cents, respectively).
  • The state has no paid sick leave or family leave policies.

Where do the candidates stand?

Affordable Care Act

Colorado’s uninsured rate is 11 percent (down from 17 percent in 2013), thanks to its state exchange and Medicaid expansion. It now ranks fifth nationally among states’ reductions in the rate of uninsured under the ACA. It is predicted that Medicaid expansion will yield significant economic results: a 41.5 percent increase in federal payments, a more than $600 increase in average household earnings. the creation of 22,000 jobs, and a 20 percent growth in employment.

Udall was an early supporter of – and stands by his vote for – the ACA. He has said he is committed to making sure the ACA works for Colorado families. “We cannot go back to the old, broken system when adults and children could be refused coverage because of a preexisting condition, the sick faced annual coverage limits, and all of us were subject to persistent rate increases.”

As a representative Gardner opposed Colorado’s expansion of Medicaid, citing concerns over the state’s ability to pay for it. He has also cited concerns over discontinued plans and increased premiums resulting from the ACA’s new coverage requirements. “Health care should be about patients and doctors, not government and bureaucrats … As a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, I will be at the forefront of the effort to outline replacement legislation.”

Family Planning

Udall sponsored a bill in the Senate – the Not My Bosses’ Business Act – that would have nullified the Hobby Lobby ruling. He has also voted against banning federal funding for Planned Parenthood and against the Blunt Amendment, which would have granted broad exemptions to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. He said, “It astounds me that some still think the legality of birth control and access to reproductive health services should be subject to debate.”

Gardner voted in support of banning federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He voted against a proposal that would allow pharmacists to prescribe emergency contraception (EC) and against a measure that would require insurance companies to cover contraception. He has opposed a bill that would expand Medicaid coverage for birth control and another that would allow hospitals to tell rape victims about EC. He spoke out against legislation that required science-based sexuality education.

After the Supreme Court announced the Hobby Lobby decision, Gardner said, “The court made the right decision today to protect religious liberty and the First Amendment.” He later recommended that oral contraceptives be made available over-the-counter, a move that many women’s health advocates criticized as being a blatant attempt at trying to get women’s votes.

Abortion

Udall received a 100 percent pro-choice rating from NARAL and has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood. He has voted against so-called partial-birth abortion bans and against measures to prevent the transportation of minors across state lines to get an abortion. He supported a measure to ensure that rape victims have access to emergency contraception in hospitals and supported legislation to expand funding and access to contraceptive services. “I’ll never stop fighting to protect the rights of Colorado women because I trust them and respect the choices they make.”

Gardner received a zero percent pro-choice rating from NARAL. He voted against the 2009 Birth Control Protection Act and for a bill that would have allowed hospitals to refuse to provide an abortion, even when a woman’s life is at risk. He sponsored a state bill that would have banned all abortions in the state, co-sponsored a personhood bill at the federal level (Life at Conception Act), and in August, backed both state and federal "personhood" measures in an effort to ban abortion. He has since changed his position on personhood efforts, citing his belief that restricting birth control is simply not right (the current CO personhood measures would have restricted EC). In one recent poll of likely female voters, 60 percent say they don’t trust Gardner when he says he no longer supports a personhood amendment.

Pay Equity

Udall voted for the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 (meant to restore protections against pay discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, age, religion, or disability) and is a co-sponsor of the 2013 Paycheck Fairness Act (which has yet to be voted on but would strengthen protections against sex discrimination in wages).            

Gardner helped block efforts to move the Paycheck Fairness Act forward in the U.S. House in 2013. However, when he was in the state legislature, he supported legislation that designated Equal Pay Day and acknowledged the “persistent problem of wage disparity among various groups.” In one recent poll of likely female voters, 40 percent said Gardner’s role in helping the House block the consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act makes them less likely to vote for him.

Minimum Wage

Udall voted for the federal minimum wage hike bill in April 2014.            

 

Gardner opposes raising the federal minimum wage, saying that he thinks that “if there’s a minimum wage issue, shouldn’t the state of Colorado be best equipped to handle the minimum wage in the state of Colorado?” However, Gardner has also opposed state-level efforts—he criticized a 2006 ballot measure to increase the state minimum wage in Colorado, voted against a state measure to implement an amendment (approved by voters) to raise the minimum wage, and sponsored a floor amendment in 2007 to strip increases in the minimum wage adjusted for the consumer price index.

In one recent poll of likely female voters, close to two-thirds (61 percent) said they supported raising the minimum wage, and 41 percent said Gardner’s opposition to raising the minimum wage would make them less likely to vote for him.

Read the rest of this series, to be published over the course of Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31, here.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Shulie Eisen is an independent reproductive health care consultant. Follow her on Twitter @shulieeisen.

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Election 2014: Women's Rights in the Balance

Oct 30, 2014Andrea Flynn

As the election approaches, a number of close-call races could have disparate impact on women. This piece is the overview in our Election 2014: Women's Rights in the Balance series. The state-by-state analyses, to be published over the course of Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31, can be found here.

As the election approaches, a number of close-call races could have disparate impact on women. This piece is the overview in our Election 2014: Women's Rights in the Balance series. The state-by-state analyses, to be published over the course of Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31, can be found here.

Pundits have long anticipated that women voters would be the deciding factor in many of the midterm races across the United States. This seems only fitting, given that the outcome of many of this year’s races will shape policies and programs that have a disproportionate impact on women's health, economic security, and overall wellbeing. From birth control to fair pay to food stamps, there is a lot at stake, both at the national and state level.

With the elections less than a week away, control of the Senate is a tossup (and, according to a number of polls, that’s being generous to the Democrats). What if the Republicans gain a majority? For starters, it would certainly make it more difficult to advance proactive legislation on health access, reproductive and sexual health and rights, gun violence, safety net funding, and financial regulations, among other issues.

Even with the current Democratic majority, getting legislation passed has been a herculean effort. Remember a year ago when the federal government shut down for two weeks because of the GOP’s disdain for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and specifically its requirement that insurance companies pay for birth control? If lawmakers can’t do the job of keeping open the very government that employs them, it’s hardly surprising they can’t find a legislative fix to the Hobby Lobby ruling. The “Not My Bosses Business Act” – introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) in the wake of this summer’s Supreme Court decision – would have restored the ACA requirement that employer-based health plans cover all FDA-approved methods of contraception. But Republicans filibustered the vote, Democrats fell four votes shy of breaking the filibuster, and the bill met a swift end. Nothing about the fate of this bill – or many others like it – was surprising given the complete intransigence that has come to characterize Washington.

A more conservative Senate will mean even more attempts to reduce non-defense discretionary spending while concerns about ISIS, Russia, and other national security issues drive up the Pentagon budget. It will mean greater efforts to shrink the social safety net, to keep financial regulations at bay, to restrict reproductive health access, and to dismantle the ACA, President Obama’s crowning political achievement. As Politico pointed out recently, it’s nearly impossible for Republicans to completely repeal the ACA. But they would certainly try to overturn the law’s most vulnerable components or use appropriations and reconciliation battles to eviscerate it. And Republicans would use their strengthened political muscle to push for other measures that have been sidelined under Democratic control. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell has promised to push for a 20-week abortion ban if Republicans gain control of the Senate, and there would surely be more where that came from.

Of course, President Obama would veto any legislation that undermines his own policy priorities, but it remains to be seen how much political capital he would need to spend – and what he would be asked to give up – in order to stay the course. Funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for the employer mandate? Federal protections for contraceptive access in order to pay for essential safety programs like food stamps? Reducing funding for Medicaid expansion in order to authorize a funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program?

Meanwhile, because of the gridlock in federal politics, states have become an increasingly important battleground for both parties to test and advance their priorities, particularly those that relate to critical – and often controversial – social issues. Each party has seen wins thanks to the shifting focus to the states. Look no further than the historic gains in LGBT rights on the one hand, and the significant restrictions in abortion access on the other, that have swept the country in recent years. This election will determine the path states will take in a number of other important areas: Medicaid expansion, abortion and family planning access, safety net programs, fair and equal pay, and paid sick and family leave.

To more deeply explore what the midterm elections will mean for women and families, the Roosevelt Institute is releasing a series of articles that examine where the candidates in a number of “close-call” states stand on the issues. Many of these articles were researched by and co-written with students from these states involved with Roosevelt’s Campus Network, the nation’s largest student policy think tank. Our hope is that these pieces will help voters and advocates assess the pressing health and socioeconomic challenges women face in states across the country, and to illustrate where each candidate stands on policies that will have a disproportionate impact on women and their families. 

Read the state-by-state analyses in this series, to be published over the course of Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31, here.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

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Daily Digest - October 30: The Economic Impact of Cities' Sister Act

Oct 30, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Sister City Relationships Boost Business in Chicago, Phoenix and S.F. (Next City)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Sister City Relationships Boost Business in Chicago, Phoenix and S.F. (Next City)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Defense and Diplomacy Nehemiah Rolle examines how these relationships allow cities to be power players in the global economy.

Why Millennials Can Fix Healthcare (Huffington Post)

Campus Network Senior Fellow for Health Care Emily Cerciello argues that Millennials' focus on how businesses can improve society could dramatically change the health industry.

Why Dems Are Winning on Minimum Wage (Politico)

Timothy Noah points at numerous races in which raising the minimum wage is proving the perfect wedge issue, and could help to boost Democratic turnout at the polls.

What Happens When People—Rather Than Politicians—Are Given the Chance to Vote for a Higher Minimum Wage? (The Nation)

Michelle Chen says economic justice advocates see these ballot initiatives as a far more straightforward way to improve people's lives than dealing with politicians.

Watchdog Slams Mortgage, Student Loan Servicers (The Hill)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says it has found a broad array of illegal practices, reports Benjamin Goad, but it won't be announcing which servicers are breaking the law.

New on Next New Deal

Election 2014: Women's Rights in the Balance

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn introduces her series examining the ways that close-call races across the country could impact health care, economic issues, and more. The state-by-state analyses, published throughout today and tomorrow, can be found here.

We Need Pretrial Detention Reform in Massachusetts

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Equal Justice Jessica Morris says alternatives to bail would create a more just legal system in her state.

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Daily Digest - October 16: Can a Nobel Change the FCC's Tactics?

Oct 16, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Nobel-Winning Message for the FCC (Bloomberg View)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Nobel-Winning Message for the FCC (Bloomberg View)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford asks whether Jean Tirole's new Nobel Prize might convince the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider his work on regulating communications utilities.

Retail Group's Report Aims to Counter Wage 'Misperceptions' (Chicago Tribune)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Annette Bernhardt tells Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz that the National Retail Federation's report is "an astonishing exercise in tautology" that ignores the industry's bad jobs.

Nurses Union: ‘We’ve Been Lied To’ About Ebola Preparedness (MSNBC)

National Nurses United is accusing the Centers for Disease Control of insufficiently training nurses for the front-line work needed to fight this potential epidemic, reports Ned Resnikoff.

Wall Street Might Know Something the Rest of Us Don’t (NYT)

Neil Irwin suggests that current drops in the stock market need not be seen as a sign of another crisis brewing: more likely, the market is falling back in line with the rest of the economy.

When the Workday Never Really Ends (The Nation)

Michelle Chen looks at new research on how so-called flexible scheduling disrupts the lives of low-income workers with "normal unpredictability" in already-precarious industries.

What’s the Punishment for Ripping Off Consumers? (Medium)

The typical regulatory response to large financial institutions lying to customers is a fine, and Felix Salmon says these fines aren't high enough to be an actual punishment or force change.

Gar Alperovitz on Why the New Economy Movement Needs to Think Big (Yes Magazine)

Scott Gast reviews Alperovitz's new book, What Then Must We Do?, in which he lays out the possibility of a new economic system built up from worker cooperatives.

New on Next New Deal

Threat of Ebola Highlights Problems in the U.S. Public Health System

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Health Care Emily Cerciello says the two cases of Ebola transmitted in the U.S. prove the need for improved public health infrastructure and guidelines.

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Threat of Ebola Highlights Problems in the U.S. Public Health System

Oct 15, 2014Emily Cerciello

It is likely that Ebola will be contained in the United States, but errors in Texas show we have room for improvement in responding to public health emergencies.

It is likely that Ebola will be contained in the United States, but errors in Texas show we have room for improvement in responding to public health emergencies.

On October 15, the second case of Ebola transmitted in the United States was confirmed in Texas between patient Thomas Eric Duncan and a health worker. Even more frightening, perhaps, is the sequence of events leading up to the transmission, and the many questions it generates about the preparedness of the U.S. in responding to public health emergencies.

Six days after Duncan arrived in the United States  – having passed a screening for fever at a Liberian airport – his symptoms progressed and he sought care at a Texas hospital, where he was promptly sent home with antibiotics.

The hospital claimed his early discharge was the fault of the electronic health record (EHR) for not communicating the patient’s travel history, but soon issued a correction saying his history was “available to the full care team…there was no flaw in the EHR.”

No matter who or what is at fault for letting Duncan fall through the cracks, we cannot let this huge breach in protocol happen again.

More than a week later, and several days after the patient was confirmed to have Ebola, the apartment at which he was staying with four individuals remained unsterilized. The quarantined family had the responsibility of arranging clean bedding until a waste management company agreed to clean the apartment. When they arrived, contractors wore no protective equipment and used power washers to sanitize – a practice which is likely not the most effective method of treating infectious surfaces.

And then, on October 12, the CDC confirmed that a nurse who had worn full protective gear while treating Duncan had contracted Ebola due to a yet unknown breach in protocol. On, October 15, another nurse who treated Duncan was confirmed to have the virus, showing symptoms just one day after boarding a commercial flight returning from Cleveland to Dallas.

These events point to several issues in the U.S. public health infrastructure: who is in charge when high-stakes infectious diseases spread? How should the U.S. prevent diseases originating in other countries? What can we learn from this case to prevent other errors in the system?

First, we need to decide who, or which agency, is in charge when a public health emergency occurs. Larry Copeland, a reporter at USA Todayagrees. Currently, the CDC provides assistance and guidelines to states and educates providers about how to prepare for Ebola. The choice to enact these protocols and successful operation of these procedures remains with the states. The CDC also issues guidelines to prohibit practitioners who have treated Ebola patients from boarding commercial flights. Separately, the Department of Homeland Security controls issues of air travel, including providing guidance to airlines and calling for symptom screenings at high-profile airports.

So there is no single entity leading the public health response to Ebola. While the CDC may fall into this role, it is up to individual hospitals and practitioners to respond promptly and effectively. Unfortunately, in Texas, several errors – including sending the patient home while infected, delaying sanitation of the patient's apartment, and developing two more confirmed cases – showcase how disorganization in public health can lead to unfavorable outcomes.

And how should the U.S. prevent diseases originating in other countries? Experts agree that closing borders of West African countries would worsen the crisis. Unfortunately, the issue of Ebola as it relates to air travel has become politicized by conservatives, prompting CDC Director Tom Frieden to speak out strongly against a travel banConservative Republicans have even attempted to relate Ebola to anti-immigration reform by claiming that migrants from Central America could bring Ebola through the southern U.S. border (despite the fact that no outbreak of Ebola has ever occurred in Latin America).

In a press conference, Dr. Frieden assured that strong core public health functions could stop the spread of Ebola. Although the CDC and public health workers successfully tracked close contacts of Duncan and isolated those at high risk, those steps could not stop the first incorrect diagnosis or the spread to front-line health workers – arguably the most important role in stopping the epidemic.

The implications of public health slipups cannot be understated. We need to start a conversation about the relationship between federal, state and local public health authorities. We need to simplify and communicate protocols to hospitals and ensure that providers and communities are enacting preparations for infectious diseases. Valuing the field of public health as much as we do individual appointment-based care is essential to stopping an epidemic. We need to organize authority and mobilize an informed and efficient workforce to improve the preparedness of the U.S. health system in responding to public health emergencies.

Emily Cerciello is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Health Care, and a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Daily Digest - October 8: Government Should Push Back on Bad Financial Deals

Oct 8, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

City Hall’s Inaction on Interest-Rate Swaps Is Indefensible (Chicago Sun-Times)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

City Hall’s Inaction on Interest-Rate Swaps Is Indefensible (Chicago Sun-Times)

In a letter to the editor, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti points out what the Sun-Times missed in defending Mayor Emanuel's inaction to recover funds from these toxic deals.

Changing the Future of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (HuffPo)

In light of the Women and Girls Rising conference, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn and Campus Network Lower Northeast Policy Coordinator Ariel Smilowitz examine the policy shifts needed in the U.S.

Eric Schneiderman is Still Seeking Justice for the Financial Crisis (WaPo)

Katrina vanden Heuvel, a member of the Roosevelt Institute's Board of Directors, praises New York's Attorney General for almost single-handedly keeping up the fight to hold Wall Street accountable.

Amazon Warehouse Workers Head To Supreme Court Over Unpaid Theft Screenings (HuffPo)

Dave Jamieson lays out the arguments in Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, which broadly looks at whether employers can require nonessential tasks – like security screenings – off the clock.

The Great Wage Slowdown of the 21st Century (NYT)

David Leonhardt examines President Obama's optimistic take on why wage growth will finally start to pick up in the next few years. Leonhardt isn't quite sold.

John Boehner Just Admitted on Twitter That Republicans Have No Jobs Plan (TNR)

Danny Vinik says that while it's fun to joke about Boehner's empty tweet, the truth is that without a real jobs plan, Republicans have caused significant damage to the economy.

Tens of Thousands of Walmart Workers Are About to Lose Their Health Insurance — and It's Good News! (Vox)

Sarah Kliff explains that while Walmart's decision was almost certainly based on saving money, this gives part-time workers access to subsidies on the exchanges and cheap insurance.

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A Crisis Turned Catastrophe in Texas

Oct 3, 2014Andrea Flynn

The Texan legislature created a crisis of women's health care with House Bill 2, and the latest decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will bring Texan women to the brink.

The Texan legislature created a crisis of women's health care with House Bill 2, and the latest decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will bring Texan women to the brink.

Last night, a decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals left Texas with no more than eight remaining abortion clinics. You would think by now the willingness of state lawmakers to deliberately create a health crisis among their constituents – and the willingness of the courts to allow it – would be of no surprise. But I continue to be shocked.

"All Texas women have been relegated today to a second class of citizens whose constitutional rights are lesser than those in states less hostile to reproductive autonomy, and women facing difficult economic circumstances will be particularly hard hit by this devastating blow,” said the Center for Reproductive Right’s Nancy Northrup.

House Bill 2 could be the grand finale in Texas's efforts to completely dismantle its reproductive health infrastructure on which women – particularly poor women, women of color, young women, and immigrant women – have relied for decades. Pretty soon there won’t be any clinics left to close. Just three years ago, conservative lawmakers gutted the state’s family planning program, which closed approximately 80 family planning providers across the state, caused 55 more to reduce hours, and left hundreds of thousands of women without access to reproductive healthcare. Even before those programs were eviscerated, they provided care and services to only 20 percent of women in need.

And as if that wasn’t enough, lawmakers introduced HB2, a bill that imposes onerous restrictions on abortion providers and demands that all clinics meet costly – upwards of $1 million – building requirements to qualify them as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs). Lawmakers claimed these regulations were critical to protecting the lives and health of Texas women, but that’s simply not the case. Currently more than three-quarters of the state’s ASCs have waivers that allow them to circumvent certain requirements: unsurprisingly, abortion providers are prohibited from obtaining those same waivers. HB2 quickly closed the majority of the state’s 41 clinics that offered abortion services – clinics that also provided birth control, pap smears, breast exams, pregnancy tests, and a host of other services. There are few, if any, providers to take their place.

These new restrictions add an unbearable weight to the burdens that too many of Texas’ women already shoulder. Texas has one of the nation’s highest unintended and teen birth rates. The nation’s lowest percentage of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in their first trimester. The highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation. High rates of poverty and unemployment and a woefully inadequate social safety net. And lawmakers who refuse to expand Medicaid, leaving nearly 700,000 women who would qualify for coverage without it.

Just a few weeks ago, Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court in Austin gave health advocates an iota of hope when he ruled HB2 to be an undue burden on women’s constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion. Yeakel’s decision wasn’t just significant because it delivered a win for humanity in Texas after countless losses, or because the concept of an undue burden was finally being used to protect – not erode – women’s right to chose, but because it was based on facts. Facts! Judge Yeakel relied on incontrovertible data to call bullshit on a law that purports to protect women, but has only ever been about abolishing abortion access.  

He argued that for many women, HB2 might as well be an outright ban on abortion. He asked how the eight (at most) providers left could ever each serve between 7,500 and 10,000 patients. How would they cope with the more than 1,200 women per month who would be vying for limited appointments? “That the State suggests that these seven or eight providers could meet the demand of the entire state stretches credulity,” he said.

Yeakel acknowledged the complex intersections of women’s health and economic (in)security:

The record conclusively establishes that increased travel distances combine with practical concerns unique to every woman. These practical concerns include lack of availability of child care, unavailability of appointments at abortion facilities, unavailability of time off from work, immigration status and inability to pass border checkpoints, poverty level, the time and expense involved in traveling long distances, and other inarticulable psychological obstacles. These factors combine with increased travel distances to establish a de facto barrier to obtaining an abortion for a large number of Texas women of reproductive age who might choose seek a legal abortion.

Yeakel warned that the stated goal of improving women’s health would not come to pass. And it won’t. The increased delays in seeking early abortion care, risks associated with longer travel, the potential increases in self-induced abortions “almost certainly cancel out any potential health benefit associated with the requirement,” he said.

But Yeakel’s arguments were not compelling enough for the 5th Circuit, which finds it perfectly acceptable that more than one million women now need to travel more than 300 miles (and many women even further) to access health care that is constitutionally guaranteed to them.

This decision will have a ripple effect. Other anti-choice lawmakers across the country are following Texas’ lead, imposing similar restrictions on clinics and physicians who provide abortions. The vindication of Texas lawmakers who have used their legislative power to wreak havoc on the lives of women and families will only continue to embolden other states seeking the same goals.

Conservatives like to argue that they are not waging a war on women. Today there are a whole lot of us who find it impossible to argue otherwise. 

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

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