New Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) plans to ignore lame-duck power grab, tells Republicans: Sue me

Tony Evers has seen this before. When he was Wisconsin’s state schools superintendent, the GOP-controlled legislature and Gov. Scott Walker tried to limit his powers. He sued them over it, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in his favor. So after deposing Walker in November’s gubernatorial election, he’s not surprised that the GOP came after him again, passing a sheaf of last-minute laws in a lame-duck session that would severely restrict his ability to do his job and fulfill the promises he made to voters.

So, once again, he plans to rely on the courts to protect his right to do the job to which he was democratically elected. Via Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

He suggested he wouldn’t go along with parts of those wide-ranging measures but wouldn’t specify which ones. The new laws limit his authority over state rules, require him to get permission from lawmakers to adjust public benefits programs and diminish his say over the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

“Having gone through this in my previous job as state superintendent, I think it’s more likely that I will be sued because I’m now the chief executive of the state,” Evers said of a potential legal fight over the lame-duck legislation “Same thing happened when I was state superintendent — I was sued. So that’s where I anticipate most of the action to be.”

Evers didn’t specify which restrictions he would ignore, but he did lay out an ambitious first budget and agenda which can give us a few clues. According to the Journal-Sentinel report, he is aiming to “expand health insurance coverage under the ACA; allow illegal immigrants to qualify for driver’s cards; give immigrants who came to the state illegally as children the chance to pay in-state tuition; and allow property taxes to rise by more than they have in the past.”

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Virginia State Senator Dick Black, an unrepentant bigot monster, won’t run for re-election

State Senator Dick Black, who met with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2016 and has been a monstrous enemy of women and LGBTQ people, has announced that he is retiring from the Virginia State Senate at the end of his term.

It’s hard to overemphasize how awful Black, who represents Virginia’s 13th State Senate district, has been while in office. He backs dictators, is an unhinged conspiracy theoristrampantly homophobic, and viciously anti-choice. (For his greatest hits, check out Blue Virginia’s post from last summer.) The fact that he’s leaving is in and of itself great news, even before you get to the political opportunity offered by his exit.

Black’s district has backed Democrats for state and national office of late, with Tim Kaine beating Black’s fellow alt-right bigot Corey Stewart by 19% and Ralph Northam winning the governor’s race by 11% there. Some argue that he’s a better target than a boring, moderate Republican, but he won his race in 2015 after saying some pretty awful stuff, so this time around, Democrats won’t have to worry about whatever blinding spell he cast over his constituents.

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Previewing special elections in January and early February: A rising Democratic star, wingnut Republicans

Thought election season was over? Sorry, to paraphrase Jimmy Buffet and people who enjoy life more than me, it’s always election season somewhere.

January 8th

Virginia: Special election for State Senate, District 33

Democrat Jennifer Wexton won her race for Congress this fall, necessitating a special election to fill her northern Virginia State Senate. Wexton was first elected to the seat in a 2014 special election and won a full term in 2015. She won that race by 13% and the seat has been in Democratic hands since the 2005 election, making it a pretty safe blue seat.

Still, given the tight margins of the Virginia State Senate —- Republicans hold a two-seat majority — it’s important to not take anything for granted.

The Democratic nominee for this special election is Jennifer Boysko, who represents the 86th district in the House of Delegates. She has a long history in Democratic and progressive activism, having gotten involved with the Dean campaign early on in the 2004 election cycle. She wound up chairing Howard Dean’s campaign in Virginia, then ran for office herself for the first time in 2012. After losing by 32 votes, Boysko ran again and won her rematch for the House of Delegates in 2014.

During this very shortened campaign, Boysko has focused mostly on economic opportunity, pushing for independent redistricting to break the GOP’s gross gerrymander in Virginia, and reducing gun violence.

CLICK HERE to donate to Boysko’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

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Why Beto didn’t really lose: Texas Democrats made huge gains, ousting the worst Republicans

Democrats will likely end with 38 House pickups and new senators from Arizona and Nevada. On the state level, we flipped seven governorships (with Georgia and Florida still up in the air) and six state legislative chambers (including the State Senate here in New York!), with nearly 400 legislative seats flipped over the course of this election cycle. Democrats in Arizona narrowed Republican majorities, while Team Blue broke super-majorities in crucial states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina. A majority of voters actually voted Democrat in NC; an absurd GOP gerrymander was the only thing that kept that party in power.

There was also an immense amount of progress made in Texas. Really.

On paper, rockstar Rep. Beto O’Rourke came just short of unseating Sen. Ted Cruz, who beat him by less than three percentage points. It comes as little consolation to many of O’Rourke’s national supporters that it was the closest race in Texas in years — we all desperately wanted to unseat Cruz, a cynical snake wearing a suit of second-hand human skin with a face only an exterminator could love. But even though Beto came up short, his all-inclusive grassroots campaign helped lift other Democrats across Texas, assisting in major gains in a number of areas.

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Uber, but for being able to pay the rent

Here in New York, Mayor de Blasio signed major legislation that reigns in the unchecked growth of ride-hailing apps, which have latched on to American infrastructure and workers like a greedy, slickly designed succubus. The law freezes the number of new Uber and Lyft drivers for a year while the city studies the effects of the massive increase in drivers on the road — there are nearly 40,000 more “cab” drivers since 2015, and at any given time, 40% of those on the road do not have any passengers.

The flood of drivers with nothing to do has cut deeply into the earnings of traditional cab drivers, and Uber and Lyft drivers have fared no better, earning about $11 an hour thanks to the flood of drivers. Because they’re still considered independent contractors, they get no benefits from Uber or Lyft, either. So the new law also establishes a minimum wage for the drivers in the city, which will hopefully help the cycle of false hope, poverty, and all too often, suicide, which has become an epidemic here.

I’m not a cab driver, but the Uber problem is not limited to the livery industry. The “Uber for” construct of startup pitches became so ubiquitous a few years ago that it became a punchline, but the impact has been real. As a writer, even with a good full-time job, I am always looking for ways to supplement my income, largely to pay off medical bills. (I’ve had four heart surgeries and even with insurance, medicine costs hundreds a month and a quick annual checkup runs $500. Donate to my Patreon here?) I often look to pick up freelance work, whether it’s journalism unrelated to my day job or copywriting.

The latter is kind of a murky industry, but it has moved more and more towards platforms like Upwork, which function as a mass job posting board. Which would be fine, but the mechanics of the thing and the desperation of writers has led to an incredible plunge in payment rates — we are talking a dollar for a thousand words. It’s brutal. It feels more and more like this is the future — I’ve seen a lot of friends laid off from journalism jobs over the last few years. The uptick in digital media unionization at least gives me some hope. Right now editorial employees from Thrillist, the network of travel and culture sites, are striking after a year of management refusal to recognize and negotiate with their union.

The hard part is that you can’t blame the Upwork writers, just as you can’t blame the drivers. People don’t work for those rates for fun. And you can’t even blame many of the very small businesses and individuals that hire writers on the cheap — times are tight; wages after inflation are down. In the same way, you can’t blame people who take Uber and Lyft — I’d be a real hypocrite if I did that, since I’ve used both myself, especially when the subways were down. Regulating, not eliminating, the platforms is key, so that convenience doesn’t destroy sustenance.

The real solution to the Uber problem would be a more reliable mass transit system, but as New Yorkers and anyone who follows us on Twitter know, that does not appear imminent. It’s one of the big issues animating state elections this fall, which we’ve covered heavily here.

But those frustrating infrastructure battles aside, this really is a momentous occasion. Silicon Valley employs fleets of lobbyists and Uber has especially leaned into trying to shape public policy and opinion. Their ads plaster the subways and they bombard the media with AstroTurf campaigns. It has largely avoided regulation — and been able to get the few laws that have passed repealed — but their money and aggression did not work in New York.

Instead, defiant unions and progressive activists won the day. It’s a landmark event, and already lawmakers elsewhere are taking notice, with aldermen in Chicago also now suggesting a minimum wage for drivers.

Regulating the gig and sharing economy is a national priority for progressives, even if they aren’t linked on it the way Medicare for All has become a unified cause. And without that urgency, it’s an uphill climb. The GOP hates regulation already and states are largely controlled by Republicans. Should the midterm elections go our way, we could see a lot more of these kinds of laws, though even a lot of Democrats are sympathetic to tech interests, even as scrappy startups become international behemoths without much interest in the public good.

This New York Times piece is a great look at the fight Facebook and other internet monopolies put up against even a modest set of regulations. Airbnb is also an aggressive lobbying force, waging rhetorical and financial war against any legislator that dares suggest perhaps it’s not a great idea to have every home available for rent. Neighborhoods are being transformed and housing is at a premium thanks to gentrification, and landlords are frequently kicking people out of their homes in order to turn them into pseudo-hotel rooms. Rents go up with every Airbnb unit; one study found that “New York City renters had to pay an additional $616 million in 2016 due to price pressures created by Airbnb.”

Again, it’s complicated, because Airbnb does make things easier for travelers, and it’s nice side income for some people. But it’s the exploitation that makes it troublesome. Every good idea comes with bad actors who try to take advantage of the system.