Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

States Forge Ahead on Immigration, Global Warming

by Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer


From the Iraq war to illegal immigrants to global warming, states are showing impatience with Washington, D.C., and are blazing new policies often contrary to the feds.

While Republican President Bush and the newly Democratic Congress remain at loggerheads, action in state capitols this year shows a shift in America toward greater appreciation of the possible dangers of global climate change and growing intolerance of both the war in Iraq and the huge number of illegal immigrants.

In outright defiance of the federal government, six state legislatures declared they won’t go along with a federal overhaul of driver’s licenses that was inspired by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but that some perceive as leading to a national ID card.

Those are among the cutting-edge policy trends that emerge from a comprehensive survey by of new laws, governors’ agendas and partisan battles in 2007, now that all but a handful of state legislatures have finished for the year. Click here for a state-by-state summary of 2007 legislative action for the 45 legislatures that have adjourned or completed their budgets.

Among notable “firsts,” Virginia drivers now can be slapped with fines of up to $3,000 for repeat traffic violations. Maryland will be the first to require state contractors to pay employees a “living wage” ranging from $8.50 to $11.30 an hour, more than the new federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour that took effect this month.

Global warming became a No. 1 environmental issue as three states — New Jersey, Minnesota and Washington — joined California to limit smokestack emissions of gases blamed for heating the earth and 12 states now are signed up to follow California’s attempt to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from cars for the first time. California needs federal permission to impose the cutbacks on tailpipe emissions and is threatening to sue if it doesn’t get the green light soon.

Congress’ failure again this year to overhaul immigration policies fed frustrations in numerous states. The toughest sanctions yet against employers who hire undocumented workers were adopted in Arizona, where National Guard troops were activated to help stop illegal border crossings from Mexico. Employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants can lose their business licenses.

The war in Iraq also reverberated in statehouses. In 17 states, legislators signed a letter or at least one chamber of the legislature approved a nonbinding resolution condemning President Bush’s surge of U.S. troops in Iraq, according to a tally by the Progressive States Network, which lobbies for state policies.

Icon for promotion number 1

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Fresh data delivery Saturday mornings

Icon for promotion number 1

Sign up for The Briefing

Weekly updates on the world of news & information