Progressives have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. Here are 9 things we can all celebrate.
States are enacting protections for undocumented immigrants.
Although federal-level immigration reform has stalled in Congress, California passed at least eight immigration-related bills that may significantly improve public safety as well as the quality of life for the state’s 2.45 million undocumented immigrants. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the Trust Act, which is a sweeping law that rolls back local jails’ compliance with federal orders to hold immigrants for detention or deportation. Undocumented immigrants can also apply for driver’s licenses and can now be admitted as attorneys if they pass the California state bar exam.
Same-sex couples have more access to marriage benefits than ever before.
There are now sixteen states, plus the District of Columbia and a few counties in New Mexico, that recognize same-sex couples’ marriages. Now that part of the Defense of Marriage Act has been ruled unconstitutional, same-sex couples and their families in all 50 states can access important federal protections and benefits if they marry where it’s legal. Massachusetts became the first state to offer marriage equality just ten years ago.
More workers are getting raises and taking sick leave.
Momentum is building to raise the minimum wage, with President Obama recently backing a hike to $10.10 an hour. States have raced ahead, though, with New Jersey voters passing a raise this month. Lawmakers in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. are also considering increases and supporters are pushing for raises in Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and South Dakota. A growing number of workers are also getting the guarantee of paid sick leave when they or their loved ones fall sick, with new laws in New York City, Portland, OR, and Jersey City, NJ this year. That makes six cities and the state of Connecticut with such policies.
Uninsured Americans are signing up for health insurance.
The number of people who are enrolling in Obamacare has doubled since October, with more than 200,000 individuals enrolling in private coverage through the law’s new insurance marketplaces. Nearly 400,000 low-income Americans have also signed up for Medicaid. Experts expect a surge of enrollment after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The U.S. is taking steps to address the consequences of climate change.
In June, President Obama announced the administration will prioritize cutting carbon pollution, leading international efforts to cut global emissions, and preparing the U.S. for the costly impacts of climate change. Then in September, the Environmental Protection Agency released updated draft rules setting a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that new power plants can emit. Rules for power plants already spewing carbon pollution the atmosphere are scheduled to come out next year.
States are enacting prison reform.
Federal and state governments have enacted polices to reduce unnecessary student arrests, direct drug offenders into rehabilitative programs rather than prison, and do away with some mandatory minimums. In states that have passed reforms, prison costs and recidivism rates are dropping dramatically.
College activists across the country are fighting back against rape culture.
CREDIT: Chase Carter via Flicker Creative Commons
A groundswell of activism on college campuses has captured national headlines and moved the dial forward on issues of rape culture. Students joined forces to file a flood of federal complaints against their universities for failing to accurately report rape and created resources to help other activists follow in their footsteps. Their persistent activism is starting to make a difference. University administrations are taking small steps to reform their policies, and a broader national conversation has been opened up about consent.
Solar power is on the rise and prices keep dropping.
Not all news about climate change is gloom and doom. One big area of innovation, solar, is actually experiencing something of a renaissance. It seems almost every day there is a new innovation in solar technology. It also keeps getting cheaper to produce solar energy, so it’s becoming more and more affordable to the average consumer. And, since it’s such a sustainable form of energy, major construction companies and low-income housing projects alike are turning to solar panels. Even utility companies are buying solar at a price lower than coal in some states.
Number of homeless Americans on the decline.
A recently released study found that homelessness in the U.S. has declined four percent in the last year nine percent since the beginning of the 2007 recession. The numbers are even better for those suffering from chronic homelessness (down 25 percent since 2007) and among homeless veterans (down 24 percent in the same timeframe). However, with 600,000 Americans experiencing homelessness last year, there is still much work yet to do.