1. Reform the broken immigration system.
Following President Obama’s re-election — supported by a large majority of Latino voters — even House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) came out in support of comprehensive immigration reform. The president is preparing to “begin an all out drive” for immigration reform in January, so 2013 needs to be the year that Congress passes a comprehensive plan that includes a path to citizenship.
2. Enact sensible gun safety laws.
Tens of thousands of Americans signed a petition calling on the White House to introduce legislation to address the weak gun laws in the United States, members of Congress pledged to introduce billsregulating assault weapons, and President Obama has formed a task force to address gun violence. Lawmakers must act decisively in to prevent any more tragedies in 2013.
3. Secure higher wages and benefits for workers.
Union advocates launched campaigns to organize more service sector workplaces this year, and those efforts need to continue. In New York, fast food workers are fighting for the fair wages and health benefits that union membership could help bring. Across the country, Walmart workers are demanding labor rights and fair wages at a company that tells them that joining a union could mean the loss of their benefits. Unions built America’s middle class, and in the face of continued attacks on workers, they’re an important piece in the fight to strengthen it again.
4. Enhance oversight of the drones program.
Though the Obama administration’s policy of killing al-Qaeda and affiliated groups from afar may be weakening terrorist organizations, it is almost certainly killing innocent civilians as well. Given the level of secrecy surrounding the program, it’s almost impossible for the public to know whether the program is doing more good than harm.
5. Adopt a more effective federal drug policy.
In 2012, two states for the first time voted to legalize and regulate the marijuana industry. The move has prompted nationwide discussion and increasing support for a move away from the failed War on Drugs. In 2012, members of Congress and the administration should divert federal resources away from minor drug crimes, and clear the way for states to experiment with an alternative to the failed War on Drugs.
6. Embrace progressive monetary policy.
The latest announcement from the Federal Reserve that it will continue monetary stimulus until unemployment is below 6.5 percent or inflation rises above 2.5 percent was a historic shift in how the Fed strategizes and conceptualizes its role. It reorders the Fed’s priorities towards emphasizing employment. Bloggers and policymakers from across the political spectrum helped push forward the proposal by Chicago Fed president Charles Evans, but progressives certainly played a role. And this lays the foundation for eventually establishing even more worker-friendly Fed policies, such as NGDP targeting and a hike in the NAIRU — the level of employment the Fed believes the economy can tolerate before the danger of inflation becomes too great.
7. Reform the filibuster.
For President Obama’s entire term, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been the king of the Senate. And he’s wielded this power to more interested in sabotaging Obama than in actually governing. The solution is a robust filibuster reform package, including major confirmations reforms.
8. Minimize risky bank transactions.
The Volcker Rule, meant to rein in the sort of risky bank trading that helped fuel the 2008 financial crisis, is supposed to be implemented in early 2013. Wall Street lobbyists — and their Republican counterparts in Congress — are trying to water it down, even though it is necessary to safeguard the financial system.
9. Repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.
With the Supreme Court set to consider a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 2013 could prove to be a historic year for same-sex couples. Regardless of how the Court rules, the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation to repeal DOMA, enjoys record support in Congress.
10. Advance national standards for federal elections.
Americans had to overcome major obstacles and long lines to vote in 2012 due to Republican voter supppression efforts. To keep this from happening again, Congress needs to pass minimum standards for election procedures that states must abide by during federal elections.
11. Secure paid sick and parental leave.
The U.S. is one of the only developed countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave for expecting mothers. Federal policy should encourage employers to provide parents with time off to adjust to life with a newborn and additional time off to take care of their children in times of need.
12. Invest in infrastructure.
Our roads and bridges are literally crumbling, and analysts say the nation will need to make $2 trillion in immediate investments to update infrastructure. Hurricane Sandy underlined the problem, when 8.1 million people -– in homes, businesses, and hospitals — lost power.