A group of state legislators is meeting with administration officials at the White House and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to coordinate an effort to reverse the dominance of Republicans at the state level going into the 2016 election cycle.
According to Politico
, 20 Democratic state legislators from around the country are in Washington Thursday representing an organization called the State Innovation Exchange. The group has an economic equality agenda focusing on minimum wage hikes, equal pay, family leave benefits, education access, and collective bargaining protections.
The group appears to be trying to counter the well-financed network of conservative groups led by the American Legislative Exchange Council which has tended to dominate policy battles at the state level for years, Politico said.
"It remains to be seen whether a progressive voice can be as loud and persuasive at the state level as ALEC," said Minnesota State Senate President Senator Sandra Pappas, who is among the lawmakers in SiX's delegation, according to Politico.
A predecessor group to SiX had struggled to gain traction with national Democrats so this week's meetings are seen as a step forward for the cause.
"This is a very busy time in our legislative session and the ticket was expensive, but when I heard there was a White House briefing, it got my attention and I decided I better go for this," Pappas added.
The briefing with the White House is expected to include Education Secretary Arne Duncan, political director David Simas, intergovernmental affairs director Jerry Abramson, and a number of other policy advisers, Politico reported.
SiX is also working to raise its profile with national liberal groups including the Congressional Progressive Caucus
, and is hoping for an endorsement from Democracy Alliance
, which may include the group in its sponsored groups.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus is already working with the group on a series of townhall meetings around the country in which congressional lawmakers are paired with state lawmakers to help build support for issues at the state-level, Politico said.
"From the progressive caucus standpoint, we kind of feel like SiX is what the doctor ordered," said the caucus' co-chair, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, according to Politico.
"We know that a progressive group of state legislators can probably make more progress than us in Congress on these issues in this political climate, being so deeply divided."
SiX's founder and executive director, Nick Rathod, told Politico, "In the same way that conservatives 30 years ago decided to put money and investment in the states and are now seeing the benefits of that — with the largest number of chambers in their control since the 1920s and their ability to move legislation — we hope that this is the beginning of a similar movement for progressives in the states, where we are able to advance progressive legislation and also build a farm team of the next generation of leaders."
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