Why climate groups are not thrilled about Mitch Landrieu leading the infrastructure deal
The case for Medicare Advantage reform, and non-citizen voting in NYC becomes law
I’m writing today with my last new work of 2021. Next week, though, I will send out one final newsletter with some reflections and highlights of the year. Thank you so much for coming on this freelance journey with me.
I’ll start with one exciting update: earlier this summer I wrote a story on a bill that would enfranchise over 900,000 non-citizens living in New York to vote in local elections. It’s been a goal of activists in the city since 2005, and there were prior failed legislative attempts for it in 2009 and 2013. Last week, though, that bill finally passed into law, enfranchising permanent residents and those with work authorizations — meaning those with Temporary Protected Status or in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. As I wrote in that story, and in a previous story on the topic, there’s a long history of non-citizen voting in the U.S. at the local, state and even federal levels that’s been largely erased from collective memory. And across the globe, more than 45 countries on nearly every continent allow resident noncitizens to vote at the local, regional, or national level in the host countries’ elections, including in the European Union, Venezuela, Israel, and New Zealand.
From the summer story:
For the first 150 years of American history, white, male, property owners, regardless of citizenship status, were permitted to vote. Voting was actually used as a tactic to foster civic attachment among the new white Christian men who came to the country during the 17th and 18th centuries and to entice them to occupy Native lands.
But hostility toward foreigners increased during and after the War of 1812, and some states began to restrict noncitizen voting. Another wave of nativist sentiment preceded World War I, leading to even more states eliminating the practice. Arkansas became the final state to end noncitizen voting in 1926, though noncitizens weren’t officially banned from voting in federal elections until 1996, when Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.
New York City was actually the first jurisdiction to bring the practice back. In 1968, as a concession during the city’s fight over “community control” of schools — a struggle to hold schools accountable by empowering parent representatives — New York granted noncitizens the right to vote in school board elections. Noncitizens voted in those contests until 2002, when the city switched to mayoral control and abolished its elected school board.
After New York City trailblazed on school board voting, Chicago followed suit about three decades later, and San Francisco in 2016. Ten cities in Maryland also allow noncitizen voting for elections including city council and mayor, and more recently voters in two Vermont cities — Montpelier and Winooski — approved measures to enfranchise any resident over 18. “People always glom onto the idea that you have to earn our right to vote by becoming a citizen,” Winooski’s bill sponsor, state Rep. Hal Colson, told Stateline. “I just don’t buy that. We’re talking about a large chunk of the community that’s closed off.”
Other states have been actively pushing back against noncitizen voting. Four states — Colorado, Florida, North Dakota, and Alabama — passed ballot amendments in the last few years to clarify in their state constitutions that only U.S. citizens can vote. And in 2018, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., introduced a nonbinding resolution in Congress condemning noncitizen voting, which passed with 279 votes in favor.
Anyway it will be really interesting to see how other cities react or follow suit. There’s a similar bill to extend voting rights to green card holders where I live in Washington D.C., a legislative effort that has failed four times over the last decade.
Today in The Intercept I have a story about Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans. He was recently tapped by Biden for a prestigious role in advising implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and as Politico reported last week, has since been “building a power center in the West Wing” to potentially “positio[n] himself well for a future spot in the president’s inner circle and, perhaps, in a post-Biden Democratic Party.” I looked at his climate record as mayor, and why climate activists are warning about the soft power he could wield on behalf of fossil fuel interests in his new role. Does this mean he will? No. Can it help to know the public is watching? Definitely. His sister, Mary Landrieu, currently works as a lobbyist for oil and gas, and I also have comments from the White House on that. You can read that story here.
And lastly, last week I had a story published in Matt Yglesias’s Slow Boring. He’s a journalist who started a full Substack-based publication last November, and he announced that in his second year of operation he’ll be commissioning freelance stories on a monthly basis. I was invited to pitch for his second month and I was glad to have the space and support to write 2,500 words on why reforming Medicare Advantage—the privatized version of Medicare currently serving 27 million seniors—is a good idea. It’s unfortunately paywalled, but I start by looking at the fact that at one point during the Build Back Better negotiations, lawmakers turned their sights to Medicare Advantage as a possible form of savings. That effort quickly died, partly due to aggressive lobbying by the health insurance industry and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. But enacting payment cuts is a good idea going forward, and I lay out the available research evidence as to why.
Anyway if anyone has friends at like, Last Week Tonight, please tell them we are patiently waiting for a segment on Medicare Advantage
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