Friday, June 17, 2005

News on PLAN

Lee Newspapers State Bureau Chief Chuck Johnson has an article in the Billings Gazette and Helena Independent Record:

HELENA - A new Helena-based national group, the Progressive Legislative Action Network, or PLAN, will be launched this summer to provide policy, communication and resources to "forward-thinking, progressive state legislators," its leaders said Thursday.

The co-chairmen are former Montana Senate Minority Leader Steve Doherty, D-Great Falls, and David Sirota, a Helena author who will be leaving his position as a fellow at the Center for American Progress to assume his new role.

The organization plans a formal kickoff event on Aug. 16 in Seattle to coincide with the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislators. The event will feature Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, former California House Speaker Willie Brown and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards. Panel discussions will be held on how to enact concrete progressive policies at the state level.

Getting things done...

"A number of different people have been talking about it, and a number of people have recognized that the states are where the action is," Doherty said in a phone interview. "That's where the high falutin' policy meets the road, as opposed to Congress."

He said this kind of progressive coordination hasn't taken place around the country, even though conservative lawmakers have had the American Legislative Exchange Council performing that role for 30 years. Some separate progressive groups exist for state lawmakers on environmental issues, some on economic and social justice and some that provide leadership training, Doherty said.

"This is kind of pulling it all together," he said. "How do we put that together so you don't get the situation of the wheel being reinvented 50 times?"

Doherty said he and Sirota are in the process of getting a board of directors assembled so they can raise money, hire a staff and visit with progressive legislators.

About David Sirota:

"With an entrenched majority in Washington, D.C., that ignores the needs of ordinary Americans, the real fight has moved to the states," Sirota said in a press release.

"PLAN will take the lead in crafting innovative policy solutions to improve the lives of Americans across the country. For far too long, right-wing groups have dominated the debate at the state level. With PLAN, that is going to change."

Sirota previously was spokesman for Democrats on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. He is currently completing a book on the middle-class economic squeeze that will be published by Random House's Crown Publishers in next spring.

He is a contributor to The Nation and a columnist for In These Times, a twice-weekly guest on "The Al Franken Show" and has a Web log,, that features his opinions on politician issues.

More on the PLAN team:

PLAN already has rented office space in Helena and has hired a former Montana Senate aide, Jamey Petersen, to help it figure out a fundraising strategy.

"I think it's important that it be in a state like Montana," said Doherty, a lawyer who served 12 years in the Senate and now is chairman of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission.

"We want to look at real-life solutions to real-life problems."

Solving real-life problems...good stuff.

~ Progressive Legislative Action Network