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

Huffington Post on PLAN

David Sirota at the Huffington Post: The PLAN to Take Action at the State Level

How many times do we have to see ultra-right-wing politicians pass the most extreme legislation at the state level before we stand up and start doing something about it? GOP Governors revoke collective bargaining rights for workers, GOP legislators prevent communities from improving wages, and lunatic state officials are allowed to go on witchhunts against women who have had legal abortions. When are we really, in a serious, coordinated, national fashion going to stand up and say enough is enough?

That was the question brought to me earlier this year by a coalition of legislators, political operatives and donors - and we came up with an answer: we're going to stand up right now. Enter the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN) - our way to fight back at the state level and make the progressive vision a reality.

PLAN is going to be progressives' version of the American Legislative Exchange Council - the fringe-right-wing group that has been behind many of these extremist state policies. We are going to support progressive legislators and run winning issue campaigns to make progressive policies a reality in states all over America.

Kicking off PLAN in Seattle:

Our kickoff event is in Seattle on August 16th, where it will coincide with the bigger meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, and former California Speaker Willie Brown are among those slated to speak - and we will be having a series of panel discussions on how to implement concrete progressive policies. I am the co-director of PLAN along with former Montana Senate Minority Leader Steve Doherty - and we will also be giving a rundown of PLAN's overall strategy at the event.

Take a look at our event website, and this story about PLAN at New West magazine. Consider making the trek out to the event and, in the near future, contributing to our cause and helping us build our state networks.

Progressives for too long have focused only on the national debate in Washington, D.C. which is getting more and more out of touch with reality. The time is now for us to use the power we already have at the state level to start moving our vision forward. We can find success in the reddest of red states - and we can broaden that success throughout America if we make the commitment to work together as a movement. That is what PLAN is all about, and I hope you will join us in the fight.

~ Progressive Legislative Action Network