The United States Senate and House of Representatives have convened the 108th Congress in Washington D.C. One of the first orders of business will likely be the extension of unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of unemployed. The benefit cut-off was due to the refusal of the Republican House leadership to extend exhausted benefits last December. The political heat on Congress to right this wrong has been intense, and passage of an extension of benefits is predicted.
Over the coming weeks and months working people will need to keep a close eye on lawmakers; a number of important battles loom large. Led by President Bush, the slim Republican majority has promised to push for new and expanded tax cuts for the rich and for the repeal of overtime pay, among others. And with President Bush methodically preparing to launch a massive war against Iraq, the economic consequences of the war preparations and the national recession weigh heavy on the working families of our nation.
State Legislatures are also convening across the country. Virtually every state is facing a recession-induced budget crisis, with grave consequences for those who work in the public sector or who depend on state services. State Legislatures will convene in the following states where UE members live and work; California - underway; Massachusetts - Jan. 1; Ohio and Wisconsin - Jan. 6; Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania - Jan. 7; Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont - Jan. 8; Virginia - Jan. 9; Iowa - Jan. 13; New Jersey, South Dakota - Jan. 14; North Carolina - Jan. 29; West Virginia - Feb. 12.