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Fair trade state legislators head to Washington...Anti-fair traders stay home

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This past week we've been posting findings from our election report, Fair Trade Gets an Upgrade. Today, we want to take a look at how a few former state legislators fared in last week's Congressional elections, and how their support or opposition to fair trade initiatives at the state level played a role in the outcome of their campaigns.

1. Former Nevada Sen. Dina Titus, who won last week's Congressional race for Nevada's third district, not only ran paid trade ads against unfair trade practices, she also cosponsored groundbreaking legislation in the Nevada Senate to require more legislative oversight of process by which Nevada commits to certain provisions of trade agreements.

2. Former Maryland Sen. Andy Harris, who lost his bid to represent Maryland’s first district in Congress, had a history of opposing fair-trade initiatives at the state level:

Harris was one of a handful of Maryland State Senators who opposed legislation similar to what Titus proposed requiring more legislative oversight of the process by which Maryland would commit to certain provisions of trade agreements. The legislation was first proposed by the Maryland state legislature in 2005 after Governor Robert Ehrlich committed Maryland to the procurement provisions in CAFTA without consulting the Maryland legislature (which has authority over procurement decisions). Many state legislators were up in arms upon learning that their governor had committed Maryland to the procurement provisions of the pact, thus opening Maryland’s government purchasing to international competition and striking a blow to “buy local” purchasing policies, local economic development initiatives, and campaigns to ban state procurement of goods from countries with horrendous human rights records.

Despite Harris' opposition, the legislation passed with an overwhelming majority and supporters successfully overrode the Governor’s veto.

3. Although it’s still too close to call for former California Sen. Tom McClintock who is running to represent California's fourth district, he too could be reeling, in part, from a weak stance on fair trade at the state level. McClintock was skeptical of California legislators’ efforts to speak out against nasty NAFTA Chapter 11 investor-state provisions which allow companies to sue governments over state regulations that might impact profits.

According to The Washington Times, “State and local officials are jumping into the national debate on globalization, led by an unusual state legislative committee in California that scrutinizes the effect of trade agreements on individual states. Though the Constitution gives the federal government jurisdiction over international trade, this bipartisan group is worried that international trade deals threaten the American ideal of state sovereignty. In California, state activism has centered on the Select Committee on International Trade Policy and State Legislation, headed by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, a Democrat from Los Angeles. The panel has taken aim at a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement that allows companies to seek monetary damages from governments for violations of the 1994 pact… Critics of the committee say there is little reason for it to stick its nose into an area of exclusive federal control. ‘Nobody ever lost any money underestimating the common sense of the California state legislature,’ said Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock.”

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