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Warren Unveils Federal Voting Mandates

With 50 states comes 50 different procedures for voting. Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to see this end – at least for federal elections. This week she unveiled a proposal that would mandate a number of procedures that states must follow for federal races. She’s hoping this will appeal to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that has been vocal about voting rights.

 

Sen. Warren’s plan has a number of new mandates on states, including:

  • Automatic voter registration (with individuals being able to opt out)
  • Same-day voter registration
  • Prohibiting the removal of people from the voting rolls unless states have objective evidence of a reason to remove them
  • Fifteen days of early voting
  • Voting by mail
  • A uniform federal ballot

 

The proposal would also prohibit gerrymandering for political reasons, requiring states to use independent commissions to draw congressional district lines. Election Day would be a federal holiday.

 

These requirements would only be mandatory for federal elections. However, since many races for state and local office also occur at the same time as federal elections, it is likely that states would use the same procedures for these non-federal races. In effect, Sen. Warren’s proposal would impose uniform federal rules for elections nationwide.

 

Supporters of these ideas argue that they are necessary to prevent states from enacting voting rules that reduce turnout for minority voters or voters from certain political parties. They say that the U.S. should not have a patchwork of rules for voting. Opponents counter that this is another federal power grab from states that have always had the power to set election rules to meet local concerns.

 

Sen. Warren’s proposal is unlikely to see any legislative action in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, she will use it as part of her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

 

Do you think that the federal government should mandate uniform federal rules for elections? Should states implement automatic voter registration and same-day registration?

Sanders Proposed Canceling Student Loan Debt

In his second campaign for the presidency, Sen. Bernie Sanders thinks he has an issue that will attract the votes of millennial voters – student loan debt forgiveness.

 

Under legislation that Sen. Sanders plans to introduce, nearly all individuals who have taken out student loans would see their debt wiped out. His plan includes:

  • Complete forgiveness of outstanding debt for any student loans made, guaranteed, or insured by the federal government;
  • Federal purchase and forgiveness of outstanding private loan debt upon application by the person who incurred the debt;
  • Providing new student loans through the federal government and capping these loans’ interest rates at 1.88%;
  • The elimination of tuition at public colleges; and
  • New subsidies for low-income students attending private colleges.

 

Under this plan, there would be no limits on eligibility based on family income. To pay for this $2.2 trillion plan, Sen. Sanders proposed a new tax on Wall Street transactions.

 

Sen. Sanders says that his plan will be Wall Street bailing out the average American. He argues that debt-free education should be something that every American is entitled to have. Opponents note that his plan would benefit the rich as well as the average American, and would be extremely expensive.

 

Do you think that the federal government should forgive all student loan debt, regardless of the income of the borrowers? Should public universities and colleges be tuition-free?

House Votes to End Federal Spending at Trump Properties

Some observers have long been troubled by federal agencies that contract with properties owned by President Trump for things like lodging or food. Now the House of Representatives is taking steps to prevent federal dollars from being spent at Trump property.

 

By a vote of 231-187, the House of Representatives approved an amendment that included a provision banning the State Department from spending money on services provided at properties owned by the president. House members also approved a similar amendment for the Commerce and Justice Departments by a voice vote. These provisions are attached to the annual legislation that funds federal agencies.

 

Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Jaime Raskin (D-MD) proposed these amendments as a way to stop federal employees from lodging at Trump hotels, among other actions. They contend that this is a way for the president to profit from his office. They argue that the presidency should not be leveraged for personal gain, and that requiring federal money to be spent at Trump properties is unethical.

 

Republicans in the House pushed back, saying that such a prohibition could jeopardize security. They note that the federal government must undertake a number of actions at Trump properties when foreign dignitaries or the president is at them, and many of these activities would be impossible under the Cohen and Raskin amendment.

 

The spending bill that contains this prohibition must still be approved by the Senate. It is unlikely that it will remain in the Senate’s version of the legislation.

 

Do you think that there should be a ban on federal spending at property owned by President Trump? Is it improper for the federal government to pay for lodging and other services at Trump properties?

Amash Tries, and Fails, to Stop Warrantless Data Collection

Rep. Justin Amash has blazed his own path during his tenure in Congress, taking positions at odds with both Democrats and Republicans. One of his main topics of concern has been warrantless intelligence gathering. This week, Rep. Amash introduced an amendment to curtail this practice. While it drew bipartisan support, it drew stronger bipartisan opposition, ultimately being voted down.

 

The amendment in question would have limited federal power to collect data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Under its provisions, the National Security Agency could only collect data on someone without a warrant if that person was not in the United States.

 

As Rep. Amash pointed out, numerous Republicans had decried abuse of the FISA intelligence collection system in recent months due to the investigation of President Trump’s campaign. Democrats have also talked about limiting the power of the executive branch to act without judicial oversight. He said that his amendment was a way for both sides to do something about their complaints. Opponents of this amendment said that it would hamper vital anti-terrorism work.

 

The amendment did receive support from both Democrats and Republicans, ranging from Freedom Caucus Chair Jim Jordan to progressive Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. When the vote was called, 110 Democrats and 65 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment. However, they were outnumbered by the 126 Democratic votes and 127 Republican votes against it. The final tally was 175-223.

 

Do you think that the National Security Agency should obtain a warrant to collect data on individuals within the United States?

Trump Carbon Reduction Rule Displeases Environmentalists

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a regulation that mandates a reduction in U.S. carbon emissions of 30% over 2005 levels by 2030. Environmentalist say it does not go far enough.

 

The new carbon emissions regulation is a replacement of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Under that rule, which would have required states to take a host of steps to restructure the power sector with the goal of reducing carbon emissions. Under the Trump plan, states will have more flexibility to meet its goals.

 

Critics decry the EPA’s actions as being insufficient. They say that the U.S. must cut carbon emissions by at least 60% in order to prevent a 2 degree increase in global temperature. Because of the phase-out of high-carbon coal power plants, U.S. carbon emissions have been falling in recent years. Some observers say the nation is on track to meet the new regulatory goals because of this effect.

 

President Trump came into office vowing to support the coal industry and roll back Obama Administration environmental policies. The president has also expressed skepticism about humans causing global warming.

 

Do you support federal climate change rules that mandate how electricity is produced to reduce carbon emissions? Or should the federal government set an overall carbon emissions reduction goal and let states determine how to meet that limit?

House Holds Slavery Reparations Hearing

Reparations for the descendants of slaves is taking center stage in the House of Representatives today. A committee is holding a hearing on a proposal to form a commission to examine this controversial issue. But even though the commission has the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many Democrats running for president, it faces tough opposition in Congress.

 

The hearing is set to examine H.R. 40, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). This legislation would, in the words of the bill,

 

…address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.

 

The committee’s scheduled list of witnesses include actor Danny Glover and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who wrote an article in 2014 that helped reignite the conversation about reparations.

 

Those who support reparations point to the long history of legally-sanctioned slavery and discrimination in the United States. They argue that this legacy still affects the descendants of slaves, so the government should compensate those individuals. Opponents of reparations counter that the U.S. fought a war to end slavery, and that no slave is currently living.


Reparations have been raised by some Democrats who are running for president. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also supports forming a commission to examine this issue. Senator Mitch McConnell, however, has said that even if H.R. 40 passes the House, it will be dead in the Senate. The legislation has near-universal Republican opposition, and even some Democrats express skepticism about it.

 

Today’s hearing if the first time that a congressional committee has examined reparations.

 

Do you support reparations for the descendants of slaves? If so, what should slavery reparations look like?

NY Ends Religious Exemption for Vaccination

New York is experiencing its worst measles outbreak in decades. In response, the state will no longer allow parents to cite their religious beliefs to refuse meeting vaccination requirements for school enrollment.

 

Under a bill signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, parents wishing to enroll their children in school can no longer say their religious beliefs preclude them from vaccination in order to gain an exemption from the mandate. Children who have medical conditions that do not allow them to be vaccinated could still receive an exemption. Children who are home schooled do not have to be vaccinated.

 

Many of the measles cases in New York are centered in the Orthodox Jewish community, many of whose members shun vaccinations. Some Orthodox Jewish leaders protested this new law, saying it will infringe upon their religious beliefs. Backers of the bill said that there is no religious right to spread diseases to others.

 

Public health advocates have been pushing to make it more difficult for parents to opt out of the vaccination schedule. They point to the rising cases of measles and other diseases that can be stopped by vaccines, saying that parents are using loopholes to avoid proven ways to stop these outbreaks. Some parents are pushing back, citing health or moral concerns as reasons to avoid vaccinating their children.

 

In recent years, both California and Maine have revoked their religious exemptions to vaccine mandates, joining Mississippi and West Virginia – and now New York – as the only states without this exemption.

 

Do you think that parents should be able to claim religious reasons to avoid vaccinating their children prior to school enrollment?

High Court Orders Oregon to Reconsider Fine in Gay Wedding Cake Case

The Supreme Court once again delved into the conflict between religious liberty and anti-discrimination laws today. The justices issued an order overturning an Oregon court’s decision against two bakery owners whom the state fined because they refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The order said the state court should re-examine its decision in light of a Supreme Court decision last year that overturned a similar fine for a bakery in Colorado.

 

The case involves a bakery in a city outside of Portland, Oregon, whose owners refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple’s ceremony. They cited their religious faith as their reason for refusing. Oregon has a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The state used that law to fine the bakery’s owners $135,000. In 2017, the state Supreme Court upheld this fine, deciding that the bakers could not use their religion as a reason to refuse to comply with the state’s law.

 

Last year, the Supreme Court threw out a fine against a Colorado bakery under very similar circumstances. In the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the high court held that hostility to religion animated the decision made by the Colorado agency in charge of administering its anti-discrimination law.

 

The order in the Oregon case said that the state court must reconsider its decision against the baker using the reasoning in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. This is not a full victory for the baker, however. Oregon Court of Appeals could decide that its original decision was correct and that the reasoning of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case does not apply. If that happens, the Supreme Court will likely be faced with this case again.

 

Do you think that business owners should be able to refuse service for situations they believe violate their religious beliefs? Or should anti-discrimination laws apply to everyone, regardless of someone’s religious beliefs?

Abortion Funding Ban Stays in Spending Bill

There has been a prohibition on spending federal money on abortion for over forty years. Reversing this ban has become a popular issue with Democrats running for president. However, the spending bill moving through the House of Representatives once again contains this ban, and House Democrats are not taking steps to strip it out.

 

In 1976, then-Rep. Henry Hyde sponsored an amendment to an annual government spending bill that prohibits federal funding for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother. This provision has been in every yearly spending bill since then. This includes the Labor-HHS-Education legislation currently being considered by the House of Representatives.

 

At the time of its enactment, the Hyde Amendment had bipartisan support. Today, however, Democrats are increasingly critical of it. Former Vice President Joe Biden had been a backer of the ban, but recently reversed his stance. By doing this, he joined his fellow Democratic candidates for president who want to see federal money paying for abortions.

 

While Democrats may not like the Hyde Amendment, there is no real effort to remove it from this year’s spending legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argues that the spending bill needs bipartisan support to avoid a government shutdown, so Democrats should accept this provision to advance their overall goals.

 

Those backing the Hyde Amendment contend that taxpayers should not be funding a procedure that many Americans consider tantamount to murder. They say that federal health care programs, such as Medicaid, should focus spending on other health care priorities. Those opposing this amendment say that banning the use of federal funds for abortion deprives poor women of the full range of reproductive choice.

 

Do you think that federal funds should be used to pay for abortions for Medicaid recipients and others in government health care programs?

AOC, Cruz Team up on Birth Control

Conservative Senator Ted Cruz and Progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez don’t agree on much. But they appear to have found common ground via Twitter on a subject that affects the lives of tens of millions of Americans – birth control.

 

Specifically, the two lawmakers agree that oral contraceptives for women should be available without prescription. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classification for these contraceptives do not allow them to be sold over the counter, forcing women to get a prescription if they want them. There is growing bipartisan consensus that this should change.

 

Some states have passed laws allowing pharmacists to write prescriptions for oral contraception, making it easier for women to buy it. Sen. Cruz and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez want to go further, however. They would like to see the FDA reclassify these drugs to enable their purchase without any prescription at all. For the FDA to do this, it will take a lengthy reclassification process. President Trump has signaled his support for this, saying in 2016 that women should not be forced to get a prescription to buy contraception.

 

If the FDA does reclassify these drugs, they would be much easier for women to purchase. However, some worry that if they became over-the-counter drugs, then insurance would no longer be forced to provide them at no charge to users. They see this move by conservatives as a way to undermine the Affordable Care Act.


For the FDA to begin examining oral contraceptives for over-the-counter sale, a company must petition the agency to do so.

 

Should the government allow birth control pills to be sold without a prescription?

Big Tech Facing Antitrust Action in DC

Millions of people use the services Twitter, Google, Facebook, and other technology companies. The dominance of these companies has raised the ire of some politicians and regulators, however. Yesterday both the House of Representatives and the Department of Justice signaled they are looking at antitrust action against big technology firms.

 

The legislative front against these companies will be spearheaded by the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee. Chairman David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, held hearings yesterday examining the impact of tech companies on the news media. He contends that these companies harm the news industry.

 

During the hearing, there was bipartisan support for some legislative changes aimed at helping the news industry compete in the changing technology landscape, but there were differences on how far Congress should go in pursuing antitrust action. Some Democrats have suggested breaking up companies like Google on antitrust grounds.

 

The antitrust path is something the Trump Administration is considering, as a speech by a top Justice Department official yesterday indicated. He laid out principles by which the department could pursue legal action against Facebook, Twitter, and others, saying that federal antitrust law could deal with the issues posed by these companies. He noted that antitrust law has many aspects, including consumer harm and harm to competition.

 

It is unclear if any legislation will emerge from Congress with a bipartisan consensus on this issue, just as it is unknown what the Trump Administration will do in the courts. However, there does appear to be growing desire to act in the executive and legislative branch.

 

Do you think that large technology companies like Facebook and Google should be broken up under antitrust law? Are consumers harmed by these companies? Does Big Tech stifle competition?

High Court Continues Allowing Indefinite Detention at Guantanamo

It’s been 18 years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Some enemy combatants from the early days of this conflict are still being held in Guantanamo Bay without being charged with a crime. The Supreme Court recently declined to hear a case that would challenge such detentions, meaning that there is no release in sight for these individuals.

 

As part of the war against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, the U.S. government had detained some individuals at the military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, even though they have not been charged with crimes. These are labeled as enemy combatants, and the U.S. government says they are too dangerous to be released.

 

One of those detainees, a Yemeni named Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi, has been in Guantanamo since 2002. The Supreme Court recently declined to hear a legal challenge of his indefinite detention, leaving him locked up. In a 2004 case, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the high court ruled that the government could indefinitely detain enemy combatants as long as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force for action in Afghanistan was still in effect.

 

Critics of this indefinite detention argue that the current military action in Afghanistan bears little relation to what Congress initially authorized in 2001. They say that the government should not have the power to detain someone for an indefinite period of time, potentially for the person’s entire life, without bringing charges against him or her. Supporters counter that the U.S. is still engaged in a war on terror and that these enemy combatants would be dangerous if released.

 

Do you think that the U.S. should be able to hold enemy combatants without bringing charges? Should there be a time limit on these indefinite detentions?

Mexico and U.S. Reach Immigration Agreement

Illegal immigration has been a hot topic throughout President Trump’s term in office. The president recently threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican goods unless that nation’s government took steps to curtail illegal immigration. This weekend, the two nations came to an agreement that will avoid these tariffs.

 

Under this deal, Mexico will increase the military presence on its southern border to deter migrants from Central America entering and coming to the U.S. Mexico will also allow some asylum seekers to be returned to Mexico to await a resolution of their claim.

 

This plan was drawn up after President Trump threatened an escalating series of tariffs in response to what he termed the Mexican government’s inadequate efforts to deter illegal immigration into the U.S. Many in the business community, and many Republicans in Congress, said that these tariffs would be destructive to the U.S. economy.

 

Democrats have expressed skepticism that this agreement will do much to address the problems causing people to enter the U.S. illegally. President Trump’s supporters hail it as a victory for his negotiating skill.

 

What should the Mexican government be doing, if anything, to stop illegal immigrants from entering the U.S.?

House Passes Residency Fix for Dreamers

The fate of so-called “Dreamers” – illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children – has been debated in Washington for years. This week, the House of Representatives passed legislation to provide them with a path to permanent residency. But President Donald Trump has said he is opposed to it.

 

The House passed H.R. 6 by a vote of 237-187 on June 4. Here is how VoteSpotter described the legislation:

 

To stop deportation proceedings against non-citizens who were brought to the U.S. as minors, and allow those individuals to remain in the U.S. for 10 years. To qualify, a person must have been brought to the U.S. as a minor, must meet certain educational and residency requirements, and cannot have been convicted of a felony, among other things. The bill would also allow these individuals to become permanent legal residents if they graduate college, complete military service, or have three years of steady employment.

 

President Obama attempted to deal with the status of Dreamers without Congress. He instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This affected illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who met educational requirements and had no criminal record to be shielded from deportation. Once he assumed office, Donald Trump canceled DACA, saying it was an overreach of executive power.

 

President Trump has signaled support for legislation that would provide permanent residency for Dreamers. However, he has issued a veto threat for H.R. 6. He would like to see this issue tied to a larger plan that limits immigration and provides more border security. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees with the president, and has said that the Senate will not consider H.R. 6.

 

Do you think that children who were brought to the U.S. illegally should receive legal residence if they have no criminal record and meet education requirements? Should the status of Dreamers be tied to overall immigration reform?

Beverly Hills Bans Tobacco Sales

Smokers in Beverly Hills will soon have to go outside the city limits to buy tobacco. The city council recently voted to prohibit the sale of tobacco and vaping products in most retail establishments.

 

In a unanimous vote, the council passed a law banning the sale of cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products as well as electronic cigarettes. Hotels and cigar lounges are exempt from the law, which affects all other retail establishments in the city limits. This ban takes effect in 2021.

 

Backers of this measure say that it is necessary to protect public health. The ordinance states that it is a way to promote the city’s healthy image. Opponents counter that tobacco users will merely go to retailers outside the city limits to buy their products. This, they argue, will hurt businesses in Beverly Hills but do nothing to decrease tobacco use in the city.

 

This action by Beverly Hills is the first time that a city has banned almost all tobacco sales. Some other California cities are also considering a similar ban.

 

Do you think that the government should prohibit the sale of tobacco products?

Northam Pushes for Gun Control in Virginia

Democratic Governor Ralph Northam is calling legislators back to work for a special session. He wants them to have an up-or-down vote on a variety of gun control bills. The Republicans who control both houses of the legislature are cool to the idea.

 

In the wake of a workplace shooting in Virginia Beach, Gov. Northam said he would call a special session of the legislature focused on gun control legislation. Saying that thoughts and prayers were not enough, the governor wants Republican lawmakers to bring gun control bills to the floor of both chambers for a vote.

 

Virginia Democratic legislators have introduced numerous gun control bills in recent years, but the Republicans who control both chambers of the General Assembly have killed these bills in committee. The governor has urged the Republican leadership to allow a floor vote on a variety of measures.

 

Gov. Northam said that he would work with legislators to introduce bills that would mandate background checks for gun sales between private individuals, give local governments more power to limit guns in public buildings, prohibit purchasing more than one handgun a month, and allow the government to seize firearms under a “red flag” law.

 

The majority leaders in the legislature point out that the governor can call a special session, but cannot determine how the legislature operates. They say that the governor should focus on punishing criminals, not in restricting constitutional rights.

 

Do you think that Virginia legislators should enact stricter gun control laws?

Congress May Block Trump's Tariffs

President Trump is a big fan of tariffs. In fact, he’s called himself “Tariff Man” on Twitter. But many members of Congress disagree with him. The president’s announcement that he would be imposing new tariffs on Mexico could prompt a response from these lawmakers that would end his ability to start a trade war with our southern neighbor.

 

Last week the president said that he would impose an escalating series of tariffs on Mexico until its government stopped the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. He would have the authority to do this under his declaration of an emergency at the U.S.-Mexican border. He issued this emergency declaration in February, claiming that a surge of illegal immigration threatened the U.S. This allows him broad powers to deal with the situation, including repurposing money for a border wall and imposing tariffs.

 

Congress also has power under this emergency declaration – specifically the power to revoke it. Both the House and Senate voted to undo the emergency, but the president vetoed the resolution. With only a handful of Republicans joining all the Democrats in rebuking the president, there were not supermajorities in either house to override his veto. Resolutions to revoke a presidential emergency can be considered every six months.

 

President Trump’s latest move on tariffs may prompt more Republicans to support another attempt to undo the February emergency declaration. In recent years, Republicans have generally opposed high tariffs. They see them as a tax on Americans who are forced to pay higher prices for foreign goods directly affected by tariffs and American goods that no longer face as much foreign competition. The president’s desire to impose steep tariffs on Mexico, a large trading partner with the U.S., has caused consternation among many GOP members of Congress.

 

If one house of Congress passes a resolution to revoke a presidential emergency, the other house must also consider it. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will almost certainly pass such a resolution, meaning that the Republican-controlled Senate would then put the measure on its agenda. It remains to be seen if there will be more Republicans in both chambers who choose to buck the president on this issue because of their dislike of tariffs.

 

Do you support President Trump’s plan to impose new tariffs on products coming from Mexico? Should Congress stop these tariffs?

Red Light Cameras Banned in Texas

Many drivers don’t like red light cameras that lead to fines for violating traffic signals. Texas Governor Greg Abbott doesn’t like the cameras, either, as he recently signed legislation to ban their use in the state.

 

Under the bill signed by Gov. Abbott, local governments in Texas cannot sign contracts to operate red light cameras after September 1. Private companies operate these cameras, and they split any revenue generated with the government. Contracts that are already in effect could be continued, but not renewed. The state would also be prohibited from refusing to register a vehicle on the basis of that vehicle’s unpaid camera fines.

 

Cameras that enforce traffic signals and speed limits are controversial. Critics of them contend that they are a violation of constitutional provisions that require someone accused of a crime to be able to confront his or her accuser. They also say that the cameras are primarily aimed at gaining revenue, not public safety. Supporters of the cameras counter that they are indeed about safety, since people adjust their behaviors when they know cameras are present. They also say that these cameras allow law enforcement officers to concentrate on more serious crime.

 

Do you think that governments should be operating cameras to enforce traffic laws? Or should red light and speed cameras be banned?

Illinois Set to Legalizing Marijuana

Legislators in Illinois are rushing to finish their work before adjournment on Friday. One piece of business that appears headed to the governor’s desk is a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

 

Under this bill, Illinois residents could possess 30 grams of marijuana. Sales of marijuana would become legal in 2020, but people could only grow their own marijuana for medicinal purposes. The state would impose either a 10% of a 25% tax, depending on potency. The state would tax edible products at a 20% rate. Anyone who has a conviction for a marijuana offense involving 30 grams or fewer would receive a gubernatorial pardon, while those with offenses relating to larger amounts of marijuana could petition for an expungement.

 

Ten other states permit people to use marijuana recreationally. The federal government still lists marijuana as a prohibited drug, but most marijuana arrests for possession are at the state level. There are efforts in Congress to adjust federal law to recognize marijuana businesses in states where they are permitted. President Trump has indicated support for such legislation.

 

Do you think that states should legalize marijuana for recreational use? Should people be allowed to grow marijuana at home? What should the federal government do regarding marijuana?

Rep. Massie Won’t Let Disaster Aid Pass without a Vote

After months of wrangling, there is bipartisan consensus about a disaster aid spending bill. There is only one hang-up preventing its passage – the insistence of a few House members that it receive a vote.

 

The Senate passed a $19 billion aid bill last week before leaving town for Memorial Day recess. There is overwhelming support for the bill in the House of Representatives. But House members left town before they voted on the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to get the bill passed through the House via unanimous consent during a pro forma session during recess. Such a process requires any House member present to approve. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) do not agree, and have objected to the Speaker’s attempts to pass the bill.

 

Rep. Massie justified his actions on the House floor, saying, “"If the Speaker of the House felt this was must-pass legislation, the Speaker of the House should have called a vote on this bill before sending every member of Congress on recess for ten days.”

 

This legislation contains aid for Puerto Rico, money for farmers, and funds for wildfires. An aid package has been the subject of partisan negotiations in Congress for months, and President Trump has weighed in on the subject, too. The president wanted funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall included in any disaster aid bill and, at times, suggested that Puerto Rico not receive any aid.

 

These differences were worked out in the Senate, with the aid bill passing by a vote of 85-8 on May 23. Most Republicans and Democrats in the House are expected to support the bill, and President Trump has indicated he will sign it.

 

The Senate vote did not leave enough time for the House of Representatives to consider the bill prior to its members leaving for recess. Since Rep. Massie and his allies are preventing the bill from being considered while most members are out of town, it means that its passage will have to wait until recess is over in June. Speaker Pelosi is blasting these members for cruelty. However, Rep. Massie has tweeted that “passing an unbudgeted $19 billion spending bill without a vote of Congress is legislative malpractice.”

 

Do you think that it is wrong for Rep. Massie to insist that a $19 billion aid package receive a formal vote by the House of Representatives?

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