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Kamala Harris Backs Nationwide Plastic Straw Ban

Want a plastic straw with your drink in a restaurant? Sen. Kamala Harris doesn’t think that is a good idea.

 

During a CNN debate on climate change, Sen. Harris said that she supports a national ban on plastic straws. She did, however, acknowledge that paper straws do not work very well. Her campaign has said that she wants to see more innovation in straw production to make the elimination of plastic straws feasible. The debate was being held for the candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

 

California has a statewide ban on restaurants offering a plastic straw to a customer unless the customer requests one. A variety of cities have also enacted similar straw bans. Florida legislators passed a law that would prevent local governments from banning plastic straws, but Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed it.

 

Plastic straws have come under attack from critics who allege they contribute to pollution, especially in the ocean. These backers of straw bans contend that ocean wildlife are harmed by these straws. Opponents of a straw ban counter that plastic pollution in the ocean overwhelmingly comes from places other than the U.S. They say that banning plastic straws will do very little, if anything, to address pollution concerns and will only inconvenience American consumers.

 

Do you support banning plastic straws?

Terrorist Watch List Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge for the Eastern District of Virginia has ruled that the federal government cannot keep a watch list of suspected terrorists.

 

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga wrote:

 

An individual’s placement into the [list] does not require any evidence that the person engaged in criminal activity, committed a crime, or will commit a crime in the future and individuals who have been acquitted of a terrorism-related crime may still be listed.

 

The list is officially named the Terrorist Screening Database, and it contains over a million names of individuals that the Department of Homeland Security considers to have terrorist ties. This list is not the same as the “no-fly” list also compiled by the federal government (that list has also been ruled unconstitutional). Inclusion in this database triggers a higher level of scrutiny and government action. In recent years, some Democrats have pushed for legislation that would deny individuals on the list the right to purchase a firearm.

 

The 23 individuals who sued are all Muslim. They noted numerous instances of government actions that impeded their ability to travel, among other things. They alleged that they were not notified of their inclusion on the list nor were they given proper ways to challenge such an inclusion.

 

Judge Trenga agreed, noting that the list is based on subjective decisions and is error-prone. He concluded that the database violates the Constitution’s Due Process Clause and ordered the plaintiffs and the government to file briefs setting forward ways to remedy these problems.

 

Do you think the government should have a terrorist watch list? Should individuals on that list have special scrutiny when they travel or buy a gun?

 

House Committee Considers Gun Magazine Ban, Red Flag Laws

Today the House Judiciary Committee is meeting to consider three gun control bills:

 

H.R. 1186 – To ban the import, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession of an ammunition device that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Such devices that are already in the possession of an individual could be retained but could not be transferred to anyone else.

 

H.R. 1236 – To create a federal grant program for states to use to support activities concerning extreme protection orders. These orders, sometimes called "red flag" orders, allow law enforcement to seize someone's firearms if a court determines that a person poses a danger to himself or others. Such orders can be issued without conducting a hearing with the person in question under some circumstances.

 

H.R. 2708 – To prohibit anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from possessing a firearm.

 

These bills are being advanced in the wake of two mass shootings in Texas. Congressional Democrats have been calling for stricter gun control since they took control of Congress earlier this year. The House of Representatives has passed legislation that extends the application of federal instant background check laws to private gun sales, but the Senate has failed to act on this legislation.

 

One of the most controversial proposals is H.R. 1236, which provides federal incentives for states to enact so-called “red flag” laws. These laws create a new class of protective order that allows law enforcement to seize someone’s guns without a court hearing in cases where there is an allegation that the person is a threat to himself or others. Supporters say this is a vital tool to prevent dangerous people from committing harm with firearms. Critics say it is a way for government to seize guns without due process.

 

If passed by the Judiciary Committee, these bills will likely come for a vote in the House of Representatives soon. However, there is little chance for action on them in the Senate.

 

Do you support laws that allow police to confiscate someone’s firearms if they believe the person poses a threat? Should these confiscations occur without a court hearing allowing the person to contest the confiscation?

 

O’Rourke Proposes Mandatory Gun Buyback

 

In the wake of recent mass shootings, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke thinks he has the answer – the government mandating that gun owners relinquish certain guns in return for a payment.

 

O’Rourke, a former member of Congress from Texas, proposed this buyback plan after two mass shootings in that state. He said that “weapons of war” should not be on the street, and that the owners of what he calls “assault weapons” should have to turn them over to the government. In return, the government will compensate gun owners.

 

Various cities have operated gun buyback programs for decades. However, these are voluntary operations, with individuals bringing in guns to receive cash or gift cards. There has never been a mandatory gun buyback program in the United States.

 

O’Rourke says that this is the only way to remove these guns from public use. He argues that this will reduce mass shootings. Critics counter that only law-abiding gun owners will comply, which would not affect crime. They also note that this plan would face legal challenges for violating the Second Amendment.

 

Various Democratic candidates have proposed stricter gun control laws as they jockey for the 2020 presidential nomination. High-profile events where a gunman has killed numerous people with a semi-automatic firearm has galvanized activists who are pushing for stricter limits on gun ownership. The House of Representatives has passed bills that would impose background checks on private gun sales, but the Senate has yet to act on this legislation.

 

Do you think that the government should force gun owners to give up “assault weapons” in return for compensation?

California Looking to Reclassify Independent Contractors as Employees

The “gig economy” – people who work for Uber, Lyft, in similar ways – depends on independent contractors. Now California legislators are looking to change state law to reclassify most of these independent contractors as employees. They say this will lead to greater worker protection. Critics argue that it will end their work completely.

 

Under federal law, companies can contract with individuals to do work under certain circumstances, such as not having direct control over how work is done. This has allowed the flourishing of occupations in the “gig economy,” which allows people to work at jobs without meeting the traditional definition of being an “employee.”

 

Many of those who work at these jobs like this status. They say it allows them to pick and choose what jobs they do and when they do them. They like the flexibility and the lack of red tape that comes with traditional employment situations. Others, however, complain that such jobs do not offer the security and benefits of traditional jobs. They say that employers take advantage of independent contractors.

 

California legislators have listened to organized labor and others who take the latter view. The Assembly has passed legislation that would tighten rules in California for when employers can use independent contractors. The bill would narrowly limit who could work as an independent contractor.

 

Supporters of the bill argue that it will mean that employers will have to offer health and other benefits to a wider set of workers. Opponents counter that by adding more cost to hiring these workers, it will end their employment. Instead of helping independent contractors, they say, this will leave these people without work.

 

Uber, Lyft, and other companies that use independent contractors have vowed to fight this bill if it becomes law. They are sponsoring a ballot initiative that will increase protection for independent contractors while still allowing them to work. This ballot would be on the 2020 ballot.

 

Do you think that states should restrict who can work as independent contractors for companies such as Uber and Lyft?

House to Consider Offshore Drilling Ban in September

The House of Representatives will take up the future of offshore drilling when it returns from its August recess.

 

In September, the House will be voting on two bills that would ban offshore drilling:

 

HR 205 – To permanently ban natural gas and oil exploration in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

HR 1941 – To prohibit issuing federal leases for oil and natural gas development in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf or the Pacific Continental Shelf. This would effectively ban offshore drilling off of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

 

Currently there is a moratorium on offshore natural gas and oil production in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The Trump Administration is considering a five-year energy leasing plan that would allow oil and gas development in the Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey to Florida. President Obama considered allowing offshore drilling in the Atlantic, but reversed course after the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010.

 

Plans to allow oil and natural gas production in more offshore areas has been controversial. Supporters say it is a way to create jobs in coastal communities. They also note that there could be large amounts of gas and oil offshore that could be developed and reduce American reliance on foreign energy. Opponents fear accidents that would harm the environment and other coastal activities such as recreation and fishing.

 

There is bipartisan support for both the bills that will be considered by the House, and they are expected to pass. However, it is unlikely that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will schedule a vote on them.

 

Do you support permanently banning offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans?

Trump May Allow More Logging in Alaskan National Forest

Nearly 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton put in place a sweeping order that placed millions of acres of national forests off-limits to logging. Now President Donald Trump is considering reversing that move for a national forest in Alaska.

 

During his last days in office, President Clinton signed an executive order that banned road construction in 58.5 million acres of national forests. This “roadless rule” effectively prevents logging and other activity, such as using motorized vehicles. In Alaska, governors and members of Congress have fought to have the rule rolled back for the Tongass National Forest. President Trump is considering allowing this.

 

National forests are designated for multiple uses, such as logging, mining, conservation, and recreation. Congress can also designate wild areas as “wilderness,” which prevents any motorized uses of that area. Portions of the Tongass National Forest have been designated as wilderness, and other portions already have roads built on them. President Trump’s move would affect over 9 million acres that are still covered by the roadless rule.

 

Alaskan officials who want to remove this area from the roadless rule note that the national forest was always intended for uses that included logging. They say that Congress has protected vital areas of the forest from human uses. They argue that logging can create jobs and remove dead and dying trees that could fuel wildfires. Environmentalists, however, push back against attempts to allow logging in the Tongass. They say that this is a vital area for salmon and old-growth forests.

 

After President Clinton left office, President George W. Bush tried to reverse the roadless rule. These efforts were tied up in the courts. Any move by President Trump to withdraw the roadless rule from the Tongass National Forest will also likely end up in multiple lawsuits.

 

Do you support allowing more logging in the Tongass National Forest?

Judge Fines Drug Company in State Opioid Suit

An Oklahoma judge yesterday issued a first-in-the-nation ruling, holding that the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson is responsible for the opioid crisis in that state.

 

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter had sued the company, claiming that it had made a “public nuisance” by selling numerous pills in the state and pressuring physicians to prescribe them. He said that led to addiction and public health problems that the company should pay for. The judge agreed with this argument, ordering Johnson & Johnson’s parent company to pay $572 million to the state.

 

Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the verdict. The company says that it followed all state and federal laws governing pharmaceuticals, which are a heavily regulated product. They note that very few overdose deaths were from the pills they made, and that their pills were only used by a small number of Oklahomans.

 

The role that pharmaceutical companies have played in the rising number of opioid addicts and overdoses is hotly debated. Elected officials around the country have joined with trial attorneys to sue the companies, looking for huge settlements based on the tobacco litigation of the 1990s.

 

Other states and local governments have filed similar suits against pharmaceutical companies. The Oklahoma verdict is the first one in the nation to find that a drug company bears the blame for the opioid crisis.

 

Do you support state lawsuits against drug companies that allege these companies fueled the opioid epidemic?

Advocacy Group Pushing Candidates to Back Net Neutrality

A coalition of liberal advocacy groups is pushing for Democratic presidential nominees to pledge a restoration of net neutrality regulations. This group is seeking to make technology policy a key pillar of the 2020 presidential race.

 

The effort is aimed at having presidential candidates sign a pledge that they will re-impose network neutrality rules that were put in place during the Obama Administration but repealed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year. The pledge also commits candidates to refuse political donations from telecom companies or executives.

 

In December 2017, the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal net neutrality regulations. The regulations in question date to 2015, when the FCC decided to regulate Internet service providers more stringently. In essence, the agency at that time classified the services they provide as a public utility, largely forcing providers not to discriminate in pricing, content, and the management of the network.

 

This rule change did not remove federal oversight from the Internet. In fact, the rule mandates transparency for network management practices. The Federal Trade Commission also regulates Internet service providers. But it did lessen the ability of the government to set rules proactively that constrain Internet service providers.

 

The imposition of net neutrality rules was an issue that many liberal and progressive groups long been advocating prior to 2015. They said that telecom companies had too much power to determine what consumers saw. They argued that federal regulations were necessary to protect consumers that could be victimized by telecom companies denying them access to certain websites. Opponents of net neutrality say that they will stifle innovation, preventing the internet from evolving and changing to meet consumer need. They say that companies should be able to price internet access in different ways to provide a higher level of service.

 

The FCC is an independent agency not directly under control of the president. To change FCC policy, the president can appoint new members to the commission with views more in line with the president’s opinion on technology policy.

 

Do you support net neutrality rules?

Court Says Homeless Have a Right to Sleep in Public

In the face of a rising number of homeless people camping out on city sidewalks, Boise city leaders passed a law banning this practice. A federal appeals court overruled the city, saying that such a ban was unconstitutional. Now the city is filing an appeal in a case that is drawing attention from other cities struggling with what to do about the homeless.

 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that banning outdoor sleeping was a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” The judges said that since sleep was necessary to live, the city could not prohibit people from sleeping in public if there was not sufficient housing for them. City officials say that this eliminates their ability to take steps to curb homeless camps that may cause public health issues and be a nuisance.

 

Other cities are also grappling with this issue. Some, such as Austin, recently rescinded laws that criminalize public sleeping. Officials there said that individuals cited under the law would not show up to court, which led to criminal charges that made it even more difficult for that person to find housing and a job.

 

Loosening restrictions on homeless sleeping is often unpopular with the public. Business owners complain about homeless people deterring customers in downtown locations and city residents worry about the spread of diseases. This spring, voters in Denver overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would allow people to camp or sleep in their cars in public. Some politicians are seizing on this issue, promising to take steps that would remove the homeless from the streets by incarcerating them for minor crimes.

 

Do you think that cities should be able to ban sleeping on city streets? What measures should be taken to deal with the homeless?

Court Rules Electoral College Members aren’t Bound by Popular Vote

States that mandate their Electoral College members vote in line with the popular vote may find that these laws are void. A recent federal court ruling said that electors are free to vote their conscience, regardless of state law.

 

Most states bind electors to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in that state. During the 2016 election, the Colorado Secretary of State removed an elector who refused to cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton, the winner of that state's popular vote. That elector sued, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of the elector.

 

Within the past two decades, two presidential elections have gone to the candidate who won the electoral vote and not the popular vote – George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016. During the presidential election, voters are not directly voting for candidates, but are instead voting for slates of electors who will then meet and select the president. Most of the time these electors are party regulars who can be counted to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged. But in 2016, there were multiple electors who voted for candidates other than Clinton or Trump.

 

With these developments, the Electoral College has come under increasing criticism. Some states have passed bills that would create a compact wherein they would award their electoral votes to whomever won the national popular vote, regardless of who won their individual state’s popular vote. Some politicians are also advocating banning the Electoral College and relying exclusively on the popular vote.

 

The question of what power states possess to bind electors will likely be decided by the Supreme Court.

 

Do you think that states should be able to require that electors vote in line with that state’s popular vote? Do you think the Electoral College should be abolished?

Budget Deal Will Make Budget Deficit Worse, CBO Finds

A new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) sounds the alarm on federal deficit spending.

 

President Trump and Congress recently negotiated a two-year budget package that increased spending. CBO looked at the implications for the next ten years and found that the budget deficits during this period will be $1.5 billion higher than they otherwise would have been.

 

As explained in a VoteSpotter Deep Dive, the budget deficit is the gap between how much revenue the government receives versus how much money it spends. Federal debt is money that the government has borrowed to finance these deficits.

 

The budget agency also looked at the overall deficit, finding that it will reach nearly $1 trillion this year. Here is what CBO concluded:

 

In CBO’s projections, the federal budget deficit is $960 billion in 2019 and averages $1.2 trillion between 2020 and 2029. Over the coming decade, deficits (after adjustments to exclude the effects of shifts in the timing of certain payments) fluctuate between 4.4 percent and 4.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), well above the average over the past 50 years…As a result of those deficits, federal debt held by the public is projected to grow steadily, from 79 percent of GDP in 2019 to 95 percent in 2029—its highest level since just after World War II.

 

Phill Swagel, CBO Director, sounded the alarm about this rising deficit spending in a statement accompanying the report:

 

Federal debt, which is already high by historical standards, is on an unsustainable course, projected to rise even higher after 2029 because of the aging of the population, growth in per capita spending on health care, and rising interest costs. To put it on a sustainable course, lawmakers will have to make significant changes to tax and spending policies—making revenues larger than they would be under current law, reducing spending below projected amounts, or adopting some combination of those approaches.

 

Are you worried about the growing budget deficit? If so, what steps do you think should be taken to shrink it?

Trump Administration May Push Payroll Tax Cut

With fears of a recession rising, the Trump Administration is downplaying any talk that an economic slowdown is imminent. However, some in the White House are considering a payroll tax cut as a way to help avert any decrease in economic growth.

 

The Trump Administration considers its previous tax cut an economic success, so another tax cut would, in the view of some officials, also spur the economy. This tax cut would center on a temporary reduction in the payroll tax. This tax funds Social Security. Unlike the income tax, which many lower-wage workers do not pay, all workers are hit by a payroll tax. Temporarily reducing this tax would be a broad-based tax cut.

 

A similar temporary tax cut was undertaken during the Obama Administration. A payroll tax cut is generally preferred by Democrats, because it targets lower-income workers. Supporters contend that it offers more immediate economic stimulus because these workers will spend the money quickly. Opponents of this type of tax cut point out that the revenue from a payroll tax funds Social Security. Reducing money to that program leads to a shorter time-frame in which it is fiscally solvent.

 

It is unclear if the Trump Administration will officially push for this type of tax cut or any other measure to stimulate the economy. The president has dismissed notions that there will be a recession, saying such talk is politically motivated.

 

Do you think that there should be a payroll tax cut to stimulate the economy?

Sanders Focusing on Criminal Justice Reform

Ideas to reform the criminal justice system have been embraced by both Democratic and Republican politicians. Now Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is announcing a crime plan that pushes the limits of the bipartisan consensus for reform.

 

Here are some of the proposals that Sen. Sanders is championing:

  • Legalizing marijuana
  • Expunging records for those convicted of marijuana-related offenses
  • Prohibiting private prisons
  • Ending cash bail
  • Re-instating parole
  • Expanding youth diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration
  • Ending civil asset forfeiture
  • Legalizing safe injection sites for drug users

 

In addition, Sanders wants to create a “prisoner’s bill of rights” and require a federal investigation every time a prisoner dies in police custody.

 

These ideas would re-shape the federal prison system in ways that Sen. Sanders hopes would cut the prison population in half and address what he sees as institutional racism in the system. The proposal would only affect the federal prison system, however. States would still operate their own systems for non-federal crimes.

 

Sen. Sanders’s criminal justice proposal differentiates him from some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor and California Attorney General, has come under attack for her tactics in those offices. Former Vice President Joe Biden has also faced criticism for his votes on criminal justice issues during his time as senator.

 

Do you think that marijuana should be legalized? Should cash bail be banned? Is it a good idea for the federal government to re-instate parole?

Afghanistan Troop Draw Down may be Imminent

It’s been 18 years since the U.S. war in Afghanistan began. Despite vows by President Trump to bring American troops home from that nation, there are now more U.S. soldiers there today than when he was inaugurated. But U.S. negotiators appear close to an agreement with the Taliban that may lead to significant troop withdrawals.

 

President Trump is meeting with officials today to be briefed on the talks between the U.S. and the Taliban on ending hostilities in Afghanistan. If successful, the Taliban would then begin negotiations with government in Afghanistan and renounce ties to Al-Qaeda. That would trigger the immediate withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops, to be followed by the withdrawal of thousands more after 18 months.

 

The presence of the U.S. military in Afghanistan is something that Donald Trump has denounced both during his campaign for the presidency and his time in office. He has long pushed to withdraw most military forces from that nation. However, officials from the armed forces and cabinet officers persuaded him to increase the military presence there two years ago.

 

An agreement that would lead to a negotiated cease-fire between the Taliban and the Afghan government along with the withdrawal of most U.S. troops would represent a significant change from the ongoing military actions that have lasted nearly two decades. NATO forces invaded Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks in 2001 to drive out the ruling Taliban government. The Taliban has been waging a war against the new government formed after the invasion.

 

Do you think that U.S. troops should withdraw from Afghanistan?

New Rule Gives Federal Contractors More Leeway on Religious-Based Hiring

Religious-based organizations and companies that contract with the federal government may soon be able to make more business decisions based on their religious beliefs. The Trump Administration has proposed a new rule that would relax federal restrictions on whom these organizations can hire and fire.

 

Under the rule, company owners with sincere religious beliefs would be allowed to make hiring decisions consistent with those beliefs and still be federal contractors. The practical effect would be that some federal contractors could refuse to hire people of certain religions or sexual orientations. This rule reverses previous policy that required federal contractors to disregard religious views in hiring or firing when it came to certain people.

 

Critics say that the rule will allow companies to discriminate against gays, lesbian, and transgender individuals using taxpayer dollars. They contend this is a way for President Trump to repay religious supporters who have an anti-gay bias. Supporters counter that this rule will widen the field for federal contracting by allowing contractors to serve the public without violating their religious beliefs.

 

The Department of Labor has announced this as a proposed rule. This means that the public can comment on it for the next two months, then the rule will be finalized. Once that happens, it is certain to face legal challenges.

 

Do you think that the federal government should allow contractors to make hiring decisions that are informed by the contractor’s religious beliefs?

Tennessee Considering Abortion Ban

In a move sure to spark a court challenge, Tennessee legislators are considering passing a bill that would amount to a ban on abortion in the state.

 

Under the proposed bill, abortions would be banned at the moment a viable pregnancy is presume to exist or has been confirmed to exist. This means that as soon as a pregnancy can be detected by a test, usually within a couple weeks of conception, no abortion could be performed. This ban goes further than bans in other states that prohibit abortions when the fetus develops a heartbeat.

 

A similar bill was considered but not passed earlier this year in Tennessee. While Republicans control the legislature, not all of them support an abortion ban bill that goes this far. The lieutenant governor also opposes it.

 

Critics of the bill say that it goes much further to ban abortion that the Supreme Court allows. The high court’s decisions permit abortion bans when a fetus is viable outside of the womb. This bill bans abortion far earlier than this standard. Supporters recognize that passage of such a bill will involve court challenges, but say this would be a vehicle for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. If the court does this, it would end the national legalization of abortion and allow states to set their own rules for the procedure.

 

Legislators considered the bill during a special “study session” of the legislature. No bill can be passed during such a session, but this step does ready a bill for consideration when the regular session of the legislature occurs in January.

 

Do you think that states should be able to ban abortion?

Mayor Pushes for Mandatory Gun Insurance

While Democrats and Republican politicians debate whether to enact new gun laws on a national level, one local elected official wants to act. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is proposing a mandate that gun owners must carry liability insurance, a move he says will help the city deal with the cost associated with gun violence.

 

Under Mayor Liccardo’s plan, gun owners would be forced to carry insurance that would cover the accidental discharge of their firearm or the intentional acts of someone who steals that person’s firearm. He has also proposed a new tax on guns and ammunition to fund gun safety courses.

 

Liccardo has acknowledged that it would not stop gun violence, but he says it would relieve taxpayers of some of the cost of dealing with the results of gun violence. This proposal comes in the wake of a shooting at the Gilroy garlic festival.

 

Gun owners argue that this is simply another burden on law-abiding gun owners. They point out that criminals are unlikely to carry this mandatory insurance, so it will have little effect. Groups representing gun owners have vowed to fight the idea in court.

 

This insurance mandate would be the first in the nation if approved by the city council.

 

Do you think that the government should mandate that gun owners carry liability insurance?

Trump Rule Targets Immigrants Receiving Public Assistance

If you are an immigrant who is a recipient of a government assistance program, you may find it more difficult to become a permanent resident or a citizen under a new rule announced by the Trump Administration.

 

Current law allows the federal government to deny permanent residency or citizenship to immigrants who are public charges or likely to become public charges. Under the Trump Administration, proposal, the term “public charge” is broadened to include anyone who uses benefit programs like Medicaid, food stamps, or housing assistance. Under current regulations, a public charge is defined as someone who is primarily dependent on the government programs. Immigrants who are in the U.S. for five years can apply for most government assistance programs under federal law.

 

Critics see this is a way to rewrite immigration law to prioritize high-skilled immigrants over migrants from areas like Central America. They say that this will prevent immigrants who need government assistance from applying for it. Supporters counter that immigration law should encourage immigrants who will contribute to the U.S., not be dependent on taxpayers for support. They say that the law already prohibits permanent residency for immigrants who would drain government resources, and that this rule merely clarifies that standard.

 

The new regulation will go into effect in two months barring any court challenges. Immigrant rights groups are vowing to file lawsuits to stop it, however.

 

Should immigrants to receive government assistance be denied permanent residency in the U.S.?

Sanders Backs Pot Legalization via Executive Order

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has long backed legalizing marijuana. Now, during his second campaign for the presidency, he is saying that he could get this done through executive order.

 

Running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Sanders facing a crowded field of rivals. Many of these contenders support legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, but Sen. Sanders is the only one saying this does not need to occur through legislation. Instead, in a recent interview he said that he thinks the president has power to do this unilaterally.


Currently marijuana is on the list of federal controlled drugs. It is classified the same as heroin and other hard drugs, a situation that Sen. Sanders says is absurd. He is proposing that the president could act to take the drug off this list and remove federal penalties for possession and use. State laws regarding marijuana would be unaffected by such a move, however.

 

Other candidates running for the Democratic nomination also support reclassifying marijuana on the federal controlled substances list. Some have also introduced legislation that would relax federal prohibitions in states that have laws allowing recreational or medicinal use of marijuana. President Trump has also signaled support for a legal approach that allows states more leeway on marijuana policy, but he has not championed legislation to accomplish this.

 

Do you think that the federal government should end its blanket prohibition of marijuana use and possession? Should the president change federal marijuana policy by executive order?

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