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Warren Lays Out Gay & Transgender Rights Plan

This week the Supreme Court heard arguments over whether federal law bars discrimination against homosexual and transgender Americans. Today, Sen. Elizabeth Warren outlined a plan focusing on gay, lesbian, and transgender rights.

 

Under Sen. Warren's plan, the federal government would expand its efforts on behalf of gay and transgender individuals in these ways:

  • Pass a federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Bar religious freedom laws from being used as a legal defense for individuals or businesses to refuse services to those who are gay or transgender
  • Prohibit the Transportation Security Administration from singling out transgender individuals
  • Require that federal contractors do not discriminate against gay or transgender workers
  • Direct the federal government to seek out anti-gay and transgender discrimination by business owners and employers
  • Enact a federal law that prohibits conversion therapy
  • Mandate that school districts adopt anti-bulling policies that include a focus on gay and transgender bullying
  • Provide federal funding for police departments to identify implicit anti-gay bias
  • End the requirement that federal prisons assign prisoners based on their birth sex

 

In her statement outlining the plan, Sen. Warren takes direct aim at President Trump. Many of the items in her proposal are direct responses to what she says are Trump Administration rollbacks of protections for gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans.

 

Do you support a federal law banning gay conversion therapy? Should the federal government seek out anti-gay and anti-transgender discrimination by business owners and employers instead of relying on reports of such discrimination?

“Right to a Safe Climate” Suit Heads to Alaska High Court

The justices of the Alaskan Supreme Court will soon be hearing a case that poses a unique question – is the state’s promotion of fossil fuels responsible for hurting young Alaskans’ right to a safe climate?

 

The young plaintiffs filing this lawsuit contend that the climate is something that should be held in the public trust like wildlife or air. The state, they say, is harming this climate by promoting the use of fossil fuels. Alaska has a large petroleum industry as well as a state law that calls on the state to support using fossil fuels. Under the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking to have this state fossil fuel law overruled and to require the state to come up with a climate change recovery plan.

 

The basis of the suit is the allegation that the use of fossil fuels by Alaska is causing climate change that will, within the lifetime of young Alaskans, cause irreparable harm. Some of the Alaskans filing the suit are natives whose villages have suffered from rising sea levels.

 

Those opposing the suit argue that the courts are not the place to resolve questions of climate change. Instead, they say, this is best left to scientists to determine what is causing this change and what could be done to mitigate it. Then legislators, not judges, should decide what steps should be taken.

 

Similar lawsuits have been thrown out by Alaska courts in the past, but this one has survived legal scrutiny so far. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments on October 9, then render a decision if this case can go to trial.

 

Do you support lawsuits over climate change?

Supreme Court Considers if Anti-Discrimination Law Protects Gay & Transgender Rights

Today the Supreme Court is hearing a case that could have far-reaching consequences for the scope of federal anti-discrimination laws.

 

Gay and transgender individuals are suing over what they deem as illegal firings, arguing that a 1964 federal law protects them from discrimination. Opponents counter that they are stretching the wording of this law beyond what the authors intended.

 

At question is the wording of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that banned workplace discrimination “because of sex.” Traditionally this law has been held to mean that men and women could not be treated differently in the workplace. However, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and some federal judges have held that this law does indeed cover gay and transgender Americans.

 

The rationale behind this new way of viewing the law is that it is discriminatory to treat men who are attracted to men differently than men who are attracted to women. Under this way of viewing the law, if an employer would not discriminate against a woman who is attracted to a man, then the employer should not discriminate against a man who is attracted to a man.

 

Those who oppose this line of reasoning counter that the law is clear – it was designed to prohibit employers from treating men and women differently. They note that there has been legislation introduced to amend the 1964 law to include sexual orientation, but Congress has not acted upon it. Some states also have anti-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

The high court will likely issue a decision on this case in June 2020.

 

Do you think that federal anti-discrimination law should cover sexual orientation or gender identity?

Sanders Wants Strict Limit on Political Donations

It’s no secret that Sen. Bernie Sanders is not a fan of corporations. Now he’s targeting what he calls “corporate money” in politics in his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

 

Today Sen. Sanders announced a plan to, in his words, “get corporate money out of politics.” Among other things, his proposal would:

  • Ban corporations from donating to presidential inauguration events and cap individual donations to these events at $500.
  • Push for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and enable Congress to pass legislation mandating that advocacy organizations report their donors to the government.
  • Create the Federal Elections Agency, which would be empowered to levy criminal fines for campaign finance violations and be staffed by members that serve 6-year terms.
  • Mandate government financing for federal elections.
  • Create government-funded vouchers that would be provided to individuals in order to make campaign donations.
  • Prohibit ads during presidential primary debates.
  • Ban former members of Congress and administration officials from ever lobbying.

 

Sen. Sanders would also prohibit the Democratic National Convention from receiving corporate donations.

 

According to Sen. Sanders, corporations have too much influence over politicians, so his plan would curtail that influence. He says it is necessary to reduce the power of corporations to write laws that benefit themselves and not the people. Opponents counter that his plan would be a massive government expansion over individuals who want to have their voices heard in the political process. They argue that his plan would put more government control over politics, something that will only help incumbents.

 

Other candidates for the Democratic nomination have suggested similar ideas for campaign finance reform, but none have been as comprehensive or as restrictive as the plan outlined by Sen. Sanders.

 

Do you think that the Constitution should be amended to overturn Citizens United? Should there be government-funded vouchers given to individuals so they can make campaign donations?

 

Trump Administration Expands Ethanol Mandate

Today the Trump Administration took steps to shore up support among corn farmers – it announced a package of changes to the federal biofuels mandate that will increase the use of ethanol.

 

Under the new rules announced today, the Environmental Protection Agency will require that oil refiners use a higher mix of biofuels. By next year this will require 15 billion more galls of biofuels to be used than the law creating the renewable fuel standard mandated.

 

During the administration of George W. Bush, Congress passed legislation creating a mandate that refiners must use a certain amount of biofuel. This is known as the renewable fuel standard, and is an area of contention between farmers and refiners and others who oppose ethanol.

 

Farmers support a stricter biofuel mandate because it leads to a larger market for corn. Refiners oppose it because they are forced to mix biofuel with traditional petroleum fuel, a practice they claim causes economic losses. Many consumer groups also oppose the use of biofuel like ethanol, arguing that it ruins engines and leads to lower fuel mileage.

 

The Trump Administration has generally been friendly towards the ethanol industry. Earlier this year it relaxed restrictions on the sale of fuel that contains a blend of 15% ethanol, or E15. That level of ethanol in the fuel represents an increase from the 10% ethanol fuel blends being sold.

 

Many farmers have been upset with the Trump Administration’s trade war, which has led to a loss of markets for some of their crops. They praised this move on biofuels as a way to help boost the farm economy. The petroleum industry blasted it, however, saying that it will lead to a loss of jobs in refineries.

 

Do you support the government mandating the use of more ethanol and biofuels?

Federal Judge OKs Philadelphia Safe Injection Site

In an attempt to stem opioid overdoses, cities around the county are considering allowing nonprofits to open “safe injection sites” – places where people can use opioids under the supervision of trained professionals. The Justice Department says this would violate federal law, but today a judge disagreed.

 

According to some public health experts, opioid overdoses and other problems that come with the use of these illegal drugs could be curtailed through the use of safe injection sites. These are areas where users take their drugs to be tested to ensure that there are no lethal additives in them and then inject the drugs under the supervision of personnel to prevent overdoses. These sites usually have substances such as naloxone to revive users if they overdose. There are no such sites in the U.S., but they exist in Canada and Europe where they are credited with saving lives.

 

Supporters of these sites contend that they are a way to save lives by removing much of the danger that comes from opioid use. They note that they have worked in other countries, so they should be able to be opened in the U.S. Opponents counter that these sites will simply increase drug use by making it more attractive.

 

A nonprofit in Philadelphia sought city permission to open such a facility. The Justice Department sued to prevent this, citing a 1986 drug law. Today a federal judge ruled that the law does not address safe injection sites, so the city could proceed in approving the nonprofit’s request.

 

The Justice Department can appeal this decision.

 

Do you support safe injection sites for opioid users in order to reduce overdoses and other problems? Or do these places encourage more drug use?

Judge Blocks Law Mandating Release of Candidates’ Tax Returns

A federal judge has put a stop, at least for now, to California’s attempt to force President Trump and other candidates for office in that state to release their tax returns.

 

A district judge in the state has issued an injunction to stop the law from taking effect until its legal merits can be decided. He said that the law is likely unconstitutional and that allowing it to proceed would harm candidates in the 2020 election.

 

Earlier this year California passed a law mandating that candidates seeking a spot on the state’s ballot must disclose their tax returns for the past 5 years. This came in response to the refusal of then-candidate Donald Trump to release his tax returns. Such a disclosure is not mandated by law, but has been customary for decades.

 

California officials argue that the law is necessary so voters can see if candidates have conflicts of interest that may impair their judgment in office. They say that candidates should be willing to subject their financial details to public scrutiny. Lawyers challenging the law contend that it is unconstitutional. They note that the Constitution sets a few requirements for president and that states cannot add to them.

 

The federal judge seems to agree with the latter argument. However, his action was not a final determination of the law’s constitutionality; instead, the court case against the law will continue but the law can only go into effect if it is ultimately found to be constitutional.

 

Do you think that states should be able to force candidates to release their tax returns?

Court Upholds FCC’s Net Neutrality Repeal

A federal court refused to reinstate federal net neutrality rules. In a decision handed down today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not break the law when it repealed Obama-era net neutrality regulations.

 

At issue is the December 2017 vote by the FCC to repeal regulations that classified the services of Internet providers as a public utility. The result of the regulations was to force providers not to discriminate in pricing, content, and the management of the network. The FCC put these rules in place in 2015 to the dismay of service providers. However, companies such as Google and Netflix had lobbied for them.

 

The 2017 vote 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.

 

Proponents of net neutrality rules took the FCC to court, arguing that this repeal was unlawful. The circuit court rejected this argument, but did bar the FCC from prohibiting states from passing similar laws.  

 

In April, the House of Representatives voted 232-190 in favor of HR 1644, a bill that would reinstate net neutrality rules. The Senate has not taken action on the bill.

 

Do you favor re-instating net neutrality rules? Should Internet service providers be regulated as public utilities?

 

California Will Let College Athletes Get Paid

 

Some student athletes bring in big money to the colleges for which they play. Now California is on the verge of letting them benefit financially from their athletic prowess.

 

Under a bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, college athletes could receive compensation through endorsement deals, sponsorships, or autograph signings. Schools are not forced to share their sports income with these athletes, but they could no longer punish them for independent deals. However, students would be prohibited from signing a deal that conflicts with any contract signed by their schools.

 

The National College Athletics Association (NCAA) has long fought any attempts to give compensation to college athletes. Its stance is that these are amateur athletes, and compensation destroys that status. The organization specifically objects to the California statute, saying that it will give an unfair advantage to schools in that state when it comes to athlete recruitment. According to the NCAA, top high school athletes will want to go to California over other states since they can strike compensation deals there.

 

Many former student athletes have been pushing for changes to the system that bars college athletes from sharing in the money that their activity generates. They note that some sports are huge revenue generator for schools, but that the athletes playing the games do not share in the revenue. They say it is only fair for athletes to be able to make money off of their skills.

 

The new legislation will go into effect in 2023.

 

Do you think that college athletes should receive compensation?

House Passes 2 Bills to Reform Treatment of Children at Border

The House of Representatives is taking aim at how the Trump Administration is treating migrant children who cross the U.S.-Mexican border.


This week members of the House passed two bills that would change key part of the Trump Administration’s strategy to deal with migrant children. Here is how VoteSpotter described them:

 

U.S. House Bill 3525 Mandate speedy medical checks of children detained at ports of entry

Passed 236 to 174 in the U.S. House

To mandate that anyone under the age of 18 who is detained at a port of entry to the U.S. must receive a medical check within 12 hours. For individuals who may have health problems, the deadline would be six hours.

 

U.S. House Bill 2203 Limit immigration child separations

Passed 230 to 194 in the U.S. House

To limit the circumstances when the Border Patrol or Department of Homeland Security may separate a child entering the country from a parent. With few exceptions this would be allowed only when a court determines it is in the child's best interest. The bill also establishes a variety of government commissions and committees to reform the way that the Department of Homeland Security operates regarding immigration as well as stopping some of the Trump Administration's new asylum rules.

 

These bills come in response to what some observers call abuses by the Border Patrol of children who are detained entering the U.S. The policy of separating children from adults when they arrive across the border has been an especially controversial policy. Under the legislation passed by the House, this could only occur under rare circumstances.

 

Those supporting these bills say that they are necessary to end inhumane treatment of children at the border. Those opposing them counter that this would needlessly hamstring the Border Patrol and would end up leading to higher levels of illegal immigration.

 

The bills now head to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to bring them up for a vote.

 

Do you think that the federal government should only be able to separate migrant children from parents under rare circumstances? Should the federal government provide medical checks to anyone under 18 within 12 hours of being detained when they enter the country?

 

Senate Again Votes to End Trump’s Border Wall Emergency

For the second time, the Senate has voted to terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration regarding the U.S.-Mexico border wall. But, once again, there were not enough votes to override a likely presidential veto, leaving the emergency declaration in place.

 

On September 25, the Senate votes 54-41 in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 54, which would terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration allowing him to re-allocate funds to build a border wall. The president issued such an emergency order on February 15 after Congress had refused to vote in favor of money for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

 

As explained in this VoteSpotter Deep Dive, the president has the power under a 1979 law to declare a national emergency. When this happens, he can shift some federal funds that were approved for other projects to meet the needs of whatever emergency the president has declared. However, Congress then has the ability to vote to terminate the emergency declaration.

 

Soon after this February declaration, both houses of Congress did indeed vote to terminate it. However, the president vetoed the termination resolution and there were not enough votes to override the veto. According to the law governing emergencies, termination votes can occur every six months. That is why the Senate once again took up this issue.

 

The Senate-approved resolution will now be considered by the House of Representatives, where it is likely to pass. The president is likely to veto it once again, and there is little chance that either house will override the veto. This will preserve the emergency declaration for at least another six months.

 

Do you think that Congress should end President Trump’s emergency declaration that allows him to move money around to pay for a border wall?

Ocasio-Cortez: Immigrants’ Legal Status Shouldn't Bar Government Assistance

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez today outlined a variety of bills she said are aimed at reducing poverty. Given her progressive political leanings, many of these bills stake out a liberal position on this issue. One in particular will likely to be quite controversial – a bill that would allow any immigrant, whether they are in the country legally or not, to obtain benefits from government programs.

 

Current law prohibits illegal immigrants from accessing most federal assistance programs. Legal immigrants can only access these benefits once they have been in the country for five years. Under Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s bill, an individual’s immigration status, whether legal or not, would no longer be considered when providing these benefits.

 

In the 1990s, Congress passed legislation that was signed by President Clinton which limited when immigrants could access federal benefits. Supporters of this change said that while the U.S. should welcome immigrants, it should not draw them here with the promise of government assistance. Instead, these reformers, argued, immigrants should come here with an expectation to work.

 

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s legislation would change this by giving all immigrants the opportunity to qualify for government programs. She argues that society benefits when there are fewer restrictions on the social safety net. She says that allowing these individuals to access government benefits will produce a more just society.

 

This proposal to reform federal welfare law comes as part of a package of bills that would make major changes in how the federal government deals with poverty. Among her proposals would be to adjust the federal poverty rate by geography, impose rent control nationwide, allow individuals with criminal convictions to obtain government benefits, and enact an international treaty declaring that “all persons have the right to work, fair and just conditions of work, social security, an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing, housing, and healthcare.”

 

Do you think that immigrants, regardless of legal status, should have access to government benefits?

Sanders Unveils His “Wealth Tax”

Senator Bernie Sanders has few good things to say about Americans who earn high incomes. In his run for the Democratic nomination, he has made targeting the wealthy a centerpiece of his campaign. Now he has a tax plan that takes aggressive aim at this group.

 

Today Sen. Sanders released a plan that would impose a wealth tax on higher-income households. This is how the new tax surcharge would escalate:

  • 1% tax on married couple wealth above $32 million and single individual wealth above $16 million
  • 2% tax on married couple wealth above $50 million and single individual wealth above $25 million
  • 3% tax on married couple wealth above $250 million and single individual wealth above $125 million
  • 4% tax on married couple wealth above $500 million and single individual wealth above $250 million
  • 5% tax on married couple wealth above $1 billion and single individual wealth above $500 million
  • 6% tax on married couple wealth above $2.5 billion and single individual wealth above $1.25 billion
  • 7% tax on married couple wealth above $5 billion and single individual wealth above $2.5 billion
  • 8% tax on married couple wealth above $10 billion and single individual wealth above $5 billion

 

According to the Sanders campaign, this tax plan would cut the wealth of American billionaires in half. The campaign also says it would produce $4.35 trillion over 10 years. That new revenue would help pay for a variety of costly plans that Sanders has outlined on the campaign trail, such as student loan forgiveness, Medicare-for-all, and universal child care.

 

Proponents of the Sanders plan justify it as a way to equalize what they say is an extreme gap between wealthy Americans and everyone else. They argue that the government has a role to take some of this wealth and use it for social programs that benefit the public. Opponents counter that this plan would discourage individuals from investing and working, leading to fewer jobs created and lower economic growth. They also note that wealthy Americans can take steps to avoid the tax, so it will likely produce far less income than the Sanders campaign predicts.

 

Among the individuals running for the Democratic nomination, Elizabeth Warren has also proposed a wealth tax. The Sanders plan is more aggressive than the tax program outlined by Warren.

 

Do you support a special tax on individuals who earn more than $16 million?

Court Begins Hearing Challenge to Tennessee’s Abortion Waiting Period

A federal court challenge to Tennessee’s mandate that women seeking an abortion must undergo a mandatory waiting period began today in Nashville.


Under Tennessee, a woman seeking an abortion must visit a clinic once to receive counseling and set up an appointment for a procedure, then wait 48 hours until the procedure occurs. Thirteen other states have some form a mandatory waiting period for abortions.

 

Supporters of the law argue that it gives women a chance to reflect on their decision and possibly change their mind. Opponents, however, say that it places a large burden on women who must make two trips to an abortion clinic. They note that many women travel far distances to abortion clinics, so requiring them to do so twice is especially burdensome.

 

Similar bans have been challenged in other states. The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a law in that state that mandated a waiting period of 72 hours. A federal court ruled a Florida law mandating a 24-hour waiting period was unconstitutional, but that case is currently under appeal. The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that a Pennsylvania law requiring a 24-hour waiting period was constitutional.

 

Do you think that states should be able to impose a mandatory waiting period on women seeking an abortion?

House Votes to Bar Binding Arbitration

This week the House of Representatives passed a bill that would affects a contract provision signed by tens of millions of workers – binding arbitration agreements.

 

For many workers, a condition of their job is their acceptance of what businesses call “alternative dispute resolution.” Instead of suing over certain issues if an employee alleges a problem at work, these agreements require the employee and employer to go through binding arbitration. This is a less formal, less expensive means of settling a dispute. However, opponents of binding arbitration say that it deprives employees of their rights to sue over harassment, discrimination, and other issues.

 

By a vote of 225-186, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1423. Here is how VoteSpotter describes the bill:

 

To make unenforceable provisions in contracts that require the parties to pursue arbitration first on disputes over employment, consumer, antitrust, or civil rights issues. The bill also prohibits agreements that limit class action lawsuits.

 

As noted in this description, it goes beyond merely prohibiting binding arbitration for certain issues. It also prohibits employers from requiring employees to waive their rights to join in a class action lawsuits over employment practices. A 2018 Supreme Court case ruled that current law allows employers to request that employees sign such contracts.

 

Backers of this legislation say that it’s necessary to restore the rights of employees to sue over what they consider abuses by employers. They argue that binding arbitration usually works in favor of employers. Opponents counter that lawsuits are expensive and, at times, frivolous. They say that banning the use of binding arbitration will lead to more lawsuits, with the result being higher costs passed to consumers and fewer people hired.

 

While some Republicans in the Senate have signaled support for curbing binding arbitration, the House legislation passed with only two Republicans voting in favor of it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may not schedule this bill for consideration in that body.

 

Do you think that employers should be able to ask employees to sign binding arbitration contracts?

House Holds Hearing on DC Statehood

Today the issue of statehood for Washington, D.C., will be discussed in Congress for the first time in 25 years.

 

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is holding a hearing on H.R. 51, a bill that would admit the District of Columbia to the union as the 51st state. Most of the current territory of the district would be in the new state, with the exception of some federal buildings such as the White House, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court.

 

Residents of Washington, D.C., can vote for president and they pay federal taxes. They do not have a voting representative in Congress, however, and the city is still governed by Congress (although Congress has delegated much of that power to the city government).

 

Eleanor Holmes-Norton is the district’s delegate to the House of Representatives. She can vote in committee and, at times, when the House meets as a “committee of the whole.” She introduced H.R. 51, which has 219 cosponsors.

 

City officials have long pushed for statehood, but they have failed to convince members of Congress to support it. They argue that they deserve representation in Congress the same as other taxpayers in states across the country. Opponents note that the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution in a way that provided federal control over the district in order to prevent a state government from threatening the federal government.

 

It is unclear if House leadership will bring H.R. 51 to the floor for a vote. However, if the bill did pass the House of Representatives, there is little chance that it would be considered by the Senate.

 

Do you think that Washington, D.C., should be a state?

Tuition-Free College May Be Coming to New Mexico

If you live in New Mexico and want to go to college, the state’s governor wants you to be able to do so without facing tuition payments.

 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced today that she is proposing legislation allowing state residents could attend the state’s 29 two- and four-year institutions tuition-free. This program would be open to any New Mexico resident, regardless of household income. The price tag could run between $25 and $35 million each year.

 

To be eligible, a student must graduate from a New Mexico high school or pass a GED test. The students must also maintain a 2.5 GPA while in college. While the program would cover college tuition, it would not pay for other educational expenses such as housing or books.

 

The governor and supporters of this plan tout it as a way to provide more people with the possibility of higher education. They also note that this will mean that those attending these state schools will no longer face the burdens of student debt. Opponents counter that this is a government giveaway to the wealthy, since federal Pell Grants already provide help for lower-income students to attend college.

 

Tuition-free higher education is something that more Democratic politicians are embracing. Many of the candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination are proposing ideas that would reduce or end tuition at some colleges and universities or forgive student loan debt.

 

The New Mexico plan must still be approved by the state legislature to go into effect.


Do you support making public colleges and universities tuition-free?

 

 

Arizona Court Rules Against Forcing Artists to Work Same-Sex Wedding

Where does speech end and commerce begin? That is a key question in the debate over what legal protections should apply for business owners who participate in same-sex weddings.


Yesterday the Arizona Supreme Court held that two calligraphers and artists could not be forced to produce work for a same-sex wedding. The court’s decision concluded that calligraphy and artist expression was speech, and that a business owner could not be compelled to produce speech that contains a message the person disagrees with.

 

The case involved business owners who refused to produce wedding calligraphy for a same-sex wedding. The couple getting married sued, arguing that this refusal constituted discrimination based on sexual orientation. The court disagreed, saying that this type of activity was not mere commerce, but also involved “pure speech.”

 

The issue of whether business owners who think same-sex marriage is sinful can be compelled to provide services to these types of marriages is one that has emerged in states around the nation. Often, the issue involves anti-discrimination laws fit with constitutional protections for religion and speech.  

 

In its 4-3 decision, the Arizona Supreme Court decided that the principle of free speech was paramount:

 

[The business owners'] beliefs about same-sex marriage may seem old-fashioned, or even offensive to some. But the guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion are not only for those who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced, or progressive. They are for everyone. After all, while our own ideas may be popular today, they may not be tomorrow.

 

However, the court also noted that this was a limited decision focused on the calligraphy business in question. It did not hold that all business activities could be shielded from ordinances that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

 

Do you agree that business owners should not be compelled to produce artistic items for same-sex weddings or other activities that violate their religious beliefs?

 

 

Warren Unveils “Anti-Corruption” Plan

Today Sen. Elizabeth Warren outlined a proposal that she says is necessary to fight corruption in the federal government.

 

Her plan calls for a variety of reforms to federal laws, including:

  • Mandating that the president and vice president place their assets in a blind trust to be sold.
  • Disclosing automatically the tax returns of candidates for federal office, including the president and vice president.
  • Requiring senior government officials to divest from assets that could pose a conflict-of-interest.
  • Banning members of Congress from trading in individual stocks while in office.
  • Prohibiting members of congress and senior congressional staff from serving on corporate boards.
  • Banning lobbyists from serving in government within two years of ending their lobbying career.
  • Prohibiting members of Congress and some federal officials from ever taking a job as a lobbyist after their time in the government is over.
  • Mandating the disclosure of financial information for federal judges and imposing a code of conduct on these judges.
  • Extending lobbying restrictions to anyone who is “paid to influence lawmakers.”
  • Banning lobbyists from representing foreign entities.
  • Prohibiting lobbyists from donating to political candidates or fundraise for them.
  • Banning forced arbitration clauses and mandatory class action waivers.

 

According to Sen. Warren, President Trump’s Administration has shown the weakness of federal anti-corruption laws. Many of her proposals are aimed explicitly at practices that she says are weakening our government under President Trump. Other proposals are older ideas that liberals have long pushed for, such as the ending of forced arbitration clauses.

 

Critics of her plan note that many of her ideas, such as prohibiting lobbyists from contributing to candidates, would likely run afoul of the Constitution. They also point to these plans as being a vast expansion of federal power over political speech and activity.


Sen. Warren has sponsored similar legislation during her time in the Senate. This plan is an updated version that is part of her platform as she runs for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

 

Do you think that the federal government should prohibit lobbyist from contributing to candidates? Should the IRS automatically release the tax returns of anyone running for federal office, from presidential candidates to members of Congress?

 

 

House Committee Advances 3 Gun Control Bills

New gun control bills are headed to the House of Representatives this month. On Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee approved three bills that advance key Democratic priorities on firearms.

 

The three bills passed by the Judiciary Committee tackle different aspects of federal and state gun laws:

 

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.

 

Each of the bills passed along a party-line vote. Republicans on the committee offered amendments that they said would approve the bills. Democrats rejected them, then passed the bills over Republican objections.

 

Gun control has become a hot topic in Congress and on the 2020 campaign trail. Democrats are pushing for stronger federal laws that they say will prevent gun crime, especially mass shootings. They argue that the federal government needs to strengthen its gun laws, which have gone decades without revision. Republicans, however, argue that these laws are ineffective to address the real causes of crime and mass shootings. They also say that the laws may infringe upon a individual's constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

 

With the Judiciary Committee's approval, all three of these bills are headed to the House floor for a vote. Speaker Pelosi will likely schedule them for consideration at some point in September. Given the Democratic majority in that chamber, they are almost certain to pass. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to schedule any of the bills for a vote in that chamber unless President Trump signals his support.

 

Do you think that the federal government should ban people from buying or owning gun magazines that hold more than 10 bullets?

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