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Wisconsin Assembly Resolution 4: Prohibit Using Private Lawyers to Defend Redistricting

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Wisconsin, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Assembly Resolution 4, Prohibit using private lawyers to defend redistricting: Failed 35 to 62 in the state Assembly

 

To prohibit the legislature from contracting with private legal services to defend legislative redistricting efforts. In January, a federal court found that the legislative districts drawn by the legislature were unconstitutional. This bill would prohibit using tax revenue to pay private-sector attorneys to appeal. This vote was to withdraw the bill from committee to allow the entire Assembly to vote on it.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Wisconsin Assembly Resolution 4!

 

U.S. Senate Motion 57: Affirm Senator Warren Broke Senate Rules

 

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Senate Motion 57, Affirm Senator Warren broke Senate rules: Passed 49 to 43 in the U.S. Senate on February 7, 2017

 

To uphold the ruling of the chair that Senator Elizabeth Warren broke Senate Rule 19, which prohibits any senator from “imput[ing] to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator." Senator Warren had been reading a letter by Coretta Scott King about Senator Jeff Sessions, whom President Trump had nominated to be Attorney General. The chair had ruled that by reading certain sections of this bill, Sen. Warren had disparaged her colleague, Sen. Sessions.

 

Comment below to share what you think of U.S. Senate Motion 57!

 

Michigan Senate Bill 40: Expand State Subsidies for Particular Companies on State Line

 

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Senate Bill 40, Expand state subsidies for particular companies on state line: Passed 24 to 14 in the state Senate on February 9, 2017

 

To let particular businesses that are near the state line, and that have been selected by political appointees on a state 'economic development' program board, to each collect up to $10 million in state business subsidies for hiring people who do not live in Michigan.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Michigan Senate Bill 40!

 

Virginia House Joint Resolution 549: Recognize Pornography as a Public Health Hazard

 

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House Joint Resolution 549, Recognize Pornography as a Public Health Hazard: Passed 82 to 8 in the state House on February 2, 2017

 

To state that the House recognizes “pornography as leading to individual and societal harms” and that there is a “need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level” regarding pornography.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Virginia House Joint Resolution 549!

 

Congress Busy Overturning Regulations

 

Updated February 24, 2017

 

Congress has been very busy since it convened in early January. Even before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, members of Congress were busy writing and voting on legislation. One area is getting a lot of attention from our federal legislators – overturning regulations using the Congressional Review Act (CRA).

 

Not only is it unusual for Congress to target a large number of regulations to reject, but using the CRA at all is quite rare. After the Republican sweep in the 1994 election, Congress enacted the CRA in 1996 as part of the “Contract with America.” Its provisions have only been used one time prior to this year. Since January, however, the House of Representatives has considered eight resolutions that would overturn Obama Administration rules. More are on the way.

 

Under the CRA, a majority in Congress has the power to pass a resolution that would undo any rule issued by a federal agency issued within the prior 60 legislative days. The agency is barred from ever again issuing a regulation that is similar to the one rejected. Unlike other legislation, this resolution cannot be filibustered in the Senate. The president must sign the resolution for it to take effect.

 

This year is the first time when party control of Congress and the presidency coincide to make the CRA workable in any significant way. Republican President Trump took office from his Democratic predecessor, whose administration issued a variety of controversial regulations during its final year in office. Last year, members of Congress were out of town a lot, so the threshold of 60 legislative days stretches far back into 2016 to cover numerous regulations issued by the Obama Administration. President Trump has signaled that he is willing to sign regulatory rollback resolutions, so the Republican majority in Congress has an unrivaled opportunity to strike back at Obama-era rules that they don’t like.

 

Stay tuned and check the Regulatory Reform Tracker for weekly updates on Congress' efforts to rollback and overhaul regulations!

 

Gun Control in Virginia

 

The issue of gun control is a hot topic in many states, and Virginia is no exception. With its Republican-dominated legislature, the Commonwealth’s lawmakers have advanced legislation in recent years that would expand the rights of gun owners. This has met some resistance from Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, although the two branches of government have found some common ground on this issue.

 

The beginning of the 2017 legislative session has already seen action on firearms legislation. For the most part, these bills are aimed at expanding the right for Virginians to carry concealed firearms:

 

House Bill 1582, Lower age for concealed handgun permit for military members: Passed 78 to 19 in the state House on January 18, 2017

 

To allow an active duty military member or a military member who has received an honorable discharge to obtain a concealed handgun permit at the age of 18. Current law allows concealed handgun permits for anyone 21 years of age or older.

 

Senate Bill 1362, Allow non-duty military personnel to carry concealed weapons: Passed 22 to 18 in the state Senate on January 24, 2017

 

To allow members of the Virginia National Guard, Virginia Defense Force, Armed Forces of the United States, or Armed Forces Reserves who is on non-duty status to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

 

Senate Bill 1299, Allow concealed carry with protective order: Passed 27 to 13 in the state Senate on January 24, 2017

 

To allow anyone who is protected by a protective order to carry a concealed weapon without a permit for 45 days after the protective order is issued. Only Virginians eligible under state law to carry a concealed weapon would be permitted to do this.

 

Missouri Senate Concurrent Resolution 4: Call to Congress for a Convention of the States

 

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Senate Concurrent Resolution 4, Call to Congress for a Convention of the States: Passed 31 to 0 in the state Senate on January 5, 2017

 

To submit an application to Congress calling for a "convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution," limited to the issues of fiscal restraints, federal powers and congressional term limits.

 

 

U.S. Senate Concurrent Resolution 3: Move Forward with Obamacare Repeal

 

Donald Trump made repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, a central part of his winning campaign for president. Congressional Republicans have been working for years to repeal the law. Will 2017 be the year that Obamacare goes away?

 

In January, the Senate laid the groundwork for repeal legislation to proceed. It adopted a budget resolution for the U.S. Congress that makes it easier for Obamacare repeal legislation to proceed through the Senate. During consideration of this resolution, Democrats offered numerous amendments that, if adopted, would have effectively prevented Obamacare from being repealed. Senator Rand Paul also offered an amendment that would have capped federal spending, leading to a balanced budget by 2024.

 

These amendments all failed. It is doubtful the sponsors thought they would pass. Instead, they were likely offered as a way of putting senators on the record as opposing or supporting certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Here are some of the key votes that occurred during this early skirmish over Obamacare:

 

U.S. Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, Move forward with Obamacare repeal: Passed 51 to 48 in the U.S. Senate on January 12, 2017

 

To approve a Senate budget that allows committees to prepare legislation to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Under this resolution, votes to repeal certain parts of Obamacare could occur by majority vote instead of being subject to a filibuster which would have to be overcome by 60 votes.

 

U.S. Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, Kaine amendment to stop Obamacare repeal: Failed 48 to 52 in the U.S. Senate on January 5, 2017

 

To prevent the Senate from considering legislation to eliminate the Affordable Care Act's insurance subsides, its Medicaid enrollment expansion and more. This amendment would have changed Senate rules to effectively halt consideration of legislation to repeal or modify the Affordable Care Act using a budget reconciliation process that does not require a three-fifths majority to end debate and pass the bill.

 

U.S. Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, Sanders amendment to prevent changes to entitlement programs: Failed 49 to 49 in the U.S. Senate on January 10, 2017

 

To prohibit the Senate from considering legislation that would reduce Social Security benefits, privatize Social Security, increase the Social Security retirement age, or reduce Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

 

U.S. Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, Paul amendment to balance the budget: Failed 14 to 83 in the U.S. Senate on January 9, 2017

 

To amend a Senate budget resolution by adding provisions intended to generate a balanced federal budget by 2024 by capping federal spending. The amendment would also allow for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and its replacement simultaneously.

 

U.S. Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, Klobuchar amendment to allow re-importing Canadian drugs: Failed 46 to 52 in the U.S. Senate on January 11, 2017

 

An amendment to the Senate budget bill that would allow legislation to permit pharmacists, wholesalers, or Americans with a valid prescription to buy drugs in Canada and bring them into the United States.

 

U.S. Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, Menendez amendment to prevent Medicaid funding cuts: Failed 48 to 50 in the U.S. Senate on January 11, 2017

 

To prohibit the Senate from considering legislation that would reduce Medicaid funding for states that expanded their Medicaid programs in compliance with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. This expansion was not mandatory for states. The federal government covered over 90% of the share of enrolling new Medicaid recipients who were able-bodied and made more than 138% of the federal poverty level. The federal government generally covers 43% of the cost of traditional Medicaid enrollees.

 

U.S. Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, Gillibrand amendment to prevent repeal of Obamacare contraceptive mandate: Failed 49 to 49 in the U.S. Senate on January 12, 2017

 

To prevent the Senate from considering legislation that would end the mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance coverage of reproductive health services such as contraception, birth control, or maternity care.

 

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 181: Establish Performance-Based Budget Review

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Pennsylvania, and check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted.

 

Senate Bill 181, Establish performance-based budget review: Passed 49 to 0 in the state Senate on February 6, 2017

 

To direct the Secretary of Budget to review agency budgets based on performance instead of on subtracting or adding to traditional spending levels. Under a performance-based review, an agency would have to show how its proposed spending is being allocated to meet certain performance goals and benchmarks. The bill would allow the Secretary to undertake a review at least once every five years, and the General Assembly could also request such a review. The bill also directs the state to undertake a review of the effectiveness of various state tax credits.

 

Is Gerrymandering Coming to an End?

 

Politicians drawing electoral districts to benefit politicians – it’s a practice that’s almost as old as the U.S. Criticism of this partisan redistricting, known as gerrymandering, also goes back to the early days of the republic. Actions by legislators and judges in 2017 may make some long-lasting changes to this long-lived process.

 

Practices vary, but in most states the legislature and the governor draw legislative and congressional districts. And while gerrymandering may be deplored by Republicans and Democrats alike, it is practiced by both parties to maximize their advantages at the ballot box.

 

In recent years there have been efforts to give nonpartisan commissions the power to draw these districts, in order to take the political considerations out of the process. Currently, four states have these independent commissions.

 

Actions to address gerrymandering go beyond mere legislative proposals. In some states, lawsuits have been filed to overturn what plaintiffs consider illegally partisan districts.

 

Here is what is happening in some states concerning gerrymandering:

 

Wisconsin – In January, a federal court ruled that Wisconsin’s legislative districts must be redrawn in time for the 2018 election. State legislators have approved using a private law firm to appeal this ruling, prompting complaints about using taxpayer dollars to do this.

 

Michigan – emboldened by the successful suit in Wisconsin, a former Democratic official is preparing to sue the state to overturn what he considers partisan gerrymandering in Michigan.

 

Virginia – legislators have advanced a resolution to amend the state constitution that would dampen gerrymandering by requiring that legislative and congressional districts must be compact, follow existing political boundaries (such as county lines), and not be drawn to protect a certain party or incumbent lawmakers.

 

Maryland – when in office, Governor Martin O’Malley approved a map containing some of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the nation. Now that he’s out of office, O’Malley is having second thoughts. He has said he supports a nonpartisan commission to draw districts, something his successor in the governor’s office, Larry Hogan, is pushing legislators to adopt.

 

 

What do you think should be done about gerrymandering?

 

Michigan Legislature: 2017 Preview

 

The Michigan State House of Representatives and Senate have a busy year ahead in 2017. Potential upcoming bills will affect all citizens of Michigan; the topics and issues addressed in these bills including: children, offenders, voting and voter registration, vehicles and taxation. With so many bills to cover, below are outlined some of the key potential bills likely to impact the people of Michigan in a substantial way –

 

Children:

 

SB 0052 adds crimes involving sexual conduct or abuse of a child under 18 years of age to the list of crimes with no statute of limitations.

 

HB 4042 includes people involved with school and recreational youth sport to those people responsible for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect.

 

Offenders

 

SB 0022 mandates, where possible, for inmates aged approximately 18-22 to be housed only with inmates of similar ages and all within the same correctional facility.

 

HB 4065 outlines the new Department of Corrections policy allowing individuals convicted of a felony to work within the Department. These individuals must have disclosed their felony prior to employment and the felony must not be of such a nature as to negatively impact public safety or the running of the Department.

 

Voting

 

SB 0056 allows voter registration to take place online, with an online form submitted to the Secretary of State. A voter may update their address on the same website.

 

HB 4037 creates automatic voter registration for individuals when they are issued a driver’s license or a change of address notification for their existing driver’s license.

 

Vehicles

 

HB 4013 make vehicle registration shown in electronic form acceptable when it is required to be displayed to a police officer.

 

Taxation

 

SB 0059 allows a taxpayer to claim a tax credit on their state income tax equal to 50% of their yearly repayment of a student loan. However the total of this repayment must not exceed 20% of the average yearly tuition for Michigan’s public universities. This is a non-refundable tax credit.

 

HB 4014 allows a taxpayer to claim a tax credit on their state income tax equal to fees paid throughout the tax year for a dependent of the taxpayer to take part in any sport, program or other extracurricular activity offered through a school. This is a non-refundable tax credit.

 

SB 0060 allows a taxpayer who is eligible for a refundable tax credit under s21 of the Internal Revenue Code (regarding expense for household and dependent care services necessary for gainful employment) to claim a percentage of that credit against their state income tax. Percentages determined by annual income are:

  • Less than $25,000 = 110%
  • Greater than or equal to $25,000 but less than $40,000 = 100%
  • Greater than or equal to $40,000 but less than $65,000 = 80%
  • Greater than or equal to $65,000 but less than $100,000 = 30%

 

What do you think the Michigan Legislature should focus on in 2017?

 

Jackie Morgan contributed to this post

 

 

U.S. House Resolution 11: Disapprove of UN Resolution Condemning Israel

 

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U.S. House Resolution 11, Disapprove of UN resolution condemning Israel: Passed 342 to 80 in the U.S. House on January 5, 2017

 

To express the sense of the House of Representatives that it opposes United Nations resolution 2334, which condemned Israel for building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. When the U.N. Security Council passed this resolution in December 2016, the U.S. representative to the U.N. abstained from the vote. This allowed the resolution to be adopted after many past votes brought by Israel opponents were defeated by a US veto. Since a future repeal effort can also be vetoed by other Security Council members including Russia and China, it probably means the resolution will remain in effect indefinitely.

 

 

 

 

Iowa Senate Bill 166: Increase State Funding for Schools by 1.1 Percent

 

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Senate Bill 166, Increase state funding for schools by 1.1 percent: Passed the state Senate 28 to 21 on February 2, 2017 and 55 to 40 in the state House on February 6, 2017

 

To increase the state funding of public schools by 1.1 percent for the next year. Also, the bill removes a requirement that the legislature fix the amount of state aid two years in advance.

 

Wisconsin Senate Bill 3: Ban Project Labor Agreements

 

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Senate Bill 3, Ban project labor agreements: Passed 19 to 13 in the state Senate on February 8, 2017

 

To prohibit the state or local governments from requiring the use of project labor agreements in bids for contracts. Project labor agreements require that non-union contractors bidding on a government project must pay employee union dues and contribute to union pension and health insurance benefit funds, even though their employees are not union members.

 

Ohio Governor Pushes to Preserve Medicaid

 

A major part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is expanding the Medicaid program. As Republicans in Congress consider their plans to repeal Obamacare, one Republican governor is asking them to preserve this Medicaid expansion: Governor John Kasich of Ohio.

 

In mid-January, he urged Congress not to eliminate Medicaid expansion during an Obamacare repeal. Medicaid is the joint state/federal program that provides health care coverage to lower-income individuals. In the traditional Medicaid program, the federal government generally pays 43% of the total cost (rates vary by state). Under Obamacare, states would receive federal funds covering 90% of the cost of expanding coverage to childless, able-bodied adults with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level.

 

According to Gov. Kasich, “Thirty-one states — more than half of them with Republican governors — extended Medicaid coverage. Those that did are experiencing significant positive benefits.”

 

The majority of people who received coverage under Obamacare have done so through Medicaid. Preserving Medicaid expansion would mean preserving this aspect of Obamacare, which troubles some Republicans in Congress. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been pushing Congress to replace Obamacare at the same time it repeals the law, said:

 

A lot of these people actually qualified for Medicaid already so the interesting thing is they thought they were getting something new and they already qualified. My main point is we have to take care of those who can't take care of themselves. But it should be paid for. If we need to expand Medicaid every state needs to decide how much they're going to raise taxes to pay for Medicaid.

 

If Congress did not preserve the Medicaid expansion, states would still be free to design their programs to continue covering those eligible under Obamacare. However, states would not receive the 90% federal match, but would instead receive the lower matching rate for the traditional Medicaid program.

 

Supporters of Medicaid expansion worry about what will happen to enrollees if Congress does not preserve the higher federal matching rate. Those who want to end the expansion point to the long-term budget issues that could result from Medicaid spending.

 

Do you think that Congress should preserve Medicaid expansion as it debates repealing Obamacare?

 

U.S. House Bill 7: Ban Federal Funding of Abortion

 

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U.S. House Bill 7, Ban federal funding of abortion: Passed 238 to 183 in the U.S. House on January 24, 2017

 

To prohibit using federal government money to pay for abortions. The bill would make permanent the “Hyde Amendment,” which has been attached to annual spending bills to prohibit federal funding of abortions. It (or another one-year Hyde amendment) would prohibit Medicaid or other federal programs from paying for abortions, and prohibit insurance companies from selling policies that pay for abortions through the federal health care law exchanges.

 

Virginia Senate Bill 872: Require Photo ID for Absentee Ballots

 

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Virginia Senate Bill 872, Require Photo ID for Absentee Ballots: Passed 20 to 19 in the state Senate on January 30, 2017

 

To require that anyone requesting an absentee ballot by mail to include a copy of his or her photo ID with the request. When the voter submits the completed ballot, he or she must also submit a copy of his or her photo ID. Exempt from this requirement are military and overseas voters as well as voters with disabilities.

 

North Carolina Senate Bill 4: Repeal the 'Bathroom' Bill

 

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Senate Bill 4, Repeal the bathroom bill: Failed 16 to 32 in the state Senate on December 21, 2016

 

To repeal HB 2, which prohibited local governments from enacting anti-discrimination laws or employment mandates that are stricter than state law, effectively preempting Charlotte’s transgendered discrimination act. HB 2 also required schools and government agencies to designate bathrooms for people of their biological sex and requires that only people of that biological sex can use a bathroom with that designation, in addition to restricting protection from sex discrimination to discrimination based on biological sex.

 

Senate Bull 4, Amendment to allow local employment or public accommodation laws: Passed 33 to 16 in the state Senate on December 21, 2016

 

To table, or kill, an amendment to the HB 2 repeal legislation that would remove the section that banned local governments from enacting laws regulating employment practices or public accommodations or access to bathrooms or showers for six months.

Legislators Look at Homesharing

 

Have you ever used an app like Airbnb to rent a room for a night? Or have you used the app to rent out your house when you were away on vacation?

 

Americans are increasingly turning to Airbnb and other homesharing platforms for short-term rentals, and government officials are starting to notice this trend. While in most places home sharing is largely unregulated, there are efforts across the country to impose new rules on this practice. Many of these regulatory efforts are coming from local government officials.

 

Proponents of regulation contend that homesharing through apps deprives consumers of government oversight to ensure quality. It also deprives states or local governments of room rental fees. Opponents of regulation counter that consumers determine the quality of the rental unit and that government has no business prohibiting people from renting their homes out for a night or two.

 

These are several proposals about homesharing that state legislators could be debating this year:

 

Virginia: a bill in this state would allow local governments to ban short-term (fewer than 30 days) rentals. If local governments allowed these rentals, the homeowner would have to notify neighbors, seek permission from the local government, pay taxes on room rentals, and carry $500,000 in insurance.

 

Massachusetts: separate legislation is being considered in the Bay State to regulate short-term rentals. One bill would separate rental-unit owners into separate categories depending on how often they rent rooms and tax them at different rates. Those renting rooms would face state inspections and insurance requirements. Local governments could also impose additional restrictions on rentals. Another bill, backed by Gov. Charlie Baker, would impose taxes on individuals who rent out rooms for more than 150 days a year.

 

Indiana: under legislation approved unanimously by a House committee, local governments would be prohibited from imposing restrictions on short-term rental units as long as the owners rent them out fewer than 180 days a year.

 

Idaho: legislators will consider a bill that would prohibit local governments from banning short-term rentals, or restricting them from certain neighborhoods. These rentals would still be subject to local rules regarding the fire code, nuisances, and noise.

 

Florida: legislators in Florida will also consider a bill that would prohibit local governments from banning short-term rentals. This legislation would pre-empt the bans that are already in place in some Florida towns and prevent future actions by cities or counties.

 

Do you think that states should impose stricter regulations on renting through Airbnb? Or do you support state laws that prevent local governments from banning short-term rentals?

 

Missouri House Bill 91: Adopt a "Right to Work" Law

 

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House Bill 91, Adopt a "right to work" law: Passed 100 to 59 in the state House on January 16, 2017

 

To prohibit employers from requiring employees to join or financially support a labor union as a condition of employment.

 

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