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Local Syrofoam bans banned; Joint custody required in divorces; Property tax breaks for long-term senior citizens

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Florida earlier this year, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

Senate Bill 514. Increase the average pay of election supervisors by $18,540: Passed 58 to 54 in the House on March 8, 2016 and 36 to 4 in the Senate on March 3, 2016

To change a number (known as the "group number") used in a formula to calculate how much election supervisors are paid in each county. According to a report from the Florida Senate, the change would increase the average cost to counties by $18,540 per year and increase the average salary of a supervisor by 18.7 percent.

House Bill 7007. Prohibit local governments from banning Styrofoam food packages: Passed 110 to 4 in the House on March 9, 2016 and 38 to 0 in the Senate on March 9, 2016.

To prevent local governments from enacting ordinances that regulate the use of polystyrene containers (which often go by the brand name Styrofoam), reserving that power to the state government. It also reserves to the state ("preempts") the power to regulate commercial (e.g., cattle) feed.

Senate Bill 668. Establish a presumption that children in divorce cases will spend half their time with each parent: Passed 74 to 38 in the House on March 8, 2016 and 24 to 14 in the Senate on March 4, 2016.

To establish a presumption that children in divorce cases will spend half their time with each parent; also ends lifetime payments for alimony.

House Joint Resolution 275. Let some senior citizens keep their property tax exemptions when the value of their home goes higher than $250,000: Passed 113 to 0 in the House on February 11, 2016, and 39 to 0 in the Senate on March 9, 2016.

To benefit low-income, long-term state residents who are at least 65 years old and have a property tax exemption because their primary home is worth less than $250,000. If voters approve this constitutional amendment such residents could maintain their exemptions even if the value of their property is above $250,000 cap.

House Bill 1365. Let students test out of subjects. Passed 31 to 6 in the Senate on March 10, 2016.

To let students earn high school credits by passing state or other specified tests rather than have to spend a certain amount of time in the classroom. The law establishes a pilot program for two counties.

Pharmacy freedom; food stamps for marijuana; home-grown pot and deliveries; & wine-to-your-door too

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Colorado earlier this year, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 1361 Prohibit health plans from restricting access to pharmacies: Passed 34 to 31 in the House on 4/14/2016

To prohibit health plans from limiting or restricting a covered person's ability to select a pharmacy or pharmacist of their choice.

House Bill 1255 Prohibit the use of Electronic Benefits Cards (EBT) in certain locations: Passed 28 to 7 in the Senate on 4/16/2015

To define a list of locations and businesses where the use of EBT cards is prohibited, including liquor establishments, gaming establishments, and businesses involved in state legalized marijuana.

House Bill 1211 Create a licensing framework for marijuana-delivery companies: Passed 48 to 17 in the House on 4/14/2016

To create a process and requirements for state and local marijuana transporter licenses. A marijuana transporter is a third party that provides logistics, distribution, and storage of medical and retail marijuana and marijuana-infused products for a retail business.

Senate Bill 080 Impose a restriction on home-based marijuana growers: Passed 54 to 11 in the House on 4/16/16

To require home growers of marijuana to put the crops in an enclosed space beyond the reach of minors.

House Bill 1271 Allow wineries to deliver their products to customers directly: Passed 35 to 0 in the Senate on 5/2/2016

To allow certain wineries with special shipping permits to deliver their wine directly to consumers without being forced to use a common carrier (such as UPS, FedEx or the Postal Service).

Transgender bathroom use, discriminatory firing, sanctuary cities, state contractors hiring illegal aliens, and poor-performing schools

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in North Carolina during the most recent legislative session, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 2, Amend state laws concerning transgendered individuals: Passed 82 to 26 in the House on March 23, 2016, and 32 to 0 in the Senate on March 23, 2016 (Senate Democrats walked out of the chamber instead of voting on the bill)

To prohibit local governments from enacting anti-discrimination laws or employment mandates that are stricter than state law, effectively pre-empting Charlotte’s transgendered discrimination act. The legislation also requires 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.

House Bill 169, allow state suits for wrongful discharge: Passed 85 to 15 in the House on July 1, 2016, and 25 to 14 in the Senate on July 1, 2016

To allow individuals to sue in state courts alleging that they were wrongfully discharged from employment on account of their race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability status. This legislation amended a provision in HB 2. Legislators who opposed the bill generally did so because they thought it did not go far enough in remedying what they saw as defects in HB 2.

HB 2, Move congressional primary date: Passed 29 to 15 in the Senate on February 19, 2016, and 75 to 30 in the House on February 19, 2016

To move the primary election date to June 7 to accommodate a new congressional redistricting plan. This vote occurred during a special session of the General Assembly called after a federal court case found the state’s previous congressional districts unconstitutional.

HB 318, Require state contractors verify they employ no illegal aliens and ban sanctuary cities: Passed 28 to 17 in the Senate on September 28, 2015, and 70 to 43 in the House on September 29, 2015

To mandate that, for most state contracts, a contractor must verify his or her employees’ legal status using the federal e-Verify program. The legislation also prohibits cities from banning their law enforcement officers from collecting information regarding an individual’s immigration or citizenship status and providing that information to the federal government.

HB 1080, Allow charter schools to manage poor-performing schools: Passed 35 to 14 in the Senate on June 28, 2016, and 66 to 40 in the House on June 29, 2016

To create a pilot program that would allow charter school organizations to manage five schools that have a track record of poor academic performance. The operators can only be chosen if they have a track record of successfully improving performance in similar schools.

Right-to-try lifesaving drugs; asthma inhalers in schools; respect freedom of religion in public schools

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Ohio earlier this year, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 290 Give terminally ill patients the freedom to choose their treatment options: Passed 96 to 1 in the House on 2/23/2016

To permit a patient with a terminal condition to be treated with a drug, product, or device that is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

House Bill 124 Permit venereal disease drug distribution without prescription: Passed 32 to 0 in the Senate on 10/7/2015

To permit drugs that cure chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis to be dispensed to the sexual partner of a person who has one of these diseases without being examined by a doctor.

House Bill 39 Let schools stock emergency asthma inhalers: Passed 98 to 0 in the House on 10/7/2015

To allow schools and camps to obtain and administer emergency asthma inhalers, with a requirement to develop an inhaler use policy in concert with a health professional. The school or camp would be protected from liability for damages resulting from alleged misuse of inhalers. The bill also would allow inhaler manufacturers to donate inhalers to schools, and allow schools and camps to receive donations for the purpose of purchasing inhalers.

House Bill 2 Increase sponsorship and reporting requirements for charter schools: Passed 32 to 0 in the Senate on 6/30/2015

To restrict low-performing charter schools, and charter schools that have operated for less than four years, from changing sponsors unless the state rates the new sponsor as "effective" or higher, or if the change is approved by the Department of Education. The bill would also place additional reporting and disclosure requirements on charter school operators and establish new conflict-of-interest standards for charter school board members.

House Bill 425 Provide students with parity for freedom of religious expression in schools: Passed 72 to 22 in the House on 4/13/2016

To require schools to allow for and treat religious expression and speech in the same manner they allow for secular expression and speech.

Concealed firearms, Common Core, independent congressional and legislative redistricting, and mandating union wages

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Virginia during the most recent legislative session, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 145, Prohibit “prevailing wage”: Passed 66 to 32 in the House on February 1, 2016, and 21 to 19 in the Senate on February 25, 2016. Vetoed by the governor on March 11, 2016.

To ban state agencies from requiring that contractors pay the “prevailing wage” on public works projects. “Prevailing wage” is based on the union pay scale of a region.

Senate Bill 48, Allow concealed carry without a permit: Rejected on a tie vote, 20 to 20, in the Senate on February 1, 2016

To allow anyone to carry a concealed firearm without a permit if that person is legally eligible to carry a concealed firearm.

Senate Bill 191, Establish independent redistricting commission: Passed 31 to 9 in the Senate on February 1, 2016.

To place an advisory question on the November ballot on whether Virginia should establish an independent commission that would draw district lines for the House of Delegates, Senate, and congressional seats.

House Bill 259, Prohibit use of Common Core: Passed 77 to 22 in the House on January 27, 2016, and 24 to 16 in the Senate on February 22, 2016. Vetoed by the governor on March 1, 2016.

To prohibit the state from replacing the current education standards with Common Core State Standards without prior approval by the General Assembly.

House Bill 1163, Recognize out-of-state concealed handgun permits: Passed 72 to 26 in the House on February 10, 2016, and 29 to 11 in the Senate on February 22, 2016.

Allows someone with a concealed handgun permit issued by any state who is at least 21 years of age to carry a concealed handgun in Virginia. This bill requires the Attorney General to enter into reciprocity agreements with other states to do this.

Restricting frac sand mining, complying with Obamacare, and providing taxpayer money for the Bucks

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Wisconsin during the most recent legislative session, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

AB 310, Deny family planning funding to abortion providers: Passed 60 to 35 in the Assembly on September 24, 2015, and of 19 to 14 in the Senate on January 20, 2016.

To redirect family planning funding to state, county, and local health departments and health clinics. This legislation bans funds from going to organizations that provide abortion services, make referrals for abortion services, or have affiliates that provide abortion services or make abortion referrals.

AB 150, Impose new restrictions on frac sand mining: Failed 36 to 60 in the Assembly on January 19, 2016.

To mandate that local zoning ordinances must restrict the operations of frac sand mining.

AB 12, Increase the minimum wage: Failed 35 to 61 in the Assembly on January 19, 2016.

To increase the minimum wage that employers must pay employees to $10.10 within two years after enactment for most employees. Certain groups of employees, such as tipped employees, would see their mandated minimum wage increase, too, although not to $10.10. This bill would also allow local governments to impose so-called “living wage” ordinances.

Assembly Bill 155 Create Obamacare insurance exchange: Failed 35 to 61 in the Assembly on January 12, 2016.

To establish the Badger Health Benefit Authority, a state-run health insurance exchange to comply with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. To pay for its operation, the state would be authorized to charge a tax on insurance or on individuals using the exchange.

Senate Bill 209 Spend $400 million on new Milwaukee Bucks arena: Passed 21 to 10 in the Senate on July 15, 2015, and 52 to 34 in the Assembly on July 28, 2015.

To authorize spending $400 million on an arena for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team

End trying some juveniles as adults; ban locking up juveniles with adults; require outdoor exercise for young prisoners

 

Check out these key votes made by lawmakers during the 2015-16 Michigan Legislature, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how the people who represent you voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

2015 House Bill 4962: End automatically trying 17 year olds as adult: Passed 90 to 19 in the House on April 28, 2016

To no longer automatically prosecute and sentence 17 year olds charged with serious crimes as if they are adults. Other bills in the same legislative package amend other statutes to bring this about. The Senate has not voted on these bills.

House Bill 4965, Create juvenile justice family advisory board: Passed 96 to 13 in the House on April 28, 2015.

To create a family advisory board in the Department of Corrections to give advice on ways to support family reunification when a minor is incarcerated for committing a serious crime, and other steps intended to assist re-entry into the community and reduce recidivism.

House Bill 4966, Require out-of-cell exercise for young prisoners: Passed 93 to 16 in the House on April 28, 2016

To require the Department of Corrections to provide “age-appropriate out-of-cell programming and outdoor exercise” at least five days a week for prisoners who are less than 21 years old.

2015 House Bill 4959, Ban locking up young criminals with adults: Passed 92 to 16 in the House on April 27, 2016

To prohibit incarcerating minors charged with criminal offenses in a facility that also houses adult offenders during confinement, trial, or transport. This is part of a legislative package that consists of House Bills 4947 to 4966.

2016 Senate Bill 945, Ban locking up young criminals with adults: Passed 37 to 0 in the Senate on June 9, 2016

Ban locking up young criminals with adults: To prohibit incarcerating minors charged with criminal offenses in a facility that also houses adult offenders during confinement, trial, or transport.

2015 Senate Bill 251: Establish less formal court procedures for some juvenile crimes: Passed 37 to 0 in the Senate on May 14, 2015, and 105 to 4 in the House on June 9, 2016

To establish a parallel court “consent calendar” process for criminal cases involving juveniles that are not serious enough warrant removing the juvenile from parental custody, but only if the parents or guardian and the prosecutor agree. Procedures for such cases would be less formal than for regular criminal cases, and access to case records would be restricted.

This bill was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder last June and is now Public Act 185 of 2016.

Audit the Fed, repeal death tax, authorize Keystone Pipeline, end subsidized mobile phones, and cut spending by 1%

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Congress during the current legislative session, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

Senate Bill 2232, Audit the Federal Reserve: Failed 53 to 44 in the Senate on January 12, 2016.

To direct the Government Accountability Office to audit the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and report its findings to Congress. This was a vote on cloture, meaning the bill required 60 votes for passage.

House Bill 1105, Repeal federal estate tax: Passed 240 to 179 in the House on April 16, 2015.

To repeal the federal estate tax, which is a 40 rate on the value of an estate above $5.43 million, which the government seeks to collect upon the death of a taxpayer. The bill would also repeal a so-called "generation skipping" tax (an additional tax placed on money given to grandchildren or great-grandchildren directly), and cap the federal gift tax rate at 35 percent.

Senate Bill 1 Authorize Keystone Pipeline: Passed 62 to 36 in the Senate on January 29, 2015, and 270 to 152 in the Senate on February 11, 2015. Vetoed by the president on February 24, 2015.

To authorize construction of the Keystone oil pipeline, which will complete a network transporting crude oil from Canadian oilfields to existing U.S. pipelines ultimately connected to refineries in Texas. The bill "deems" that an environmental impact statement done previously by the Department of State (as part of the border crossing permit process) hereby satisfies all federal environmental law requirements, and past permits are still valid. The Senate added provisions amending and in some cases expanding various unrelated federal energy programs, standards and regulations.

House Bill 5525, End government-subsidized mobile phone service: Failed 207 to 143 in the House on June 21, 2016.

To end the program that provides a subsidy to mobile phone companies to give low-income customers a discount on mobile phone service. The measure was defeated, because the vote was on a motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, which requires a 2/3 super-majority.

Blackburn amendment U.S. House Bill 5538, Cut some agencies’ spending by 1%: Failed 171 to 258 in the House on July 13, 2016.

To cut proposed spending for the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and related agencies by 1% across-the-board.

Medical marijuana, shrink the General Assembly, Remove Kathleen Kane from office, welfare for drug traffickers

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Pennsylvania during the most recent legislative session, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 1948, Limit dismemberment abortions: Passed 132 to 65 in the House on June 21, 2016.

To impose strict limits on the use of abortions using the technique of dilation and evacuation, or dismemberment, and to ban the use of this technique, with limited exceptions, after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Senate Bill 3, Allow use of medical marijuana: Passed 40 to 7 in the Senate on May 12, 2015, and 149 to 43 in the House on March 16, 2016.

To permit the use of medical marijuana with a doctor's certification. Under this legislation, medical marijuana may not be smoked or used in edible form, but can be used in pill, oil, liquid, or topical forms, and it may also be vaporized.

House Bill 153, Amend the constitution to reduce the size of the General Assembly: Passed 139 to 56 in the House on May 5, 2015, and 43 to 6 in the Senate on January 27, 2016.

To place a constitutional amendment before the voters that would reduce the size of the state House of Representatives to 151 districts from its current 203 districts.

Senate Resolution 284, Remove Attorney General Kane from Office: Failed 29 to 19 in the Senate on February 10, 2016 (the measure required approval of two-thirds of the Senate to pass)

To direct the governor to remove Attorney General Kathleen Kane from office due to the suspension of her law license by the state supreme court. Kane was eventually convicted of nine counts of conspiracy, perjury, and obstruction of justice on August 15, 2016. She resigned from office effective August 17.

House Bill 222, Deny welfare to drug traffickers: Passed 170 to 20 in the House on March 14, 2016.

To prohibit individuals who have been convicted of certain drug trafficking crimes from receiving state welfare benefits.

Pence and Kaine Face Off

Vladimir Putin, Trump’s tax returns, the Iran nuclear agreement – a few topics came up time and time again during the lone vice presidential debate between Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence.

Kaine, who is the running mate of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, repeatedly tried to get Pence to defend the views of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. At times Pence happily defended Trump, and at other times he hit back at Kaine and Clinton. This debate focused more on policy than did the first presidential debate, but at times the two had heated exchanges. Kaine even called Trump a “maniac” at one point, implying that he may start a nuclear war.

One of the main issues that Kaine kept bringing up was Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. He suggested that the reason Trump won’t release his returns is because the public will see that his tax plans will benefit him and that he has business dealings with Russia. Pence defended Trump, saying that he will release his tax returns after an IRS audit is complete. He also pointed out that Trump has completed a detailed financial disclosure.

Another area where Kaine went on the offensive was over positive remarks that Trump had made about Vladimir Putin. Pence pushed back, contending that Hillary Clinton was soft on Russia during her tenure as Secretary of State. At time, it appeared that the two were competing to see who could go further in condemning Putin and recent Russian actions in Europe. Kaine repeatedly gave Clinton credit for playing a key role in the Iranian nuclear agreement, but Pence dismissed the pact with Iran as having little impact on stopping that nation’s bid to acquire nuclear weapons.

On the economy, Pence stressed Trump’s tax plan, saying it will lead to greater prosperity than we have experienced under President Obama. Kaine emphasized Hillary Clinton’s economic proposal, which would spend federal dollars on a variety of new programs, cut taxes for some, and raise taxes on high-income earners.

Social issues, which have been largely absent during the presidential campaign, also came up. Pence condemned the Democratic Party for its support of partial-birth abortion and Kaine said that abortion was a matter of personal choice that should not be legislated.

While this debate featured discussion on a range of issues, it is difficult to say if it will have much impact on the campaign. As well-prepared as both candidates were, they are running for the second spot on the ticket. The attention of most voters is still focused on the people running for the top spot. Clinton and Trump will square off in their second debate on Sunday.

 

 

Pence and Kaine Ready to Square Off

 

With people still talking about the first presidential debate, the first vice-presidential debate is quickly approaching. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Governor Mike Pence will face each other for 90 minutes on Tuesday to discuss the issues and lay out their vision for America’s future.

 

When: Tuesday, October 4

Time: 9:00 p.m. (EDT)

Where: Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia (and on many TV networks)

Moderator: Elaine Quijano, CBS News

 

The format for this debate is nine ten-minute segments, with candidates having opening statements and then two-minute responses to each other. However, as we saw with the Trump-Clinton debate, this format can break down if the discussion gets heated.

No topics for this debate have been announced. As with any vice presidential debate, the dynamics are different than when the presidential nominees face each other. Pence may attempt to reassure voters about the GOP ticket by showing a more measured tone in his performance than did Donald Trump. Kaine may try to focus on honesty and transparency, two areas which continue to plague his running mate, Hillary Clinton.

Will you be watching the vice presidential debate? Do you expect it to produce as many interesting moments as the first presidential debate did?

Should Virginia’s Constitution Protect Right to Work?

 

Election Day is fast approaching, and Virginians are being asked to vote on a variety of offices and measures. One of those measures would enshrine in the state constitution the prohibition on mandating union membership as a condition of employment.

 

This provision, known as “right to work,” is already state law, so approval of this ballot measure would not change business practices in the commonwealth. However, if placed in the state constitution this measure could not be overturned by legislators in the future. Rep. Richard Bell, who sponsored the bill to put this question to a vote, said it is important to give the right to work constitutional protection. According to him, “we are protecting it from the whims of the legislature and thus ensuring it can remain in place for generations to come.”

 

Others, such as Senator George Barkers, disagreed, saying, “This amendment is downright unnecessary. Right to work laws have been on the books in Virginia for over 70 years. It is ironic that Republicans frequently accuse Democrats of government overreach, and yet they feel it appropriate to reflect in the Constitution something that has been practice for so long.”

 

If approved by voters, this section would be added to Virginia’s constitution:

 

“Any agreement or combination between any employer and any labor union or labor organization whereby nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, or whereby such membership is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or whereby any such union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any enterprise, is against public policy and constitutes an illegal combination or conspiracy and is void.”

 

The first resolution to place the measure on the ballot passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 64-29 and the Senate by a vote of 21-17. However, legislators must pass resolutions in two successive years to place a question on the ballot. The final resolution to do so passed the Senate by a vote of 21-19 and the House of Delegates by a vote of 64-34.

 

Do you support amending the state constitution to ban mandatory union contracts?

Do Banking Regulations Need Reform?

 

In the wake of the Wells Fargo scandal, banking regulation has become a top issue in Pennsylvania’s Senate race. Senator Pat Toomey, who sits on the Senate Banking Committee, plays a large role in setting the rules governing how banks handle our money and overseeing regulations on banks. His challenger, Katie McGinty, has been denouncing the senator’s actions in these areas.

 

One of the key points of disagreement is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an agency established by the Dodd-Frank law passed in the wake of the Great Recession. According to McGinty, “Toomey has been working overtime to bust not the banks but the protection bureau. I think those priorities are a little upside-down, and I don't think we're going to take it anymore.”

 

The basis for this attack is Senator Toomey’s support for changing the way the CFPB operates. He has backed amendments and legislation that would change the funding mechanism for the agency. Currently, the CFPB receives funding through an independent account in the Federal Reserve. Other federal agencies are funded through the appropriations process, whereby Congress and the president allocate money on a yearly basis for their operations. The CFPB is exempt from this process, and Congress has no authority to review the budget set by the CFPB’s director.

 

Senator Toomey would like the CFPB to be treated like any other federal agency – Congress and the president set the agency’s budget. The Heritage Foundation points out that “the bureau’s independence from congressional appropriations or budgetary review prevents Congress from exercising its key means of oversight: the power of the purse.”  Critics of congressional control of agency funding say that this is a means to weaken the agency: “This would not only give Republicans an opportunity to slash the bureau's funding, but to leverage its budgeting control to pressure the agency against cracking down on lenders.”

 

The structure of the CFPB has also come under attack by Senator Toomey. He would like to replace the director of the agency with a bipartisan board to govern it.

 

As you may expect, Senator Toomey disagrees with McGinty’s characterization of the issue. He contends that his reform proposals will make the agency operate better. “The CFPB is completely unaccountable,” he said in 2015. “It is unique among enormously powerful regulators in having no accountability to Congress. It has exceeded its authority in part because it's not subject to congressional oversight. And it's frankly outrageous that they are able to operate with the budget that they have and with the latitude they have without having to come to Congress for this oversight.”

 

Do you agree with Sen. Toomey that the CFPB is in need of reform and should be overseen by Congress? Or is Katie McGinty right that these reform proposals are designed to weaken the agency?

Highlights of the First Presidential Debate

 

In the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the candidates clashed over a number of issues, including the economy, race relations, policing, and national security.

 

One of the main themes of the night for Trump was that the U.S. is being held back by bad deals, including trade agreements like NAFTA, defense agreements with nations like Japan, or national security agreements like the one negotiated with Iran over that nation’s nuclear weapons. He said that he would bring his experience as a businessman to the office of president and negotiate better deals for the U.S.

 

Clinton stressed that she is prepared to be president, bolstering her case by focusing on policy specifics. She also made pointed appeals to minority voters and women voters.

 

The two candidates did not hesitate to attack one another. Clinton scored against Trump by going into a lengthy discussion of his refusal to release his tax returns and his questioning of whether President Obama was born in the United States. Trump hit Clinton on her e-mail server scandal. He also attempted to use the experience issue against her, saying that Clinton has been in politics for 30 years but has not used that time to address the problems she is discussing during the campaign.

 

Areas of agreement

 

While the debate mainly consisted of Trump and Clinton pointing out how they differed, there were some areas of agreement. While Trump strongly attacked free trade agreements such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, Clinton also took a skeptical view of many trade deals.

 

On gun control, Clinton called for stronger measures to restrict gun sales. One of the proposals she stressed was prohibiting individuals on the no-fly list from being able to purchase firearms. While Trump did not explicitly endorse this idea, he did suggest that he may agree with it.

 

Both Clinton and Trump agreed that the U.S. should concentrate more on cybersecurity issues.

 

Areas of disagreement

 

On the economy, Trump said that he would create jobs in the U.S. by re-negotiating trade agreements, cracking down on companies that invest overseas, lowering taxes so that the wealthy create jobs, and cutting middle class taxes.

 

Clinton laid out a plan for economic growth that consists of creating new government programs for things like paid family leave and college tuition subsidies. She also repeatedly called for raising taxes on the wealthy. She said that Trump’s tax cuts are “trickle down” and will not work, befitting Trump himself, not the American people.

 

On crime, Trump said, “We need law and order.” He vigorously defended the controversial stop-and-frisk practice that came under fire and was halted by a judge in New York City. Clinton said there was an epidemic of gun violence and called for more gun control

 

When it came to national security, Trump blames Obama and Clinton for creating a vacuum that led to ISIS. He said the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil to deprive ISIS of income. Clinton accused Trump of not caring whether other nations obtained nuclear weapons, but Trump countered that he believed nuclear weapons (not global warming) was the single greatest threat to the U.S.

 

On the nuclear issue, Clinton said, “The man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his finger near the nuclear codes…”

 

Their best lines?

 

Clinton: “I have a feeling by the end of this evening I'm going to be blamed for everything that's ever happened.”

Trump: “Why not?”
Clinton: “Why not? Yeah, why not? Just join the debate by saying more crazy things.”

 

Trump: “I have a much better temperament than she does… my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament.”

 

Clinton: “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing.”

 

Trump (on who may have hacked the DNC e-mails): “It could have been Russia. It could be China. It could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

 

What do you think?

Do you think Clinton or Trump won the debate? What do you think was their strongest moment against each other?

It’s Debate Time!

 

Are you ready to see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump square off in the first presidential debate? It’s just around the corner.

 

Date: Monday, September 26

Time: 9:00 p.m. Eastern

Where: Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY (and on most major TV networks)

 

Moderator Lester Holt from NBC said the debate topics would focus on these themes: "America's direction," "achieving prosperity," and "securing America.” These are fairly ambiguous terms, but we can probably expect questions on the economy, terrorism, and immigration. There will be six segments of approximately 15 minutes each for candidates to answer questions and then respond to each other.

 

Both candidates have experience in this format, given the numerous debates during their primary campaigns. However, they have never faced each other, and there is significant anticipation over how Clinton and Trump will interact on the stage. Trump, in particular, has a history of deviating from traditional debate decorum. Many people are wondering if he will continue this behavior on Monday.

 

This debate will feature only the two major party candidates, with the Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein being excluded.

 

Will you be watching the first presidential debate? What do you expect to see from the two candidates?

Ethanol Fuels Pennsylvania Senate Differences

In his race for re-election, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is touting his opposition to ethanol. Is this a winning issue for him? It just may be.

In 2005 and 2007, there was bipartisan support for legislation to impose and broaden the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This law mandates that a certain volume of biofuel must be used in gasoline. Because ethanol is the only commercially viable biofuel, the RFS has resulted in E10 (gasoline containing 10% ethanol) being widely sold across the U.S.

While there was bipartisan support for this biofuel mandate in 2007, there is growing bipartisan opposition to it now. Senator Toomey is one of the most vocal critics of the RFS in Congress. He has worked with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein on legislation and amendments that would eliminate the mandate.

According to the Morning Call, Senator Toomey’s opponent does not share his view: “McGinty, a long-time clean-energy advocate who served as a top environmental policy adviser to former Gov. Ed Rendell and former President Bill Clinton, supports the use of corn ethanol as a renewable fuel that can replace the need for some fossil fuels, according to her campaign.”

Ethanol producers agree with McGinty, saying, “Ethanol is one of the best tools we have to reduce harmful emissions and fight air pollution from our vehicles.” However, a recent report from a University of Michigan researcher concluded, “Despite their purported advantages, biofuels — created from crops such as corn or soybeans — cause more emissions of climate change-causing carbon dioxide than gasoline.”

There is strong political support for ethanol in farm states, especially Iowa. Senator Toomey may have picked a good issue for Pennsylvania, however, since the state is increasingly important for fossil fuels. In addition, as Senator Toomey points out, the ethanol mandate can be a burden on the state’s refineries.

Do you support ethanol in our fuel? Or do you think that it’s time for the ethanol mandate to be repealed?

Memorable Debate Moments

 

The debate schedule for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates has been set. Starting September 26, voters will have a chance to see the presidential candidates in three debates and the vice presidential candidates in one debate.

Will these events produce any memorable moments? They may, given the track record of debates from the past:

 

1960

Senator John Kennedy and Vice President Nixon faced off in the first televised presidential debate on September 26, 1960. From the effects of Nixon’s illness to the differing reactions of voters who watched the debate on TV compared to those who heard it on the radio, this debate has entered the realm of myth. One thing is certain – the Kennedy-Nixon debates set the stage for what is now a rite of passage for the major party presidential candidates.

  • Debate winner: Kennedy
  • Election winner: Kennedy

 

1976

On October 6, 1976, President Gerald Ford faced Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter in their second televised debate. The incumbent president’s chances to win the close race were not helped when he said, “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.”

  • Debate winner: Carter
  • Election winner: Carter

 

1984

When running for re-election in 1984, President Ronald Reagan faced questions about whether he was too old to serve. Reagan put these questions to rest during his debate with Walter Mondale by quipping, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.”

  • Debate winner: Reagan
  • Election winner: Reagan

 

1988

After he won the Republican nomination for president in 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush took a risk by choosing a young Indiana Senator, Dan Quayle, as his running mate. His opponent, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, chose an elder statesman of the Democratic Party, Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen, to be his vice presidential candidate. During the Quayle-Bentsen debate, the GOP nominee pointed out that he had “as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.” That line teed up Senator Bentsen to give his now-classic retort: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.”

  • Debate winner: Bentsen
  • Election winner: Bush/Quayle

 

2000

Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore met for their first presidential debate on October 4, 2000. They discussed a range of issues, but what was most memorable for many viewers were the exaggerated sighs and head shakes form Gore. This body language led some to charge that Gore was being condescending, helping to boost the “regular guy” persona of Bush.

  • Debate winner: Gore
  • Election winner: Bush (although Gore won the popular vote)

 

What are your favorite debate moments? Share your highlights below!

Medicare Heats Up NC Senate Race

 In North Carolina, the Senate race between incumbent Richard Burr and challenger Deborah Ross is increasingly focusing on Medicare. Will Republican control of the Senate hinge on what North Carolinians think about Medicare reform?

At issue is Senator Burr’s 2012 proposal (never actually put in bill for) to restructure Medicare. When he announced it, Burr said, “We made a promise to our seniors that Medicare will be there when they need it most, but the program as it currently stands is broken. We have a moral obligation to our parents, children, and all Americans to take steps now to save Medicare. The Medicare program in its current form is unsustainable, and we have an obligation and opportunity to improve it for our nation's seniors within the next few years.”

Ross is charging that Burr introduced his plan to help insurance companies, not seniors. According to Ross, “some politicians in Washington want to fundamentally change Medicare by privatizing it and putting the insurance companies in charge. For example, Richard Burr has taken more than $1 million from insurance companies. In turn, he wrote a plan that would raise the retirement age, privatize Medicare, and give seniors a voucher that may or may not cover their health care costs. While this may help private insurers' profits, it will force seniors to pay more.”

Senator Burr has said he stands by his proposal. However, he also distances himself from it, saying, “We threw that out as an option as to what could be considered. Until you decide what you’re going to do with the Affordable Care Act, there’s no sense in even having a debate on what Medicare in the future looks like or how you make Social Security sustainable.”

What would Burr’s Medicare plan, dubbed “The Seniors’ Choice Act,” actually do?

  • Limit out-of-pocket expenses for seniors in traditional Medicare Parts A and B
  • Provide targeted care coordination for seniors in traditional Medicare
  • Increase the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 over 12 years
  • Starting in 2016, this proposal would have allowed seniors to receive funds from the government to choose a private Medicare plan

The last part is the most controversial part of the legislation. Senator Burr contends that allowing seniors to have choice for their Medicare plans will give seniors a “choice of a better benefit that meets their individual health care needs.” Ross calls it “privatization.”

Ross has also released a Medicare plan, which includes:

  • Paying doctors based on quality, not quantity, of care
  • Cracking down on inefficiencies, errors, and abuse
  • Giving consumers information and incentives to make better health care decisions
  • Ending the FDA backlog for generic drug approval

When Senator Burr says that Medicare is unsustainable, he is talking about the program’s future unfunded liabilities. The Senate Finance Committee’s Republican staff sum up the issue in a 2015 analysis: “Assuming current law remains unchanged, the Trustees project Medicare’s 75 year total spending in excess of dedicated revenues is $27.9 trillion. Again, using the CMS Actuary’s more realistic alternative scenario, that figure soars to $36.8 trillion.”

What do you think? Should Medicare be reformed along the lines of what Senator Burr has suggested? Or is Ross right to focus on minor fixes to the program?

Impeach the IRS Commissioner?

If some congressmen have their way, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen will be leaving office shortly.

There is a move in the House of Representatives to impeach the Commissioner Koskinen. Members of the House could force a vote on this in the near future. Members of the House Freedom Caucus want him disciplined for what they view as a failure to comply with the investigation into Lois Lerner’s activities regarding conservative nonprofits.

National Review sums up the case against Koskinen:

“Koskinen, who became commissioner after Lerner left, failed to disclose the disappearance of e-mails germane to a congressional investigation of IRS misbehavior. Under his leadership, the IRS failed to comply with a preservation order pertaining to an investigation. He did not testify accurately or keep promises made to Congress. Subpoenaed documents, including 422 tapes potentially containing 24,000 Lerner e-mails, were destroyed. He falsely testified that the Government Accountability Office’s report on IRS practices found ‘no examples of anyone who was improperly selected for an audit.’”

The editors of the Washington Post, on the other hand, say that impeachment would be an abuse of the process:

“The cumbersome and partisan Senate confirmation process has made it hard enough to fully staff the highest realms of government with competent people. Never-ending, partisan impeachment proceedings against executive officers would make it even harder to keep the essential mechanics of government working. The result would be more bureaucratic bungling, not less.”

Generally impeachment motions first go through the House Judiciary Committee. With the Judiciary Committee failing to act, however, some House Republicans want to use a procedural motion to force a vote on the House floor. That idea is meeting resistance from some House Republican leaders.

Impeachment is only the first step in the process of removal for office. If a majority of the House of Representatives votes in favor of impeachment, then it would be up to the Senate to have a trial and vote on whether to remove Koskinen from office. Senate leaders have said they will not conduct a trial if the House votes for impeachment.

Only one cabinet official has ever been impeached -- Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876.

Do you think that the House of Representatives should impeach Commissioner Koskinen? Or do you think that the impeachment proceedings are an abuse of the process?

Carbon Rules and the NC Governor’s Race

Should North Carolina comply with the Obama Administration’s attempt to regulate carbon emissions? Or should the state fight the EPA’s regulation?

That issue has come into play in the race between Republican Governor Pat McCrory and his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper. Twenty-six states are suing the Obama Administration over the Clean Power Plan. North Carolina is one of them, but at the direction of the governor, not the attorney general.

The Clean Power Plan is a regulation put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency that requires states to implement a plan to reduce carbon emissions. The states suing the EPA contend that the agency is going beyond the powers granted to it by law and forcing states to implement an energy plan that will increase electricity costs.

In most states, the Attorney General is the state official who filed suit against the Clean Power Plan. Not in North Carolina, however. Attorney General Cooper disagreed with his colleagues across the nation, saying, “Although this legislation poses constitutional questions, I am even more concerned that this action will risk North Carolina's well-deserved reputation for protecting the quality of our air, recruiting businesses that produce cutting-edged technologies and offering leadership around the world on energy issues.”

Instead, Cooper wants a cooperative approach with the federal government. The Citizen-Times reports that Cooper favors getting groups together to write a plan to comply with the federal carbon-cutting requirements.

Governor McCrory does not favor this collaborative approach with the EPA. He has strong words for the new rules, saying, “Not only will these new federal rules raise electricity rates, they have the potential to jeopardize the success we’ve made in making North Carolina’s air the cleanest it’s been since we began tracking air quality back in the 1970s.”

With Attorney General Cooper’s unwillingness to fight the rules in court, McCrory directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to file suit against this regulation. The state Senate also voted in favor of legislation that would block implementation of the rule.

Do you support Governor McCrory’s attempt to fight this regulation in court? Or do you think Attorney General Cooper is right in his call to work with the federal government to implement this rule?

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