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Senate Fails to Pass Abortion Ban Bill

A majority of senators voted in favor of two bills to limit abortion this week. But the votes were not enough to overcome a Democratic filibuster that prevented the legislation from advancing.

 

Here’s how VoteSpotter describes the two bills:

 

U.S. Senate Bill 311: Require care for child born after an abortion

To mandate that health care workers must provide a reasonable degree of care to a child born after an abortion or an attempted abortion and immediately admit that child to a hospital. This motion is to invoke cloture, which requires 60 votes, and would mean ending the debate and proceeding to a vote on the bill.

 

U.S. Senate Bill 3275: Ban abortion after 20 weeks

To prohibit a doctor from performing an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless it is to save the life of the mother or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. This vote is to invoke cloture, or to end debate on the bill, so requires 60 votes to pass.

 

On S. 311, Democratic Senators Bob Casey (PA), Joe Manchin (WV), and Doug Jones (AL) joined the Republicans in supporting it on a 56-41 vote. On S. 3275, Sen. Manchin broke with his party to support it while Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) joined the Democrats in voting “no.” The tally for that bill was 53-44.

 

These two roll calls were not actual votes to pass the bill. Instead, they were votes for cloture, or to cut off debate on the bills. A cloture motion requires 60 votes to succeed. The failure to end debate means that the Democrats can continue to filibuster the bill, or refuse to allow a final vote.

 

The use of this technique to stop legislation was once used sparingly. Today, however, any action of significant interest is subject to a filibuster. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ended the filibuster for lower court judges when Republicans were subjecting them to filibuster during President Obama’s time in office. Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has ended the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees during President Trump’s term. The filibuster for legislation continues, however.

 

Do you think that the federal government should ban abortion after 20 weeks?

 

Court Upholds Cutting Funds to Sanctuary Cities

President Trump has made no secret about his anger over some cities refusing to cooperate with federal immigration agents. Now a federal appeals court has given his administration the go-ahead to cut some funding for such jurisdictions.

 

The federal government cannot compel local governments, such as states and cities, to enforce federal law. These governments can choose to cooperate with federal law enforcement agencies, and routinely do. But so-called “sanctuary cities” have put in place policies that prohibit their law enforcement personnel from honoring requests from federal immigration agents or notifying the federal government of detainees’ immigration status.

 

These policies do not break federal law, so there is no way for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to attack them in court. However, the federal government does provide law enforcement grants to these jurisdictions. Under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ announced a policy of reducing federal funding to areas with sanctuary policies.

 

Some of these jurisdictions sued, saying that this funding cutoff was unrelated to the purpose of public safety grants. This week, however, a federal appeals court ruled that the Trump Administration could indeed reduce funding under these grounds. The court held that Congress gave the Attorney General broad leeway to write rules and conditions for these grants.

 

The cities affected by this ruling are likely to appeal. The case could end up before the Supreme Court.

 

Do you support cutting some federal funding for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agencies?

Virginia to End Requirement of Photo ID for Voting

In 2012, Virginia enacted a law requiring a photo identification for voting. This week, legislators passed a bill that ends this requirement.

 

Under HB 19, voters could show documents such as bank statements or pay-stubs in order to prove their identity and vote. They can also sign an affidavit attesting to their identity if they do not have these documents. They would no longer be required to produce a photo ID at their polling place.

 

This change, led by Democrats, undoes legislation that the previous governor, Bob McDonnell, signed into law eight years ago. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has said he supports ending the photo ID requirement.

 

Supporters of changing the law contend that strict voter ID laws make it more difficult to vote. They say that they disproportionately impact minorities and the poor, so are a way to reduce Democratic turnout. Opponents of ending the photo ID requirement argue that this is a good way to prevent voter fraud. They point out that many areas in life require photo ID, so it is not a hardship to require it for voting.

 

There have been pushes in many states to require photo IDs for voting. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that such laws were not unconstitutional.


Do you think that voters should show a photo ID before voting?

Court Allows Rule Defunding Planned Parenthood to Take Effect

A federal appeals court has rejected calls that it block a Trump Administration regulation that prohibits federally-funded family planning services from referring women for abortions.

 

This rule, issued in 2019, bans organizations that receive federal family planning funds from referring women to an abortion provider or from being associated with organizations that provide abortions. This regulation had a big effect on Planned Parenthood, which received significant federal family planning funding. After this rule went into effect, Planned Parenthood stopped accepting this money.

 

The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Planned Parenthood and other plaintiffs who urged the court to block this rule. The court instead held that, given past Supreme Court precedent, the rule was likely to survive legal challenge and so courts should not stop it from going into effect. The Supreme Court had upheld similar restrictions on the use of federal money in the past.

 

Supporters of this rule argued that taxpayers should not be subsidizing the operation of organizations that provide abortions or counsel women to get abortions. They said that Planned Parenthood and other groups should be cut off from taxpayer dollars. Opponents countered that this rule would penalize poor women who use Planned Parenthood for family planning services unrelated to abortion.

 

There are still ongoing lawsuits over the ultimate fate of this regulations.

 

Do you think that the federal government should fund organizations like Planned Parenthood that refer women for abortions?

House to Vote on Flavored Tobacco Ban

Vaping has been under attack in Washington, D.C., and state capitals recently. This week, the House of Representatives will take another shot at vaping and the tobacco industry when it considers a bill that would ban flavored tobacco products.

 

This is how VoteSpotter describes HR 2339, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ):

 

To ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including vaping products and chewing tobacco. The bill also bans the sale over the Internet of tobacco and vaping products and mandates graphic warnings on cigarettes, among other things.

 

Those who support this bill contend that flavored vaping liquid is used to hook children on tobacco, leading to health problems. They say that the tobacco industry uses flavored tobacco products as a way to lure kids into an addictive habit. They argue that banning these products will reduce youth smoking.

 

Opponents, however, point to studies that indicate that adults use flavored vaping products as a way to quit smoking. They say that this ban will harm efforts to move people from cigarettes to vaping. They point out that vaping is far less harmful to one’s health than smoking, so this bill will actually hurt public health.

 

Over the past year, states have enacted bans on vaping products in response to concerns over the health effects of this practice. Congress also inserted a provision into the annual spending bill that increases the smoking age from 18 to 21. This legislation is a continuation of those efforts.

 

Do you think that the federal government should ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, such as flavored vaping liquid?

Florida to Require Parental Consent for Abortions

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is poised to sign a bill into law that will require minors who want an abortion to obtain parental consent. Abortion proponents are vowing to sue, saying it violates the state constitution.

 

Under the bill that legislators approved on Thursday, girls who are under 18 must obtain the consent of a parent prior to an abortion. Girls could seek a waiver from this requirement in cases of rape, incest, abuse, or when a parent may cause harm to the girl. Doctors who perform abortions without this consent would be guilty of a felony.

 

Supporters say that other medical procedures require parental consent, and abortion should be no different. They argue that an abortion is not a decision that a child should make alone. Opponents say that girls in this position should be free to make the best choice for them, and not to face repercussions from parents who may disapprove.

 

Those fighting this law also say that it violates the state constitution’s right to privacy. The point to a 1989 decision by the Florida Supreme Court holding that invalidated a parental consent statute.

 

Twenty-six other states have similar laws.

 

Do you support requiring that girls under 18 seek parental approval prior to an abortion?

 

Collective Bargaining for Government Workers May Be Coming to Virginia

Only three states do not allow government workers to unionize and collectively bargain for wages and benefits. Virginia legislators are moving to reduce this list to two states.

 

State senators have passed a bill that would permit government employees to collectively bargain, something the law currently prohibits. This is something that has been sought for years by public employee unions, especially teachers’ unions.

 

Those who are backing this bill argue that government employees deserve the same right as private sector employees to join unions and negotiate collectively. They say that this is essential to them obtaining higher wages and better benefits. Teachers’ unions also say it will help improve education in the state.

 

Opponents counter that such a move will be costly for taxpayers. They also argue that government workers are not the same as private sector workers, since they have the ability to vote and campaign for and against the elected officials in charge of negotiation. These opponents also dismiss the idea that collective bargaining improves school quality.

 

Governor Ralph Northam has said he will consider both sides of this issue if this bill passes the legislature, which is likely. Most observers expect him to sign it.

 

If Virginia enacts this law, only North Carolina and South Carolina will bar public sector collective bargaining.

 

Do you think that government employees should be able to collectively bargain for wages and benefits?

Washington Bill Would Ban Bottled Water Production in the State

Under a bill being considered by the Washington legislature, companies could not extract groundwater from the state and use it to produce bottled water.

 

Some environmental groups are pushing this bill to ban bottled water production in Washington and other states, saying that groundwater is an “essential public resource.” According to these groups, water should not be used for corporate profit, but be left for the use of the state’s residents. Opponents counter that bottled water plants create jobs. They also note that there is enough groundwater for use in bottled water plants as well as for local residents.

 

This legislation is the first nationwide that would enact such a ban. However, other states are considering laws that could restrict the use of groundwater for bottled water. Other legislation would impose new taxes on the industry.

 

There have also been local efforts to fight bottled water companies that want to open plants. These are the result of residents who fear the impact on their water supplies. The companies point out that they have a positive economic impact in areas and contend they are not depleting springs or ground water.

 

It is unclear if the Washington bill has enough support to pass the legislature. Governor Jay Inslee has not yet taken a position on the legislation.

 

Do you support banning companies from extracting groundwater for sale as bottled water?

"Assault Weapons" Ban Blocked in Virginia Legislature

A ban on some types of semi-automatic firearms with military features is dead – for now – in Virginia. But legislators could bring up a ban on guns they label as “assault weapons” in 2021.

 

When Democrats took control of the legislature in January 2020, they made gun control one of their top priorities. They had the support of Democratic Governor Ralph Northam in these efforts. He had long supported measures like limiting handgun purchases and banning assault weapons, but he faced opposition when Republicans controlled both houses of the legislature. With Democrats taking the majority in the 2019 elections, however, it paved the way to achieving new restrictions on gun ownership.

 

While legislators have passed a variety of gun control measures, a Senate committee blocked the assault weapons ban this week. Instead of prohibiting these guns, legislators voted to request a study of the issue from a state commission. They postponed a vote on the ban until 2021.

 

Supports of an assault weapons ban argue that these guns are military guns that do not belong in civilian hands. They argue that such a ban will reduce mass shootings. Opponents counter that these guns only look like military guns, and that they are only used in a very small amount of crimes. They also point out that studies found little to no effect on crime reduction during a federal assault weapons ban.

 

Many pro-gun Virginians have rallied in Richmond, urging legislators to vote against gun control.

 

The Senate committee vote effectively ends efforts this year to enact a ban this year. It remains to be seen what a study will produce and whether legislators will have an appetite for such a ban next year.

 

Do you support banning semi-automatic firearms that have the same cosmetic features as military guns?

House Votes to Remove ERA Ratification Deadline

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) thought that its chances of being added to the U.S. Constitution ended in 1982. But thanks to a vote in the Virginia legislature and the U.S. Congress, their hopes are being kept alive.

 

This week the House of Representatives voted to remove the deadline on ratification initially imposed in the 1970s. Congress passed the ERA in 1972 and sent it to states for ratification. The original resolution required that the necessary number of states (38, or three-fourths of the states) must act within 7 years or the amendment would die. Not enough states ratified the amendment within that time, so Congress extended the deadline to 1982. Even with this extended deadline, the ERA still failed to meet the necessary number of states for ratification.

 

During the time between 1972 and 1982, 35 states ratified the ERA. However, as controversy grew over the amendment, 5 states rescinded their ratification. Since 2017, 3 states have ratified the ERA. Among these 3 are Virginia, which just this year ratified the ERA. This means that the ERA has met the threshold in the Constitution for ratification, as long as the states who rescinded ratification are not included.

 

The ratification deadline is an obstacle to this amendment being added to the Constitution, however. The Trump Administration says that the deadline is enforceable, so the ERA is not part of the Constitution. Some legal scholars disagree, however. The House vote is an attempt to clear up the controversy. The view of its sponsors is if Congress imposed the deadline, Congress can remove it.

 

The ERA states:

 

Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

 

Although there is a bipartisan resolution to remove the ERA’s ratification deadline in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to bring it to the full Senate for a vote.

 

Do you think the ERA’s ratification deadline should be removed?

Ocasio-Cortez Introduces Fracking Ban Bill

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would disappear from the United States under a new bill filed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

 

Fracking is used by energy companies to produce oil and natural gas. The process involves injecting a highly-pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into underground shale rock to break it up and release oil or, more commonly, natural gas.

 

The use of fracking has been primarily responsible for the large increase in U.S. petroleum production over the past decade. It has made it much cheaper to access oil and natural gas in shale rock, leading to increased production and lower prices. However, residents in communities where fracking has occurred blame it for earthquakes, polluted water, and health problems.

 

Under the legislation sponsored by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, fracking would be banned in 2025. In 2021, fracking could only occur if it was not within 2,500 feet of homes or schools. She says this legislation is necessary to protect health, land, and water. Others point out that her bill would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs and hurt U.S. energy production, leading to higher oil and natural gas prices for consumers.

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

 

Do you think that fracking should be banned?

Virginia to Replace Lee-Jackson Day with Election Day Holiday

A day honoring Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson may soon be removed from the list of Virginia state holidays. Instead, legislators want to give Election Day that honor.

 

Both the Virginia House and Senate have passed bills that would make Election Day a state holiday. This new holiday would replace Lee-Jackson Day, which is currently celebrated on the Friday prior to Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Election Day was a holiday in Virginia until 1989.

 

Supporters of this idea argue that it will encourage voting by giving people the day off. They also say that Virginia should not celebrate Confederate generals, so ending Lee-Jackson Day is a good trade-off for an Election Day holiday. Opponents counter that there is no need to make Election Day a holiday, since the polls are open all-day and voters can request absentee ballots. They also argue that ending Lee-Jackson day is a blow to the state’s history.

 

Governor Ralph Northam said he supports this legislation.

 

Democrats in the legislature had been pushing to end Lee-Jackson Day for many years. However, the Republican-controlled legislature had never passed such legislation. With Democrats gaining control of both houses of the legislature in 2019, this bill is now likely to become law soon.

 

Do you think Virginia should have a holiday honoring Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson? Should Election Day be a holiday?

Massachusetts May Lower Voting Age to 16 for Local Elections

Legislators in Massachusetts are considering legislation that could result in some high school students gaining the vote.

 

Under this proposal, municipalities could request that the state allow them to permit residents who are 16-years-old and 17-years-old to vote in these local elections. The change would not be made statewide; it would only be considered for those jurisdictions that request it. If approved, these young voters would not be allowed to cast ballots in elections for legislators, state officials, or federal officers.

 

Supporters of the bill say that it will help spur civic participation from younger people, getting them involved in the political process. They note that municipal government decisions affect teenagers, so it is fair for them to have a say in selecting their officials. However, this proposal has met resistance for people who say that teenagers have not fully developed enough to be making such important decisions.

 

A legislative committee held a hearing on the bill last month. Some cities in the state have passed ordinances asking for this change to state law. It is unclear, however, if this legislation has enough support in the legislature to pass. It is also unknown if Gov. Deval Patrick will support it.

 

Do you support allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in city elections?

President Trump Releases His Budget

President Trump released his annual budget today, which has led to many news stories about how he plans on cutting certain programs or changing the way the federal government works. President Trump may indeed have ideas about how the federal government should spend money, but he cannot do anything alone. The $4.8 trillion budget (an increase of $700 billion over the previous fiscal year) he released is merely the official start of the budget process.

 

The process for determining how much money the federal government will spend in the next fiscal year will take until at least October, more likely longer. There are many steps that Congress must take between now and then until we know how much money individual departments or agencies will receive.

 

The President’s Budget

 

While the law states that the president must submit his budget by the first Monday of February, in many years presidents submit them later (President Trump only missed this deadline by a week – last year he submitted his budget in March). The president’s budget has a few parts:

  • Recommendations on spending for the next fiscal year (which runs from October 1 through September 30)
  • Proposals for major policy changes that have budget implications, such as reforms to programs like Social Security or Medicaid
  • Projections for future spending levels, revenue collections, and budget deficits
  • Historical data on spending and revenue amounts

 

It is important to outline a few things that the president’s budget does not do:

  • It does not set any spending. It merely recommends what the president would like to see spending levels set at.
  • It is not law. This is not the president announcing how spending will proceed in the next fiscal year. If he recommends the elimination of a certain program or cuts in another program, these eliminations or cuts will not happen unless Congress agrees.
  • It does not bind Congress to do anything. The president’s budget is delivered to Congress, but Congress does not have to adopt any of it. In fact, Congress routinely ignores it.

 

So why is the president’s budget resolution important? Its importance lies in laying out the president’s overall vision for federal spending. It indicates the programs he thinks are important, those he thinks should be cut (or eliminated), and often outlines a path towards a balanced budget.

 

However, as a practical matter, the president’s budget resolution does not directly affect spending. It may indicate that, as Congress finishes up its spending process (described below), the president may veto spending bills that deviate from his priorities. Even that is not necessarily true, however, as negotiations over actual spending bills later in the year often ignore the president’s budget priorities in favor of more immediate concerns.

 

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal, released on February 10, can be found here.

 

Congressional Budget Resolutions

 

Once the president releases his budget, the House and Senate Budget Committees consider them. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also analyzes the budget. The committees consider the CBO analysis and are supposed to release their budget resolutions by April 1. The full House and Senate then consider these resolutions and adopt them, usually with amendments, by April 15.

 

The adopted budget resolutions are not laws, so are not subject to presidential veto. However, they do set the funding allocations that the appropriations committees in each house use to set their spending bills. These committees, described in more detail below, set the actual spending levels for the fiscal year for discretionary government programs (that is, for programs that are not entitlements such as Social Security or Medicaid).

 

While passing a budget resolution is helpful in setting a federal spending blueprint, it is not mandatory. In fact, in Fiscal Years 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2020, Congress did not pass a budget resolution. When that happens, the prior year’s budget resolution sets the spending blueprint that appropriations committees follow.

 

These budget resolutions can also contain “reconciliation instructions.” These are instructions to committees to make changes to the law that have budget implications. The reconciliation process is not subject to a Senate filibuster, and must be considered on a faster timeframe than other legislation. That makes it a useful tool to enact policy that does not have strong bipartisan support.

 

The Appropriations Process

 

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are the committees that actually set spending levels for discretionary government programs. These committees each have 12 subcommittees that use the budget resolution allocations to determine how much government departments and agencies spend.

 

These 12 appropriations bills are supposed to be completed by Congress and signed by the president by the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1. That rarely happens. This leads to a variety of maneuvers to fund the federal government for temporary time periods or, failing that, a government shutdown.

 

What Does This Mean to You?

 

The budget process is how the government determines how much it will spend on the programs it administers. It also helps determine how much the deficit will be and how much the government will add to the national debt. If this process breaks down due to disagreement between the President and Congress, it could also lead to another government shutdown. Since President Trump has just released his budget, it remains to be seen what will happen with spending, the deficit, and a possible government shutdown this year.

House Voices its Disapproval of Trump Medicaid Policy

House Democrats do not like what the changes being made to Medicaid by Trump Administration. They approved a resolution this week to disapprove of Trump’s Medicaid policy, but it does not have any force in law.

 

House Resolution 826 claims that “the President has waged an unrelenting war on Medicaid, making it easier for States to take coverage away and create barriers for re-enrollment.” The resolution cites different actions taken by the Trump Administration which are aimed at reshaping Medicaid. These include a proposal to block grant Medicaid for states, which would give them more flexibility in return for a capped amount of funding; allowing states to impose new requirements on enrollment; and proposing cuts to the program in the president’s annual budget.

 

Medicaid is a federal program that provides health care for low-income individuals. States can decide to participate in the program. To do so, states must share in the Medicaid’s costs and adhere to federal rules in how the program is administered.

 

President Trump and supporters of these proposals say they want to allow states to innovate in Medicaid delivery. They argue that federal flexibility will help states improve the program while also targeting it to those who truly need health care. Opponents say that these proposals are ways to cut the safety net for Americans who need health care. They say the Trump Administration is simply trying to reduce the use of Medicaid.

 

This resolution passed the House by a vote of 223-190. No Republicans voted in favor of it, while one Democrat voted against it.

 

Do you support block granting Medicaid? Should states be able to place work requirements and other restrictions on Medicaid recipients?

Senate Fails to Remove Trump from Office

The Senate has brought an end to the impeachment trial of President Trump, refusing to remove him from office.

 

Senators rejected the first impeachment article, abuse of power, by a vote of 48-52. They rejected the second impeachment article, contempt of Congress, by a vote of 47-51. Of the Republicans, only Sen. Mitt Romney from Utah voted “yes” on either article – he voted in favor of removing the president for abusing his office.

 

Two-thirds of the senators present would need to approve either article of impeachment in order for the president to be removed from office and be barred from holding office again.

 

These votes bring to an end a bitter fight over impeachment. The House of Representatives passed their two impeachment articles against the president in December. After weeks of delay, Speaker Nancy Pelosi transmitted them to the Senate, where the trial began last month. Democrats called for a longer trial with witnesses, but Senate Republicans voted these efforts down.

 

Do you support the Senate’s refusal to remove President Trump from office?

Trump Pushes for School Choice in State of the Union Speech

Proponents of school choice received a boost from President Trump during his State of the Union Address.

 

In his speech, the president attacked Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf for vetoing an expansion of that state’s program that gives tax credits to taxpayers who donate to school scholarships. These scholarships can be used to pay for private school tuition or other education expenses. President Trump invited a Pennsylvania student and her mother to be his guest at the speech, and he argued that Gov. Wolf was trying to deny her a better education.

 

President Trump used this as an example of why Congress should pass national legislation that would provide tax credits for school choice scholarships. Supporters of this idea argue that it will help students escape failing public schools. They say that children from lower-income families should have the opportunity to go to private schools just as children from higher-income families do. Opponents counter that school choice is a way to undermine public schools that are open to all children. They argue that subsidizing private school tuition would, among other things, lead to less racial integration in schools.

 

School choice programs have expanded at the state level over the past two decades. Besides approval of a private school subsidy program for Washington, D.C., there has been little movement on this issue at the national level, however.

 

It is unlikely that the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives would pass school choice legislation.

 

Do you support national legislation that would provide tax credits for taxpayers who contribute to education scholarship funds?

Manchin Suggests Censure of Trump

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, has proposed an idea to bring the parties together over impeachment – censuring President Trump.

 

In a floor speech following the presentation of the impeachment case by the House managers, the centrist Democrat suggested that one way forward would be to censure President Trump for his handling of Ukrainian aid. He said that such a move could receive bipartisan support.

 

A censure would express the sense of the Senate that the President had acted improperly by withholding Ukrainian aid in exchange for the announcement of an investigation into Hunter Biden. The resolution could condemn the president’s actions and spell out what the senators think he did wrong. It would have no force of law and would not have any effect on the president’s tenure in office.

 

Sen. Manchin argues that this step would show that the Senate does not agree with what the president did, and would stand in history as a way for the Senate to express that condemnation. Opponents, however, argue that it is merely a way to look like the Senate is taking action against Trump without actually doing anything.

 

The Senate has used its censure powers in the past, but only rarely. It censured President Andrew Jackson in 1834, but rescinded that censure three years later. The body has also censured 9 senators.

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not been receptive to the idea of censuring the president. Sen. Manchin has not announced whether he will vote to support removing President Trump from office.

Colorado Looks to Tighten Vaccine Exemptions

Colorado legislators are considering making it a little more difficult for parents to opt their children out of vaccinations required to attend public school.

 

Current Colorado law does not mandate that children be vaccinated in order to attend school. Children who have medical conditions can opt out of vaccines, and parents who have religious or personal objections to vaccines can also refuse vaccination for their children. In order to do so, they must file forms that attest to this.


The legislative proposal being considered would standardize these forms and tighten the requirements for exemption. They would also improve data collection on exemption rates. Legislators defeated a similar bill last year.

 

Sponsors of the legislation say this is necessary to ensure that as many children as possible are vaccinated. They argue that vaccinations are a vital way to protect public health. Opponents, however, say that mandatory vaccination is government overreach. Parents, they contend, should be free to decide whether or not to give their children vaccinations.

 

Another Colorado legislator has introduced a bill that would require health care providers to give parents information about what he terms “vaccine injuries” and would prevent the state and local governments from taking adverse actions against parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.


Do you think that government should make it more difficult for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children who attend public school?

Virginia Legislators Tackle Gun Control, Abortion, ERA

With Virginia voters last year giving Democrats complete power in Richmond, this year’s legislative session has seen the passage of numerous bills on hot-button issues. Here are some of the notable bills that were discussed or passed by legislators this week:

 

  • Enacting gun control. The House of Delegates passed legislation that would impose background checks on private gun sales, limit the purchase of handguns to one per month, and allow police to seize the firearms of someone they deem a threat. Similar legislation had already passed the state senate.
  • Loosening abortion restrictions. Both houses of the legislature have passed bills that would end the 24-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion, the requirement that doctors show a woman an ultrasound prior to abortion, and certain mandates on abortion clinics.
  • Passing the Equal Rights Amendment. The House of Delegates took a final vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although the congressionally-mandated deadline has passed to ratify the amendment, Virginia becomes the last state necessary to add it to the Constitution. There will now be a legal fight over whether Congress can put a time limit on ratification.
  • Ending legislator immunity from arrest. After a state delegate was stopped on suspicion of drunk driving but was let go without being arrested, it prompted many to call for a change to the state constitution. A current provision in the constitution gives legislators immunity from arrest while the legislature is in session. This week, a senator introduced a constitutional amendment that would end that immunity.

 

Do you support ending the 24-hour-waiting period for abortions? Should handgun purchases be limited to one per month? Should legislators be immune from arrest during session?

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