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Washington Court Prohibits Use of the Death Penalty

Today the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the state’s death penalty violated the Washington constitution.

 

In a unanimous ruling the justices held that the death penalty is arbitrarily and disproportionately applied. The court concluded that the way in which the state used the death penalty violated the state constitutional guarantees.

 

There were eight people on Washington’s death row who were affected by this ruling. Their sentences were commuted to life in prison without parole. The case was brought by one of these inmates, Allen Gregory, who was sentenced to death for robbing and killing a woman in 1996.

 

Governor Jay Inslee had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty’s use in 2014, saying he would never permit an execution while he was governor. He hailed the decision as important for the fair application of justice. There have been legislative attempts to abolish capital punishment, but they have never made it all the way through both houses of the legislature.

 

The court did not say that capital punishment itself was unconstitutional, but did hold how it was currently applied in the state was unlawful. The legislature could reform the state’s laws in an attempt to meet the objections made by the court’s justices. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would ask the legislature to rewrite the state’s law governing capital punishment.

 

With this ruling, Washington joins 19 other states in prohibiting the death penalty.


Do you think the death penalty should be abolished?

Colorado Oil and Gas Production May Face New Restrictions

Colorado is one of the top oil- and natural gas-producing states in the nation. But a ballot measure may have a dramatic impact on the future of this industry. Proposition 112 would impose new setbacks that opponents contend would kill much of the state’s energy development. Supporters counter that these new rules are necessary to protect the public.

 

The oil and gas industry has a long history in Colorado. With the advent of the shale revolution, which led to a significant oil and gas output thanks to hydraulic fracturing, Colorado’s energy production underwent a renaissance during the past decade. This increased production has led to conflicts with some municipalities and residents over pollution claims and noise complaints.

 

There have been a variety of legislative efforts to curb oil and gas production in the state. These range from local laws to citizen-led initiatives, although many have failed to gain traction or have been shut down in the courts. Proposition 112 is the most significant of these proposals. It would mandate that any new oil and gas development be set back 2,500 feet from homes, schools, playgrounds, rivers, creeks, and anything else local governments determine as a “vulnerable area.” Currently the state imposes a 1,000 feet setback from high-occupancy buildings such as schools, 500 feet from occupied homes, and 350 feet from playgrounds.

 

The supporters of Proposition 112 argue that oil and gas production, especially when it involves hydraulic fracturing, poses a variety of health threats to the public. These setbacks, they argue, will ensure that these hazardous operations are not too close to people.

 

Opponents of Proposition 112 say that these setbacks would essentially end almost all new oil and gas production in the state. They contend that few areas would be left to explore for oil and natural gas after the setbacks are put into place. They point out if that happens it could lead to tens of thousands of jobs being lost, the state’s economy taking a big hit, and tax revenue going down. They also argue that Colorado has strict regulations on oil and natural gas development, so a new setback rule is unnecessary.

 

Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor oppose Proposition 112. If the voters approve it, there will likely be a legal fight prior to its implementation.

 

Do you think that oil and natural gas production should face stricter regulation?

Ohio Voters Could Reduce Drug Penalties

The purchase and possession of illegal drugs in Ohio may soon be a misdemeanor in Ohio if Issue 1 becomes law. Its passage would reduce drug crime penalties and take other steps that would shrink the state’s prison population.

 

Under Issue 1, the uses, possession, or obtainment of any illegal drug could not be classified as a felony. Sentences for a first or second offense could not be anything harsher than probation. It would not change the penalties for the sale or distribution of drugs, however. The measure would also prohibit the revocation of probation for non-violent offenses. In addition, Issue 1 would require that inmates in work, rehabilitation, or educational programs receive a half-day reduction in their sentence for every day they participate.

 

Supporters of this ballot measure say that non-violent offenders should not be in prison. They argue that it will save the state millions of dollars if these offenders are not put in jail and would lead to better outcomes for those caught up in the criminal justice system. Law enforcement groups have come out strongly against Issue 1, saying it undercuts the authority of police and prosecutors to punish crime. They argue that not only will Issue 1 make the public less safe, it will send the wrong message about drug use to children.

 

The Democratic candidate for governor, Richard Cordray, supports Issue 1, while his Republican opponent, Mike DeWine, opposes it.

 

Do you think that the possession and use of drugs should be a felony? Or should states relax punishments for drug possession?

California Voters May Roll Back Gas Tax Hike

Thanks to a law signed by California Governor Jerry Brown in 2017, Californians are paying the second-highest gas tax rate in the nation. In November, voters will have a chance to roll that 2017 tax increase back. If they approve Proposition 6, they will also take decisions about future gas tax increases out of the hands of elected officials and put them into the hands of voters.

 

Proposition 6 is a reaction against a 2017 bill that raised the gas tax by twelve cents, increased the tax on diesel, and imposed other vehicle fees. The proposition would mandate that any fuel tax increase or vehicle fee increase must not only be approved by two-thirds of the legislature and the governor (the current requirement), but must also be approved by voters. It makes such approval retroactive to the beginning of 2017, thus effectively repealing that year’s tax and fee increases.

 

Supporters of Proposition 6 say that a gas tax hits poor Californians harder than those with more income. They point out that the revenue from the gas tax and vehicle fees is not earmarked for road improvement, but can be spent on things such as bike lanes. They say that voters, not politicians, should decide if such taxes and fees should be increased.

 

Those opposing Proposition 6 counter that it would deprive the state of billions of dollars needed to improve roads and rail projects. They argue that if people want better roads, then they need to pay higher taxes. They also say that there is nothing in the proposition that would guarantee that gas prices would drop.

 

Do you support higher gas taxes?

Judge Rules Funds Cannot Be Withheld from Sanctuary Cities

President Trump has made no secret of his dislike for cities and states that do not cooperate with the federal government on immigration law. One of his priorities once elected was finding a way to punish these governments. Now a federal judge has made it more difficult for him to cut off federal funding for these cities and states.

 

Sanctuary cities, or sanctuary states, are places where the local government has a policy forbidding local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. The federal government sets and enforces immigration laws, but it often works with local law enforcement on situations like when illegal immigrants are in local jails. Areas with sanctuary policies, however, adopt policies that do not allow local law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants for the federal government or cooperate with the federal government on immigration detainers.

 

These laws do not conflict with federal law, since they do not interfere with federal agents doing their duty. Instead, they limit local government agents’ cooperation with federal agents. The federal government cannot mandate that state or local agents enforce federal law.

 

In an attempt to discourage such policies, Attorney General Jeff Sessions mandated that some types of grants could not be disbursed to governments that did not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. California sued the federal government over these restrictions. Last week, a federal judge agreed that the restrictions were illegal.

 

Supporters of cutting some funding for sanctuary cities and states say that these policies endanger public safety. They contend that cities and states should cooperate with the federal government to enforce immigration law to keep criminal immigrants out of the U.S. Those opposing restrictions on federal funds for sanctuary cities and states argue that these restrictions could hamper law enforcement activity. They also point out that the restrictions were not enacted by Congress, so the Justice Department has no authority to unilaterally decide to put them in place.

 

The federal government is expected to appeal this decision.

 

Do you think that the federal government should cut some funding for sanctuary cities and sanctuary states?

Senate Confirms Brett Kavanaugh to Supreme Court

After perhaps the most contentious Supreme Court nomination battle in U.S. history, Brett Kavanaugh is poised to take a seat on the nation's highest court.

 

By a vote of 50-48, the Senate today confirmed Kavanaugh. All the Republican senators except Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted in favor of Kavanaugh. All the Democratic senators except Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted against him.

 

The Supreme Court seat became open when Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement in June. Because Kavanaugh would replace Kennedy, who was seen as a swing vote for many important issues, this nomination was especially ideological from the beginning. Liberals viewed it as threat to court precedents that protected gay marriage, privacy rights, and abortion. Conservatives saw this as a chance to solidify a court majority that would adhere to the text of the Constitution.

 

During his first round of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Kavanaugh faced questions about his judiical philosophy and his views on adhering to precedent. Democratic senators had a litany of complaints about the process, saying that they had not received enough information and accusing the Republican majority of rushing the process. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley countered that Democrats were simply using any means necessary, regardless of whether they were fair or not, to sink the nomination.

 

This dispute was overshadowed when Dr. Christine Blassey Ford came forward with accusations that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her during high school. Kavanaugh denied the allegations. The Judiciary Committee held a meeting to hear from the two as other accusations about misconduct came to light. Republican senators defended Kavanaugh, arguing that this was a smear campaign, while Democratic senators said that Americans should believe Dr. Blassey Ford. Republican Senator Jeff Flake brokered a deal to delay the full Senate's consideration of the nomination by a week so the FBI could investigate the assault claims.

 

The FBI completed its report and presented it to senators on Thursday. Yesterday, the Senate voted to proceed to 30-hours of debate.

 

The Supreme Court's term began on October 1. Kavanaugh will likely take the oath of office within days and join the court so he can begin hearing cases.

 

Do you support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court?

Bloomberg Backs Washington Carbon Fee Initiative

Efforts to impose a fee on carbon emissions in Washington State received a big boost yesterday when Michael Bloomberg pledged $1 million to the effort.

 

An initiative, I-631, is on Washington’s ballot this year to impose a fee on each metric ton of carbon emitted. The fee would start at $15 a ton in the first year and increase by $2 a year every year until the state’s carbon emissions goals are met. The revenue from this fee would go to air quality programs, forest health projects, and community investment.

 

Supporters of this initiative say it is a good way to help transition Washington away from the use of fossil fuels. They contend that putting a price on carbon emissions will help reduce emissions that cause climate change and provide an incentive to use renewable fuels. Opponents say that this will increase the cost of fuel. They also contend that this increase in energy costs will hurt the state’s businesses, leading to job loss and lower economic growth.

 

Other states have considered a carbon tax, but none have passed one. If Washington voters approve I-631, that state will be the first in the nation to impose a tax or fee on large carbon emitters.

 

Do you support a tax or fee on carbon emissions?

Food Stamp Work Requirement Goes into Effect in Michigan

 

Many Michigan residents who receive food stamps are now facing a new requirement: work or train for work.

 

This requirement affects those receiving benefits under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Which the state administers. To comply, a food stamp recipient must do one of the following:

  • Work 20 hours-a-week in an unsubsidized job
  • Spend 20 hours-a-week in an approved job training program
  • Volunteer at a nonprofit organization

 

This requirement does not apply to all food stamp recipients, however. Recipients who have a disability, who are unable to work a 20-hour work week, or who are receiving unemployment benefits are exempt. Recipients who are not exempt but who do not complete the work requirements are only eligible for three months of benefits in a 36-month period.

 

Federal law ties SNAP eligibility to work or work training, but the government can waive that mandate in areas with high unemployment. That is what happened in 2002. The requirement was re-imposed for some counties in Michigan previously, but now it is being put back in place for the entire state.

 

Do you think that food stamp recipients should be required to work?

Taxes, Government Reform are Big Issues in Wisconsin Governor’s Race

Democrat Tony Evers is trying to unseat Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. He thinks that a key part of his appeal will be changing the way the state government operates, from use of the state airplane to redistricting reform. Governor Walker, however, charges that these reform proposals are a way for Evers to distract voters from his proposals to increase taxes. 

 

Yesterday Evers unveiled a government reform package that would affect both the governor’s office and the legislature. Among his proposals were these:

  • Redistricting reform: Evers would like to see a nonpartisan commission draw the state’s congressional and legislative boundaries.
  • Economic development reform: Evers would eliminate the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which provides subsidies to businesses. Instead, he would return the state’s economic development programs to the way they used to be run in the Commerce Department.
  • Inspector general: Evers would establish an inspector general to police the state government, but he was not clear on how this post would operate.
  • “Cool off” legislation: Evers proposed a “cooling off” period between the time that legislative committees consider legislation and the final vote on such legislation. He would like to see a 48-hour delay to give the public time to comment on bills.
  • Reduce use of the state airplane: Evers wants to see the state airplane used less, although he did not give details about the circumstances in which the plane should be used.

 

Governor Walker responded to these proposals by focusing on taxes. He claims that the election of Evers would lead to higher taxes, while Gov. Walker wants to lower taxes. One of the proposals being pushed by Governor Walker is to increase the homestead property tax credit and lower the age at which homeowners would be able to claim it. According to Gov. Walker, this would provide tax relief to homeowners on fixed incomes.

 

Evers has said that he supports “fair taxes,” but has also indicated he would support an income tax hike for some taxpayers, a higher gas tax, and a repeal of some tax cuts for businesses and farmers. Evers has given no detailed plan on what changes he would make to the state’s tax code.

 

Do you support giving a property tax break to senior citizens? Should an independent commission draw legislative and congressional district lines?

 

 

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New Maryland Laws on Gun Control, Parental Leave, Conversion Therapy Take Effect Today

The Maryland General Assembly had a busy session earlier this year. Legislators passed a variety of laws dealing with a wide range of subjects. Today is when many of those laws take effect. If you live in Maryland, here are some of the new laws that are now in place:

 

Bump stocks are illegal. In 2017, a shooter in Las Vegas used a device to modify his semi-automatic weapon to fire like an automatic weapon. These types of “bump stocks” are now prohibited for Marylanders to possess.

 

State government employees have 60 days of parental leave. If a state employee or his spouse has a child, or if an employee adopts a child under 6, then the employee will have 60 days of paid parental leave.

 

Conversion therapy is banned. The controversial practice of using therapy in an attempt to change someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation is now prohibited for minors.

 

Police can seize your guns if there is a “red flag” indicating you may harm yourself or others. There is now an “extreme risk protection order” that can be obtained if someone is alleged to pose an immediate danger of causing harm with a firearm. Under a temporary order, the police can seize the person’s firearms pending the outcome of a final protective order.

 

Minors can’t purchase e-cigarettes. It is now a misdemeanor to sell electronic cigarette devices to minors, and any minors possessing them will face a fine.

 

Oil and natural gas drilling off of Maryland’s coast is now deemed an “ultrahazardous” act. It is unlikely the federal government will approve drilling off of Maryland’s coast, but if it does then drilling companies will be working under a much stricter legal liability standard.

 

Do you think police should be able to seize someone’s guns if someone says that the person is at risk of causing immediate harm? Do you support offshore oil and gas production? Should conversion therapy be banned?

 

 

Kavanaugh Nomination Advances to the Senate

Brett Kavanaugh moved one step closer to a seat on the Supreme Court today.

 

By a vote of 11-10, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to recommend his nomination to the full Senate. All the Republicans on the committee voted in favor of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, while all the Democrats opposed it. Kavanaugh is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

 

This action came on the heels of a dramatic day of testimoney yesterday from Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused the judge of sexual assault when he was a teenager. These accustions, and others which have come recently, has disrupted the normal nomination process. Democrats and women's groups have called for Judge Kavanaugh to withdraw his name from consideration, a suggestion he has repeatedly rejected. Judge Kavanaugh proclaims his innocence on these matters, saying he has never sexually assaulted anyone.

 

This sharply divided committee reflects the partisan divisions in the Senate over the Kavanaugh nomination. It is likely that all Republicans will vote in favor of this nomination, although Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have yet to announce their position. Republicans are targeting one or two Democrats for a "yes" vote, but Judge Kavanaugh may be confirmed with no Democratic support. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) supported the nomination during the committee vote, but he indicated he may not support the nomination on the Senate floor until after the FBI further investigates the allegations.

 

Like all Supreme Court nominees in recent decades, Judge Kavanaugh avoided taking stances during his initial confirmation hearings on issues that may come before the high court. While senators tried to pin him down on what he thought about the constitutionality of abortion rights or the contraceptive mandate, Judge Kavanaugh refused to take any firm stance. He mainly discussed his constitutional philosophy and answered questions about rulings he had made.

 

Republican senators defended Judge Kavanaugh from Democratic attacks at those hearings, pointing out that he had a long record of service that makes him extremely qualified for the court. Prior to his tenure as a circuit court judge, Kavanaugh worked for Independent Counsel Ken Starr and in the White House counsel’s office under President George W. Bush.

 

During the follow-up hearing yesterday, the questions from Democratic senators were not about judicial philosophy. Instead, they focused on Judge Kavanaugh's actions during high school and college. From his alcohol consumption to what he wrote in his high school yearbook, Judge Kavanaugh was grilled for hours about his youthful actions.

 

The full Senate will now consider Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. It is likely the final vote on his nomination could take place early next week, depending on what type of investigation occurs. The new Supreme Court term begins on October 1.

 

Do you think that the Senate should confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court?

Equal Rights Amendment an Issue in Virginia Senate Race

 

It may be over 40 years old, but the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a fresh topic in the Virginia Senate race.

 

During last night’s debate between Sen. Tim Kaine and challenger Corey Stewart, the issue of whether Virginia should ratify the ERA. Stewart said that passage of the ERA would lead to a rash of lawsuits, with men suing to participate in women’s athletic programs. Sen. Kaine said that the amendment was good for women.

 

The ERA says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Supporters of this measure say that it is necessary to ensure that federal or state laws do not treat men and women differently. They say that, just like previous constitutional amendments prohibited discrimination based on race, this amendment is needed to prevent discrimination based on sex. Opponents of the amendment say that it would lead to government laws being made without regard to natural gender differences.

 

First submitted to the states for ratification in 1972, the ERA has yet to see enough states ratify it so it becomes part of the Constitution. Congress initially set a deadline of 1979 for the required 38 states to ratify the ERA. When that passed without the necessary number of states doing so, Congress extended the deadline to 1982. Only 35 states ratified the ERA prior to 1982, but 4 states rescinded their ratification. Since 2017, two states have ratified the ERA.

 

One house of the Virginia legislature ratified the ERA in 2011. A bipartisan group of legislators plans on introducing a ratification resolution next year. If that resolution passes, then 38 states would have ratified the ERA. However, a legal fight would likely follow, since the necessary ratifications occurred after the congressionally-set deadline and four of those states later reversed themselves. The Constitution is silent on whether or not Congress can set a deadline for ratification and whether states can rescind their ratification of amendments.

 

Do you think that the Equal Rights Amendment should be added to the Constitution?

Electric Car Subsidy May Be Boosted in California

 

Buying an electric car in California may soon get you a $4,500 subsidy from the state.

 

The California Air Resources Board is meeting this week to consider boosting the state rebate for purchasing an electric car from $2,500 to $4,500. This money comes from credits purchased by businesses in order to comply with the state’s cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

 

Currently the federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for electric car purchases. However, this subsidy is designed to decrease once the manufacturers of electric cars grow large enough to sell 200,000 cars per company. As the companies reach this threshold (Tesla has already done so), the tax credit decreases in increments.

 

Supporters of increasing the electric car subsidy say these zero-emission vehicles are essential to combatting climate change. They say that these companies need government help to gain a market foothold and compete with conventional vehicles. Those who oppose the subsidies say the government should not be picking winners and losers in the automotive marketplace. They contend that if people want to buy electric vehicles, they should do so without government assistance.

 

The electric car credit is only one issue being considered by the Air Resources Board. The board members may also require fewer carbon emissions by oil companies, bigger subsidies for electric-charging stations, and a requirement that some mass transit systems in the state must buy only hydrogen- or battery-powered buses by 2030.

 

Do you support subsidies for people who purchase electric vehicles?

Transgender Discrimination Ban up for a Vote in Massachusetts

The fate of the Massachusetts law banning discrimination in public accommodations based on gender identity will be decided in November.

 

Question 3 will allow voters to determine if the law passed in 2016 that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity will go into effect. State residents collected enough signatures to put it on the ballot this year. If a majority of voters reject Question 3, the law will be overturned.

 

At issue is whether or not businesses and the government must provide accommodation for individuals based on the gender by which they identify. The law applies to businesses such as restaurants, stores, hotels, stadiums, and other similar places as well as schools and government buildings. Under the law, someone’s gender identity is protected if it is "sincerely held as part of a person's core identity" regardless of "whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth.” This law prohibits businesses and schools from allowing someone to access a bathroom or locker room based on their gender identity.

 

Those who support this law say that it is needed in order to protect transgender residents of Massachusetts from discrimination. They contend that many transgender individuals are harassed for using public accommodations, so this law is necessary in order for these individuals to live their lives without fear. Those opposed to the law say that it will make it easier for men looking to victimize women or girls to access women’s bathrooms.

 

Six other states have similar laws banning discrimination in public accommodations based on gender identity.

 

Do you think states should pass laws banning discrimination based on gender identity? Do you support laws requiring schools and businesses to provide individuals access to bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity?

Education Tax Hike Initiative Bounced from Arizona Ballot

School funding continues to be a hot topic in Arizona.

 

The state’s teachers were hoping that the Arizona residents would vote “yes” on a November initiative to raise taxes in order to provide more money for education. They gathered enough signatures to place this question before voters. However, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that signature gatherers misled the public, yanking the “Invest in Ed” initiative from the ballot.

 

This initiative comes after thousands of teachers spent days protesting at the capitol earlier this year. They staged a walkout in April in an attempt to force legislators and the governor to spend more on education. Unsatisfied with the resulting legislation that provided pay raises for teachers and additional education funding, teaches and activists turned to a ballot initiative to provide dedicated revenue for the state’s schools.

 

The “Invest in Ed” initiative would have increased taxes and used the resulting revenue specifically for education. For Arizonans making more than $250,000, the initiative would have imposed an 8% income tax (up from the current 4.25% tax). For those making $500,000 or more, the initiative would have imposed a 9% income tax rate. In addition, the initiative would have reset tax rates for Arizonans making incomes under $250,000 while also ending the indexing of tax rates for inflation.

 

The summary of the initiative used by signature gathers focused on the increased taxes for higher-income Arizonans while leaving out information about how it would affect other taxpayers. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce sued, contending that leaving this information out of the summary misled those who signed petitions to place the initiative on the ballot.

 

A majority of supreme court justices agreed. They said that this omission could create confusion or unfairness, so these signatures were invalid. The court ordered the initiative removed from the ballot.

 

This ends the possibility of Arizona voters deciding whether or not to raise taxes to fund education spending this year. Backers of this effort vow to keep up the fight to pressure legislators to increase school spending, however.

 

Do you think that taxes should be increased to pay for higher school spending?

 

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Maryland Candidate Backs Marijuana Tax to Pay for Pre-K

Ben Jealous, the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate, wants to legalize marijuana. He also supports universal pre-kindergarten. In his run to unseat incumbent Republican Governor Larry Hogan, he has suggested combining the two ideas so that the revenue from legal marijuana would pay for the expansion of state pre-kindergarten services. Governor Hogan’s team, however, is pushing back, saying that the numbers just don’t add up.

 

Maryland legislators and school districts have been working to expand the state’s pre-kindergarten programs, which currently give priority to students who come from low-income families. These advocates would like to see universal pre-kindergarten, which means that anyone who wants to use the government pre-kindergarten services would be able to do so, regardless of income. Governor Hogan has been supportive of expanding pre-kindergarten, but such efforts have gone slowly because of cost concerns.

 

Jealous says that he has found the answer – marijuana. He contends that legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana use would provide enough revenue to pay for pre-kindergarten. He is proposing a 9% tax rate on recreational marijuana sales, as well as a $30 excise tax on each ounce of marijuana sold.

 

Governor Hogan’s re-election team has countered that the revenue from this plan would not provide enough money to pay for the number of children who would use pre-kindergarten services for 3- and 4-year-olds. They say this is another example of Jealous proposing an expensive plan with no realistic plan to pay for it.

 

Do you support legalizing recreational marijuana and using the tax revenue from it to pay for pre-kindergarten?

China, U.S. Move Closer to Trade War

The dispute over tariffs between the U.S. and China heated up this week – and there is no indication that it may cool down any time soon.

 

On Monday, President Trump announced that the U.S. would be imposing new tariffs on numerous Chinese products. China then said that they would levy tariffs against some U.S. goods in retaliation. President Trump then announced that if China did that, he would put in place even more tariffs on Chinese imports.

 

Unless the two countries come to an agreement, this back-and-forth levying of tariffs could lead to a major trade breakdown.

 

President Trump has been a consistent critic of foreign trade, especially trade with China. The tariffs he announced this week would impose a 10% duty on $200 billion in Chinese imports, ranging from auto parts to refrigerators to toys. The Chinese tariffs announced in response would have a similar tariff on $60 billion in U.S. imports to that country. President Trump also imposed tariffs on some Chinese goods in July.

 

Over the past two decades, trade between China and the U.S. has increased dramatically, nearly doubling since 2006. The interdependence of the two nations’ economies would be severely disrupted by high tariffs, which would not only affect consumer goods but also components used for manufacturing in the U.S. Auto makers in Detroit, for instance, are very concerned that these tariffs will raise their cost of manufacturing cars, leading to higher prices and lower sales.

 

President Trump and those who support higher tariffs say they are necessary to protect U.S. companies from unfair competition. They contend that U.S. companies could make many of the products being produced by China, and that tariffs will help stimulate American manufacturing. Critics of tariffs point out that it is ultimately U.S. consumers, not foreign businesses, who will pay these tariffs. They note that the evidence is overwhelming that tariffs hurt economic growth.

 

Officials from China and the U.S. are planning to meet to see if the differences between the two nations can be worked out.

 

Do you support President Trump’s decision to impose higher tariffs on Chinese goods? Or do you think that these tariffs will raise costs for consumers and hurt U.S. businesses?

Senators Mull Regulation of Social Media

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have become an important force in American public discourse. Some politicians and commentators think they are too powerful. They want to see the federal government impose new rules on these sites. One Senate Democrat even says there may be strong bipartisan support to do just that.

 

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey faced members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in early September to answer questions about how foreign governments may have meddled in U.S. elections. Google CEO Sundar Pichai was invited but did not attend the hearing.

 

This Senate scrutiny of social media comes on the heels of criticism by President Trump and prominent conservatives. The president tweeted in late August, “Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!” Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham echoed that thought a few days later on her Fox News show, saying, “There’s a thought that, given the enormity of these corporations, could there be a movement to treat [Twitter and Facebook] more like public utilities so they have some quasi-government oversight of these entities?”

 

As indicated by Ingraham’s idea, among the proposals to regulate social media sites is to have the government treat them as something like a public utility. This would recognize them as private entities but ones that are operated with a public purpose. The government would set rules that would prevent social media sites from denying a platform to users based on certain factors, such as political ideology.

 

Supporters of this level of regulation say that Facebook and Twitter operate much as the town square used to do, giving a space for people to speak and persuade others. As a virtual town square, the argument goes, these sites should allow everyone to speak. Big business has too much power to censor individuals, so the government must step in, according to those who are pushing for more federal oversight.

 

Opponents of this government regulations point to the dangers of government controlling media platforms. They argue that past federal rules on media content stifled debate about public policy. They say that social media companies should have the power to exclude speech that they deem offensive, such as that from the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, without fear of government reprisals.

 

While President Trump may be pushing for the federal government to have tighter control over social media companies, it is unclear if there is much support in Congress for such a proposal. Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said there is likely strong bipartisan support for legislation aimed at protecting privacy and cracking down on violent posts. He said that details of such a bill have not been finalized, however.

 

Should the government impose more regulations on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter? Do you think social media sites discriminate against conservative voices?

Death Penalty Repeal Fails in New Hampshire

A majority of New Hampshire legislators want to see the end of the death penalty in that state. However, there aren’t enough of them to overcome Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of their death penalty repeal bill.

 

Last week legislators met in a special session to consider overriding six bills vetoed by Gov. Sununu. The most high-profile measure was one that would abolish capital punishment in the state.

 

Earlier this year, both houses of the General Court passed a bill that would end the use of execution as punishment in New Hampshire. There was bipartisan support for this legislation, which came on the heels of two previous repeal attempts in recent years. Governor Sununu vetoed the bill on June 21.

 

No other state in New England permits the death penalty. New Hampshire still allows it, but has not executed anyone since 1939. There is only one person on the state’s death row – Michael Addison, who murdered a police officer.

 

Those opposing the death penalty point out that it is very expensive to execute prisoners. They also say that since it is not consistently applied, it is not a deterrent to crime. Those who support it argue that it is only right to have the most severe penalty available to punish those convicted of heinous crimes.

 

The override vote was 14-10 in the state senate. Sixteen votes were needed.

 

Do you think that the death penalty should be abolished?

 

Trump, Senate Exploring Russian Sanctions

 

Punishing Russia is the hot topic under consideration at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

President Donald Trump is considering signing a new Russian sanctions order while the Senate Banking Committee is looking at the effectiveness of sanctions. As evidence of Russian misdeeds continues to emerge, both the president and Congress face pressure to increase U.S. punishment on this nation.

 

Through legislation and executive orders, Russia already faces a variety of sanctions. President Trump may sign an order today aimed at punishing individuals or companies that interfere in U.S. elections. Intelligence agencies would be empowered by this order to act if they determined that Russians or other foreigners were attempting to influence the electoral process.

 

In the Senate, the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing to assess the various tools used by the federal government are working to counter Russian activities. Experts testified about how sanctions should be shaped to exert maximum pressure on Vladimir Putin or other officials responsible for anti-U.S. actions.

 

These actions come on the heels of increasing amounts of information from U.S. intelligence agencies about Russian activities attempting to influence the 2016 U.S. election. With the 2018 mid-term elections approaching, there is a strong desire among some government officials to ensure that such meddling cannot occur once again.

 

Do you think that the U.S. should impose stronger sanctions on Russia for trying to influence the 2016 election? Are you worried that Russian or other foreign entities will attempt to meddle in this year’s election?

 

 

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