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Beverly Hills Bans Tobacco Sales

Smokers in Beverly Hills will soon have to go outside the city limits to buy tobacco. The city council recently voted to prohibit the sale of tobacco and vaping products in most retail establishments.

 

In a unanimous vote, the council passed a law banning the sale of cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products as well as electronic cigarettes. Hotels and cigar lounges are exempt from the law, which affects all other retail establishments in the city limits. This ban takes effect in 2021.

 

Backers of this measure say that it is necessary to protect public health. The ordinance states that it is a way to promote the city’s healthy image. Opponents counter that tobacco users will merely go to retailers outside the city limits to buy their products. This, they argue, will hurt businesses in Beverly Hills but do nothing to decrease tobacco use in the city.

 

This action by Beverly Hills is the first time that a city has banned almost all tobacco sales. Some other California cities are also considering a similar ban.

 

Do you think that the government should prohibit the sale of tobacco products?

Northam Pushes for Gun Control in Virginia

Democratic Governor Ralph Northam is calling legislators back to work for a special session. He wants them to have an up-or-down vote on a variety of gun control bills. The Republicans who control both houses of the legislature are cool to the idea.

 

In the wake of a workplace shooting in Virginia Beach, Gov. Northam said he would call a special session of the legislature focused on gun control legislation. Saying that thoughts and prayers were not enough, the governor wants Republican lawmakers to bring gun control bills to the floor of both chambers for a vote.

 

Virginia Democratic legislators have introduced numerous gun control bills in recent years, but the Republicans who control both chambers of the General Assembly have killed these bills in committee. The governor has urged the Republican leadership to allow a floor vote on a variety of measures.

 

Gov. Northam said that he would work with legislators to introduce bills that would mandate background checks for gun sales between private individuals, give local governments more power to limit guns in public buildings, prohibit purchasing more than one handgun a month, and allow the government to seize firearms under a “red flag” law.

 

The majority leaders in the legislature point out that the governor can call a special session, but cannot determine how the legislature operates. They say that the governor should focus on punishing criminals, not in restricting constitutional rights.

 

Do you think that Virginia legislators should enact stricter gun control laws?

Congress May Block Trump's Tariffs

President Trump is a big fan of tariffs. In fact, he’s called himself “Tariff Man” on Twitter. But many members of Congress disagree with him. The president’s announcement that he would be imposing new tariffs on Mexico could prompt a response from these lawmakers that would end his ability to start a trade war with our southern neighbor.

 

Last week the president said that he would impose an escalating series of tariffs on Mexico until its government stopped the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. He would have the authority to do this under his declaration of an emergency at the U.S.-Mexican border. He issued this emergency declaration in February, claiming that a surge of illegal immigration threatened the U.S. This allows him broad powers to deal with the situation, including repurposing money for a border wall and imposing tariffs.

 

Congress also has power under this emergency declaration – specifically the power to revoke it. Both the House and Senate voted to undo the emergency, but the president vetoed the resolution. With only a handful of Republicans joining all the Democrats in rebuking the president, there were not supermajorities in either house to override his veto. Resolutions to revoke a presidential emergency can be considered every six months.

 

President Trump’s latest move on tariffs may prompt more Republicans to support another attempt to undo the February emergency declaration. In recent years, Republicans have generally opposed high tariffs. They see them as a tax on Americans who are forced to pay higher prices for foreign goods directly affected by tariffs and American goods that no longer face as much foreign competition. The president’s desire to impose steep tariffs on Mexico, a large trading partner with the U.S., has caused consternation among many GOP members of Congress.

 

If one house of Congress passes a resolution to revoke a presidential emergency, the other house must also consider it. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will almost certainly pass such a resolution, meaning that the Republican-controlled Senate would then put the measure on its agenda. It remains to be seen if there will be more Republicans in both chambers who choose to buck the president on this issue because of their dislike of tariffs.

 

Do you support President Trump’s plan to impose new tariffs on products coming from Mexico? Should Congress stop these tariffs?

Red Light Cameras Banned in Texas

Many drivers don’t like red light cameras that lead to fines for violating traffic signals. Texas Governor Greg Abbott doesn’t like the cameras, either, as he recently signed legislation to ban their use in the state.

 

Under the bill signed by Gov. Abbott, local governments in Texas cannot sign contracts to operate red light cameras after September 1. Private companies operate these cameras, and they split any revenue generated with the government. Contracts that are already in effect could be continued, but not renewed. The state would also be prohibited from refusing to register a vehicle on the basis of that vehicle’s unpaid camera fines.

 

Cameras that enforce traffic signals and speed limits are controversial. Critics of them contend that they are a violation of constitutional provisions that require someone accused of a crime to be able to confront his or her accuser. They also say that the cameras are primarily aimed at gaining revenue, not public safety. Supporters of the cameras counter that they are indeed about safety, since people adjust their behaviors when they know cameras are present. They also say that these cameras allow law enforcement officers to concentrate on more serious crime.

 

Do you think that governments should be operating cameras to enforce traffic laws? Or should red light and speed cameras be banned?

Illinois Set to Legalizing Marijuana

Legislators in Illinois are rushing to finish their work before adjournment on Friday. One piece of business that appears headed to the governor’s desk is a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

 

Under this bill, Illinois residents could possess 30 grams of marijuana. Sales of marijuana would become legal in 2020, but people could only grow their own marijuana for medicinal purposes. The state would impose either a 10% of a 25% tax, depending on potency. The state would tax edible products at a 20% rate. Anyone who has a conviction for a marijuana offense involving 30 grams or fewer would receive a gubernatorial pardon, while those with offenses relating to larger amounts of marijuana could petition for an expungement.

 

Ten other states permit people to use marijuana recreationally. The federal government still lists marijuana as a prohibited drug, but most marijuana arrests for possession are at the state level. There are efforts in Congress to adjust federal law to recognize marijuana businesses in states where they are permitted. President Trump has indicated support for such legislation.

 

Do you think that states should legalize marijuana for recreational use? Should people be allowed to grow marijuana at home? What should the federal government do regarding marijuana?

Rep. Massie Won’t Let Disaster Aid Pass without a Vote

After months of wrangling, there is bipartisan consensus about a disaster aid spending bill. There is only one hang-up preventing its passage – the insistence of a few House members that it receive a vote.

 

The Senate passed a $19 billion aid bill last week before leaving town for Memorial Day recess. There is overwhelming support for the bill in the House of Representatives. But House members left town before they voted on the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to get the bill passed through the House via unanimous consent during a pro forma session during recess. Such a process requires any House member present to approve. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) do not agree, and have objected to the Speaker’s attempts to pass the bill.

 

Rep. Massie justified his actions on the House floor, saying, “"If the Speaker of the House felt this was must-pass legislation, the Speaker of the House should have called a vote on this bill before sending every member of Congress on recess for ten days.”

 

This legislation contains aid for Puerto Rico, money for farmers, and funds for wildfires. An aid package has been the subject of partisan negotiations in Congress for months, and President Trump has weighed in on the subject, too. The president wanted funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall included in any disaster aid bill and, at times, suggested that Puerto Rico not receive any aid.

 

These differences were worked out in the Senate, with the aid bill passing by a vote of 85-8 on May 23. Most Republicans and Democrats in the House are expected to support the bill, and President Trump has indicated he will sign it.

 

The Senate vote did not leave enough time for the House of Representatives to consider the bill prior to its members leaving for recess. Since Rep. Massie and his allies are preventing the bill from being considered while most members are out of town, it means that its passage will have to wait until recess is over in June. Speaker Pelosi is blasting these members for cruelty. However, Rep. Massie has tweeted that “passing an unbudgeted $19 billion spending bill without a vote of Congress is legislative malpractice.”

 

Do you think that it is wrong for Rep. Massie to insist that a $19 billion aid package receive a formal vote by the House of Representatives?

Biden Calls for More Federal Education Funding

 

Joe Biden is running for president, and he thinks that his path to the White House runs through the schoolhouse.

 

Speaking before the American Federation of Teachers yesterday, the former vice president laid out his education plan. The cornerstone of his proposal is a big increase in federal spending.

 

Currently, the federal government’s main education program is known as Title I. This sends federal money to low-income school districts. Under Biden’s plan, Title I spending would be tripled. He would earmark this money for teacher raises, pre-kindergarten expansion, and advanced courses (such as AP classes). He is also proposing more funding for school psychologists and efforts to diversify schools.

 

This plan represents a break from past federal education efforts, which aimed to tie funding to accountability measures. Under the Biden proposal, funds would flow regardless of test scores or other attempts to link the money to improved education outcomes.

 

Critics argue that this is simply a federal giveaway of taxpayer dollars without leveraging the money so states improve education. Supporters argue that poorer school districts need this money to catch up to their wealthier counterparts.

 

With his campaign just beginning, Biden is not proposing a bold new reform idea. Instead, he is appealing to a Democratic constituency -- teachers -- with a proposal that would provide more federal funding for them.

 

Do you think the federal government should increase education spending? Should federal dollars be tied to improved educational outcomes?

Deep Dive: Impeachment

After the release of the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, discussion about impeaching President Trump heated up on Capitol Hill. Some Democratic members of Congress are calling for the House Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment hearings, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi is resisting doing so – for now.

 

Impeachment is the bringing of charges against the president, vice president, or other “civil officials,” such as cabinet officers. Impeachment does not remove them from office, however. Instead, impeachment refers charges to the Senate, which then must vote to remove that person from office.

 

Impeachment and the Constitution

 

The Constitution establishes the impeachment and removal process, explaining it in a few key sections:

 

  • Article I, Section 2: The House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”

 

  • Article I, Section 3: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present. Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

 

  • Article II, Section 4: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

 

The U.S. impeachment and removal process is similar to the process that existed in Britain during the writing of the Constitution. However, the British Parliament impeaches and removes officials in one action. The framers of the U.S. Constitution made impeachment and removal two separate processes, thus weakening the ability of the legislative branch to remove executive branch officials.

 

How Impeachment and Removal Works

 

The House Judiciary Committee begins the impeachment process. Its members consider articles of impeachment, with approval coming with a majority vote. If approved, these articles of impeachment move to the full House of Representatives for a vote. The House then debates and votes on these articles. If a majority approves them, then that person has been impeached.

 

The Senate then begins its role. With the Chief Justice of the U.S. presiding, the Senate conducts a trial. The House of Representatives appoints members to manage the case before the Senate, laying out the charges contained in the articles of impeachment. The Senate then votes, with a two-thirds vote being necessary to remove that person from office.

 

Impeachment and removal may be for a public official’s criminal act, but they are not criminal proceedings. The only penalty, as the Constitution stipulates, is removal from office. The underlying crimes can be prosecuted by civil authorities, however, which may result in criminal conviction and penalties after impeachment and removal from office.

 

The History of Impeachment

 

The House of Representatives has considered over 60 impeachment cases, but most have failed. There have only been 8 instances where individuals have been impeached and removed from office. Fifteen judges have been impeached, as have 2 presidents:

 

  • Andrew Johnson: The House passed 11 articles of impeachment against Andrew Johnson in 1868. The Senate came within one vote of removing him from office.

 

  • Bill Clinton: The House passed 2 articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton in 1998. The Senate vote to remove him from office failed.

 

In 1974, the House began the impeachment process against President Richard Nixon. The House Judiciary Committee approved 3 articles of impeachment against him, but Nixon resigned prior to a full House vote.

 

Federal Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr., was the last official impeached and removed from office. His impeachment and conviction occurred in 2010.

 

The Clinton Impeachment

 

The last presidential impeachment and trial took place over 20 years ago, when the House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton. If there are proceedings initiated against President Trump, it would likely follow the pattern set during these proceedings.

 

In 1998, Independent Counsel Ken Starr provided a report to Congress that contained evidence gathered in the course of his investigation into various allegations against President Clinton. The House Judiciary Committee passed four articles of impeachment. Two were for perjury, one was for obstruction of justice, and one was for abuse of power. The full House of Representatives passed two of those articles of impeachment, one for perjury and one for obstruction of justice, on December 19, 1998.

 

The House of Representatives appointed thirteen managers to present their case to the Senate, which began its trial on January 7, 1999. Chief Justice William Rehnquist presided. The trial lasted a month, with the Senate beginning closed-door deliberations on February 9. The Senate took a vote on February 13 on the articles of impeachment. The Senate defeated the perjury charge by a vote of 45-55 and the obstruction of justice charge by 50-50. Sixty-seven votes would have been necessary to convict the president and remove him from office.

 

While both the votes in the House and Senate were largely along party lines, there were members of Congress who broke with their party leadership on impeachment or conviction. Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania (who later became a Democrat), voted “not proved.” Many observers saw these proceedings as an example of partisanship on both sides. This is in contrast with the impeachment proceedings that had begun against President Nixon, where a bipartisan consensus was forming to impeach and remove him from office prior to his resignation.

 

What This Means for You

 

There is growing movement in the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. These members accuse the president of obstructing justice and other crimes, saying that it is the House’s duty to impeach under these circumstances. Speaker Pelosi has cautioned members that such a move is politically risky, pointing out that Republicans lost popularity when they impeached President Clinton in the 1990s.

 

With Democrats controlling the House of Representatives, there is a possibility that it could pass impeachment articles. However, it is unlikely that the Senate would follow suit, given Republican control of the chamber. If the Senate would convict the president and remove him from office under this situation, then the vice president would assume office.

Senate Focuses on Nominees, not Legislation

The Senate has been busy casting numerous votes in recent weeks. But the overwhelming majority of these votes are not on legislation. Instead, senators are concentrating on confirming a host of President Trump’s nominees to executive branch posts and the federal judiciary.

 

Since the Senate returned from its two-week recess on April 29, there have been 51 roll call votes. Of those, only 4 concern legislative matters. The rest are either votes to cut off debate over President Trump’s nominees or votes on these nominees.

 

Some of these nominations pass easily. For instance, Clarke Cooper’s nomination to be Assistant Secretary of State received a lopsided vote of 90-8 in favor. The nomination of Raul M. Arias-Marxuach to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Puerto Rico also passed easily, 95-3.

 

Most nomination votes are much closer, however. The president’s nomination of Michael J. Truncale to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Texas only prevailed by 3 votes, 49-46. Wendy Vitter’s nomination to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana passed the Senate 52-45.

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made no secret of his desire to see as many of President Trump’s nominees confirmed as possible. He continued the process started under then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, in weakening and then eliminating senators’ ability to filibuster judicial nominees. He also engineered a rule change that reduced the time for consideration of these nominees after Democrats began insisting on lengthy debate over them.

 

There has been some criticism that the Senate should be working on legislative matters, not just on confirmations. But with the House of Representatives in Democratic control, and with Democratic senators still able to filibuster legislation, it is unlikely that there are many bills that could receive enough bipartisan support to emerge from Congress. It appears that Senator McConnell will continue to prioritize confirmation throughout this year.

 

Do you think that the Senate should do more work on legislation and less on confirming the president’s nominees? Or is it important for the Senate to concentrate on putting the president's nominees in office?

Senators Want Tobacco Age to be 21

States across the nation are increasing the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21. Now the U.S. Senate may act to prohibit anyone under 21 from buying tobacco nationwide.

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, have teamed up on legislation that would raise the federal tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21. Both senators are from major tobacco-producing states, but they say that public health concerns are foremost in their mind.

 

The bill, if enacted, would make it a crime for a retailer to sell tobacco products or vaping products to anyone under 21. It would also cut off some federal funds to states that do not set their tobacco purchasing age at 21.

 

These senators, and others who want to see the age increased, argue that it is a vital way to stop teenagers from starting smoking. They point out that most smokers start in their teen years, so this would prevent older teens from supplying cigarettes to younger teens. Backers of the proposal also contend it is necessary to combat the rise in teen vaping. Critics say that the law establishes adulthood at 18, so the tobacco purchase age should not be higher.

 

Fourteen states and Washington, D.C., have laws setting the tobacco purchase age at 21. Some of these state laws exempt military personnel from the higher purchase age, but the federal legislation would not.

 

With the majority leader’s backing, this bill is likely to receive consideration by the full Senate.

 

Do you think that the federal government should prohibit anyone under 21 from buying tobacco or vaping products?

CA Sues Trump Admin over High-Speed Rail Funds

The Trump Administration stopped federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project. Now the state is suing to get that money back.

 

Earlier this decade, California voters approved $10 billion in funding for a statewide high-speed rail system. In the intervening years, the price tag for this system has skyrocketed to over $75 billion. The Obama Administration had promised $3.5 billion in federal stimulus funding for this project. Last week, the Trump Administration revoked over $900 million that has been unspent, citing what it called mismanagement by the state.

 

Today California filed suit, seeking an injunction to prevent the federal government from revoking these funds. The state says it is being punished by the Trump Administration because state officials have taken stances opposing the president on issues such as immigration. Critics of the state say, however, that there is clear evidence that California has indeed mismanaged these funds and that the rail project is a boondoggle.

 

Should the government build high-speed rail projects? Do you think the Trump Administration removed high-speed rail funds to punish California officials for opposing the president on other issues?

Harris Wants Business Fines over Equal Pay

Sen. Kamala Harris has a plan for what she perceives as the gender pay gap – big fines for corporations. And if she’s elected president, she says she will implement these fines with or without legislation from Congress.

 

Under Sen. Harris’s plan, companies must receive an “Equal Pay Certification” from the federal government or face fines. This certification would come only after these companies submit data to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission proving that they are paying male and female employees comparable pay for comparable work. The Harris plan would also force companies to provide information about how they hire workers and the racial and gender diversity of their workplaces.

 

If companies do not receive “Equal Pay Certification,” Sen. Harris would like to see them fined 1% of their profits for every 1% of the wage gap. Sen. Harris said she would seek legislation from Congress to authorize such a program, but would implement it regardless of whether Congress acts.

 

Current federal law already prohibits paying men and women different wages for doing the same work. Senator Harris’s legislation would go further by targeting different pay for what she calls “comparable” work, which would be determined by the federal government. She says that her proposal would stop discrimination. Critics contend that the pay gap she cites is not caused by discrimination but can be explained by differing education and experience levels as well as individual choices made by workers.

 

This proposal is one of the many laid out by the freshman senator from California in an attempt to distinguish her from the rest of the candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

 

Do you think that companies should be fined if they are not certified by the federal government as paying men and women the same for comparable work? What do you think about the gender pay gap?

North Carolina Considers Sanctuary City Ban

Legislators in North Carolina are advancing a bill that would prohibit sanctuary city policies in that state. This may set up another veto fight with Gov. Roy Cooper, as the Democratic governor faces protests urging him to reject this bill.

 

Under House Bill 370, local law enforcement officers in North Carolina would be required to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts. The bill would specifically prohibit law enforcement personnel from refusing to comply with federal immigration detainer request. These requests come from immigration agents looking to detain illegal immigrants who are in local law enforcement custody.

 

In cities with sanctuary policies, local law enforcement does not cooperate with the federal government in enforcing federal immigration laws or comply with detention requests. These local officials are not breaking federal law by refusing to do so; the federal government can only request, not command, cooperation of local police or sheriffs in enforcing federal law. But some states are enacting statewide policies that require such cooperation.

 

The North Carolina House passed HB 370 by a vote of 63-51, and now it is being considered by the Senate. This weekend, protestors urged Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the bill if it emerges from the General Assembly.

 

Do you think that states should prohibit sanctuary cities? Should local law enforcement cooperate with the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws?

House Wants to Mandate More Obamacare Outreach

It’s no secret that the Trump Administration is not enthusiastic about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The Democrats in the House of Representatives have noticed this, and they recently passed a bill to force the federal government to do more to promote this law.

 

On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 987, the Marketing and Outreach Restoration to Empower (MORE) Health Education Act of 2019. Here’s how VoteSpotter describes it:

 

To require the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct marketing for the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act that are operated by the federal government. The bill mandates that such outreach must be in “culturally and linguistically appropriate formats.”

 

The vote was 234-183, with 5 Republicans joining the Democrats in supporting it.

 

Under the ACA, states can set up their own health insurance exchanges or, if they don’t, the federal government will operate one in the state. This legislation concerns those federally-operated exchanges. Supporters of this legislation say it is necessary to counteract efforts by the Trump Administration to reduce outreach and education for these exchanges. Opponents of the bill counter that this is just an effort to prop up a failing health care law.

 

The legislation now advances to the Senate, which is unlikely to bring it up for a vote.

 

Do you think that the Trump Administration should be doing more education and outreach for Obamacare insurance?

Trump Unveils New Immigration Plan

Immigration has been one of the defining issues of President Trump’s time in office. Today the president unveiled a proposal that would reshape the nation’s immigration laws, bringing them more in line with the president’s views.

 

Under the Trump plan, overall immigration numbers would not change. Instead, policies would shift from family-based immigration to skills-based immigration. The president’s proposal would limit the immediate family members whom a U.S. resident could sponsor for entry into the nation. It would also prioritize immigration for individuals with certain skills.

 

Other aspects of the plan include making it tougher for individuals to seek asylum, modernizing ports of entry in an attempt to stop more drug trafficking, and finishing the border wall. There is no proposal to deal with the millions of “Dreamers,” or individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, already in the nation.

 

The president has outlined an immigration plan, but has not prepared legislation to move this plan through Congress. Any such proposal would likely face Democratic opposition. There are also some grumblings of opposition from the president’s base, with some immigration restrictionists upset that the president is not calling for a reduction in immigration numbers.

 

Should U.S. immigration policy focus more on family reunification or economic skills? Do you support placing more restrictions on who can seek asylum here? Should overall immigration numbers be reduced, kept the same, or increased?

Alabama Passes Abortion Ban

Abortion may soon be illegal in Alabama under legislation passed this week. The bill, if signed by the governor, would outlaw abortion in almost all circumstances.

 

Under the bill that has made it through both houses of the Alabama legislature, no woman could obtain an abortion unless her physical or mental health is threatened by the pregnancy. There is no exception for pregnancies that were the result of rape or incest. Doctors performign abortions could be charged with a felony.

 

This law conflicts with the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade. In that case, the high court held that there was a constitutional right to an abortion. Such a right is subject to restrictions, but the court has held in subsequent cases that it cannot be prohibited.

 

Supporters of this bill acknowledged that it does indeed defy the Supreme Court’s decision. However, they were also frank that they wanted to pass the bill in order to raise another challenge to Roe. They view this as a way to give the Supreme Court an opportunity to reverse that decision. If that happened, abortion would not be illegal nationwide, but states could regulate it or even ban it.

 

This legislation now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey to sign or veto.

 

Do you think that abortion should be illegal in all cases except when the mother’s health is in jeopardy? Should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to restrict abortion?

Florida Governor Keeps Alive Local Straw Bans

Florida legislators do not like local officials banning straws. So they passed a law prohibiting local straw bans. But Florida’s governor sided with local governments over state legislators, vetoing the bill and preserving local straw bans.

 

Ten municipal governments in Florida have passed plastic straw bans or laws prohibiting business owners from providing straws if patrons do not request them. This legislative session, state lawmakers passed a bill that would have pre-empted such bans, enacting a uniform rule in the state that municipal governments cannot enact these types of laws.

 

A Republican majority in the legislature passed this pre-emption law, and many expected the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, to support it. However, he vetoed it, saying that there was no state interest in stopping such local bans. He said that local voters could elect officials who would overturn straw bans if that was what local residents wanted.

 

Those pushing for straw bans argue that they will help prevent plastic from going into the ocean, harming wildlife. Opponents of the ban counter that straws make up a miniscule proportion of ocean waste, and point out that many people, such as those with disabilities, need straws.

 

Do you support banning the use of plastic straws?

Pentagon Shifting $1.5b to Build Border Wall

Earlier this year, President Trump declared a national emergency in order to build a border wall without congressional authorization. Now the White House is releasing details on how he wants to pay for part of it – with $1.5 billion being re-directed from the Department of Defense.

 

While President Trump wants a border wall, Congress has not allocated funding to pay for it. The president’s emergency order allows him to shift funding from other sources to build the wall, but he has to identify those sources. Last week, the Pentagon announced that $1.5 billion would be moved from other defense areas and be used for roughly 80 miles of border wall construction.

 

Among those areas losing money to pay for the wall are an intercontinental ballistic missile system, a surveillance plane, the Afghan Security Force Fund, chemical weapons destruction, and military retirement. The money from these accounts will be re-programmed for construction of the wall.

 

The Pentagon says that removing funding from these areas will not affect military readiness. Opponents of this move argue that the president is prioritizing an ineffective all over military programs that have already been approved by Congress.

 

This funding will not pay for the entire wall. To do so the president must find other areas of federal spending where he can move money to wall construction.

 

Do you think that money should be taken from military programs to pay for a border wall?

Oregon Cops Can’t Search Trash without Warrant

If the police want to search your trash in Oregon, they are going to need a warrant.

 

The State Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the state constitution protects individuals’ expectation of privacy, and that individuals expect their garbage to remain private. It was a 6-1 decision.

 

The case concerned a couple from Lebanon, Oregon, who were convicted of drug crimes resulting from police searching their trash. The police had worked with the couple’s trash collector to divert the trash and search it, where they found evidence of drug activity.


Oregonians may be free from the fear of warrantless trash searches, but this decision does not extend nationwide. The state court ruled that the state constitution has this level of privacy protection. The U.S. Supreme Court has found differently for the U.S. Constitution. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution’s ban on warrantless search and seizure does not apply to trash left outside the home. In that decision, California v. Greenwood, a 6-2 majority ruled that if someone leaves garbage outside to be picked up for removal, then that person has relinquished all expectations of privacy for the contents of the trash.

 

Do you think that the police should be able to search someone’s garbage without a warrant?

Armed Teachers Now Allowed in Florida

Yesterday Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation allowing school districts to arm teachers. In a state where the Parkland school shooting took place last year, this legislation has both strong supporters and detractors.

 

I the wake of the Parkland shooting, Florida enacted a law that allowed some school personnel to be armed. These personnel would undergo a background check and training. School boards would have to authorize this program in their district. Classroom teachers were excluded from this law.

 

Under this bill, school teachers would also be authorized to carry guns in the classroom. They must pass a psychological evaluation and a background check, then take training with the police.

 

The bill was controversial, with Republicans in the legislature pushing for it and Democrats opposing it. Those in favor of the bill noted that it was voluntary, so no teacher would be forced to carry a gun. They also pointed out that in many rural areas, it could take the police a long time to get to a school. Opponents of the bill said that it would make schools less safe with the potential for accidents.

 

Of the state’s 67 school districts, 25 have authorized some of their personnel to be armed. It is unclear how many will now permit teachers to do so, too.

 

Do you think that school teachers should be armed?

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