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Minnesota Candidates Call for Refugee Resettlement Suspension


Minnesota has a long history of taking in refugees who flee their home countries to live in the U.S. Two candidates for governor want to pause this effort, however, citing their concerns over cost.


There is a large refugee community in Minnesota, with many refugees from Somalia settling there in recent years. The federal government funds part of these resettlement efforts, but there are also costs that Minnesota bears, too. However, efforts to calculate those costs have proven difficult to do, since many state programs do not ask about refugee status.


A Republican candidate running for governor, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, has said he wants to work with the federal government to suspend the refugee program until the state can figure out how much it costs taxpayers. Another Republican in the race, former Governor Tim Pawlenty, agrees.


These candidates contend they are not opposed to refugees coming to Minnesota, but simply want to ensure that tax dollars are being used wisely. They say that if the program can become more cost-effective, they would support it.


One Democrat running for governor, Erin Murphy, says she vigorously disagrees with this proposal. Other groups in the state have also pushed back, saying that the state should welcome those fleeing war or persecution in their home countries.


Refugee resettlement is done by the federal government. If either Johnson or Pawlenty is elected, he would have to obtain federal cooperation to suspend the placement of refugees in Minnesota.


Do you think that refugee resettlement in Minnesota should be suspended until the state figures out the cost? Or do you think that it is unfair for state officials to deny homes to refugees over cost issues?


Arizona Takes Side in Frozen Embryo Debate


Who gets the frozen embryos?


In divorce cases around the country, judges are facing this question. Arizona legislators recently passed a law that attempts to settle these disputes. That has made some pro-choice activists nervous.


An increasing number of Americans are using fertility services to assist them in having children. Many times those services involve fertilized embryos that are subsequently frozen. As this practice becomes more popular, it also means there are legal questions about who takes possession of these embryos in the case of a divorce.


These cases often involve a dispute between a husband or a wife who wants custody of the embryos in order to have a child and a spouse who wants the embryos destroyed. In many instances, judges side with the party who wants the embryos destroyed, holding that no one should be forced to be a parent.


To deal with these situations, Arizona passed a law that requires judges to award custody to the parent who intends to develop the embryos to birth. This law is the first of its kind in the U.S., and it has prompted concern from abortion rights supporters. These critics say that this law essentially establishes embryos as persons, which could lead to further restrictions on abortion.


Supporters of the law say that the two parties who fertilized embryos took proactive steps to create life, so this life should not be destroyed on a whim.


Governor Doug Ducey signed this bill into law in April. It is now up to courts to determine how to apply it in future cases involving frozen embryos in Arizona.


Do you think that when there is a dispute over frozen embryos, judges should award these embryos to the party who will develop them to life? Or will giving frozen embryos something like personhood lead to more restrictions on abortion?


Automatic Voter Registration Coming to Massachusetts


Massachusetts residents will no longer have to make an effort to register to vote. Thanks to a new law, registering to vote will take place automatically when they interact with some state agencies. Supporters hail this is a progressive way to improve voter turnout. Others see it as a solution in search of a problem.


Under this legislation, when someone goes to the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles to do something like get a driver’s license, or when someone seeks medical care through the state’s MassHealth program, their voter information will be updated. If they are not registered to vote, they will be. If they are already registered, then their address or other information will be updated if it has changed. A person who is automatically registered will then be sent a letter to determine if he or she wants to register with a political party or opt-out of the registration.


Supporters of this bill say that there are hundreds of thousands of eligible Massachusetts voters who are not registered. Automatically registering them will help boost election turnout by making the voting process easier. Opponents say that it is not difficult to register to vote, so this bill is not solving any real problem. They also worry about whether this would make it easier for non-citizens to vote.


This law will take effect for the 2020 election.


Do you support automatic voter registration?


Legislators Approve New Business Subsidies in Michigan Budget


Ask any politician what his or her top priority is, and you’ll likely get the answer of “jobs.” Michigan legislators are no different. In their quest to create jobs in the state, they passed a budget that contains millions of dollars in tax credits for businesses. Some question whether these subsidy programs are a good way to create jobs, however.


In the state budget passed in late June, legislators included $162 million in businesses subsidies. These are mainly tax credit programs, which provide a refundable tax credit for businesses. These refundable credits are given to a business regardless of a business’s tax liability, which means the state could provide a direct payment to a company that qualifies.


The $162 million approved this year is not the total amount of Michigan business subsidies that are authorized for the coming fiscal year. Thanks to authorizations that occurred in previous years, the state can hand out $644 million to businesses this year.


Supporters of these subsidy programs say that they are necessary to create jobs in Michigan and attract high-paying jobs. They say that some industries just won’t locate in the state without them. Critics counter that most businesses create jobs without subsidies. These subsidies, they say, are merely a handout of taxpayer dollars to a few favored corporations. These critics point out that the money spent on subsidies could be spent on other government services or returned to taxpayers.


Do you support state programs that provide subsidies to businesses?


Trump’s Tariffs Affecting Iowa Farmers


President Donald Trump has been vocal in his desire to upend U.S. trading policy. He has imposed or threatened a variety of tariffs, and other nations have retaliated. Now Iowa farmers are caught in the middle of this trade war, something that concerns them as well as their representatives in Congress.


Earlier this year, President Trump imposed tariffs on some goods coming in from Mexico, Canada, the EU, and China. In response, these countries imposed tariffs on U.S. products, some of them agricultural. This has caused prices to drop for corn, pork, and other farm-sector products to drop. That is hitting some Iowa farmers hard.


These farmers are struggling with lower prices for this year’s crop while at the same time facing decisions about what to do next year. Given the uncertainty over trade policy and the willingness of the president to continue exploring further tariffs, many farmers are unsure about their economic future. This has prompted some farm state members of Congress, such as Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, to encourage the White House to consider how this trade war is affecting farmers.


Even in light of this disruption to the farm economy, however, many of these members of Congress are wary about supporting legislation that would scale back the president’s tariff powers. They are taking an attitude of waiting to see if these trade issues can be resolves soon so that U.S. farmers can once again enjoy greater access to international markets.


Do you think that farmers are right to be concerned that trade disputes could hurt their ability to stay in business?


State Stops Philadelphia Flavored Tobacco Ban


Flavored tobacco products were under fire in Philadelphia earlier this year, with some council members pressing to ban their sale. This did not sit well with state legislators, however. They put an end to the talk of a flavored tobacco ban in Philadelphia by passing a state budget amendment that prevents cities from regulating tobacco.


The issue arose last year when a Philadelphia city council member held hearings on cigars and other tobacco products that have flavoring added to them. His contention was that these cigars, which may have fruit or other sweet flavors in them, were being marketed to children. He later sponsored a bill to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city.


The city council never considered this bill, however, since legislators pre-empted Philadelphia’s authority to enact it. The state budget legislation contained an amendment that prohibited local governments from regulating or taxing tobacco products. That power, under this legislation, rests at the state level.


Those who support a ban on flavored tobacco say that products made from it are being marketed to children. They say that these sweet flavored appeal to young people and are used to get them addicted to tobacco. Opponents contend that this tobacco regulation is best left at the state level, not at the whims of city or county officials who could pass a variety of conflicting laws.


Do you think that cities should be able to ban flavored tobacco products?


Congress Votes to Block DC’s Obamacare Law


Elected officials in Washington, D.C., are looking to copy the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Republicans in Congress are taking steps to stop them.


The D.C. City Council recently passed the Health Insurance Requirement Act of 2018, which would mandate that district residents be covered by health insurance or pay a fine. That is similar to the mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which imposes a tax penalty on the uninsured. The 2017 tax legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Trump effectively ends this penalty. In response, two states and the District have passed their own individual mandate law.


States are free to pass such a mandate. In D.C., however, things are more complicated. While D.C. has an elected city council and mayor, under the Constitution the ultimate authority for governing the District lies with Congress. The city’s laws can be disapproved by congressional action. Every year, the city’s spending is also subject to the congressional appropriations process. During the debate over the D.C. spending bill, members of Congress can insert provisions to block the enforcement of laws they don’t like.


That is what has happened with the city’s individual mandate. Rep. Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania sponsored an amendment to the spending bill that would prohibit the city government from collecting the penalty imposed on someone who is uninsured. That amendment passed by a vote of 231-184. If that provision survives in the Senate and the bill is signed into law by President Trump, then D.C. will have an individual mandate but cannot penalize anyone who violates it.


District officials decry this amendment as meddling in the internal issues of the city. They say that without such a mandate, the city’s health insurance market will be skewed and prices will be more expensive for residents who purchase insurance. Supporters of the amendment counter that no one should be penalized because they don’t purchase insurance. They point out that the Constitution gives Congress authority over D.C. and they are merely exercising their power to protect the city’s residents.


Do you think that Congress should stop Washington, D.C. from enforcing its mandate that city residents must purchase health insurance?


Attempting to Close Gender Pay Gap, Illinois May Ban Salary Info Requests


Illinois legislators don’t like when potential employers ask job candidates about their salary history. They say this practice hurts women applicants. In early July, they passed legislation that would prohibit employers from asking job seekers about salary during interviews. Now it is up to Gov. Bruce Rauner to decide if he will go along with this effort to amend the state’s Equal Pay Act.


The salary legislation prohibits employers from doing three things: 1) screening potential employees on their salary history, 2) requiring that potential employees’ prior salary satisfy a maximum or minimum range, and 3) asking about salary history as part of the job search process.


Supporters of such legislation contend that asking about salary history is one way that employers can get away with offering women job applicants lower starting wages. They say that if women come from a job with a lower pay then it is difficult for them to receive jobs with a higher pay if new employer inquire about salary history. Opponents of this law counter that salary history is a relevant factor when hiring someone, so employers should not be banned from asking about it.


Governor Rauner vetoed a similar bill last year. It is unclear what he will do once this new bill reaches his desk.


Do you think that employers should be prohibited from asking about salary history when interviewing someone? Do employers questioning potential employees about their salary history contribute to a gender pay gap?


Colorado Voters Set to Vote on Banning Prison Slavery


The constitutions of both Colorado and the United States ban slavery and involuntary servitude, but they contain one exception – those who are being punished for a crime can still be forced to work without pay. This year, Colorado voters will face a ballot amendment that would end this practice in that state.


Under Colorado’s constitution, if someone has been convicted of a crime it is legal for the state to put that person to work without paying him or her. Half the states allow such unpaid labor for convicts, while the other half ban it.


Legislators voted to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would, if passed, ban slavery and involuntary servitude completely in Colorado. They placed an identical amendment on the ballot in 2016, but voters narrowly defeated it.


Supporters of this amendment say that the current language allowing prisoners to be forced to do unpaid work is a relic from another time when the dignity of all people was not recognized. They say it will be a positive symbolic change for Colorado to ban slavery in all cases. Opponents of changing the language note that prisons offer a variety of work programs that are aimed at rehabilitating prisoners. They say that amending the constitution may affect the legal status of these programs.


Do you think that prisoners should be forced to work without pay? Or do prison laborers deserve to be paid for their labor?


Hunting, Fishing May Gain Constitutional Protection in North Carolina


A lot of North Carolinians hunt and fish. Under a ballot measure facing voters in November, their right to do so may become enshrined in the state constitution.


The proposed constitutional amendment states that “the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the State's heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good.” The amendment would allow the legislature to enact laws governing hunting and fishing, but only to promote wildlife conservation and management or to preserve the future of hunting and fishing. The amendment also states that hunting and fishing are the preferred ways to control and manage wildlife.


Supporters of this amendment say it is necessary to preserve this traditional way of managing wildlife from attacks by anti-hunting activists. With this amendment, they contend, hunting and fishing in North Carolina will be protected into the future. Opponents of the amendment say that it is unnecessary. They point out that there are no real threats to end hunting and fishing in North Carolina, so such an amendment to the state constitution is unneeded.


Twenty states have adopted similar constitutional amendments since 1996.


Do you think that state constitutions should be amended to protect the right to hunt and fish?


Congress Considers Easing Marijuana Law


States across the nation are legalizing the use of marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes. While users and growers may face no threat of arrest or prosecution by state authorities in these areas, they are still breaking federal law. Now a bipartisan group of senators wants to change that.


Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced a bill, called the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment through Entrusting States Act,” or STATES Act, that would end federal marijuana penalties for someone who is following state law. If someone lived in a state where it is legal to operate a retail marijuana operation, they would no longer be breaking federal law as long as they followed their state’s laws.


This bill is cosponsored by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Catherine Cortez Mastro (D-NV). President Trump has also signaled his support for the legislation, although it is unclear if either House or Senate leadership will advance it.


Supporters of the bill contend that it is necessary to remove any conflict between state and federal laws regarding marijuana. They say it is unfair for people to obey state law but still be under threat of federal prosecution. They contend that this legislation would recognize the constitutional guarantee of federalism where the federal government does not interfere in strictly state-level matters.


Opponents of the law say that if there is a federal law against marijuana growing or use, then that law should apply nationwide. Federal law is supreme to state law, they point out, so there is no reason to suspend the application of federal law just because some states have differing laws.


There are also two other bills in the Senate, one introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and one introduced by Sen. Booker, that would completely end the federal ban on marijuana.


Do you think that the federal government should stop enforcing marijuana laws in states that legalize its use for either recreational or medicinal purposes? Should federal marijuana prohibition be ended?


New York Fails to Renew Speed Cameras


Speed cameras in New York City school zones will soon be shut off. Legislators failed to approve a bill to renew these cameras’ authorization. Community activists and the city’s mayor have pushed for these cameras to be continued, but lawmakers left Albany at the end of their legislative session without acting. Unless they return for a special session, the speed camera experiment in the Big Apple will be over.


Five years ago, the state legislature authorized the operation of speed cameras in 20 New York City school zones. This number was later expanded to 140 school zones. These cameras automatically ticket drivers going over 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in streets around schools. They operate during school days, one hour before school starts and one hour after school ends.


Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a vocal proponent of these cameras, but he had no authority to put them in place. That authority rests with the state, and legislators had to act to renew the program this year. They did not do so.


Some members of the community where these cameras are located lobbied legislators for reauthorization. They say that the cameras make school zones safer, pointing to a reducing in accidents over the past five years. Opponents of the cameras contend that cameras should not enforce the law. One legislator who opposed renewal of the program instead wants better signage and more police presence.


Besides the differences of opinion on the merits of speed cameras, this issue was also caught up in larger political issues in the legislature. It is possible that this program could be renewed if legislators meet in a special session later this year.


Do you support speed cameras?


Increasing Calls to Abolish ICE


In the dispute over America’s immigration laws – and the Trump Administration’s enforcement of them – a new rallying cry from some progressive activists is gaining strength: “abolish ICE!” Some high-profile candidates and elected officials have begun to embrace this cause, something that is leading to pushback even from some staunch liberals.


The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is responsible for enforcing immigration laws and investigating illegal immigration. It does not police the border; that function is handled by the Customs and Border Patrol agency. ICE agents raid worksites and other places to arrest illegal immigrants. They also detain these immigrants in detention centers.


For months, progressive activists have been calling for the end to ICE. Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez embraced this issue and used it, in part, to upset Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York Democratic primary. Soon after, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York also joined the movement to abolish ICE. Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan said he would introduce legislation to do this.


It is unclear what would change if ICE is abolished. ICE is only fifteen years old, dating to a federal reshuffling that occurred in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, handled immigration law enforcement prior to that time. If Congress did abolish ICE, then its functions would need to be performed by either a new agency or an existing agency would take them over.


Those who want to end ICE say that it is too militaristic and that its focus is wrong. They point to a number of abuses that have occurred by agency personnel. Those who want to keep the agency intact say that while some reforms may be necessary, the federal government must enforce the nation’s immigration laws.


While there are some elected Democrats who support ICE’s abolition, others merely call for reforms. This includes Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate. Without the support of congressional leadership, it is likely that the campaign against ICE will produce any legislative results.


Do you think that ICE should be abolished?


Voters to Decide on Florida Indoor Vaping Ban


Thirty-six states have some type of ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces, such as bars and restaurants. Only nine states have a similar ban on vaping devices. Florida voters will decide in November if they will join these states in saying “no” to people who want to vape indoors.


There are increasing numbers of Americans who choose to vape instead of smoke. Vaping is the use of electronic devices which mimic cigarettes but do not use tobacco. While many states have strict rules on how tobacco products can be sold and used, states are still formulating their laws on vaping devices. Some states have gone in the direction of treating vaping devices similar to cigarettes, while other states have little regulation at all on their use.


Proponents of the state’s constitutional amendment to ban vaping in indoor workplaces contend that the vapor from these devices can have toxins in them and that they are annoying to non-vapers. Those opposed to it say that vaping devices may produce vapor that looks like smoke, but it does not contain the harmful products that exist in tobacco smoke.


This proposal came from the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, which refers constitutional amendments to be considered by voters. It is combined with another constitutional amendment that would ban offshore oil and natural gas drilling. Voters must vote “yes” or “no” on one measure that contains both of these amendments; they cannot vote on each amendment separately.


Do you think that vaping should be banned in bars, restaurants, and other indoor businesses?


Wisconsin Will Collect Internet Sales Taxes, May Reduce Income Tax


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that states can begin collecting sales taxes on Internet purchases. Soon after this ruling was announced, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said that his state would do so beginning in October. As a result, the state’s income tax rates may be going down.


In Wayfair v South Dakota, the high court held that a state could charge sales taxes for items purchased online from out-of-state sellers. A previous court decision said that states could not impose a tax on purchase made by their residents from out-of-state companies, but this ruling occurred prior to the widespread use of the Internet.


Many states, including Wisconsin, had long desired to tax these purchases but were held back by the earlier Supreme Court ruling. With the court changing direction, Wisconsin is embracing its opportunity to tax online sales. Governor Scott Walker says that this will not be a tax increase but will merely be treating all sales fairly, regardless of whether they are made in-person or online.


A 2013 state budget provision held that if the state began collecting online sales taxes, then the state’s income tax will automatically be cut to offset the new income. It is unclear how this provision will be implemented, but legislative leaders say they are willing to work with the governor to cut the income tax rate in response. One study of the potential effect from taxing online sales concluded that Wisconsin could see as much as $187 million a year in new revenue.


Do you support states collecting sales taxes on purchases made online by state residents?


Maryland Candidate Pushes Single-Payer Health Care


Ben Jealous once ran the NAACP. Now he wants to be Maryland’s governor. A key part of his platform is imposing a single-payer health care system on the state. Jealous contends that this will improve health care quality and save lives, but critics counter that it will lead to huge tax increases for the state’s residents.


Jealous won his primary election over a crowded field of rivals. Though never holding elective office previously, Jealous triumphed over more experienced politicians by tapping into liberal activists around the state. Ideas like a single-payer health care system helped animate these volunteers.


The plan released by the Jealous campaign has few specifics about how his plan would work.

However, under its broad contours, the state would outlaw private health insurance. Employers would no longer be able to offer their employees health insurance as a benefit and individuals would not be able to purchase their own coverage. Instead, the state would create what Jealous calls a “Medicare for all” system. Under such an arrangement, the state would pay for all health care services.


The Jealous campaign has not specified exactly how this will be funded. Other states that have examined transitioning to a single-payer system, such as Vermont, abandoned efforts because it was too expensive. The Jealous campaign does not give specifics about this proposal’s cost, but it does float some ideas about new taxes to pay for it. These include a tax on employers, a sales tax increase, or increasing the income tax.


Proponents of this system say that it will give everyone in the state access to high-quality, affordable care. They contend that it builds on the state’s current health care pricing system and that it would be a natural extension of the Affordable Care Act. Critics contend that the price tag for such a plan would require huge tax increases. They also note that the federal government would have to grant waivers to implement parts of a single-payer system, something that is unlikely.


Jealous faces incumbent Governor Larry Hogan in November’s election.


Do you support a single-payer health care system?


California Soda Tax Ban Saves Local Taxing Powers


Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill in late June banning local governments from imposing soda taxes, but he was not happy about it. Many legislators who supported the bill were not very keen on it, either.


So why are soda taxes now banned in the Golden State? It all has to do with preserving the ability of local governments to raise taxes. The beverage industry was pushing a statewide initiative that would have made it more difficult for local governments to increase all taxes and many fees. In return for a ban on soda taxes, the beverage industry withdrew the initiative.


The initiative being proposed would have required that any local governmental body seeking to increase taxes and certain fees could only do so through a two-thirds vote. Then such a tax increase could only go into effect if it was approved by two-thirds of the voters. Any tax increase that would have been proposed under the state’s initiative system would also have had to receive approval by two-thirds of the voters under this proposal.


Governor Brown and legislators did not like such restrictions on local governments’ taxing power. They worked with the beverage industry to craft a compromise measure that would end the threat of local soda taxes. Prior to the law being signed, four municipalities in the state imposed such taxes.


Some legislators were glad to see the soda tax ban, but were displeased that such a ban would short-circuit the larger tax limitation measure. They said that this compromise bill ignored the voices of the more than one million Californians who signed petitions to place the tax limit measure on the ballot.


Those supporting the compromise bill said that the tax limit initiative would have crippled local governments’ ability to raise revenue. They said it was better to stop soda taxes rather than impose new limits on how local governments can increase other taxes.


Do you agree with California banning soda taxes? Should local governments be required to get approval from two-thirds of voters before they increase taxes or fees?


Seattle Bans Plastic Straws


If you buy a latte in Seattle, don’t expect to receive a plastic straw with it. If you order carryout food there, you won’t be getting a plastic fork, either.


Seattle recently banned retailers from offering plastic straws and utensils to their customers. Previously, the city had enacted a law that mandated that any food containers or cups offered by retailers must be recyclable. Straws and utensils were originally exempt, but they are now being covered by the same mandate.


Advocates say this law is necessary to reduce plastic waste that ends up in the ocean. They contend that animals ingest plastic, shortening their lifespan. A plastic straw ban, according to them, will help reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste that enters the environment.


Opponents of the straw ban point out that straws make up a miniscule fraction of the plastic waste that reaches the oceans. They also note that biodegradable straws are much more costly than plastic straws and do not work as well. Many business owners oppose this law because they say it is expensive and complicated to comply with.


Under this ordinance, retailers cannot offer straws to customers. If a customer asks for one, then the straw must be both biodegradable and compostable. Business owners that violate this law could face fines up to $250.


Do you support banning plastic straws to help the environment? Or is a straw ban a feel-good gimmick that will have little effect on pollution?


“Stand Your Ground” May Be Coming to Ohio


There is a difference of opinion on gun laws in Ohio between the executive and legislative branches of government. Governor John Kasich is pushing for legislators to approve a package of gun control bills. Instead, legislators are getting ready to vote on a bill that would expand the ability of Ohioans to use deadly force if they felt threatened.


When they return from their summer recess, members of the state House of Representatives will consider a bill that would remove legal liability in some cases where people use lethal force to defend themselves outside their homes or cars. This bill would allow someone to use such force if they felt threatened, and would remove that person’s duty to retreat in the face of such a threat. Similar bills have been passed in other states, and are known as “stand your ground” laws.


This stands in stark contrast to the firearms agenda being pushed by Gov. Kasich. In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Gov. Kasich sent a set of bills to legislators that would impose new limits on gun owners. One of these bills would allow law enforcement to seize weapons from someone they consider a threat.


Those opposed to “stand your ground” bills say they make shootings more likely. They point to the incident where George Zimmerman shot teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. Supporters of such bills counter that they are necessary to allow people to defend their lives when confronted by criminals. In these cases, say supporters, the law should not punish people who think their lives are being threatened.


Gov. Kasich has said he would veto the “stand your ground” bill, but legislative leaders may have the votes to override such a veto.


Do you support “stand your ground” legislation that would make it easier for people to use deadly force if they think they are in danger?


A Battle over Hog Farms in North Carolina


There are a lot of hog farmers in North Carolina. This hog farming produces a lot of jobs in related industries. But for the neighbors of some of these farms, the operations also produce a lot of flies, foul odors, and other nuisances.


This dispute between farmers and their neighbors has not only led to legal battles in the state’s courts, but has also produced a rift between Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and the Republicans who control the state legislature. Governor Cooper recently vetoed a bill that would have limited nuisance lawsuits against farmers, but legislators quickly overrode his veto.


The legislation, SB 711, expands the state’s right-to-farm law to make it more difficult to bring nuisance lawsuits against farming or forestry operations that have been in existence for more than one year. Under this legislation, such lawsuits would be allowed only if the operation undergoes a “fundamental change,” which does not include a new owner, a change in size, the use of new technology, or engaging in a new type of farming or forestry.


This bill comes in the wake of high-profile lawsuits from residents who live near large hog farms. In one April case, a jury awarded $50 million to 10 neighbors who sued over a nearby hog farm. That amount was later reduced. Another trial against Smithfield Farms is currently ongoing.


Governor Cooper vetoed the bill in late June. In his veto message he said, “North Carolina’s nuisance laws can help allow generations of families to enjoy their homes and land without fear for their health and safety… Our laws must balance the needs of businesses versus property rights. Giving one industry special treatment at the expense of its neighbors is unfair.”


Within two days of the governor’s veto, both houses of the legislature voted to override it. Those backing this bill said that farmers who follow state law should not fear that they would be sued for millions of dollars. They pointed out the importance of farming to the state’s economy, contending that nuisance suits could drive farmers out of business.


Do you think that it should be more difficult to sue farmers for nuisances like odors?


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