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Defense Bill Targets China

 

Since 2001, the main priority for the Department of Defense has been stopping terrorism. Under the new Defense Authorization bill passed by Congress, however, our nation’s military will focus much more on China.

 

This legislation authorizes $716 billion in military spending over the next fiscal year while also making a variety of changes in how our nation approaches defense policy. Many of the biggest changes involve China.

 

Among other things, the bill imposes more government scrutiny on American technology sales to China and Chinese investment in the U.S. Under this bill, U.S. universities that host the Confucius Institutes, a Chinese funded center that is accused of spreading propaganda, would face limits on Defense Department funds. The bill also requires an annual report on how the Chinese government is influencing U.S. media, business, academic, and cultural institutions.

 

Notably, the bill did not prohibit American companies from selling technology to Chinese telecom firm ZTE. That is something that some conservative Republicans had pushed for but President Trump had publicly opposed.

 

Beyond these provisions, the bill also calls for adding 15,600 new members of the armed forces and 13 new ships for the navy.

 

President Trump is expected to sign this legislation soon.

 

Do you think that the U.S. military priorities should have a greater focus on China?

 

Colorado Landowners Seeking Compensation for Value Lost to State Regulations

 

States and local governments routinely pass laws and enact regulations that reduce property values. Under a proposed initiative for this year’s Colorado ballot, they may have to compensate landowners when they do so.

 

The “Colorado Compensation to Owners for Decreased Property Value Due to State Regulation Amendment” would mandate that whenever the state enacts regulations that diminish property values, the state must provide just compensation. This would be an addition to the state constitution’s requirement that the state provides compensation when it takes or damages private property.

 

A group of ranchers and farmers is backing this amendment. They are primarily concerned about another proposed constitutional amendment that would severely limit landowners’ ability to explore for natural gas and oil on their land. They contend that it is only fair that if the state is going to enact a law that restricts their ability to use their land to make money, then the state should compensate them.

 

Opponents of this amendment say that it would make it almost impossible for the state and local governments to function. They argue that routine zoning laws could trigger lawsuits. These opponents contend that many laws meant to protect the public reduce the property value of individuals, so it would be a huge financial burden if governments must compensate these owners.

 

The secretary of state is reviewing this amendment to determine if it has enough signatures to be placed on November’s ballot.


Do you think that the government should compensate landowners if government regulations reduce the value of that land?

 

Dueling Medical Marijuana Initiatives on Missouri Ballot

 

Missouri voters will have the chance to make Missouri the 31st state to legalize medicinal marijuana. To accomplish this, however, they will have to choose between three amendments on November’s ballots, each presenting a different way to legalize marijuana for medical use.

 

The three measures that qualified for inclusion on this year’s ballot are Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C. Each one would remove legal penalties for using medical marijuana, but each has a different tax rate and different use for tax revenue.

 

Amendment 2 would tax medical marijuana at a 4% rate, using the revenue for health care and veteran care. Amendment 3 would establish a 15% tax rate on medical marijuana, using that revenue to fund medical research into curing cancer and other diseases. Proposition C would not amend the state constitution, unlike the other two ballot questions. Instead, it would change state law, imposing a 2% tax rate on medical marijuana to be used for health care, drug treatment, public safety, and early childhood education.

 

When there are competing ballot measures concerning the same subject, the one with the most votes generally prevails. However, there could be a legal question if Proposition C, which is merely a statutory change, gains more vote than either of the constitutional amendments. Constitutional amendments are a higher source of authority than a change in state law, so it is likely that the state Supreme Court will decide which measure prevails if that situation occurs.

 

Do you support legalizing medical marijuana?

 

New York City Makes Jail Calls Free

 

When inmates call family or friends from jail, it can be costly. In New York City, however, inmates may soon be able to do something unprecedented – make jailhouse calls for free.

 

Prior to legislation recently passed by the city council, in-state calls from New York City jails cost 5 cents a minute, while out-of-state calls cost 21 cents a minute. The company that provided phone services only allowed prisoners to put $50 on an account at one time, with a $3 fee every time that account received more money.

 

With many people in jail because they cannot find money to pay bail, these fees and charges added up. This led to a movement by prisoners and their families to either reduce the amount being charged or make the calls free.

 

New York City Council members initially supported a bill that would end the city’s ability to profit off of the telecommunication services. Advocates pressed them to end charges completely for the calls, which is what the city council eventually passed in mid-summer.

 

Those who support this measure say that high charges and fees for calls are unfair for struggling families. They contend that the private companies running these services are making huge profits off of a population that has no choice but to pay their extremely high charges. Opponents of the measure counter that these services come with a cost, and it is only right for prisoners and their families to pay for them.

 

With an end to charges on jail calls in New York, there are now efforts in other cities to do the same.

 

Do you think that it is fair to charge prisoners high fees for jailhouse calls? Should jailhouse calls be free?

 

Pennsylvania Nuclear Plants to Close without Subsidies

 

Three Mile Island may be the most famous nuclear plant in the U.S. The site of an accident in the late 1970s that garnered worldwide attention, the plant is still producing power for Pennsylvania today. It may not remain open much longer, however. To stop this plant from closing, the nuclear industry is lobbying for a bailout from Pennsylvania lawmakers.

 

Facing competition from lower-priced natural gas power plants, Three Mile Island and other nuclear plants are increasingly unprofitable. The only hope to remain open that the owners of these plants see is a subsidy from the state. In arguing for state help, nuclear advocates point out that these plants generate electricity without any carbon emissions. They say that if Pennsylvania wants to combat climate change, nuclear plants are a vital part of that effort. Subsidy supporters also talk about the hundreds of jobs that will be lost with every nuclear plant closure.

 

These arguments have met resistance in Harrisburg. Subsidy opponents argue that nuclear plants should compete on the free market. If they cannot offer electricity to consumers at an affordable price, they should shut down. The state, these opponents say, should not prop up unprofitable businesses, and that includes nuclear power plants. Those who are against the subsidy also note that Pennsylvania is a large natural gas producer, so it should welcome the growing use of natural gas for electricity generation to replace nuclear power.

 

Legislators who support nuclear subsidies formed a caucus during this year’s legislative session in Harrisburg and held hearings that discussed the importance of nuclear power. Three Mile Island is scheduled to close next year, so these legislators will likely begin to press for subsidy legislation soon.

 

Do you think that Pennsylvania legislators should approve subsidies for nuclear power plants?

 

Virginia Governor Denounces Plan to Arm Teachers

 

If the school board in a small Virginia county gets its way, teachers and staff members will soon be allowed to carry guns. This does not please Governor Ralph Northam. He has come out against the proposal, urging the attorney general to look into its legality.

 

Lee County is a rural county in the southwest part of Virginia. Its school board unanimously voted to allow some teachers and staff members to carry concealed weapons or store them in lockers at school. County officials have said that they cannot afford to hire more security for schools, so permitting staff members to carry guns is the only option to provide greater protection to students.

 

Governor Northam said that arming teachers is not a good idea. He said that school districts should wait for an opinion by the attorney general before undertaking this action. The attorney general’s office is researching the matter, but Attorney General Mark Herring has said that the law bans guns in schools with very few exceptions.

 

The issue of allowing teachers to carry guns to protect students has been discussed across the country after recent school shootings. Those in favor of the idea think that a teacher with a gun could be the first line of defense if a school shooting occurs. Others say that teachers should not be responsible for confronting armed intruders. Instead, those like Gov. Northam support providing more money for schools to hire security officers.


Do you support allowing teachers and school employees to carry guns to stop school shootings? Or should the government provide more money to schools in order to hire security guards?

 

Michigan Milk Facility to Receive Millions in Subsidies

 

Two milk processing companies are making plans to build a $510 million facility in central Michigan. This would help support the state’s agricultural industry, but it comes at a price – millions of dollars in state subsidies.

 

Michigan is one of the top milk-producing states in the nation. It lacks adequate processing facilities to handle all of the milk its cows can produce. That is why a company is looking at building a $425 million dairy processing plant north of Lansing, with another company seeking to build an $85 million byproduct processing plant next door.

 

This would be a large investment in the central Michigan region, but it would not be a completely private investment, however. The state of Michigan is looking at offering these companies $26 million in tax incentives.

 

Proponents of the subsidies say that the processing center is vital to ensuring that Michigan has a healthy dairy industry. They say that subsidies are necessary to counter the offers coming from other states. Opponents counter that this is a taxpayer giveaway to private corporations. They note that if there is so much dairy supply in Michigan, then there is little need for these companies to receive taxpayer handouts to make this project work.

 

If approved, this facility would be completed in 2020.

 

Do you think that Michigan should provide subsidies to milk processing plants or other private businesses?

 

California Won’t Be Dividing into Three States

 

California is the third-largest state in the U.S. Some residents think it is too big; they want it divided into three states. This proposal obtained enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but the state Supreme Court removed it. This does not end the fight to divide California, but makes it more difficult for proponents to see their dream of two new states joining the union.

 

Under the Proposition 9, California would be split into California, Northern California, and Southern California. Tim Draper, a venture capitalist, proposed the idea and was the main backer of the initiative. He helped collect the necessary signatures to place it on the ballot, with over 460,000 valid signatures being submitted to the state.

 

That led to a court challenge on the grounds that this ballot initiative violated the state constitution’s ban on initiatives making a major change to the constitution. Draper argued that this would not be a change to the constitution but a nullification of it. The state Supreme Court did not agree with Draper, and pulled the measure from the ballot.

 

Those supporting this initiative say that breaking the state up would lead to more responsive government. They contend that California is too large and too diverse to be governed by one state government. They also note that this would lead to lead to six U.S. senators representing a population that has two senators currently. Opponents countered that there is power in being a large state. They also noted that there have been past efforts to divide the state that have never been popular with Californians.

 

The U.S. Constitution allows new states to be formed from existing states with the consent of the existing state’s legislature and the U.S. Congress. There is some question whether or not a ballot initiative can provide this consent instead of a legislature.

 

Draper, who previously supported a proposal to break California into six states, will continue pursuing this issue after the 2018 election.


Do you support splitting California into three states?

 

Is Rent Control Coming to Illinois?

 

Rent hikes are a source of loud complaints across Chicago. Some activists think that government should put controls on how high rental increases can go, but state law forbids this. The Democratic candidate for governor wants to lift this prohibition.

 

Currently, state law does not allow local governments to place caps on rent increases. This prevents Chicago or other cities from enacting rent control. In three city wards, however, activists have placed a measure on the November ballot that would gauge voters’ opinion on rent control. These measures are non-binding, but would indicate whether or not these residents support rent control.

 

J.B. Pritzker, the Democrat running for governor, would like to repeal the state law banning rent control. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner does not support repeal. His opposition to allowing rent control has likely played a role in preventing serious consideration of a repeal bill in the legislature. A Chicago legislator has proposed the establishment of county boards, controlled by tenants, which would keep rent increases at 4-6% a year for elderly and low-income renters or renters with disabilities.

 

Supporters of rent control say that it is a way to prevent landlords from pricing out low-income residents in the face of gentrification. They say rent control is a good way to stabilize neighborhoods and promote affordable housing. Rent control opponents say that the use of rent control in cities like New York has demonstrated that it leads to reduced investment in housing and higher rental rates for those not covered by rent control.

 

Do you think that the government should tell landlords how much they can raise rent?

 

Study Finds “Medicare for All” Would be Costly

 

Single-payer health care, or “Medicare for All,” is becoming a popular campaign issue for many candidates. Ben Jealous, running for Maryland governor, supports it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, candidate for the House of Representatives from New York, does, too. Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill that would implement it.

 

So how much would this new health care system cost?

 

According to a new report by the Mercatus Center, federal spending would rise by $32.6 trillion during the first 10 years of a single-payer system. This amount would be equal to 10.7% of the national gross domestic product in 2022. In 2031, the amount would increase to 12.7% of GDP and go up after that.

 

The study lays out a variety of reasons for this large price tag. A single-payer system would require that the federal government pay for all current state and private health care spending. It would also provide coverage for the uninsured and would drive greater use of health care services. The report’s authors caution that their estimate may be low, given that they assume that members of Congress would have the political will to reduce payments to health care providers and decrease the prices the federal government pays for drugs.

 

To find the money for single-payer, this report concluded: “A doubling of all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan.”

 

Supporters of “Medicare for All” dispute these numbers, saying that a federally-run health care system would find efficiencies through lower administrative costs. They also note that although the federal government would take on these costs, average Americans would no longer be paying for health insurance premiums. Some critics of the Mercatus Center report have also pointed out that this think tank has a libertarian ideology, so it would not be inclined to support a government-run health care system.

 

Do you think that a single-payer health care system would be too expensive for taxpayers?

 

Abortion to Remain Legal in Connecticut Even if Roe v. Wade Overturned

 

With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, many people are worried that the high court may overturn the landmark abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade. This ruling legalized abortion nationwide, regardless of state laws. Regardless of what happens at the national level, however, Connecticut has already enacted a strong law to protect abortion in that state.

 

While many observers discount the possibility, some pro-choice activists are concerned that Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court could lead to a majority that would overrule Roe v. Wade. If that happened, there would no longer be a national right to an abortion. The issue would once again fall to state legislatures to determine.

 

If this happens, abortion will be illegal in states that have legalized it. Many states do not have such a law.

 

Connecticut is different – it has already enacted a law that expressly permits abortion. This law does not have many restrictions on the procedure. For instance, there is no mandate that minors seek parental permission prior to obtaining an abortion. There is also no prohibition on using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. There is also no waiting period for abortions in the state and late-term abortions are permitted, but must be performed in a hospital.

 

For those who support legalized abortion, Connecticut is an example of what states should be doing to protect access to this procedure. For abortion opponents, however, the state’s law illustrates the extreme nature that some states will go to in order to remove reasonable restrictions on the procedure.

 

Do you think that states should enact laws to keep abortion legal if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade?

 

Court Rejects Miami Cab Request to Block Uber, Lyft

 

With the advent of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, taxicab companies are facing stiff competition. In Miami-Dade County, taxicab owners sued the county after it legalized these ride-sharing services, contending that this competition devalued their business. A federal judge recently rejected these claims, saying that the government has no duty to protect taxicabs from competition.

 

Prior to the arrival of Uber and Lyft, owning a taxicab medallion in Miami-Dade County was a lucrative investment. The county handed out a limited number of these medallions, limiting taxicab numbers. The government cap on cabs limited competition, ensuring a high price for medallions. With the county’s legalization of ride-sharing services, however, the price of a taxicab medallion in Miami-Dade County has fallen by 90%.

 

In response, Checker Cab, B&S Taxi, and Miadeco sued the county. They argued that they had a property interest in the value of a taxicab medallion. Legalizing competing services, they claimed, was an illegal government “taking” of their property.

 

In early August, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected that argument. These judges held that these companies are not entitled to a competition-free marketplace. The court ruled that these taxicab companies could not force the government to protect them from competition. The taxicab medallions are licenses to operate taxi services, not licenses to have no competitors.

 

There have been other suits of this type brought by taxicab companies. A similar suit in Chicago led to the same holding, with a federal circuit court finding that taxicab companies had no legal right to be free from competition.

 

Do you think that Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services are unfair competition for taxi companies? Should courts protect taxicab owners from competition?

 

Should Arizona Expand Education Savings Accounts?

 

Arizona legislators want to expand student access to state-funded savings accounts that could be used to pay for private school tuition. A group called Save our Schools Arizona doesn’t like that idea. In November, the state’s voters will decide the future of education choice in the state.

 

In 2017, Arizona legislators passed a law that Governor Doug Ducey signed that would expand the use of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs). These accounts were first established in 2011 for students with disabilities whose parents opt them out of the public school system. The state Department of Education funds ESAs at 90% of the state’s spending for a student in his or her public school district. The money in an ESA can be used for education expenses such as private school tuition or textbooks. Under the 2017 legislation, any Arizona student would be eligible for an ESA.

 

Save our Schools Arizona collected enough signatures to place this issue on the ballot as a “veto referendum.” This will allow voters to overturn the law if a majority votes “no” in November.

 

The opponents of expanded ESAs contend that this is nothing more than a way to funnel taxpayer money to private schools. They argue that this will drain funding from public schools that do not have enough money. They also say that it will hurt the state’s efforts to improve education, something that will slow job growth.

 

Supporters of allowing more students access to ESAs counter that this is simply giving parents more control over the money being spent to educate their children. They say that parents, not bureaucrats, can better manage the money so that their children receive a better education. They also note that the opposition to expanding ESAs come from people who want to prop up public schools, no necessarily improve education for individual students.

 

Do you think that Arizona should provide resources so that parents have more education choices for children? Or are state-funded education savings accounts a way to undermine Arizona public schools?

 

Connecticut Senator Calls on Tech Companies to “Do More” to Combat Hate Speech

 

Alex Jones and Infowars had long pushed the boundaries of acceptable political speech, pushing false conspiracy theories about numerous events, ranging from the September 11th attacks to the Sandy Hook shootings. Social media companies had long faced calls to remove him from their platforms, and finally did so in early August. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy applauded the move, but urged these companies to go even further in policing their content. That prompted some to accuse Sen. Murphy of advocating censorship.

 

The discredited conspiracy theories advocated by Alex Jones have been condemned by people across the political spectrum. In response to his repeated false assertion that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, families of the victims recently sued Jones. Facebook, YouTube, Apple, and Spotify then removed Infowars content in early August.

 

For Sen. Murphy, this was a good first step. The Sandy Hook shooting took place in his state, and he had long been critical of the Jones. After his removal from social media, Sen. Murphy tweeted, “Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.”

 

While many people supported Sen. Murphy’s words, others questioned whether a government official should be asking private companies to remove content. To these critics, it appeared that Sen. Murphy was edging close to using government pressure to police speech.

 

Reacting to criticism, Sen. Murphy followed up the next day with this tweet: “Private companies deciding not to let their platforms be used to spread hate and lies is not the same as government censorship. If it feels the same, then we need to ask why a small handful of companies have so much control over the content Americans see.”

 

Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have terms of services that lay out what is acceptable content by their users. As private companies, they can remove speech that violates these terms of use. Even though there was no First Amendment violation with their actions, some observers are wary of these companies policing political content. They say that this could lead to more mainstream voices being silenced if they upset politicians like Sen. Murphy.

 

Do you think that Facebook and Twitter were right to remove Alex Jones and Infowars? Should senators be calling on private companies to police their content?

 

Prominent Confederate Flag Coming Down in Virginia

 

A group in Virginia has been installing Confederate flags around the state, prompting a backlash from some residents. In this debate, issues of history, racism, zoning, and commemorating the past all come together.

 

The Virginia Flaggers have existed since 2011 with the mission of putting up Confederate battle flags near heavily-traveled roads. They were formed in response to efforts at the local level to remove or alter monuments commemorating the Confederacy. In addition to erecting flags, they have also protested at sites where local governments have debated Confederate monuments or the display of Confederate flags.

 

In March, the group placed a flag near I-64 in Louisa County. Recently county’s Board of Zoning Appeals decided that the flagpole that this flag was placed on violated zoning rules by being too high. The Virginia Flaggers argued that this was a monument, and thus exempt from height requirement. The board did not accept this argument and ordered the flagpole lowered or removed.

 

Those supporting the placement of Confederate flags across the state say that they are reacting to efforts that would cleanse the state of its Confederate history. They say that there is nothing wrong with remembering the Confederacy and memorializing the men who died fighting for it. Those opposed to the proliferation of Confederate flags say that this group is celebrating a treasonous government that fought to preserve slavery.

 

There has been an ongoing debate in the Virginia General Assembly over legislation that would allow local governments to remove Confederate monuments.

 

Do you think that flying the Confederate flag honors Virginia’s history as part of the Confederacy? Or does flying of the Confederate flag celebrate racism?

 

New Hampshire Says Students Must Be Residents to Vote

 

College students who come to New Hampshire from other states will now find it a little more difficult to vote. Under new legislation, they must become state residents if they want to cast a ballot in New Hampshire. Proponents say this will restore integrity in the state’s voting process, while opponents liken this new requirement to a poll tax.

 

There has long been concern in New Hampshire over the votes of out-of-state college students. In 1972, a federal court invalidated a New Hampshire law that only allowed college students to vote if they intended to stay in the state. That court said that the Constitution protected someone’s right to vote where they lived. In 2015, the state Supreme Court overruled another law that told potential voters that they could register only if they intended to live in the state indefinitely.

 

During that time, the standard for voting in New Hampshire depended on whether you domiciled in the state, which is defined as living in New Hampshire more than any other state. Under the law recently signed by Governor Chris Sununu, now someone must establish residency in New Hampshire in order to register to vote. That residency process involves obtaining a state driver’s license and registering one’s car in New Hampshire (which means paying a state fee).

 

Because of constitutional concerns over the law, legislators asked the state Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on its legality. By a 3-2 vote, the court issued an opinion that the new laws was legal under the state’s constitution.

 

The legislators who backed this law say that it is necessary to prevent out-of-state students who aren’t state residents from influencing New Hampshire’s elections. Opponents say that since establishing residency would trigger state fees, this amounts to a poll tax that is illegal under the U.S. Constitution. They say that this is an attempt to squelch the votes of liberal-leaning college voters.

 

Once this measure goes into effect, there will likely be a court case challenging its legality.

 

Do you think that New Hampshire is right to make students establish residency in order to vote in the state?

 

Sherrod Brown Pushing for Federal Loans to Prop up Pensions

 

Many pension plans are facing an uncertain future. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio has a plan to help them out – federal loans.

 

Senator Brown has introduced S. 2147, which would create the Pension Rehabilitation Administration. This new government agency would make loans to multi-employer pension plans that are declining, in critical status, or are insolvent. These loans would be for a 30-year term. To qualify, pension plans could not increase benefits over this 30-year term or allow for a reduction in contributions to the plan.

 

The pension plans that would be covered by this legislation are indeed facing an insolvency crisis. Some estimates put their unfunded liabilities at as much as $68 billion. Roughly 1.5 million Americans have retirement benefits that come or could come from these pensions.

 

Under Sen. Brown’s bill, aid to the pension plans would be in the form of loans that are supposed to be paid back to the government. However, there is no guarantee that such loans would be repaid. The Congressional Budget Office looked at the bill’s details and concluded that it could cost as much as $100 billion in federal dollars to support these plans. That number would be less if the pension plans were able to repay their loans.

 

Sen. Brown says this legislation is necessary to ensure that Americans can have access to the pensions they worked for and that were promised to them. Opponents of the legislation say that is a taxpayer bailout of union pension funds that made irresponsible financial decisions with workers’ money.

 

While Senator Brown’s bill has 22 co-sponsors, none of them are Republicans. That means it is unlikely that his proposal will be acted upon by the Senate this year.

 

Do you agree with Senator Sherrod Brown that the federal government should make loans to pension plans to guarantee workers’ retirement money? Or is it wrong for taxpayers to bail out union pension plans?

 

New Jersey Resumes Subsidizing Filmmakers

 

The Garden State is back in the film subsidy business. After a hiatus during Gov. Chris Christie’s term, the state’s subsidy program for filmmakers is being resumed. Proponents hail this as a way to jump-start New Jersey’s film industry, while critics paint it as a handout to wealthy film companies.

 

Governor Christie disliked film subsidies and worked with legislators to discontinue them when he was in office. The new governor, Phil Murphy, came into office stressing a variety of differences with Christie. Film subsidies is one of them. He recently signed a bill into law that revives state tax credits for film companies.

 

Under this legislation, the state can offer $85 million a year in tax credits to companies engaged in film production. For companies operating in northern New Jersey, they can receive a tax credit equal to 30% of their qualified production expenses. Companies in southern New Jersey will receive a credit of 35%. Digital media are also eligible for these credits, but at a 20% or 25% rate. Companies with a diversity program can receive even more state aid.

 

These credits will be applied against a company’s tax liability. Unlike in some states, these credits are not refundable – that is, a company will only receive them if they have a tax liability. Some states provide “tax credits” even if companies do not owe state taxes, essentially turning the credits into payments by the state to the production companies. The New Jersey credits will be transferable, however, meaning that production companies that don’t use them can sell them to other companies that do owe taxes.

 

Gov. Murphy and legislators who support this tax credit program say that it is vital to attracting film production to New Jersey. They say that other states offer companies these credits, so New Jersey must do so, too, if it wants to have a strong film industry. Opponents point to numerous academic studies that conclude these subsidies produce little in the way of new jobs or long-lasting economic impact. They say that these subsidies are nothing more than corporate welfare for out-of-state companies that are not struggling economically.

 

This tax credit program will last for five years, then it must be renewed by the legislature.

 

Do you support states giving tax credits or other subsidies to film companies?

 

Missouri Set to Vote on Right-to-Work Law

 

In 2017, Missouri legislators and then-Governor Eric Greitens enacted a law that would make Missouri a right-to-work state. Labor groups organized to stop this legislation through the referendum process. As a result, over a year later, voters will determine the future of organized labor in Missouri.

 

If voters pass Proposition A on August 7, it will enshrine the state’s right-to-work act into law. This would end the requirement that Missouri workers either join a union or pay a fee to a union as a condition of employment.

 

After Republicans took both houses of the legislature and governor’s mansion with the election of Gov. Greitens, they made passage of a right-to-work law a priority. Labor leaders have been able to delay its enactment through the veto referendum process. By collecting signatures and placing it on the ballot, voters have a chance to veto this law by voting “no.”

 

Supporters of right-to-work legislation say that no one should be forced to join a union or pay a fee to a union in order to work. They contend that unions should attract workers and their money voluntarily, not through the state forcing workers to fund labor organizations. Those opposed to these laws contend that since unions bargain on behalf of every worker at a business, no worker should be able to “free ride” on the benefits provided by unions.

 

If affirmed by the voters, Missouri would become the 28th state to enact right-to-work legislation.

 

Do you support right-to-work laws? Should workers be free to decide on whether to pay dues or fees to a union? Or are workers who refuse to join a union or pay fees to it free-riding off that union’s efforts on behalf of them?

 

West Virginia Voters May Strip Abortion Rights from Constitution

 

“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”

This November, that is the language that West Virginia voters will decide whether to place in the state’s constitution.

 

Nationally, there has been a lot of attention on the future of abortion rights due the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court. Some observers fear that with a more conservative justice on the court, cases could be brought that will further limit abortion or even overturn the case that made it legal throughout the U.S.

 

This battle over abortion is also being fought at the state level, however. In 1993, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion. The court also held that the constitution mandated that the state fund abortion the same way it does other health services. That means that West Virginia’s Medicaid system pays for abortions.

 

If this constitutional amendment passes, abortion will not be outlawed in West Virginia. What it does mean is that legislators would face fewer limitations in what types of regulations they place on abortion. They would be bound only by federal law, not the state Supreme Court decision. They could decide, for instance, to stop state funding of abortions.

 

In the event of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturns Roe v. Wade and returns the decision-making authority over abortion’s legality to the states, this constitutional amendment would then open the door to a state ban on abortion. Without state constitutional protection of the practice, legislators would be free to do as they wished on this issue if there is no federal abortion right.

 

Do you think the West Virginia Constitution should protect abortion rights? Or does the state constitution go too far in requiring taxpayer funding of abortions?

 

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