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Recreational Marijuana May Be Legalized in New Jersey

Legislators in New Jersey today considered a package of bills that, if passed, could make the state the eleventh to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

 

Committees in both the Assembly and the Senate held hearings on legislation to expand the state’s medicinal marijuana program, permit marijuana to be used for recreational purposes, and allow more crimes to be eligible for expungement.

 

One of the bills under consideration would allow state residents who are 21 or older to possess an ounce of cannabis for personal uses. Smoking marijuana in public would be treated similar to smoking tobacco. Home cultivation would not be allowed under this legislation. The state would tax the sale of legal marijuana at 12%, with local governments able to impose another 2% tax rate.

 

Another bill would allow medical marijuana patients to possess 3 ounces of cannabis. Currently they can only possess 2 ounces. These patients could also buy edible marijuana products under this legislation and could buy from any dispensary, instead of being limited to one dispensary as they currently are today.

 

Governor Phil Murphy is supportive of legalization, but has differed with legislators on the details. For instance, he pushed for a 25% tax rate on legal marijuana sales. Legislators ultimately put a lower rate in legislation in order to deter black market sales.

 

Both legislative bodies are controlled by Democrats, and there are indications that a majority of legislators support some form of legalization.

 

Of the 11 states that allow legal use of recreational marijuana, only Vermont has legalized the use through the legislative process. The other 10 states passed legalization through ballot measures.

 

Do you support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes?

Obamacare Contraception Mandate Being Revised

For the past six years, there have been legal and regulatory fights over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. With the Trump Administration getting set to announce new rules on the mandate, it appears these fights will continue for years to come.

 

The ACA, or Obamacare, mandated that employers provide contraception coverage as part of their health insurance benefit at no charge to their employees. The Obama Administration wrote rules that required employers to offer coverage for all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This has led to ongoing lawsuits over the constitutionality of the mandate. The Supreme Court has ruled in one case that some corporations can be exempt from the mandate on religious grounds.

 

In response to another court cases, both the Obama and Trump Administrations have been devising regulations that would allow certain religious-based nonprofits to claim an exemption from the mandate. Several states challenged the Trump Administration’s 2017 rules that would have given a broad religious exemption from the mandate and a federal court struck them down.


The Trump Administration is preparing new rules that will attempt to survive a legal challenge. Observers expect them to give wide leeway to groups that do not want to provide coverage of contraceptive services that violate their religious beliefs.

 

Opponents of an expansive exemption to the contraception mandate say that the religious beliefs of employers should not dictate what types of health care that employees receive. They argue that contraception decisions are between a patient and a doctor, so an employer should have no say over it.

 

Those who favor a broad exception to the mandate say that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to force people to pay for contraceptive services that they view as immoral. They point out that this contraception would not be banned, and that employees could purchase it on their own.

 

It is unclear when the Trump Administration will announce these new contraceptive mandate rules. When it does, there will likely be lawsuits challenging them.

 

Do you think that religious nonprofits should be forced to offer contraceptive coverage even if such contraception violates the religious beliefs of those who operate the organization?

Harvard Trial Could Have Big Impact on Affirmative Action

Does Harvard’s “race-conscious” admissions policy illegally discriminate against Asian-American students?

That is the question at the heart of the trial that began this week pitting a group of Asian-American students against the Ivy League college. The Supreme Court has ruled that schools cannot use racial quotas in admissions, but has allowed some consideration of race.

 

The students are suing Harvard under the theory that the school’s race-conscious admissions policy allows it to manipulate potential students’ scores to achieve a certain racial balance. They contend that Asian-American students receive lower scores in some areas to balance out their higher academic and extracurricular activity scores. They argue that a race-blind process would lead to more Asian-American students allowed into Harvard.


The school denies discriminating against Asian-American students. It says that diversity is an important goal for an academic community that would be undermined if the courts find that using race-conscious admissions is illegal.

 

The group Students for Fair Admissions has brought this lawsuit. Its spokesman has said that affirmative action is not the issue here, but this case could lead to the Supreme Court. If that happens, the high court would have the opportunity to decide whether or not any racial factors should be at play when schools decide whom to admit and whom to deny.

 

Do you think that race should be a factor in college admissions?

 

Equal Rights Amendment an Issue in Virginia Senate Race

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Transgender Discrimination Ban up for a Vote in Massachusetts

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Supreme Court, Abortion an Issue in New Hampshire Governor’s Race

 

Governors do not have any say over who sits on the U.S. Supreme Court. But in the New Hampshire gubernatorial race, President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the nation’s high court has become an area of contention.

 

Incumbent Governor Chris Sununu joined 29 of his fellow governors in signing a letter to U.S. Senate leaders in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination. This has led to attacks on Sununu by his Democratic challengers who question the governor’s pro-choice credentials for supporting Kavanaugh.

 

According one of the Democrats running for governor, Molly Kelly, Kavanaugh could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that found a constitutional right to an abortion. If Gov. Sununu truly is pro-choice, they argue, then he would not support Kavanaugh’s nomination.

 

Governor Sununu countered that he continues to believe in a woman’s right to an abortion. He said that his signature on the letter to Senate leadership was in favor of a fair process for Kavanaugh. Sununu also said that he did not have a litmus test for the judges he has chosen as governor, only a requirement that they follow the Constitution.

 

Kelly pointed out that if Roe were overturned, then states would have to enact laws to protect abortion. She has vowed to do this. Her opponent in the Democratic primary, Steve Marchand, has laid out a plan that would provide taxpayer funding for abortion in New Hampshire.

 

Do you think that pro-choice governors should signal their support for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination? Should states enact laws that will keep abortion legal in the event the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade?

 

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?

 

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?

 

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?

 

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?

 

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?

 

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?

 

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?

 

“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?

 

Sports Betting Coming to New Jersey

 

With Governor Tom Murphy and legislators fighting over a state budget, it may seem that not much could bring lawmakers in Trenton together. Perhaps only one issue could unite the divided state capitol – gambling. Legislators recently passed legislation to allow sports betting in the state, and there was not a single vote in dissent.

 

This move by New Jersey legislators is only appropriate. The Supreme Court case that overturned the federal ban on sports betting was originally named Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, with the “Christie” in the title referring to the state’s former governor, Chris Christie.

 

That case arose when New Jersey voters approved a 2011 non-binding resolution to move forward with sports betting. In 2012, the legislature passed an act allowing such betting, and the state was promptly sued by a variety of sports leagues. Governor Christie fought back, setting in motion a court case that invalidated the 1992 federal law requiring states that banned sports betting at that time to continue banning such bets into the future.

 

With the Supreme Court ruling in mid-May that the federal government overstepped its authority with this law, states are now free to legalize sports betting. New Jersey’s law will establish a set of regulations for these bets. It would also tax them at a rate of 8.5% in person and 13% for Internet bets. State casinos are already gearing up to offer wagering on a variety of sports events.

 

Do you support states expanding gambling to include betting on sports?

 

Maryland National Guard Pulled Off Border to Protest Family Separation

 

The federal policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S./Mexican border has spurred a firestorm of controversy throughout June. In response to the enforcement of this policy, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has ordered his state’s National Guard troops on the border to come home.

 

President Trump has asked governors to send members of their National Guard units to the border to help support the activities of the federal Customs and Border Patrol. Governor Hogan responded by dispatching a National Guard helicopter and its crew to the area.

 

On June 20, however, Governor Hogan gave orders that the crew return home. He then tweeted, “Until this policy of separating children from their families has been rescinded, Maryland will not deploy any National Guard resources to the border. Earlier this morning, I ordered our 4 crewmembers & helicopter to immediately return from where they were stationed in New Mexico.” The governor was referring to the federal policy of family separation at the border. The Trump Administration is charging these parents with criminal offenses, which results in children being removed from their parents’ custody.

 

There has been a furor over this policy in the weeks before Governor Hogan made his announcement. While family separation at the border has long been allowed, prior to the Trump Administration it was general practice not to charge parents with children with a criminal offense. If a parent is making an asylum claim after being charged with a criminal offense, it can lead to a child being separated from his or her parents for a significant period of time.

 

Elected officials from both policies have called on President Trump to reverse his administration’s actions regarding family separation. President Trump has called on Congress to change the law that allows separation.

 

President Trump has since ordered an end to the family separation policy.

 

Do you think that Governor Hogan was right to remove Maryland’s National Guard units from the border to protest the policy of family separation?

Missouri Legislators Tackle Marriage Age, Abortion, and Charter Schools

 

The political news in Missouri is dominated by the scandal surrounding Governor Eric Greitens, who is facing a criminal trial and announced Tuesday he would resign effective Friday at 5 p.m. In the face of the media circus surrounding the governor, the work of governing must go on. Legislators recently completed work on a variety of bills for the year. Here are how some of the big issues fared during this year’s Missouri legislative session:

 

Marriage age: It will no longer be possible for someone under 16 to get married in Missouri. Legislators passed a bill that prohibits marriage under this age and requires anyone who is 16 or 17 to get his or her parents’ permission to get married. Anyone who is over 21 will not be able to marry anyone under 18.

 

Lieutenant governor appointment: The Senate passed a measure that would allow the governor to appoint a lieutenant governor if there is a vacancy in that office. The Senate would confirm this appointment. The House rejected this proposal, however, leaving unclear the process for filling a vacancy in that office. This issue was highlighted in the legislature because Gov. Greitens could have been removed from office. He has since announced his resignation, and the current lieutenant governor will assume the governorship.

 

Gas tax: Legislators voted to place a ballot measure before voters in November that would raise the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon. The increase from the current tax rate of 17 cents per gallon to 27 cents per gallon would be phased in through 2022. The proceeds are slated to fund road projects and the highway patrol.

 

Charter schools: Currently, Missouri only allows charter schools to operate in Kansas, St. Louis, and unaccredited school districts. Legislation to expand charter schools statewide received support from two House committees but never received a vote from the full House.

 

Abortion: The House passed a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks. The Senate failed to take this measure up.

 

Non-discrimination: A House committee passed legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The full House never considered the bill, however.

 

Do you think that the marriage age should be set at 16? Should abortions after 20 weeks be banned? Do you support expanding the use of charter schools?

 

Marijuana Legalization Coming to New Mexico?

 

If you want to use marijuana recreationally in New Mexico, you’re breaking the law. If some politicians running for election their way, however, next year could see a big change in how the state treats recreational marijuana users.

 

Nine other states have legalized marijuana, but legislation to do this in New Mexico has been blocked in the legislature. The current governor, Susana Martinez, also opposes legalization. A number of candidates running for both governor and legislative seats are taking a different position, however.

Two of the three Democratic candidates running for governor support legalization. A June 5 primary will determine who faces the lone Republican running for this office, who does not support allowing recreational marijuana use.

 

The state Democratic Party passed a platform plank at its convention this year that backs legalization. State Rep. Javier Martinez is planning a statewide tour to raise support for the issue in anticipation of a legislative push in the 2019 session.

 

According to a poll done earlier this year, a strong majority of New Mexican residents support marijuana legalization.

 

Those who want to keep marijuana illegal in the state point to New Mexico’s high rate of driving while intoxicated and drug addiction. They say that making marijuana legal will only worsen these problems. Supporters of legalization contend that regulating and taxing the drug’s sales will lead to responsible consumption and much-needed revenue for the state.

 

Do you think that marijuana for recreational use should be legalized in New Mexico?

 

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