Social Issues

Commentary & Community

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?

 

New Hampshire Passes Transgender Discrimination Bill

 

Under a new law signed by Gov. Chris Sununu, transgender individuals in New Hampshire will have expanded civil rights protections. This issue has sparked controversy in other states, notably North Carolina, but the New Hampshire bill passed with bipartisan support.

 

This new law extends existing protections from discrimination to transgender individuals. Prior to the law’s enactment, New Hampshire law made it illegal to discriminate against individuals based on their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation in employment, housing, or public accommodations. The new laws adds gender identity to the list.

 

Most states do not extend protection from discrimination based on gender identity. When the Charlotte City Council did so in North Carolina, it prompted a state law that prohibited local anti-discrimination ordinances. This prompted a national backlash that led state officials to modify that law.

 

Opponents of the law say that this will allow men to use women’s bathrooms, giving sexual predators easier access to their victims. They often refer to this type of legislation as “bathroom bills.” Supporters of protecting individuals based on their gender identity counter that there is no evidence that these laws make it easier to commit crime. They contend that such laws are necessary to protect transgender individuals from being denied housing and jobs.

 

This legislation passed with both Democratic and Republican support in New Hampshire. Governor Sununu, a Republican, signed it into law in mid-May.

 

Do you think that the government should protect individuals from discrimination based on their gender identity?

 

Abortion Ultrasound Bill Vetoed in Minnesota

 

Should doctors ask women seeking an abortion if they would like to see an ultrasound of the fetus? In Minnesota, legislators and Governor Mark Dayton disagree on this issue. In early May, Governor Dayton vetoed a bill that would mandate that doctors do this, illustrating the divisions in the state over this controversial issue.

 

The legislation at question would have required doctors to as a woman if she would like to see an ultrasound picture of her fetus prior to starting the abortion procedure. The bill would not have mandated that a woman view the ultrasound.

 

Governor Dayton vetoed this bill, saying that it interfered with the doctor-patient relationship. He also pointed out that the state medical association and the state’s association for obstetricians and gynecologists were opposed to it, too.

 

Supporters of the bill said that it was a way to provide more information to women seeking to end their pregnancy. They said that some women may choose a different option if they were able to see an ultrasound prior to an abortion.

 

Many states around the nation have considered laws regulating abortion this year. Some states, such as Iowa, have seen governors sign these restrictions into law. In other states, like Minnesota, there is disagreement between the governor and legislators over what the law should be regarding abortion. Some abortion restrictions enacted recently in states have prompted legal challenges, with courts striking down or putting on hold a few of these new laws.

 

Do you think that doctors should be required to offer an ultrasound picture of the fetus to women prior to an abortion?

 

Taxes, Abortion, and Opioids at Play in Iowa Legislature

 

Iowa legislators went into overtime during their 2018 session. While scheduled to last for 100 days, legislators went well beyond that time limit this year. During this lengthy session, they finalized work on a number of hot-button issues, including tax cuts, abortion restrictions, and new opioid requirements.

 

Taxes

 

Legislators debated a variety of changes to the state’s tax code, but finally settled on a package that cut rates and reformed the code. The final tax reform bill reduced the number of brackets from nine brackets to four, and lowered the top rate from 8.98% to 6.5%. They also reduced the corporate income tax rate from 12% (the highest in the nation) to 9.8%, in addition to making other changes to lower taxes on business income.

 

Abortion

 

Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation that ban abortions if a doctor could detect a fetal heartbeat. This was the second major anti-abortion bill passed in the last two years in Iowa. During the 2017 session, legislators banned abortion after 20 weeks and imposed a three-day waiting period on women seeking abortion. That law has been blocked while the courts consider its legality.

 

Opioids

 

As is the case with many other states, Iowa has had a significant problem with opioid addition and overdoses. Legislators passed a bill that would change state law in a variety of ways to address these problems. One of the provisions place new controls in the state’s prescription monitoring system. Another is a “good Samaritan” provision that would allow people to report overdoses without being charged with a crime. A third part of the bill would require doctors to use electronic prescriptions for opioids to help combat forged written prescriptions.

 

 

Do you think that Iowa taxes should be cut? Do you support legislation to ban abortion if doctors can detect a fetal heart beat? Should opioid prescriptions be subject to strict limits?

 

 

Illinois May Stop Taxpayer-Funded Sexual Harassment Payments

 

More than 200 people have asserted that they have experienced sexual harassment in the Illinois state government. With investigations occurring and public scrutiny at an all-time high on this issue, state lawmakers are moving to prohibit any taxpayer funds from being used by legislators to pay sexual harassment claims.

 

A bill passed unanimously in the state House of Representatives would bar the use of public funds to pay anyone for “his or her silence or inaction related to an allegation or investigation of sexual harassment” concerning a member of the General Assembly. The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

 

This legislation comes in the wake of reports from state legislatures and Congress that government funds have been used to pay for settlements in sexual harassment claims. The revelations of these payments, as well as fresh accusations of sexual misconduct, have led to legislators and members of Congress resigning.

 

 

Even though there are allegations of harassment in the Illinois state government, there have been no harassment-related resignations in the General Assembly. There have been actions to address these issues in the state, however. Legislators must now attend mandatory sexual harassment training. They are also holding hearings on other bills that are aimed at addressing the issue. The task force that has been formed to deal with harassment will release a report later this year.

 

If the Senate passes the ban on taxpayer-funded sexual harassment payments and the governor signs it, any legislators facing accusations will be required to use their private funds to settle such cases.

 

Do you think that taxpayers should provide money for legislators to settle sexual harassment claims?

Pennsylvania May Ban Abortions Based on Down Syndrome Diagnosis

 

Abortion has been a controversial issue for decades, as lawmakers at the state and national level fight over laws to limit or expand access to abortion services. The latest battleground in the war over abortion is in Pennsylvania, where legislators may pass a bill limiting the procedure based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

 

Members of the Pennsylvania House Committee have advanced a bill that would prohibit doctors from performing an abortion if the woman seeking it is doing so based solely on the diagnosis that the fetus may have Down syndrome. This legislation is likely to be taken up by the full House soon.

 

Down syndrome is a genetic condition resulting from someone possessing three copies of chromosome 21, rather than two. Individuals with the condition experience intellectual impairment and a higher risk of childhood leukemia, among other conditions. Genetic tests can give a fairly reliable indication if a fetus has this extra chromosome. In the U.S. roughly two-thirds of the women who learn that they are carrying a baby with Down syndrome choose to abort.

 

The support and opposition for this bill falls along the usual lines, with many Republicans expressing a pro-life stance while many Democrats express opposition to more government restrictions on abortion. This bill is similar to laws passed in Ohio, North Dakota, Indiana, and Louisiana. In March, a federal judge has blocked Ohio’s law from going into effect after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit against it. Another federal judge struck down parts of Indiana’s law.

 

The Republican-controlled legislature passed another bill dealing with abortion in late 2017. That bill would have banned abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, but Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed it. If legislators pass this bill, Gov. Wolf will probably veto it, too. There is unlikely to be enough support to override his veto.

 

Do you support prohibiting abortions if the woman is seeking it based on a diagnosis that the baby may have Down syndrome?

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Votespotter Inc. All rights reserved.