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Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples' Day?

Today is Columbus Day -- or maybe it's Indigenous Peoples' day. It depends on where you live.

 

Since the late 1800s, Italian-Americans had pushed for a federal holiday that honors Christopher Columbus. In 1966, they succeeded, and the second Monday in October is now Columbus Day. However, many Native Americans and others have long held that Columbus is not worthy of celebration, and have worked at a state and local level to declare the same day as Indigenous Peoples' Day.

 

The controversy over Columbus concerns what his detractors claim is his role in promoting slavery and genocide. They argue that his arrival in the Americas led to the enslavement and death of Native people. Columbus's supporters, however, say that he should be celebrated because his voyage was vital to the settling of the New World by Europeans.

 

Starting in 1989, various state and local governments have either changed their recognition of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day (or Native American Day) or have commemorated both. Currently 13 states recognize the day as Indigenous Peoples' Day. These efforts have generally been opposed by Italian-American groups.

 

Do you think that Columbus Day should be replaced by Indigenous Peoples' Day?

Court Packing Becomes Issue in Presidential Campaign

The number of Supreme Court justices has become a flashpoint of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats this election season.

 

Some liberals are calling on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to embrace the idea of expanding the Supreme Court if they are elected in November. They argue that since Republicans are intent on pushing through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett prior to the election, then President Biden should support increasing the number of justices. They say this is a way to fix the conservative tilt that the high court will likely have for decades to come. 

 

Republicans argue this is playing politics with the Supreme Court, and have called on Biden and Harris to promise not to engage in what they call "court packing." So far, however, both members of the Democratic ticket have demurred.

 

The idea of expanding the Supreme Court’s membership in response to a disagreement over its ideological makeup was prominently championed by President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. Upset by court decisions invalidating part of his New Deal legislation, President Roosevelt suggested expanding the number of Supreme Court justices. There was an uproar in opposition to that idea, and Congress never acted on it.

 

The current calls to increase the number of Supreme Court justices is not new. There was also support to do this in response to President Trump's prior two Supreme Court nominations. At the time, these liberals contended that Senate Republicans’ played bare knuckle politics with their refusal to allow a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland and to approve Brett Kavanaugh in light of sexual assault allegations. They argued that these two actions were illegitimate, so it would be only right to counter them by expanding the court’s membership when Democrats regain the White House and Congress. 

 

Opponents of court packing argue that once this process starts, it will lead to an ever-larger number of justices appointed for purely political reasons. They note that if Democrats expand the court’s membership when they control the presidency and Congress, then Republicans will do so when they regain both branches of government.

 

There are currently nine Supreme Court justices. This number is not set by the Constitution, so Congress and the president could pass legislation to alter it.

 

Should Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promise to oppose any efforts to increase the number of Supreme Court justices?

Vice Presidential Candidates Spar over Fracking

The topic of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was a heated one during last night’s vice presidential debates.


Vice President Mike Pence accused Joe Biden of wanting to ban fracking. Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, said that wasn’t true. Fracking is used by energy companies to produce oil and natural gas. The process involves injecting a highly-pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into underground shale rock to break it up and release oil or, more commonly, natural gas.

 

The use of fracking has been primarily responsible for the large increase in U.S. petroleum production over the past decade. It has made it much cheaper to access oil and natural gas in shale rock, leading to increased production and lower prices. However, residents in communities where fracking has occurred blame it for earthquakes, polluted water, and health problems. It is especially important in Pennsylvania, where a significant energy industry is based on fracking's use.

 

President Trump has opposed any efforts to ban fracking or curtail its use on federal land. Biden’s platform does not call for an outright ban on fracking, but does say he will stop any federal oil or gas leasing on federal land. It also supports moving away from the use of fossil fuels. Prior to being chosen as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Harris did say that she was in favor of banning fracking.

 

There is a push among Progressive Democrats to prohibit fracking. During the vice presidential debate, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that fracking was bad. She has introduced legislation that would outlaw the practice.

 

Do you support banning fracking?

 

Trump Administration Pushes for Airline Aid

Coronavirus aid talks are in flux, with House leadership and Trump officials at odds over what legislation should look like. There may be one area where both sides agree, however -- aid for the airline industry. House Democrats tried to advance an airline aid bill last week, while Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin this week has said this is something the Trump Administration supports.

 

During last week's House of Representatives legislative session, Rep. Peter DeFazio attempted to advance a $28 billion bill that was aimed at preventing layoffs of airline workers. House Republicans objected, however, so the bill could not be fast-tracked through the body. Earlier this week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and said that the president would like to see an airline bill advance.

 

President Trump has tweeted both that he is cutting off coronavirus aid negotiation with Democrats and that he would sign an aid bill that has a stimulus check for Americans. Many Republicans prefer passing legislation that focuses on certain areas of need, not a larger bill that encompasses many more things. With airlines struggling because of a lack of travelers, many in Congress and the Trump Administration see this as an area of agreement.

 

In March, Congress included $32 billion in aid to airlines. It was conditioned on these airlines not making layoffs or wage cuts through last month. Airlines and unions are pushing for this aid to be extended in the new legislation or new money to be provided to airlines. They argue that the prospects for increased travel do not look good, and that without aid there will be widespread layoffs in the airline industry.

 

Some in Congress are sympathetic to this view, noting that this is an issue that was beyond airlines’ control. However, there are also concerns about the overall cost of an aid package. 

 

Do you think that Congress should pass an airline aid bill?

Senate Schedules Amy Coney Barrett Hearings for Next Week

The fight over the future of the Supreme Court will move to the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced today that his committee will begin hearings on Monday. President Trump nominated federal appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat left empty by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 

Chairman Graham said that the committee will be taking precautions to protect against coronavirus transmission. These include meeting in a larger room, the use of protective equipment, and social distancing. Members can also participate remotely. Democrats, however, say that this is still not safe enough. They argue that given the coronavirus outbreak that has infected President Trump and three U.S. senators, that it is irresponsible to conduct a Judiciary Committee hearing at this time.

 

It remains unclear if Democratic Judiciary Committee members will attend next week’s hearings. They argue that the Senate should not vote on this nomination, pointing to Senate Republicans’ refusal in 2016 to vote on then-President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed that the Senate will vote on Barrett’s nomination before Election Day.


Do you think the Senate should proceed with hearings on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court?

Florida Voters Will Decide on $15 Minimum Wage

The fight for a $15 minimum wage has come to Florida ballots.

 

Sunshine State voters will decide the fate of Amendment 2, which would increase Florida's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026. Currently the state's minimum wage is $8.46 per hour. If voters approve the amendment, the minimum wage would automatically increase every year until it reached $15 in September 2026.

 

Backers of this measure argue that Florida workers deserve a living wage. They say that the a higher minimum wage is necessary to ensure that all Florida workers can afford to support a family. Controversially, one of the backers of this ballot measure has compared the current minimum wage to a "slave wage."

 

Opponents, however, point out that many minimum wage workers are not supporting a family. Instead, they say, these workers are teenagers or others who are entering the job force. Business owners and economists warn that a higher minimum wage will hurt workers looking to obtain entry-level jobs, and will lead to higher unemployment, especially for young people and minorities.

 

Florida voters last approved a minimum wage increase in 2004, which also tied the state's minimum wage to inflation.

 

Do you support mandating the minimum wage of $15 per hour?

California Approves Slavery Reparations Task Force

This week, California became the first state to establish a task force to study the issue of reparations for slavery.

 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that sets up a nine-member task force that will study ways that reparations could be paid and who should benefit from them. The task force's members will be appointed by legislators and the governor.

 

When California was admitted to the Union in 1850, its constitution banned slavery. However, some Southerners had brought slaves to the state prior to that and were still legally able to hold them. Supporters of the reparations task force say it is time that the state reckon with slavery in its past how the state perpetuated racial discrimination.

 

The task force will study the issue of California's slaveholding legacy and racial discrimination laws, then examine ways that reparations could be paid to those affected by these historical actions. It would also consider who should receive reparations. The issue of what the reparations should be, from a cash payment to other assistance, will also be discussed.

 

Backers of this legislation say that it is necessary for the state to address the wrongs of the past that have led to the current situation of African Americans. They argue that the wealth gap is a legacy of past discrimination, so the state should act to fix it. While acknowledging that California was not a slave state, these supporters say that this task force should prove to be a model for other states or even the federal government.


Critics of the measure push back against these claims. They argue that given California's status as a free state, this is an example of lawmakers pushing an abstract notion of "social justice" that is divorced from reality. They say that if reparations are to be paid, it should come from a national effort. Many also oppose the idea of reparations, arguing that slavery was abolished long ago.

 

Do you support the idea of paying reparations for slavery?

 

Maryland Foam Food Container Ban Goes into Effect

It is now illegal for Maryland businesses to serve food or drinks in Styrofoam or other foam containers.

 

In 2019, legislators passed a law outlawing the use of polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, containers in food service. Retailers are also banned from selling such containers under the legislation. Gov. Larry Hogan did not support the law, but he did not veto it, either. He let the law go into effect without his signature.

 

Prior to the statewide law going into effect, three of Maryland’s largest counties already banned the use of these containers, as did Baltimore City.

 

Supporters of the law said that it will cut down a product that could not be recycled and did not easily biodegrade. They also contended that this ban will save space in landfills and reduce litter. Opponents argued that the burden will fall on small businesses. They also said that it would have no real effect on litter or the environment, since only a tiny amount of litter involved Styrofoam. Some business owners are also pointing out that this is an especially bad time to be placing new burdens on restaurants, which have been struggling with a government-mandated shutdown.

 

The ban was supposed to go into effect in July. However, the state delayed implementation in light of the uptick in takeout foods in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Under this delay, restaurants could still use their stock of foam containers until today. 

 

Maine and Vermont have similar bans in place, although Maine’s prohibitions do not take effect until 2021.

Companies File Suits to End Trump's China Tariffs

President Trump's trade war with China has been controversial since he first announced tariffs on goods made in those countries. Now over 3,500 companies have filed suit to end some of these tariffs, which they say were imposed illegally.

 

The suits concern the imposition of a 10% tariff on some Chinese goods in 2019. The Trump Administration initially put in place tariffs against Chinese goods in 2018, but expanded them the next year. The suits contend that the law does not allow this later expansion, and asks the U.S. Court of International Trade to invalidate them.

 

President Trump has long supported tariffs, even going so far as to call himself "Tariff Man." He argues that other nations are competing unfairly with the U.S., and that tariffs help American companies. The companies opposing these tariffs say that they are counterproductive to helping the U.S. economy. They point out that many U.S. businesses rely on Chinese imports to make products in the U.S. Economists also note that ultimately consumers pay higher costs because of tariffs, not the companies manufacturing the products overseas.

 

The Trump administration put in place Chinese tariffs under a 1974 law that allows the president to counteract what he contends is unfair foreign competition. The companies suing allege that the federal law does not allow him to expand tariffs to other products once those tariffs are put in place. If successful, the suits would leave the initial tariffs in place, but would remove the second round. The 2018 announcement affected around $50 billion in Chinese trade, but the 2019 tariffs affected $200 billion.

 

Do you think that President Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods should be removed?

Congressional Democrats Introduce New Coronavirus Aid Package

House Democrats are pushing for Congress to pass an additional $2.2 trillion in aid for coronavirus relief. After failing to overcome GOP resistance to a more expensive aid package, they hope this latest plan will garner bipartisan support.

 

This legislation includes a variety of measures aimed at dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, including:

  • Another $1,200 stimulus check for most taxpayers
  • $436 billion in funding for state and local governments
  • $225 billion for schools and child care 
  • Enhanced funding for unemployment benefits
  • $25 billion for airlines
  • $120 billion for restaurants

 

In May, the House passed a $3.4 billion aid package without Republican support. This was a departure from previous coronavirus bills, which were largely bipartisan. The Senate did not vote on the May legislation, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying it was too expensive. Democrats and Republicans have failed to come to agreement on another aid bill, with the price tag being the main sticking point.

 

House Speaker Pelosi is facing pressure from some of her members to act on another coronavirus aid bill prior to Election Day. This latest legislation includes a variety of measures supported by Republicans, and it has a lower cost. She is hoping that this will be a good starting point in negotiations with Republican members of Congress and the Trump Administration.

 

Do you support spending $2.2 trillion in additional coronavirus aid?

Trump Nominates Barrett to Fill Supreme Court Seat

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. While conservatives praised her, liberals condemned the choice.

 

Currently a federal appeals court judge, Barrett was formerly a law professor at Notre Dame. She is a Catholic with a large family, and clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

 

Conservatives see her as a reliable judge that adheres to an originalist view of the Constitution. They contend that she would interpret the Constitution in ways that are consistent with the original meaning of the document, and not embrace the idea of  "living Constitution" that can be changed to fit the whims of judges.

 

Liberals, however, have vowed to everything they can to stop the nomination. They argue that her decisions show she would gut the Affordable Care Act, impose new restrictions on abortion, and expand gun rights. They argue that her presence on the high court would lead to a reversal of decisions that protect the rights of women and minorities.

 

With Republicans controlling the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised quick action on Barrett's nomination. It is possible that a vote could take place by the end of October, with Barrett taking her seat shortly afterwards if confirmed.

 

Do you support the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court?

Florida Governor Removes Many Coronavirus Restrictions

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is moving to re-open the state's economy, a move he says is necessary to help workers and business owners. Public health experts fear that this will lead to a surge in coronavirus cases.

 

In an announcement this week, the governor said that all restaurants could return to serving at full capacity and that bars and nightclubs could re-open. Counties still have the ability to restrict their operation due if there are health or safety concerns. In addition, he suspended the collection of any coronavirus-related fees and fines imposed on individuals and businesses. Separately, Gov. DeSantis also proposed restrictions on colleges to prevent them from expelling students who break certain coronavirus-related rules.

 

These moves prompted pushbacks from Democratic legislators and public health officials. They note that while Florida coronavirus cases are declining, there are still thousands of new cases announced each day. They contend that lifting restrictions would lead to new infections. If that happens, they argue, it will result in more deaths and more economic disruption.

 

Gov. DeSantis imposed statewide restrictions on restaurants and bars in March. However, he has long been uncomfortable with the economic impact of these orders. He says that it is time to begin re-opening the state's economy and letting people get back to work.

 

Do you support lifting coronavirus-related restrictions on bars and restaurants?

California Bans Sale of Gasoline-Powered Cars by 2035

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has set in motion a plan to end the sale of cars using internal combustion engines by 2035.

 

Under the governor’s order, the California Air Resources Board will begin developing plans to phase out the sale of gasoline-powered passenger vehicles by 2035. The sale of heavier duty vehicles that use gasoline and diesel would be banned by 2045 under this order. Only zero-emission vehicles would then be permitted to be sold in California.

 

Gov. Newsom says that this ban is needed to help combat climate change. He points to recent fires in California as illustrating the urgency of the state taking major steps to reduce carbon emissions. He also claims this will help create jobs in California and across the U.S.

 

Critics of this ban note that consumers, not government, drive markets. They say that zero-emission cars are not attractive to consumers, and that innovation by the private sector will lead to more widespread purchasing of these cars. They also contend that this order will hurt consumers who want a wider choice in vehicles.

 

Since this ban is an order by the governor, not a state law, it can be reversed by future governors.

 

Do you support a ban on the sale of gasoline-powered cars?

 

Trump Administration Looking to Tighten Law on Social Media Companies

President Trump has routinely attacked social media companies like Twitter and Facebook for what he perceives as anti-conservative bias. Today, his administration unveiled legislation that would remove some of the legal protections that these companies enjoy.

 

Attorney General William Barr outlined a bill that would make social media companies liable for some of the content published on their sites. It reforms Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which currently protects these sites from liability for what users post on them. It also allows these companies to moderate user content without facing civil suits.

 

Under the Trump Administration's proposal, companies would only have protections from liability when they undertake much more limited content moderation. The legislation would restrict these companies' ability to remove or alter posts unless they meet a stricter federal definition. They would also be liable if they did not act quickly enough to remove certain types of content, such as that which violates federal law.

 

Both Democrats and Republicans have been critical of social media sites for how they moderate and delete content. The president and his allies say the sites are biased against conservatives, while Democrats contend the sites do not do enough to remove alleged falsehoods by the president. There have been numerous proposals to alter the companies' legal liability in response. Critics of these efforts argue that they amount to federal censorship, and that they would inhibit the growth of the online community.

 

While there is bipartisan support for reform of federal law governing social media companies, it is unlikely the Trump Administration proposal will advance in Congress. It is both very late in the legislative session for work on new legislation, and there is resistance among Democrats to support legislation they see as the president's efforts to punish tech companies.

 

Do you think that social media companies should be liable for removing user content?

Ann Arbor Relaxes Laws on Psychedelic Mushrooms

Ann Arbor police will no longer be making it a priority to enforce state laws against psychedelic drugs.

 

The city council voted this week to make enforcing these laws the lowest law enforcement priority. This effectively decriminalizes the use and possession of psychedelic mushrooms and similar plants. The vote was unanimous.

 

City council members said they were swayed by evidence that these plants are effective for medicinal use and that they are also important in some religious observances. They said that they were not condoning anyone breaking the law, but they did not think that police resources should be focused on imposing criminal penalties on those using these drugs.

 

Supporters of this resolution contend that it will stop police from arresting people who are using the drugs to improve their psychological well being. According to the resolution, these drugs can alleviate a significant number of medical problems. Opponents, however, argue that the hallucinogenic drugs are dangerous, and that the city council's action is promoting illegal activity.

 

The decriminalization resolution covers ayahuasca, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin mushrooms. Anyone within city limits who plants, cultivates, transports, distributes, or possesses these drugs is unlikely to face any action by city law enforcement officials. The drugs remain illegal under both state and federal law.

 

Three other cities have decriminalized hallucinogenic drugs: Denver, Oakland, and Santa Cruz.

 

Do you support decriminalizing the use of psychedelic mushrooms?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Death Sets Up Contentious Confirmation Process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last week, setting off a wave of mourning across the nation. The new vacancy on the Supreme Court is also setting up a bitter fight over whether President Trump will be ale to fill her seat before Election Day.

 

When there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the president nominates a new justice and the Senate votes on that nomination. There is no constitutional restriction on the timing of the process. However, Democrats are arguing that Republicans set a precedent of not giving nominees a vote in an election year, so that precedent should be followed now.

 

Democrats point to the situation in 2016, when Justice Antonin Scalia died in the final year of Barack Obama's term in office. Republicans refused to hold a vote on his nominee, Merrick Garland, prior to the presidential election. That November, Donald Trump won the presidency and then nominated Neil Gorsuch for the seat. The Senate then confirmed Gorsuch.

 

Democrats are saying that what happened in 2016 should be repeated this year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has said that he will schedule a Senate vote quickly on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Republicans argue that the situation is different than in 2016, which had a different party controlling the presidency and the Senate. They also note that Democrats then were arguing that the president's nominee deserved a vote.

 

It remains to be seen if all Senate Republicans will back a vote prior to Election Day. Some, such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), have already expressed reservations.

 

President Trump is expected to announce his Supreme Court nominee this week.

 

Do you think that the Senate should vote on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee before Election Day?

House Condemns Anti-Asian Bias, Use of “China Virus” Language

This week, the House of Representatives voted in favor of legislation to condemn anti-Asian bias 

 

By a vote of 243-164, the House approved House Resolution 908. The text of that resolution noted instances of anti-Asian bias, including:

 

Whereas since January 2020, there has been a dramatic increase in reports of hate crimes and incidents against those of Asian descent;

 

Whereas according to a recent study, there were over 400 cases related to COVID–19 anti-Asian discrimination between February 9, 2020, and March 7, 2020;

 

Whereas the increased use of anti-Asian rhetoric has resulted in Asian Americans being harassed, assaulted, and scapegoated for the COVID–19 pandemic;

 

Then the resolution “calls on all public officials to condemn and denounce any and all anti-Asian sentiment in any form.”

 

To the ire of Republicans, however, it also included this line:

 

Whereas the use of anti-Asian terminology and rhetoric related to COVID–19, such as the “Chinese Virus”, “Wuhan Virus”, and “Kung-flu” have perpetuated anti-Asian stigma;

 

Republican House members saw that as a clear shot at President Trump, who often refers to the coronavirus in this way. They argued that this resolution was more about scoring political points against the president rather than a true condemnation of anti-Asian bigotry.

 

Democrats countered that President Trump was indeed expressing anti-Asian sentiments with his use of the term “Chinese Virus.” They said he was playing on anti-Chinese sentiment to distract the U.S. from his bungled response to the virus.

 

In the end, only 14 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the resolution.

 

Do you think that using the term “Chinese Virus” is a form of anti-Asian bigotry?

New Jersey Hiking Taxes on Higher Incomes

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has long supported higher taxes on millionaires. After three years of trying to see his millionaire tax enacted, he finally got his way this week.

 

Legislators came to an agreement with the governor to increase the tax rate on the income of New Jersey residents that exceeds $1 million. The rate will go up from 8.97% to 10.75%. The state estimates that this will bring in around $390 million in new revenue. This tax hike is coupled with a one-time tax rebate for New Jersey taxpayers earning $150,00 per household (or $75,000 for a single taxpayer) of $500. The governor argues that these families have been hit hard by coronavirus and deserve some relief.

 

Gov. Murphy, who is from the Democratic Party's Progressive wing, ran for office on the platform of increasing taxes on higher income state residents. Legislators have been reluctant to embrace the governor's tax agenda in past years, however. This year, however, as the governor and legislators crafted a budget deal, they were looking for revenue to pay for coronavirus-related tax relief. They finally agreed on this tax hike to do so.

 

Supporters of the millionaire's tax contend that the wealthy need to pay more in taxes to help the lower- and middle-class residents of the state. They argue that the rich should sacrifice, especially during times of economic hardship. Opponents contend that wealthy New Jersey residents already pay high tax rates. They also note that the wealthy can easily move to other states if taxes in New Jersey are too high.

 

While the governor and legislative leaders have agreed to this tax increase, the legislature must formally vote on it. 

 

Do you support increasing taxes on people with incomes over $1 million?

 

Virginia Voters to Decide on Redistricting Reform

How Virginia's congressional and legislative districts are drawn may change if Virginia voters give their approval in November.

 

Under Question 1, power to draw congressional and legislative districts would move from legislators to an independent commission. Supporters of this change to the state's constitution argue that allowing politicians to draw these districts leads to gerrymandering, which deprives many voters of a meaningful choice. They contend that independent commissions will consider politics less than politicians will. Opponents, however, contend that by giving this power to a commission, it takes away the chance of voters to hold their elected officials accountable for how districts are drawn.

 

Congressional and legislative lines must be drawn after every census. In 2011, Virginia legislators were unable to agree on new districts, since Democrats and Republicans split control of legislative chambers. Under an independent commission, this situation would not occur again. Legislators in two successive sessions supported resolutions that would give voters the chance to vote on making this change to the state constitution. 

 

If voters approve the creation of an independent redistricting commission, it would be composed of legislators from the Democratic and Republican parties as well as private citizens. The commission would draw maps that could then be approved or rejected by the Virginia General Assembly. Legislators could not amend the maps. If the General Assembly rejects the maps, the commission would draw another set of maps. If the General Assembly votes down these maps, then the Virginia Supreme Court would draw the lines.

 

Currently 7 states have similar independent commissions that draw congressional district lines, while 10 states have independent commissions to compose legislative districts. 

Judge Rules Pennsylvania Coronavirus Shutdown Orders Unconstitutional

This week, a federal judge struck down some of Pennsylvania's coronavirus shutdown orders, finding that they violated the Constitution.

 

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV held that Gov. Tom Wolf went too far in ordering businesses to close and people to stay home. While acknowledging that there was an emergency that prompted these orders, he said, "the solution to a national crisis can never be permitted to supersede the commitment  to individual liberty that stands as the foundation of the American experiment."

 

This ruling affects the governor's orders to close businesses, limit outdoor gatherings, and require people to stay at home. Other orders, such as the state's mask mandate, remain in effect.

 

Gov. Wolf expressed disappointment in the ruling, contending that these orders are vital in stopping the spread of coronavirus. Legislators and business owners who had sued applauded the ruling, saying it justified their claims that the governor was exceeding his legal authority.

 

The disagreement over the extent of Gov. Wolf's orders mirrors debates happening in other states over coronavirus-related restrictions. This ruling by a federal judge is the first of its kind in finding that a state's orders violate the U.S. Constitution.

 

Do you think that stay-at-home orders and business shutdown mandates are unconstitutional?

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