Posted by 23 October 2020
During last night's presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden pledged to transition the U.S. economy to a totally renewable future. Later, however, he clarified that the main step his administration would take is ending subsidies for fossil fuels.
President Trump has long criticized Biden and Democrats for attacking fossil fuels. During the debate, he asked Biden, "“Would you close down the oil industry?” In response, Biden said, "Yes. I would transition.” Biden went on to say, "... the oil industry pollutes, significantly... [I]t has to be replaced by renewable energy over time, over time. And I’d stop giving to the oil industry, I’d stop giving them federal subsidies."
With many U.S. jobs tied to the oil industry in states like Texas and Pennsylvania, President Trump pounced on this statement. He pointed out his strong support of the oil industry and fossil fuel jobs. He also touted his withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Environmentalists and Democrats are pushing for a transition away from oil and towards renewable fuels because of their concern over climate change. They say the only way to stop a disaster is to limit or end the use of fossil fuels. President Trump argues that this would damage the U.S. economy, kill jobs, and make the U.S. less competitive.
Do you support transitioning the U.S. economy away from the use of oil and other fossil fuels?
Posted by 22 October 2020
On a 12-0 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved President Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. The unanimous vote occurred as the panel's Democratic members boycotted the vote, objecting to the way the process has developed.
Instead of appearing at the vote, Judiciary Committee Democrats placed pictures of Americans who are using the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Democrats have attacked Barrett's nomination on the grounds that she would vote to overturn the ACA. Barrett has said that her mind was not made up about the legality of certain areas of that law.
With no Democrats taking part, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee moved quickly to vote in favor of Barrett. The 12-0 vote sends her nomination to the full Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is targeting next week for a confirmation vote. While there are some indications that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) may vote against Barrett, the rest of the Senate's GOP members are likely to support her.
Democrats have vowed to use procedural means to delay the vote. They contend that the nomination should be filled by whomever voters select as president in November. Republicans have vowed to confirm Barrett before Election Day. Options for blocking the nomination are slim since members can no longer filibuster judicial nominations.
Do you support Judiciary Committee Democrats boycotting today's vote on Amy Coney Barrett?
Posted by 21 October 2020
With so much personal information being kept in electronic form, there are increasing concerns about how private that data is. On Election Day, Michigan voters will decide whether state police must get a warrant to access this electronic information.
If voters approve Proposal 2, it would add "electronic data" and "electronic communications" to the list of items that the state constitution says can only be searched by police if they get a search warrant. Currently, there is uncertainty about how protected electronic data is from police searches.
Both the federal Constitution and the Michigan constitution protect "persons, houses, papers and possessions" from warrantless searches. When written, there were no such things as electronic communications and electronic data. Advocates for this amendment argue that the state constitution needs to be updated to ensure that this constitutional protection is adequate for modern times. Opponents have noted that such protections could make it more difficult for law enforcement to do their jobs.
Both houses of the Michigan legislature voted to place this amendment on the ballot for voters to decide. The votes in each house were unanimous.
Do you think that police should get a warrant before accessing someone's electronic communications?
Posted by 20 October 2020
The price of cigarettes and vaping products could be going up in Colorado.
If voters approve Proposition EE, the state government will increase the tax on tobacco products every year until 2027 and impose a new tax on e-cigarette products. The revenue generated would be dedicated to a variety of state funds dealing with health and education.
Under Proposition EE, the state's cigarette tax would increase from its current 84 cents-per-pack to $2.64 per-pack by 2027. The tax rate on tobacco products such as cigars and chewing tobacco would increase form 40% to 62%. Currently nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and vaping supplies are not taxed. Under Proposition EE, they would begin to be taxed at a rate of 30%, which would rise to 62% by 2027. A variety of state programs would share in revenue from this tax increase, including the preschool fund, the rural schools fund, and the tobacco tax cash fund.
Backers of this measure contend that Colorado's tobacco tax is below the national average. They argue that it needs to increase in order to discourage smoking and provide revenue for important government programs. Opponents say this tax will hurt Colorado businesses. They also note that imposing the same tax on non-tobacco nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, will discourage people from switching to them from more dangerous tobacco products.
Do you think that tobacco taxes should be increased? Should nicotine products like e-cigarettes be taxed the same as tobacco products?
Posted by 19 October 2020
A federal judge has put a stop to the Trump Administration's plan to enforce work requirements for food stamp recipients.
Under the Trump Administration rule announced last year, states would have less ability to waive rules requiring food stamp recipients who are between 18 and 49 and who do not have a disability or dependents to work or be in work training programs for 20 hours a week. A federal judge blocked the rule from going into effect this week, preserving the broad authority of states to waive this requirement.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia had sued to overturn the rule. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell agreed with these plaintiffs, saying that the Trump Administration had acted capriciously in changing regulatory policy. He also said this rule would increase food insecurity for millions of Americans.
Trump Administration officials argued that this rule was a way to spur food stamp recipients to find jobs if they are able to work. These officials pointed out that it does not affect people who are caring for children, the elderly, or those who have a disability.
Opponents countered that this regulation will end vital food assistance to needy Americans. They said that it was a way to push people off a program that they need to feed their family. They also argued that it removed the flexibility of states to design a food stamp program that takes into account people who have sporadic work or are underemployed.
Congress had put the stricter enforcement of the work requirement on hold during the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
Do you support work requirements for able-bodied food stamp recipients?
Posted by 16 October 2020
The future of Nevada's energy production will be decided by the state's voters on Election Day.
Passage of Question 6 would enshrine in the state's constitution the requirement that 50% of Nevada's electricity must be from renewable sources by 2030. Gov. Steve Sisolak approved legislation in 2019 that would accomplish the same thing, but Question 6 would ensure that future legislators could not overturn this mandate. In 2018, voters approved a similar constitutional amendment. Under Nevada law, amendments must be approved in two consecutive elections to be added to the constitution.
Under Question 6, a variety of sources could qualify as renewable energy -- solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass, and geothermal.
Backers of the amendment argue that Nevada, a state that receives abundant sunshine, should be doing more to generate electricity from renewable sources. They say that mandating more renewable energy will create jobs in that sector and help the environment. Opponents say that such a mandate will raise energy costs for consumers and reduce the reliability of electricity.
Do you support mandating that more energy be produced from renewable sources?
Posted by 15 October 2020
A tax cut was one of the major pieces of legislation during Donald Trump's first term as president. He's promising another round of cuts if he's re-elected.
In an interview with the Fox Business Network, President Trump said that he wants to lower corporate taxes to a 20% rate and pursue additional individual income tax cuts. This would build on the tax cuts from earlier in his term. That tax package reduced the corporate tax rate to 35% and also cut individual tax rates.
Trump's opponent for the presidency, Joe Biden, opposes the Trump tax cuts. He is campaigning on a platform that calls for raising the corporate tax rate to 28%.
Supporters of these tax cuts argue that the U.S. corporate income tax rate was among the highest in the world prior to it being reduced. They say that higher corporate income tax rates hurt U.S. businesses compete worldwide. President Trump has also said that his tax cuts have helped spur economic growth.
Those who want to raise tax rates argue that the Trump tax cuts have only deepened the deficit. They say that higher taxes are needed to pay not only for current deficit spending, but also for new programs like Medicare for All. The president's critics also contend that his tax cuts were mainly skewed towards the wealthy.
Future tax cuts in a Trump second term, should the president be re-elected, would be unlikely if Democrats retain the House of Representatives or take control of the Senate.
Do you support cutting the corporate income tax rate to 20%? Do you think that individual tax rates should be reduced?
Posted by 14 October 2020
Among the 11 ballot measures facing Colorado voters this year is one that could result in wolves taking up residence in the state for the first time in 7 decades.
If voters approve Proposition 114, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission would create a plan to reintroduce wolves on state land west of the continental divide by 2023. The proposition also establishes a fund to compensate livestock owners for any losses connected to wolves.
Gray wolves used to be present throughout much of the United States, including Colorado. They were viewed as nuisances by early settlers, however, and often had bounties placed on them. This resulted in wolves being eradicated from much of the U.S. The last one in Colorado was killed during the 1940s.
Supporters of this initiative say that wolves help establish an ecological balance. They point to the experiences in Yellowstone National Park, where the reintroduction of wolves helped control the elk population. These supporters argue that many environmental benefits will occur once a healthy wolf population is established. Opponents, however, counter that wolves will kill both livestock and endangered species. They say that there will be conflicts between wolves and humans.
The federal government has reintroduced wolves in some Rocky Mountain states, but not Colorado.
Do you support the reintroduction of gray wolves in Colorado?
Posted by 13 October 2020
The Senate Judiciary Committee is spending a lot of time discussing health care this week.
The issue of whether the Supreme Court could overturn the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has become a centerpiece of Democratic opposition to the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Democrats fear that if the Senate confirms Barrett, she will vote with four other justices to invalidate the ACA. Judge Barrett has responded that she has not made up her mind on the fate of the controversial health care law.
Democrats point to Barrett's criticism of the 2012 Supreme Court decision that upheld the individual insurance mandate as a tax. Barrett countered by noting that the current cases dealing with the ACA involve completely separate issues. She also said that she is "not hostile" to the ACA.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering Barrett's nomination this week. Democrats on the committee have been pressing her on various issues, from gay rights to abortion. However, the fate of the ACA is one of their biggest topics of discussion. They see this as a pertinent issue during the runup to the November election.
The committee hearing is likely to conclude this week. There is little chance that any Democrats on the committee will vote for Barrett. But with Republicans in control of the chamber, there are few obstacles to a supportive committee vote and Senate confirmation before the end of the month.
Do you think the Supreme Court should overturn the ACA?
Posted by 12 October 2020
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?
Posted by 09 October 2020
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?
Posted by 08 October 2020
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?
Posted by 07 October 2020
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?
Posted by 06 October 2020
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?
Posted by 05 October 2020
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?
Posted by 02 October 2020
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?
Posted by 01 October 2020
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.
Posted by 30 September 2020
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?
Posted by 29 September 2020
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?
Posted by 28 September 2020
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?