Appeals Court Rejects Caps on the Cost of Prison Phone Calls

Prison inmates and their families know that it’s expensive to make calls from prison. One prison inmate reports spending more than $130 per month to make a 20-minute phone call each day. Prisoners say that it’s a way to kick inmates and their families when they’re already down. They say that it’s an easy way to soak families who are desperate to maintain relationships despite incarceration.

However, the Court of Appeals said that the FCC overstepped its bounds when they placed a cap on the costs of phone calls from prison. In the case Global Tel-Link v. FCC, the Court of Appeals said that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to regulate the cost of prison phone calls. In addition, they said that the way the FCC chose to regulate the phone calls doesn’t make any sense.

The telecommunications companies say that their costs are justified. They say that providing phone monitoring is expensive. They say that providing phone service to prison inmates is different than providing phone service to any other entity.

Inmates say that the cost of the technology to make phone calls from prison has decreased dramatically. They say that it just doesn’t cost what it used to for inmates to stay in touch with their loved ones during their period of incarceration. They say that phone calls today are no more expensive than a typical cell phone plan with a recording system attached. They say that it’s no longer the long-distance calling system that it used to be.

Advocates for inmate groups say that the real problem is the commissions paid to law enforcement agencies for the calls. Prison managers choose phone contractors by a competitive bidding system. To secure a bid to provide prison phone service, most of the phone companies pay a commission back to the prison or other law enforcement agency. That is, the prison receives a percentage of what the prison spends on the phone call.

Advocacy groups say that kickbacks are an unfair incentive for prisons to keep prices high. They say that it’s not in the best interests of inmates and their families. They say that evidence shows that inmates who stay in touch with their families do much better after they return to society. They say that the families of incarcerated individuals should not have to choose between putting food on the table and speaking to their loved one. Despite the court’s ruling, the issue of the high costs of prison phone calls continues to be a matter of discussion and debate.

Proposed Colorado Bill Would Restrict Gun Access for Mentally Ill People

A bill currently under consideration in Colorado would enable law enforcement officials to remove the guns of people deemed to present a safety risk. Under the terms of the bill, law enforcement or family members may petition a judge for an order that would force the person to turn over the guns for a period of six months. The person is entitled to a hearing within seven days after the order is granted.
Red Flag laws, like the one Colorado is considering, are already in place in eight states with over a dozen more poised to follow. The Colorado bill sparked intense debate in a state that has endured multiple mass shootings, including the Aurora Theatre shooting, and has one of the highest percentages of gun owners. The gun lobby organization, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, quickly called on its 200,000 Facebook followers to contact the bill’s sponsors and speak against the gun control measure.
One of those sponsors, State Representative Cole Wist, insisted the bill protects the rights of gun owners. Wist, a Republican, highlighted the due process protections included in the bill while pointing out the need to give family and police options for avoiding potentially dangerous situations. This need was echoed by Sheriff Tony Spurlock who held a press conference in support of the bill.
On December 31, 2017, one of Sheriff Spurlock’s deputies, Zackari Parrish, was killed during a confrontation with Matthew Riehl who was also killed in the incident. The 37-year-old Riehl had a history of harassing and threatening people including family members, his professors, and local police officers. While officers were trying to take the mentally ill man into custody using a mental health hold, Riehl opened fire on them injuring four deputies and killing Parrish. Riehl’s mother expressed frustration about the deadly outcome especially since his family repeatedly sought help for him.
State Senator John Cooke sympathizes with both sides of the debate. A former sheriff, he understands the need to prevent a mental health issue from becoming a mass shooting incident. However, the Republican Cooke fears that red flag laws open the door for misuse by the government. The difficulty, he explained, is in crafting a bill that protects the public without taking away the rights of individuals.

The Trump Campaign Is Paying Some Of Michael Cohen’s Legal Fees

Michael Cohen, Trump’s Rottweiler-type attack attorney is getting a little love from his man crush in the form of legal payments. According to ABC News, the Trump campaign covered almost $228,000 of Cohen’s legal expenses between October 2017 and January 2018. And According to Federal Election Commission records, three payments from campaign funds went to McDermott Will and Emery, the law firm where Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan is a partner. The payments were for “legal consulting” work, according to those records. An ABC News report claims those payments were for Cohen’s legal defense. And that may be a violation of campaign finance laws, according to that ABC News report.

Mr. Cohen claims he didn’t have a formal role in Trump’s campaign. According to campaign finance laws it’s illegal to use campaign funds for personal use. That means there is some explaining to do according to the chief of strategy at the nonprofit watchdog group Common Cause, Stephen Spaulding. Spaulding said the payments to Cohen are on shaky legal ground. Like most of Trump’s business and political maneuvers, there is an unethical shroud hanging over those payments, according to some legal experts. If those payments are for legal work on the Stormy Daniels issue, there could be another problem in Trump’s presidential legal wheelhouse.

No one is sure what the payments to Mr. Cohen are for unless legal consulting is an appropriate way to describe getting a mentor out of a lot of trouble over the years. According to various media sources, Mr. Cohen has a reputation for using strong-arm tactics to protect Trump’s interest in some of his sketchy personal and business deals. Michael Cohen isn’t commenting on the payments. And the White House isn’t talking about them either.

There is a lot of mud in the swamp where Cohen and Trump meet to discuss how they will handle the next Stormy Daniels type case. Or how they will handle another piece of Trump’s alleged connection with Russia when it surfaces.

Mr. Cohen is the topic of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. And Robert Mueller is getting closer to unraveling Russian-Trump relationship. So the $228,000 payment to attorney Stephen Ryan may just be a down payment for the work he’ll do to keep Cohen from wearing an orange jumpsuit, and that’s not legal, according to legal experts.

 

House Passes Bill To Prevent Speculative Trading Among Banks

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill known as the “Vocker Rule,” which gives the U.S. Federal Reserve the sole power to prevent banks from engaging in speculative trading.

Named after the former Federal Reserve chairman who served during the Carter and Reagan administrations, the bill won approval with a vote of 300-104. If enacted, the law would make the current rule easier to manage. As the bill received broad support from both parties, some believe that the House will eventually include the measure in a larger banking bill that the Senate has already approved.

The Volcker Rule was originally put into force a number years after the Dodd-Frank financial reform law was enacted, which addressed issues relating to last decade’s financial crisis. The rule prevents American banks from engaging in speculative transactions on their own account. It also prevents them from hedge fund investing.

Some executives in the banking industry maintain that the rule is not only too difficult to follow but that it is also very confusing, and that it further limits market liquidity.

The new law would give the Federal Reserve full authority to change the rule. Currently, five separate regulatory authorities must agree to a rule change. The other authorities include the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. A number of banks say that this requirement is largely unmanageable.

Jeb Hensarling, who runs the House committee that wrote the bill, said that the law will help make the rule more clearer. He says that — independent of how someone may feel about a particular regulation or rule — everyone can agree that they should be clearly understood and that they should be interpreted in only one way, and that they should be enforced by one single authority.

The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate and then it further needs the signature of President Trump.

Many big banks are in favor of the bill, and they hope that it may be included in the banking bill that the Senate recently passed, which eases various banking regulations. This bill is still pending in the House, but Hensarling indicated that the Senate version of the bill still needs changes.

Hawaii Legalizes Aid in Dying with Newly Passed Bill

The governor of Hawaii just passed a law allowing doctors to give life-ending drugs to patients diagnosed with a terminal illness who have six months or less to live. Governor David Ige, signed HB 2739 which is known as the Our Choice, Our Care Act on Thursday, April 5th, 2018.

The bill is very restrictive and leaves little room for interpretation to ensure that the practice isn’t abused. It requires two doctors to confirm that the patient has less than six months left to live. The patient is also required to administer the medication to themselves, and a mental health provider needs to attest to the patient’s mental capacity. Doctors are required to give patients a full explanation of all end-of-life options available to them. The bill makes it a criminal offense for anyone who attempts to coerce a patient into getting the drugs or interfering with an existing prescription for a patient.

In a press release, Governor Ige gave his opinion on the matter saying that he felt the bill was safe because there were safeguards implemented as well. He also said it’s time for residents of Hawaii who struggle with tough end-of-life choices to handle with grace, dignity and peace.

The Department of Health in Hawaii will utilize an advisory committee as they implement changes to the current law. The issue of whether someone has the right to die has been a touchy subject in the United States recently. New York’s highest court ruled against allowing physician assisted suicide in September of 2017, and earlier in the same year, the House committee rejected the Death with Dignity Act proposed in Washington D.C. Montana’s legislature introduced a law that allows the courts to charge physicians who engage in physician assisted suicide with homicide. This is in conflict with the current law that does allow life-ending options. The Nevada Senate passed a bill that would allow physician aid-in-dying.

US Supreme Court Denies Release Of Anti-Abortion Videos

Between the years of 2014 and 2015, an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress’ founder, David Daleiden among others, infiltrated annual meetings of the National Abortion Federation and recorded his findings. They did so by posing as business executives looking to purchase fetal tissue. Because the National Abortion Federation represents Planned Parenthood’s affiliates, they responded to these findings by claiming the videos were “heavily edited to leave a false impression of wrongdoing.”

The National Abortion Federation ended up suing David Daleiden, the Center for Medical Progress, and a former board member Troy Newman in an attempt to put a halt to the spread of these videos. They left the fate of their public opinion in the hands of the court system. This case went all the way up to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, and the Supreme Court sided with the National Abortion Federation.

The anti-abortionist videos will not be able to be released legally. “Legally” is the key word, as Daleiden and two of his attorneys were held in contempt of court for illegally publishing this blocked content online. David Daleiden and one of his associates, Sandra Merritt, were charged with filming Planned Parenthood employees without obtaining their verbal or written consent.

The effects of what Daleiden and his associates did can be traced to actual murder. In November of 2015, a man shot and killed three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic. When he was arrested, the man cited Daleiden’s findings, claiming that Planned Parenthood was selling baby body parts. The first amendment protects free speech but not a call to action. Daleiden’s accusations of Planned Parenthood were so strong that they are not even protected by the Supreme Court. These claims led to action; this action being the murder of three innocent lives in Colorado.

There are several confidentiality agreements put in place to protect the abortion providers’ identities and safety. This was interpreted to not be in violation of the first amendment because the defendants (Daleiden, the Center for Medical Progress, and others) were acting as “citizen journalists in an undercover investigation”. Whether you agree or disagree with the ruling, the big question remains: is the safety of alleged wrongdoers more important than the right to accuse them of wrongdoing?

For more information on this case, click the link below!

  1. com/article/us-usa-court-abortion/supreme-court-rejects-appeal-to-release-anti-abortion-activists-videos-idUSKCN1H918T

 

Sessions Refuses To Appoint Another Special Counsel

On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated that he would not appoint a second special counsel, to investigate charges of improper actions by menbers of the Justice Department and the FBI in relation to the presidential campaign. At least not for the time being.

In a letter to Republican legislators, Sessions said that, instead of appointing a special counsel to look into the matter, he had requested a senoir prosecutor to investigate the issue.

Republican lawmakers in Washington in the past few weeks have been calling for a special counsel to look into what they believe were wrongdoings by members of the Justice Department and the FBI between 2016 and 2017. Among those calling for a special counsel are the chairmans of both the House and Senate judiciary committees.

In the 4-page letter Sessions told lawmakers that appointing a special counsel was reserved for investigating extraordinary matters, and that the allegations currently being made do not meet that condition. Though he did not rule out the possibility of appointing a special counsel in the future if something changes. For right now, Sessions has asked John W. Huber, who is the U.S. attorney for Utah, to look into the matter.

Sessions says that he is very confident that Huber will review the claims and make a complete and full, and a thoroughly objecive judgement on the matter, which is consistent with both the facts in the case and the law. The Attorney General went on to say that he will receive periodic updates from Huber relating to the issue, and that Huber will recommend to Sessions whether any additional resources are needed and whether the appointing of a special counsel is necessary.

Huber is a senior prosecutor that has enjoyed bipartisan support. President Obama nominated him for U.S. attorney for Utah in 2015, and President Trump nominated him for the same position in 2017. Both times the Senate confirmed him. Huber will be investigating the issue in coordination with Michael E. Horowitz, who is the Inspector General at the Justice Department.

Separately, on Wednesday Horowitz announced that he was reviewing whether his department and the FBI violated the law when they requested surveillance of Carter Page, who was an official in President Trump’s presidential campaign.

Republicans welcomed news of the review.

 

 

Supreme Court Rejects Bailout Challenge

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a former CEO of AIG International, who argued that the federal government had illegally bailed out the insurance company during the 2008 financial crisis, and had done so at the detriment of shareholders.

The ruling by the court leaves in place a Washington, DC federal appeals court ruling in 2017 that decided that former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg and his Starr International Co. did not have a right to legally challenge the government bailout. This was because they said that only AIG itself had the right to challenge the bailout, and they chose not to do so.

Greenberg, who is 92 years old, ran AIG for almost 40 years before being removed from his position in March of 2005. In September 2008, the federal government rescued the insurance giant to keep it from going bankrupt. The company had lost vast sums of money insuring poor-quality mortgage securities.

David Boies, who is a lawyer representing Starr International Co., issued a statement that expressed disappointment with the ruling. He said that they had proved that the government went beyond its authority when it took over AIG and used it to rescue others companies that were engaged in riskier behavior, which they did at the detriment of AIG’s shareholders.

In 2011, Starr International Co. — which is an investment and insurance company with a large stake in AIG — sued the federal government. It alleged that the government improperly received a nearly 80% share of AIG, for a $85 billion loan that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York gave the company. Because of this, they claimed that the rights of shareholders were diminished, which violates the constitutional right of due process. They sought from the federal government $40 billion in damages.

Initially, a lower court had ruled in favor of Starr International Co. But at the same time it refused to award them damages. This was because they asserted that, without the government loan, the stock would not have had any value. They further asserted that the bailout actually helped Starr International Co.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned that ruling, which led to the Supreme Court appeal.

Republicans in Maryland Challenge Congressional Map at the Supreme Court

This Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments from 9 Republican voters in Maryland, who are challenging part of the state’s congressional map.

One of these voters is Bill Eyle. Back in 2011, the state — which is largely controlled by Democrats — redrew Maryland’s congressional map. This moved Eyle from a conservative district to a liberal one that is part of the suburbs of Washington, DC. Eyle, who lives in a small town about 60 miles from the nation’s capital and who is a retired business owner, believes that the Democrats intentionally moved him and other conservative voters into the liberal district so as to lessen their impact in elections. He feels that people like him are now without proper representation.

The case is one of two currently in front of the Supreme Court this session that relate to what is known as partisan gerrymandering. This refers to when the majority party in a particular state uses their power to redistrict a state for their own advantage. Last October, the court heard a similar challenge. Though this challenge was made by Democrats, who charged that Republicans in Wisconsin had gerrymandered their state.

The question the Supreme Court must resolve in both cases is whether partisan gerrymandering violates the constitutional rights of voters. The rulings of both cases will be made by end of the court’s current session, which is at the end of June, and they could significantly change how American politics operate, by either placing limits upon partisan gerrymandering or allowing the tactic to continue unabated.

Maryland is a mostly Democratic state, but it does have many Republicans. It even has a Republican governor. Many Democrats in the state openly admit that the congressional map was created to make it more difficult for Republicans to win the 6th District House seat. Eyle once lived in the 6th District, but now votes in the 8th District, which is heavily Democratic.

Redistricting in Maryland considerably changed the electoral makeup of the 6th District. Prior to 2011, it was almost 47% Republican and only about 36% Democratic, and now it is 44% Democratic and 33% Republican. This largely led to Republican Representative Roscoe Bartlett losing his House seat to Democrat John Delaney.

Supreme Court Holds Dodd-Frank Does not Apply to Internal Whistleblowers

On February 21, the United States Supreme Court made it more difficult for whistleblowers in to claim protections under the Dodd-Frank Act. In Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers the court held that in order for Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation protections to apply a whistleblower must report the wrongdoing to the SEC. The court decided internal disclosures of securities law violations do not offer protection under the rules of Dodd-Frank.

The facts of the case fit the mold of retaliation after a report of illegal conduct. Paul Sommers was a vice president at Digital Realty Trust. At that time, Digital Realty Trust was a real estate investment firm. Sommers discovered what he believed to be a number of securities law violations and proceeded with internal notification. Soon after his report he was fired. Digital Realty Trust terminated Sommers’ employment before he could notify the SEC.

A unanimous court found the SEC’s rules applying Dodd-Frank’s protections to internal whistleblowers invalid because it violated the clear language of the statute. Dodd-Frank states that anti-retaliation protections apply to individuals who have reported securities violations to the SEC and makes no mention of internal reporters.

As this article in the National Law Review explains, there are two statutes that protect individuals who report violations of securities laws, the Dodd-Frank and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Although they both protect whistleblowers, they define the concept differently and diverge in several other ways. Whistleblowers under Sarbanes-Oxley must file a wrongful termination claim with the Department of Labor within 180 days of being fired to be eligible for protection under the statute. Dodd-Frank does not make such a demand. The two statutes also offer different levels of monetary recovery with Dodd-Frank authorizing the payment of double back pay with interest in case of a violation. Sarbanes-Oxley limits the amount of recovery to back pay with interest.

Internal reporters can still use the protections provided by Sarbanes-Oxley. The consequences of the ruling, of course, remain to be seen. Some legal experts argue the holding will increase the likelihood of whistleblowers reporting violations of securities law to the SEC instead of just internally to ensure they remain protected under Dodd-Frank.

 

Supreme Court Debates Voting Dress Code

The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up the case of a man who says that dress codes for voting are unconstitutional. The Minnesota man said that he tried to vote while wearing a Tea Party shirt and a button showing his support for voter identification laws. He also wore a “Don’t Tread on Me” message which is commonly associated with the libertarian movement.

An election official stopped the man from voting wearing those items. They told the man that if he wanted to vote, he had to either hide or cover up the slogans and statements that aren’t allowed. The man tried to vote three times wearing the clothing. The first two times, election officials refused to let him vote. The third time, they let him vote, but they noted his name and contact information.

Minnesota law says that people can’t wear anything with political insignia on it to vote. That includes a button or any other item of clothing that’s “political.” Voters can’t wear political items anywhere at the voting location.

The man vowed to take his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. His wish came true. The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up the case of Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky.

The man’s supporters say that political buttons and the like are a way for average people to show their support for a political candidate or cause. They say the prohibition is too broad. There isn’t any reason to restrict references to political parties, ideology and hot-button issues, they say.

They also say that polling officials have too much discretion. They can allow a logo if it’s a cause that they support. They can refuse a similar logo that they don’t like just by calling it political.

In one case, Texas voting officials tried to ban someone from voting because they wore a shirt with the word “Alaska” on it. They said it showed support for Sarah Palin. In Colorado, voters faced the wrath when they wore shirts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Voting officials said that MIT might be short for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but it might also show support for then-Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The states say that these laws are necessary to keep voting fair. They say that local polling officials have to have discretion in order to deal with any kind of situation that arises on voting day. The U.S. Supreme Court expects to issue its decision by June 2018.

Government Immigration Attorney Steals IDs

Even though federal immigration attorneys are supposed to protect the public by providing honest, ethical representation, one U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement attorney decided to abuse his position and steal the identities of the immigrants whose information came through the office. Raphael Sanchez was the chief counsel for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Seattle. Now, he’s set for sentencing in a federal court after pleading guilty to using his position to steal the identities of people filing immigration paperwork in his office.

Sanchez entered a guilty plea to aggravated identity theft. He also admitted to committing wire fraud. A judge in the U.S. Western Washington federal court accepted the guilty plea. The case now moves to a sentencing hearing in May that will decide Sanchez’ fate.

According to Washington Post, as part of the plea, Sanchez worked out a sentence recommendation with federal prosecutors. They say both sides agree that four years in federal prison is fair. There’s no word on whether the judge will honor the sentencing agreement.

As ICE’s leading man in the Seattle office, Sanchez oversaw cases in Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and Washington. With that power, he chose to steal the identities of eight different people. Using the identities, he took out loans that totaled $190,000. Sanchez allegedly found his victims by using the ICE database.

Once he had a victim in mind, he used their information to make a fake driver’s license and fake utility bills. For a photo, he used his own picture. If he stole the identity of a woman, he used a photo of a murder victim.

Once he had the paperwork, he took out credit cards and loans using the false identities. Some of the victims were in deportation proceedings and weren’t even in the United States to know that they were being scammed. Authorities say that was part of Sanchez’ plan to avoid discovery. Authorities also say they found 20 more identities ready to go in Sanchez’ home.

It isn’t the first time that a Seattle ICE attorney has abused their position. In 2016, another official forged a document in order make an immigrant ineligible to stay in the United States. Officials noticed the fraud because the officer forged a document with a date that was earlier than when the form even existed for use. The offending offer served time in prison for the offense. Officials decided to grant the victim a green card.

 

Is Virtual Currency Legislation On Congress’ Agenda?

Based on remarks made recently by Securities and Exchange Chairman Jay Clatyon, the United States Congress may be asked to pass legislation soon that will help regulate various types of virtual currencies, most notably Bitcoin. As these currencies have risen in popularity in recent years, many industry regulators have become concerned about a lack of oversight in this area. These concerns, coupled with recent market losses that have led to Bitcoin losing half its value, have prompted legislators to take a closer look at the issue.

The SEC, working in conjunction with the U.S. Treasury Department and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is currently examining how new laws regulating virtual currency would impact national and international financial markets. With some banks now refusing to allow customers to use credit cards to purchase Bitcoin, regulators are concerned about such issues as market volatility, investor protections, and the threat of cyber criminals hacking into various virtual currency markets, which could cause chaos in other financial markets.

According to lawmakers, the recent incident involving hackers stealing $530 million from the Japanese bitcoin exchange Coincheck had much to do with the sense of urgency to pass legislation. As the current rules stand, virtual currencies are essentially unregulated, falling into what regulators consider to be cracks that exist between federal and state regulators, the SEC, Treasury Department, and other related agencies.

If legislation is passed on this matter, congressional legislators believe there would be numerous benefits to companies as well as investors. Along with having laws that are much clearer to everyone involved, investors would also have many more protections in place to guard them against cyber thieves. If this occurs, SEC Chairman Clayton and heads of other agencies have said they would be very aggressive in pursuing those who attempt to defraud investors, and would also coordinate efforts with the FBI if there were suspicions of money laundering associated with funding terrorist operations.

According to Chairman Clayton, senators, and other agency heads, if legislation is passed to regulate virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, one concern all agencies will have is funding which will be necessary to hire additional staff. In order to be effective at regulating virtual currencies, the SEC and related agencies will need new personnel to staff trading and markets divisions, cyber crime divisions, and other areas. For additional information on the status of virtual currency legislation, visit Reuters.com.

The Government Shutdown Game is Over for Two Years

Over the past year the United States Congress has played politics with the national operating budget by trying to connect the necessary authorization to other political issues, such as the wall along the Mexico border and extending the DACA program. Both the Democrats and Republicans have apparently realized this is a dangerous game, at least for their careers, and now have averted what President Trump recently said he welcomed.

The needs of the military and the law enforcement community was one of the primary concerns for the agreement according to members of Congress, but there is surely an underlying personal priority in the approval for all congressional members. Unnecessary government workers are commonly off work during a government shutdown, which includes their staffs. The “shutdown” usually merely becomes a short-term suspension from daily operation. Issues such as concerns over North Korea and the renewal of the Iran agreement were also identified.

The fact that 2018 is an election year surely impacted how all Congress members voted, both in the House and Senate, with the House of Representatives approving a budget version first shortly followed by the Senate approval. This means that all members who are running for re-election can claim a victory of sorts on both sides of the aisle. It is surely interesting how both sides of the political duopoly can agree on any measure if it will directly impact their careers, which also leads to the current career politician problem in Washington.

With the manufactured budget crisis behind them, now Congress can focus on doing the people’s work to an extent. If history has taught the U.S citizens anything, it is that the Belt Way operatives always take care of themselves first before any voting decisions are made including what issues will even get a vote. During an election year focus is not so much about ideas in heads as it is about protecting the republican or democrat affiliation of the seat holders, who are ultimately controlled legislative voters.

A two-year budget, which should have been done long ago, will now put Congress back on the regular funding cycle of the government ensuring that pay for all government workers will not be interrupted as well. And, of course, it is in place until the next election cycle of 2020 that will also include a presidential race. Even with the so-called crisis side-stepped and the “can kicking” stopping, it was still vital to develop a time frame where this unnecessary political tool can be used again. The more things change, the more they stay the same in the political power monger game that is Washington D.C.

 

 

 

Federal Judge Strongly Admonished Florida Governor Over Voting Rights

United States District Judge Mark Walker issued a very strong opinion against Florida Governor Rick Scott and his insistence upon maintaining an Office of Executive Clemency that decides whether convicted felons should be allowed to vote. Judge Walker was very clear and firm in his opinion, which he construed as a violation of the First and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.

Florida is one of four states that do not allow convicted felons to exercise their right to vote after being released from prison unless they go through a restoration process. In general, those who are incarcerated are not allowed to participate in elections; however, 46 states restore this right as soon as a sentence is completed. In Virginia, Kentucky and Iowa, this process consists of an application and confirmation; in Florida, however, the Office of Executive Clemency is known to drag cases along for years and issue very few approvals, thereby infringing upon the rights of individuals to participate in the democratic process.

Judge Walker described the process in Florida as a nonsensical and onerous exercise in disenfranchisement. One of the salient issues in this process is that the Office of the Governor has veto power, which is routinely applied, which has prevented hundreds of thousands of people from voting over many decades. The judge has looked at the way that Florida officials conduct the process, and he described it as extremely unconstitutional.

As of 2018, more than a million residents of Florida are not allowed to vote, and in some cases they are not allowed to hold certain professional licenses in the notarial, real estate, mortgage, and finance fields.

In meetings convened to review clemency cases, Governor Scott has stated to the panel that they can do anything that they wanted with regard to review and approval of applications; this display of arbitrary behavior did not sit well with Judge Walker, particularly when at another meeting the Governor approved an application from a former felon who admitted to have skirted the process to vote for Scott in 2010.

A spokesman for Governor Scott suggested that an appeal may be in the works, but legal analysts believe that such a move may not get too far in appellate court and it will certainly fizzle out before the U.S. Supreme Court should the Florida Attorney General decide to continue fighting. Voting rights advocates are closely watching this case and may sue the state if it does not acknowledge the opinion of Judge Walker.