Monday, March 27, 2017

Trump to Undo Obama’s Legacy On Climate Change

President Trump plans to sign an Executive Order rolling back Obama's Policies to curb Planet-Warming Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said Sunday.

Pruitt said the Order will be called the “Energy Independence Executive Order.” It is expected to undo the Clean Power Plan (CCP), which Limited Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Power Plants. “We have made tremendous progress on our environment. We can be both pro-jobs and pro-environment,” Pruitt said. “The executive order will address the past administration’s effort to kill jobs throughout the country through the Clean Power Plan.”

The Executive Order will likely take other measures to Protect the Coal Industry, such as instructing the Department of the Interior to lift a temporary Ban on Coal leasing on Federal lands that the Obama Administration put in place last year. The Order is also expected to scrap Federal Guidance instructing Agencies to factor Climate Change into Policy-Making, and to Disband a Team tasked with Calculating the “Social Cost of Carbon.”

Trump’s Executive Order will likely kneecap the Federal Government’s most important Policy for reducing Carbon Emissions. Doing so would also hamper U.S. efforts to meet the Commitments made more than a year ago in the 195-Country Paris Agreement, the first Global Climate Deal to include the U.S. and China, the World’s biggest Polluters.

The long-expected Order would give teeth to Trump’s America First Energy Plan, a vague Policy outline he issued after his Inauguration to Eliminate Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

Obama’s plan, launched in 2013, set a Strategy for Combating Climate Change by Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Power Plants. The Utility Sector accounts for the greatest portion of the U.S. Carbon footprint, producing 30% of all Emissions, according to 2014 data from the EPA. That’s largely because Coal, by far the Dirtiest-Burning Fossil Fuel, has long served as the Country’s Primary source of Electricity.

The Core of Obama’s Initiative was the Clean Power Plan, a sweeping EPA rule that aimed to Reduce Carbon Emissions from existing Power Plants by 32% below 2005 levels. The Policy set new Standards for new Natural Gas-Burning Power Plants, and put Stricter Limits on Coal-Fired, Steam-Based Plants. By implementing the Plan, the U.S. hoped to meet its Emissions Reduction goals as part of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The failure of previous global Deals, such as the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, hinged partly on the United States’ Refusal to Implement Emission cuts.

The President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, convinced the President to remove Language from his new Order that was critical of the Paris accord. It’s unclear how the U.S. can meet its Commitments without the Clean Power Plan in place.

Last year, a Coalition of Republican-controlled States, led by Pruitt, who was then Oklahoma’s Attorney General, filed a Lawsuit to Stop the Emissions Rules, prompting the Supreme Court to grant a stay Suspending Implementation. Pruitt launched at least 13 Lawsuits against the EPA before he became the Agency’s Administrator last month.

Repealing those Rules could prove Expensive and Deadly, costing the U.S. Economy up to $600 billion by removing critical Incentives to increase Energy Efficiency, according to the Research firm Energy Innovation. The CCP’s repeal could lead to billions of tons of Carbon being released into the atmosphere, which in turn could contribute to more than 120,000 premature deaths, according to a writeup of the study in Forbes.

Still, another Supreme Court Decision may hinder the Trump Administration’s efforts to completely scrap the Plan. In 2007’s Massachusetts v. EPA, the Court ruled that Greenhouse Gas Emissions constituted Pollution, requiring the EPA to take action. Plus, Courts work both ways: Environmental groups are widely expected to Sue over attempts to stop cutting Emissions.

“In order to make policy change, it’s going to need to be supported by the science, and that’s where I think ultimately the effort is going to founder,” Pete Fontaine, a veteran Environmental Lawyer who worked at the EPA said. “Yes, you can cut programs and you can go about it with your fiscal authority to try to change policy, but in order to modify regulations, you have to be able to withstand an arbitrary-and-capricious standard.” Such Standards, which can be used to overturn previous Court Rulings, would need to stand the test of climate Science, Fontaine said. “Facts will not be changed by people expressing beliefs in an alternative set of facts,” he said. “The science is well settled on climate change, and that science is based on literally more than a century of scientific inquiry and the laws of physics, which are going to govern here no matter what people say is contrary to their beliefs.”

Yet a battle appears to be brewing in the Trump Administration over the future of the Endangerment Clause, Policy that spawned from the Supreme Court’s Ruling categorizing Carbon Dioxide and Methane emissions as a Public Health threat. David Schnare, an Appointee from the EPA Transition Team, quit suddenly earlier this month in part because Pruitt refused to take on the Clause, Politico reported. “The backstory to my resignation is extremely complex,” Schnare said. “I will be writing about it myself. It is a story not about me, but about a much more interesting set of events involving misuse of federal funds, failure to honor oaths of office, and a lack of loyalty to the president.”

By lifting the Temporary Moratorium on Coal Leasing, the Trump Administration is ending a Policy aimed at lessening the Environmental Impact of Mining and increasing the Government’s yield on Investment.

The current Rules grant Coal companies the right to Apply to Schedule Leases at times favorable to them, as well as to Design the Tracts and control the Terms on which they’re offered. Critics say the Standards are lopsided, giving Coal producers above-market-value cuts of Revenue generated from Mining.

The Government levies an 8% cut of Revenue from underground Mining and takes 12.5% from surface Mining, which includes Environmentally Destructive Techniques such as Mountaintop Removal and Open Pit Mining. That money is split between the Federal Government and the State where the Coal is Mined.

But Dan Bucks, former Director of Revenue for the State of Montana, a major Coal Producer, said the Leasing program is “essentially broken,” with more than 90% of Leases awarded without real Competition. “Lease payments, for those of us who have examined from outside can determine, have failed the market value standard test,” he said. “The American people have been shortchanged on the leasing side as well as the royalty side.” “The Obama administration wanted to fix that,” added Bucks, who is not aligned with either Democrats or Republicans. “They wanted to update the leasing program so public issues, namely environmental issues and climate change, could be taken into account before leases were offered.”

Trump vowed to Resuscitate the Coal business by axing Environmental Rules that he and the Industry blame for years of decline and thousands of layoffs. Those promises won him big Victories in Coal Country. But shrinking market demand has actually played a bigger role in Coal’s decline.

Cheaper, cleaner-Burning Natural Gas has devoured Coal’s share of the Electricity Market over the past decade. In response, Coal companies have bet big on continued demand from China. But Chinese demand peaked in 2012, and has since plummeted due to the Country’s slowing economy and a move to suspend the construction of Coal-Fired Power Plants in favor of Renewable Energy.

Trump has put numerous other Environmental Regulations on the chopping block since his Inauguration. He and many Republican Lawmakers argue that these Rules created unnecessary and at times pricey hurdles for Corporations and Small Businesses.

Last week, the White House proposed slashing the EPA’s Budget by nearly one-third, a move that would eliminate popular programs like Energy Star and Environmental Justice Initiatives, and would cripple the Agency’s Enforcement Division. The EPA scrapped a Rule earlier this month requiring Oil and Gas Drillers to Report Leaks of Methane, a Greenhouse Gas 40 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide.

Last month, after House Republicans voted to Overturn a Rule Protecting Waterways from Coal Mining Pollution, Trump signed an Order instructing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to overhaul the 2015 Waters of the United States Rule, which expanded Federal Control over Wetlands and other Waterways by 3%. The Rule essentially provided Guidelines on whether Anti-Pollution Laws would apply if, for example, a Farmer Dams a stream to make a pond for livestock or a Developer fills in a marsh to build a new house.

But in the view of the Country’s top Environmental Policymaker, the pendulum swung too far in the Direction of Environmentalists under the previous Administration, and course correction is needed.

“We need a pro-growth and pro-environment approach for how we do regulations in this country,” Pruitt said on Sunday. “For too long, we have accepted a narrative that if you’re pro-growth, pro-jobs, you’re anti-environment.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Congress Weekly Update Mar-27-Apr-1, 2017

The week ahead in Congress:

- This week the House votes on a Bill that would prohibit the EPA from Proposing, Finalizing, or Disseminating a Rule unless all Scientific and Technical information relied on to support the action is:

1) The best available Science
2) Specifically identified
3) Publicly available in a manner sufficient for Independent Analysis and substantial reproduction of Research Results.

- A Senate-passed Resolution to Overturn the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Broadband Privacy Rule.

S.J.Res.34: Congressional Review Act Resolution to Overturn FCC Rule "Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services", Sponsor: Sen. Jeff Flake [R-AZ].

The Bill, which already passed the Senate, overturns Obama Administration Rules requiring Internet Service Providers (ISP) to obtain Customers’ Permission before Selling or Sharing users' Personal Information. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress has until May 17th, 60 Session days since the rule was issued, to present the Resolution to the President for his signature.

- The Senate will vote on Ratification of Montenegro as the newest member of NATO.

The Senate is expected to vote Monday on a Treaty allowing Montenegro to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The vote was blocked earlier by Senator Rand Paul [R-KY], who expressed concerns about extending NATO further. The Treaty is supported by Secretary of Defense, James Mattis and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, through the Trump Administration has not yet taken an official position.

- The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence holds its first hearing into Russian Activities in the 2016 Election.

H.R. 654: Pacific Northwest Earthquake Preparedness Act. To require Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop a Plan, and identify the necessary Funding for Purchase and Installation of an Earthquake Early Warning system for the Cascadia Subduction Zone, Sponsor: Rep. Peter DeFazio [D-OR].

H.R. 1117: To require the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to submit a Report regarding certain Plans regarding assistance to applicants and grantees during the response to an Emergency or Disaster, Sponsor: Rep. Vicky Hartzler [R-MO].

H.R. 1214: Disaster SAVE Act - To increase the Disaster Assistance threshold to $500,000 for Grants to clear Debris and Repair and Rebuild Facilities, Sponsor: Rep. Lou Barletta [R-PA].

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Technology Gets Political Resistbot Faxes Lawmakers For You

In these days of constantly contacting Politicians to make sure your voice is heard, along comes a new technology to make things a bit easier.

Meet Resistbot, a free service that turns Texts into Faxes that are then sent to Politicians across the Country. Launched last month, the service is run by Volunteers and supported by Donations.

To mobilize the operation, users simply text the word “resist” to 50409. The automated bot will ask for a Name and Zip Code to determine which Public officials to contact. First messages go to Senators, but users can also send them to Representatives.

Creativity and clarity are key. Since the service doesn’t handle “form letters,” the user must create his or her own message.

“Our research shows that form letters are totally ignored by Congress. Only original, unique messages count,” the Resistbot website states. “But they don’t have to be complicated or fancy. Just a few sentences from a real-life voter gets their attention. Don’t worry about typos or mistakes, that just further shows you’re a real person.”

Turning Texts into Faxes is a service that is not limited to any Political Party. Co-Creator Jason Putorti said that the site will “faithfully deliver any message our users send in, but the voice of the product is for the liberals and conservatives in opposition to the Trump administration.”

CLICK HERE for more information about Resistbot.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Sunday, March 26, 2017

The White House Office of American Innovation Led by Kushner

President Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the Federal Bureaucracy and fulfill Key Campaign Promises, such as Reforming Care for Veterans and Fighting Opioid aAdiction, by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, Privatizing some Government Functions.

The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and Senior Adviser, will operate as its own nimble Power Center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of Strategic Consultants, the office will be staffed by former Business Executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind, and create a lasting legacy for a President still searching for signature achievements.

“All Americans, regardless of their political views, can recognize that government stagnation has hindered our ability to properly function, often creating widespread congestion and leading to cost overruns and delays,” Trump said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I promised the American people I would produce results, and apply my ‘ahead of schedule, under budget’ mentality to the government.”

In a White House riven at times by disorder and competing factions, the Innovation office represents an expansion of Kushner’s already far-reaching influence. The 36-year-old former Real Estate and Media Executive will continue to wear many hats, driving Foreign and Domestic Policy as well as decisions on Presidential Personnel. He also is a shadow Diplomat, serving as Trump’s Lead Adviser on relations with China, Mexico, Canada, and the Middle East.

The work of White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon has drawn considerable attention, especially after his call for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” But Bannon will have no formal role in the Innovation Office, which Trump Advisers described as an Incubator of sleek Transformation as opposed to deconstruction.

The announcement of the new office comes at a humbling moment for the President, following Friday’s collapse of his first major Legislative push, an overhaul of the Health-Care system, which Trump had championed as a Candidate.

Kushner is positioning the new office as “an offensive team”, an aggressive, nonideological ideas factory capable of attracting top talent from both inside and outside of Government, and serving as a conduit with the Business, Philanthropic, and Academic communities.

“We should have excellence in government,” Kushner said Sunday in an interview in his West Wing office. “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

The Innovation Office has a particular focus on Technology and Data, and it is working with such titans as Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff, and Tesla Founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk. The group has already hosted sessions with more than 100 such Leaders and Government officials.

“There is a need to figure out what policies are adding friction to the system without accompanying it with significant benefits,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chief Executive of the Investment firm Blackstone Group. “It’s easy for the private sector to at least see where the friction is, and to do that very quickly and succinctly.”

Some of the Executives involved have criticized some of Trump’s Policies, such as his Travel Ban, but said they are eager to help the Administration address chronic problems.

“Obviously it has to be done with corresponding values and principles. We don’t agree on everything,” said Benioff, a Silicon Valley Billionaire who raised money for Democrat Clinton’s 2016 Campaign. But, Benioff added, “I’m hopeful that Jared will be collaborative with our industry in moving this forward. When I talk to him, he does remind me of a lot of the young, scrappy entrepreneurs that I invest in in their 30s.”

Kushner’s ambitions for what the new office can achieve are grand. At least to start, the Team plans to focus its attention on re-imagining Veterans Affairs; modernizing the Technology and Data Infrastructure of every Federal Department and Agency; Remodeling Workforce-Training programs; and Developing “transformative projects” under the banner of Trump’s $1 trillion Infrastructure plan, such as providing Broadband Internet service to every American.

In some cases, the office could direct that Government Functions be Privatized, or that existing Contracts be awarded to new Bidders.

The office will also focus on combating Opioid abuse, a regular emphasis for Trump on the Campaign trail. The President later this week plans to announce an official Drug Commission devoted to the problem that will be Chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). He has been working informally on the issue for several weeks with Kushner, despite reported tension between the two.

Under President Obama, Trump Advisers said scornfully, some Business Leaders privately dismissed their White House Interactions as “NATO” meetings, “No action, talk only” — in which they were “lectured,” without much follow-up.

Andrew Liveris, Chairman and Chief Executive of Dow Chemical, who has had meetings with the two previous Administrations, said the environment under Trump is markedly different. After he left a recent meeting of Manufacturing Chief Executives with Trump, Liveris said, “Rather than entering a vacuum, I’m getting emails from the president’s team, if not every day, then every other day — ‘Here’s what we’re working on.’ ‘We need another meeting.’ ‘Can you get us more input on this?’ ”

Kushner proudly notes that most of the Members of his Team have little-to-no Political experience, hailing instead from the world of Business. They include Gary Cohn, Director of the National Economic Council; Chris Liddell, Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives; Reed Cordish, Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental and Technology Initiatives; Dina Powell, Senior Counselor to the President for Economic Initiatives and Deputy National Security Adviser; and Andrew Bremberg, Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Ivanka Trump, the President’s elder daughter and Kushner’s wife, who now does her Advocacy work from a West Wing office, will collaborate with the Innovation office on issues such as Workforce Development but will not have an official role, Aides said.

Powell, a former Goldman Sachs Executive who previously worked in George W. Bush’s White House and State Department, boasts a Government pedigree. Bremberg also worked in the Bush Administration. But others are Political Neophytes.

Liddell, who speaks with an accent from his native New Zealand, served as Chief Financial officer for General Motors, Microsoft, and International Paper, as well as in Hollywood for William Morris Endeavor. “We are part of the White House team, connected with everyone here, but we are not subject to the day-to-day issues, so we can take a more strategic approach to projects,” Liddell said.

Like Kushner, Cordish is the Scion of a Real Estate family, a Baltimore-based Conglomerate known for developing Casinos and Shopping Malls.

Cohn, a Democrat who has recently amassed significant clout in the White House, is the hard-charging Former President of Goldman Sachs.

Trump’s White House is closely scrutinized for its always-evolving Power Matrix, and the Innovation office represents a victory for Wall Street figures such as Cohn who have sought to moderate Trump’s Agenda and Project a friendly front to Businesses, sometimes in conflict with the more hard-line Conservatism Championed by Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

The Innovation Group has been meeting twice a week in Kushner’s office, with a marked-up whiteboard more typical of Tech start-ups. Kushner takes Projects and Decisions directly to the President for sign-off, though Trump also directly suggests areas of personal interest.

There could be friction as the Group interacts with myriad Federal Agencies, though the Advisers said they did not see themselves as an imperious force dictating changes but rather as a “service organization” offering solutions.

Kushner’s Team is being formalized just as the Trump Administration is proposing sweeping Budget cuts across many Departments, and Members said they would help find efficiencies.

“The president’s doing what is necessary to have a prudent budget, and that makes an office like this even more vital as we need to get more out of less dollars by doing things smarter, doing things better, and by leaning on the private sector,” Cordish said.

Ginni Rometty, the Chairman and Chief Executive of IBM, said she is encouraged: “Jared is reaching out and listening to leaders from across the business community — not just on day-to-day issues, but on long-term challenges like how to train a modern workforce and how to apply the latest innovations to government operations.”

Trump sees the Innovation Office as a way to Institutionalize what he sometimes did in Business, such as helping New York City’s Government Renovate the floundering Wollman Rink in Central Park, said Hope Hicks, the President’s longtime Spokeswoman. “He recognized where the government has struggled with certain projects and he was someone in the private sector who was able to come in and bring the resources and creativity needed and ultimately execute in an efficient, cost-effective, way,” Hicks said. “In some respects, this is an extension of some of the highlights of the president’s career.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Current Partisan Gerrymandering Cases

Whitford v. Gill (formerly known as Whitford v. Nichol)

United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (No. 15-cv-421)

The plaintiffs, 12 Wisconsin Residents who historically have voted Democratic, filed a Lawsuit on July 8th, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin challenging the Legislative District plan drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature following the 2010 Census. They argue the map is Unconstitutional because it Discriminates against Democratic Candidates and Voters on the basis of their Political beliefs, Violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and because it burdens their First Amendment Rights of Association and Speech.

Earlier this year, on April 7th 2016, the Three-Judge Federal panel ruled Unanimously to allow the Case to proceed to Trial, marking the first time in three decades that partisan Gerrymandering claims survived a motion to Dismiss. The Trial was held in late-May and posed two Major questions for the Court. The first was whether the Wisconsin State House plan had been drawn with Discriminatory Partisan intent. Second, assuming there was intent, the Trial turned to whether the Maps had a Constitutionally Discriminatory effect, an issue that Courts have thus far been unable to develop a simple Test to resolve.

The trial provided a Key Initial Test for the Efficiency Gap, a proposed Standard for determining Discriminatory effect that Counts the number of Votes each Party wastes in an Election to determine whether either Party enjoyed a systematic advantage in turning votes into Seats.

On November 21st, 2016, the Panel issued a 2-1 Opinion holding that Wisconsin’s Legislative Plan was an Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymander because it resulted in Excessive Partisan Asymmetry that could not be explained by neutral factors such as Political Topography. Shortly thereafter, the Panel ordered the Wisconsin Legislature put a Remedial Plan in place by November 1st, 2017.

Wisconsin filed an Appeal on February 24th, 2017, asking the Supreme Court to review the decision Striking Down the Map.

Benisek v. Lamone (formerly known as Shapiro v. McManus)

United States District Court for the District of Maryland (No. 13-cv-3233)

A group of Maryland Voters filed a Complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on November 5th, 2013 challenging the Congressional Redistricting plan enacted by the Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly following the 2010 Census.

In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs claimed that Maryland’s 6th Congressional District was a Partisan Gerrymander that Violated their Representational Rights guaranteed by Article I of the U.S. Constitution and their First Amendment Right of Political Association. Until the 2011 Redistricting, the Sixth District routinely sent a Republican to Congress; afterward, the District flipped, going to the Democratic side. Under the Plaintiffs’ theory of the Case, the Democratic-controlled Legislature engineered this flip in an attempt to punish Republican Voters for casting their Ballots in favor of their preferred Republican Candidates.

On August 24th, 2016, the Panel denied the State Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss in a 2-1 decision, holding that the Plaintiffs had adequately alleged a Claim that they had been Disfavored and Punished for Exercising their First Amendment Rights. The Parties are now proceeding with Discovery, with a Trial in the case Expected in late Summer or early Fall 2017.

Harris v. McCrory

United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (No. 13-CV-949)

This Supreme Court Appeal arises from a challenge to a Remedial Congressional Map adopted by the North Carolina Legislature in February 2016 after its original Congressional Map had been struck down by a Three-Judge Panel as a Racial Gerrymander. To guide the Drawing of the Remedial Map, Legislative Leaders adopted Rules that required the Map to Preserve the State’s existing Partisan balance of ten Republican and three Democratic Seats. After the State adopted the Map, the Plaintiffs filed objections, contending that it was an Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymander.

Earlier this summer, the Panel denied the Plaintiffs’ Partisan Gerrymandering Objections. In the eight-page Opinion, the Court concluded that its “hands appear to be tied” because Partisan Gerrymandering Claims are Non-Justiciable. Nonetheless, the Court emphasized that its Ruling did not prevent further Challenges to the State’s Remedial Plan.

The Plaintiffs have asked the Supreme Court to Review the Panel’s decision not to consider the Partisan Gerrymandering claim. The Brennan Center filed an Amicus Curiae Brief with the Supreme Court, asking the Justices to summarily Reverse the Panel’s Justiciability Ruling and to remand the Case for further proceedings.

The Court will decide if it will take the Case sometime this Term. If the Court decides to take the Case, arguments are likely to be set for early or during the next term. In the meantime, the Court heard Argument in the State Defendants’ Appeal of the original Racial Gerrymandering Claims on December 5th, 2016. A decision is expected before the Court recesses in June 2017.

Common Cause v. Rucho

United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (No. 1:16-CV-1026)

The Plaintiffs claim that North Carolina’s Remedial 2016 Congressional Map, adopted by the North Carolina Legislature after an earlier Map was struck down, is an Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymander in Violation of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and Article I sections 2 and 4 of the U.S. Constitution. The Plaintiffs argue that the Remedial Map Favored some Voters and Penalized others for their Political Party Memberships and Affiliations, thereby affecting the state Government’s ability to maintain Political Neutrality when Distributing Political Representation and Power.

The Three-Judge Panel hearing the Case denied the State's Motion to Dismiss on March 3rd, 2017 and has set the start of the Trial in the Case for June 26th, 2017. The Trial will be consolidated with Trial in League of Women Voters v. Rucho.

League of Women Voters v. Rucho

United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (No. 1:16-CV-1164)

Race and Politics collided in North Carolina this cycle, presenting Courts with both Racial and Partisan Gerrymandering Claims.

On October 24th, 2013, Plaintiffs in Harris v. McCrory filed Suit alleging that North Carolina Packed African-American Voters into the 1st and 12th Congressional Districts when it Redrew its Congressional District lines in 2011. The District lines, they argued, Diluted African-American Voting Power and Violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In early February, the Three-Judge Panel agreed and struck down the State’s Congressional Map as an Unconstitutional Racial Gerrymander.

After the Ruling, the State Defendants Appealed. Meanwhile, the North Carolina Legislature held an Emergency Special Session where it Redrew the Map. However, in Redrawing Maps, Legislative lLaders adopted Rules that required proposed Maps to maintain the State’s Partisan balance of 10 Republican and 3 Democratic Seats. A key Legislative Leader stated on the Floor that, "I acknowledge freely that this would be a political gerrymander, which is not against the law." The Challengers filed Objections to the Remedial Plan claiming the new Map was Doubly Defective. Not only did the Legislature fail to fix the deficiencies with the Original Map, they argued, but it also added an Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymander to the still-existing Racial Gerrymander.

The Court denied the Plaintiffs’ objections on June 2nd, 2016. In the short eight-page Opinion, the Court said its “Hands Appear to be Tied” given the lack of a Judicially Management Standard to evaluate Partisan Gerrymandering Claims. However, the Court emphasized that its Ruling was not an endorsement of, nor does it prevent further Challenges to, the State’s Remedial Plan.

The Plaintiffs have Appealed the District Court’s Ruling on the 2016 Remedial Map to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters have filed Suits in District Court also challenging the Constitutionality of the 2016 Remedial Plan.

As stated above, both cases have been consolidated and the Trial is scheduled to begin on June 26th, 2017.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Arkansas Replaces Voter ID Law

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a Bill Friday requiring Voters to show Photo Identification at the Polls, even though the State Supreme Court struck down a nearly Identical measure just three years ago.

A similar Requirement was enacted just four years ago, but the State Supreme Court struck it down in 2014. The Court found that the Voting requirements of the Law went beyond what was required by the Constitution, which only says that a Voter must be at least 18 years old, a resident of Arkansas, and Lawfully Registered.

Unlike the previous measure, the new Law allows Voters to cast a Provisional Ballot at the Polls, which will only be Counted if they go to the offices of Election officials by noon on the Monday after the Election. The Legislation requires the State to provide free Photo Identification to those who don’t have an acceptable Form to vote, but similar plans in other States have caused confusion. And even if they do have the acceptable Form of Identification, but forget it on Election day, traveling to the offices of Election officials imposes an additional burden.

“I’ve always supported reasonable requirements for verification of voter registration,” Hutchinson said in a statement, according to ArkansasOnline. This Law is different, in a number of ways, than the previous Law, which was struck down by the Supreme Court. It should hold up under any Court review. For those reasons, I signed the Bill into Law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which took Legal action against the previous Bill, did not return an inquiry on whether it planned to do the same for the new Law. Holly Dickson, the Group’s Legal Director, told ArkansasOnline that its “chief concern” was that someone’s ballot would not be counted.”

Republicans in the Legislature may have a more calculated reason for acting now to adopt the measure. Four of the seven Judges who struck down the initial Voter ID Law no longer remain on the Court. The three remaining wrote a concurring opinion, arguing that the Law was invalid because it did not get the necessary Two-Thirds Majority necessary in the Legislature to change the Voting Requirements in the State Constitution. This time around, the Bill got the support of both Houses, passing 74-21 in the Arkansas House and 25-8 in the Senate.

Perhaps anticipating a Legal challenge to the new Law, Arkansas Lawmakers passed a separate Measure to put a Constitutional Amendment requiring Photo ID on the State Ballot in 2018.

Widespread Voter Fraud is virtually nonexistent, and critics argue that Voter ID Laws like the one in Arkansas are a way to prevent Low-Income and Minority Voters, many of whom lack the required Documentation, from voting. Federal Courts have in recent months struck down Voter ID Laws in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas.

Many Republicans argue that Voter ID measures are necessary to shore up confidence in Elections, but those same Advocates are also often the ones who have stoked the perception that Voter Fraud is a problem.

I am still waiting for Republican Politicians to explain to me how Photo ID will stop Voter Fraud, when it mostly takes place with Absentee Ballots, Mail-In-Ballots, and Petitions.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Trump has been going to Florida an awful lot throughout his Presidency and yet there’s no Logs of the people that he meets up with there. Senate Democrats want to change that, and so they are doubling down on their effort to force the Trump Administration to publicly release Visitor Logs for the White House and Mar-a-Lago with a Bill named for Trump’s Florida Resort.

The Bill introduced Friday by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Jack Reed (D-RI) is called the Make Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act, or MAR-A-LAGO Act.

The Bill would require the Trump Administration to release Public Visitor Logs for both the White House “or any other location where President Trump regularly conducts official business.”

Udual stated that the Trump Administration is “Stonewalling” and avoiding Transparency. “It’s simple: the American people have a right to know who has access to the president and who has leverage over this administration,” he said in a statement.

The Legislation comes after Senate Democrats sent a letter earlier this month to Trump and William Callahan, the Secret Service Deputy Director, asking whether they planned to publish Visitor Logs.

The White House being unresponsive to the letter has led to the MAR-A-LAGO Bill to be introduced.

John Wonderlich, Executive Director of the Sunlight Foundation, is also supporting the Bill, saying that Congress must force the Administration to public the Logs if they don’t voluntarily do so. “As long as President Trump continues to conduct public business in his private business, the same standards of disclosure should apply to Mar-a-Lago as the White House,” he said.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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