Friday, February 24, 2017

Net Neutrality Supporters Rally on Rule's Second Anniversary

The fight over Net Neutrality is heating up as the Landmark Internet Rules hit their two-year Anniversary on Sunday. And Supporters are worried the future of the Rules could be in doubt.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has already begun chipping away at Net Neutrality, which requires Internet Service Providers (ISP) to treat all Web Traffic the same.

Earlier this month, he suspended an Investigation into Free Data Services offered by Companies including AT&T and Verizon. Critics claim those Plans which give Customers Free Data violate Net Neutrality. And at an Open Commission Meeting this week, Pai pushed through a Measure that exempts Smaller ISPs from the Rule's Reporting Requirements.

Democrats, though, are vowing to fight back and plan to use the anniversary of the Rules to rally support.

The FCC's lone Democrat, Mignon Clyburn, who Voted against rolling back the Net Neutrality Reporting Requirements is holding a rally Monday to Commemorate the Anniversary. She'll be joined by Advocacy Groups backing Net Neutrality as well as Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus for the Event at the Cannon House Office Building at 3 p.m.

Pai also made it clear on Friday that his Work on Net Neutrality isn't done yet. The Commissioner temporarily Blocked part of the Privacy Rules on Broadband Providers approved by the FCC in October. The Rules subject ISP to tougher Rules on Storing and using Consumer Data and were passed under Authority from the Agency's Net Neutrality Rules.

Pai's move was met with immediate applause from Conservatives and the Telecom industry, while Privacy Advocates were quick to condemn the Move.

Republicans on the Hill have also signaled their intent to tackle those Privacy Rules, with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) set to introduce a Bill that would Roll Back the Broadband Privacy Regulations in their entirety through the Congressional Review Act.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Federal Appeals Court Upholds Maryland Assault Rifle Ban

A Federal Appeals Court upheld Maryland's Ban on Assault Rifles, concluding that the powerful military-style guns outlawed by the measure are not entitled to Protection under the Second Amendment.

The 10-4 ruling, issued by the entire Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, reverses a Decision by a smaller panel of Judges from the Court last year that called the Law's Constitutionality into question.

The Bill was steered through the Maryland Senate in 2013 by then-Sen. Brian E. Frosh in the wake of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Since Elected as the State's Attorney General, he has defended the Law in Court.

Frosh, a Democrat, called the Dual role gratifying and said he was very happy with the Ruling. "It's a very strong opinion and we think absolutely correct," said Frosh, who called the violence wrought by the now-banned guns "senseless."

The Law, which also outlawed Magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, was challenged by two men who said they wanted to buy the Banned Rifles and by a handful of Gun Stores and Associations. They argued that the Rifles were popular among Gun enthusiasts, used by people to defend their homes and not inherently dangerous. A Federal Judge in Baltimore disagreed, upholding the Law.

The Plaintiffs could Appeal the Case to the Supreme Court. Frosh said that he's confident the Law will stand should the High Court weigh in.

The Case is among several that have tested how Courts would consider New Firearm Restrictions in the wake of a 2008 Supreme Court Decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, that affirmed an Individual's Constitutional right to Own at Least some types of Guns.

In the Fourth Circuit's Decision, which began by recounting recent mass shootings, Judge Robert B. King concluded that the Rifles Banned by the Maryland Law fell outside of the protections laid down by the Supreme Court.

"Both before and after Newtown, similar Military-Style Rifles and Detachable Magazines have been used to perpetrate mass shootings in places whose names have become synonymous with the slaughters that occurred there," he wrote.

"We are convinced that the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are among those arms that are 'like' 'M-16 rifles' — 'weapons that are most useful in military service' — which the Heller Court singled out as being beyond the Second Amendment's reach," King wrote.

Four other Courts have upheld similar Restrictions in other States, he wrote, and he said the earlier decision by the Panel of Judges would have made the Court an outlier.

In a scathing dissent, Judge William B. Traxler said it was his Colleagues who had now gone too far by denying that the Guns are covered under the Second Amendment at all.

"The majority has gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms," he wrote.

Even if the Weapons were Constitutionally protected, Traxler acknowledged it is possible that the Maryland Law still might pass muster but said it should be subjected to a Stricter Review by the Court.

"For a law-abiding citizen who, for whatever reason, chooses to protect his home with a semi-automatic rifle instead of a semi-automatic handgun, Maryland's law clearly imposes a significant burden on the exercise of the right to arm oneself at home," he wrote.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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NYPD Won't Round Up Immigrants Under Trump's Deportation Orders

Don't count on the New York Police Department (NYPD) to help with President Trump’s Directive to round up Undocumented Immigrants.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill had a defiant message for the President on Wednesday, saying his officers will not enforce Administrative Warrants issued by Federal Immigration officials as a result of the expansive Deportation Policies.

“It is critical that everyone who comes into contact with the NYPD, regardless of their immigration status, be able to identify themselves or seek assistance without hesitation, anxiety or fear,” O’Neill said in the sharply worded, 431-word internal memo to Police officers.

Don't count on the NYPD to help with President Trump’s Directive to round up Undocumented Immigrants.

“The NYPD does not conduct civil immigration enforcement. Specifically, this department does not enforce administrative warrants issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents or federal immigration judges solely in connection with civil immigration violations.”

“For example, the NYPD does not arrest or detain individuals for immigration violations such as overstaying a lawfully issued visa. However, the NYPD does and will continue to honor federal immigration detainers when there is a risk to public safety.”

Although the memo was directed to “the men and women of the New York City Police Department,” its message was in stark contrast to the Directives issued by Trump’s Homeland Security Department.

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called for any Undocumented Immigrants to be Deported if they have been Convicted or even Charged with a Criminal offense, “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits,” or “have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency.”

That means Undocumented Immigrants who have committed even Minor Traffic Infractions, received any Government Assistance or used Fake Social Security numbers to be able to work, common offenses among the Immigrants, could be shipped out of the Country.

City officials have already been at odds with the Feds over the Trump Administration’s plan to slash Federal Funding for “Sanctuary Cities” like New York.

O’Neill also reminded officers that the Department “accepts the city’s IDNYC as a valid and recognized form of government-issued identification, including for the issuance of summonses and desk appearance tickets.”

The Government has estimated approximately 11 million Undocumented Immigrants live in the U.S., a number backed by Non-Governmental Organizations like the Pew Research Center.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Montana State GOP Chair Opposes Bill to Make It Easier to Vote Claiming It Will Hurt Republicans

The Head of the Montana Republican Party wrote an emergency plea this week warning that Legislation allowing Residents to cast Mail-In Ballots would benefit Democrats and make it more difficult for the GOP to maintain Control of State Politics.

At issue is Legislation introduced by Montana State Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick (R) that would allow Montanans to cast Mail-In Ballots in a Special Election later this year to fill the U.S. House Seat vacated by Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), whom President Trump tapped to Lead the Interior Department. Fitzpatrick introduced the Bill to save the State $500,000 by not requiring Election Judges and other officials to be hired on short notice.

But the Legislation prompted Jeff Essmann, the Chair of the Montana GOP, to send Republicans an “emergency report” email on Tuesday, warning that making it easier to Vote would benefit Democrats. “All mail ballots give the Democrats an inherent advantage in close elections due to their ability to organize large numbers of unpaid college students and members of public employee unions to gather ballots by going door to door,” Essmann wrote. “Vote-by-mail is designed to increase participation rates of lower propensity voters. Democrats in Montana perform better than Republican candidates among lower propensity voters and Republicans do better among higher propensity voters.”

As States across the Country debate Voting measures, Essmann’s email provides a remarkably candid glimpse of a Republican official opposing a measure to make it Easier to Vote on the grounds it would harm his Party politically.

While the current Legislation only addresses one Special Election, Essmann warned that it could have severe consequences for the State GOP. “I know that my position will not be popular with many fiscally conservative Republican County Commissioners or the sponsor of House Bill 305. They may be well intended, but this bill could be death of our effort to make Montana a reliably Republican state,” he wrote. “It is my job to remind us all of the long term strategic advantage that passage of this bill would provide to our Democrat opponents for control of our legislature and our statewide elected positions.”

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, a Republican, voiced similar concerns to Lawmakers earlier this week and pointed to the three States that currently have Mail-In Balloting. “If you look at the three states that have done it, you can see that populism and direct democracy at its best, all three states — Oregon, Washington and Colorado — they do all-mail-in ballots and they’re all marijuana-all-the-time states too,” he said.

The Bill was voted out of Committee on Wednesday and is now awaiting consideration by the Full State Senate.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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NH State Senate GOP Voter Registration Plan Tightens Proof-of-Residency Requirements

New Hampshire State Sen. Regina Birdsell says the guiding principle behind her new comprehensive Bill to tighten Voter Registration requirements borrows from former President Ronald Reagan. “Trust, but verify,” she said. “We trust you, but we want you to bring in proof.” The second-term Hampstead Republican, who Chairs the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee, said the basics of her long-awaited Amendment to Senate Bill 3 is, “My constituents have been clamoring for this,”.

Her Bill requires that anyone who Registers to Vote within 30 days of an Election, or on Election Day, present definitive Proof of Residency in the State. Those who do not can still Vote but would be required to provide Proof of Residency to Town and City Clerks no more than 10 or 30 days after the Election, depending on where they live, for their Vote to be counted.

It’s a shorter turnaround requirement than under current Law, and the follow-up Provision in her Bill would allow Police on routine patrol to visit a home to seek Proof of Residency from the Voter.

Election Law Reform has been among the biggest issues at the State House this year in the aftermath of the 2016 Election. It was drawing the attention of Gov. Chris Sununu and Lawmakers even before President Trump put New Hampshire in the National spotlight two weeks ago by making an unsubstantiated claim that thousands of people were bused into the State from Massachusetts and Voted Illegally.

Dozens of Bills addressing State Election Laws were filed, most of them in the House. But several key House Bills have been recently put on hold while State Senate Republicans, led by Birdsell, work on what has been described as an all-encompassing, or Omnibus, plan. Also put on hold was a separate Senate Bill to put into place a 13-day Residency requirement.

Birdsell said that a final draft of her Amendment will not be available until the week of March 6th, after Lawmakers return from a recess next week.

Outlining the Plan in a State House interview, she said her Bill would continue the existing practice of allowing people who do not show positive Photo IDs at Polling places to fill out and provide Election officials with an Affidavit swearing that they are domiciled in New Hampshire. But she said her Bill is different than current Law because it requires those Voters to provide Proof that they are domiciled in the State, and do so promptly.

She said the goal of the plan is to stress that in New Hampshire, “domicile is more than just an idea, and that is a verifiable act, and they must show proof of that act. They must show that there has been some act performed, by proof that they have purchased a home, or a New Hampshire motor vehicle registration or a New Hampshire fishing or hunting license. Or there must be proof presented of residency at an institute of higher learning. In order to claim domicile in this state, it can’t be just an idea in your head, It’s going to require that you show you have an intent to stay, and then it has to be coupled with a verifiable act and proof of that.” Birdsell said.

Birdsell said that people who go to their City or Town Clerks to Register to Vote 30 or fewer days prior to an Election “are going to be required to fill out the registration form. It’s also going to have the domicile affidavit attached to it.”

For those who Register to Vote on Election Day, “If you are going to be claiming domicile, it’s the same situation. You are going to be required to bring in one of those same types of proof. If you don’t have them, you can still fill out the paperwork (affidavit) and vote. But you are going to be required within a certain period of time to bring the proof back to the town hall.”

Birdsell said that those who reside in Communities whose Town or City Halls are open 40 hours a week will have 10 days to bring in Proof of Domicile. Those who reside in Communities whose Town or City Halls are open on a part-time basis will have 30 days to present the Proof.

People who do not return to their city or Town Halls with Proof of Residency will receive letters from the secretary of State’s office seeking Proof, as is current procedure.

Students who claim domicile in a Campus Dormitory “can get a confirmation from the university. You can get a letter from the school saying you reside at a certain dorm, or you can use a bill you received from the school,” Birdsell said.

She cautioned that a Student who comes to New Hampshire from another State and claims Domicile in New Hampshire “must remember that we entered into the crosscheck program. If they are registered in another state, they need to be careful and switch their registration to New Hampshire.”

The Senator and former Two-Term House member said her interest in Election Law Reform was sparked by her Constituents in her Home Town when she ran for the House for the first time in 2010. “I ran then on trying to tighten up the voting laws, and my constituents are still clamoring for it. They’re concerned about what they feel is the looseness of our voting system. They are afraid of people coming over the border, and people who are here temporarily.”

She said that when she Campaigned to represent Hampstead in the House in 2010 and 2012, “some of my constituents told me they were standing (at the polling place) seeing cars from Massachusetts coming in on Election Day. “Were they people who had just moved in? I don’t know. But I know that this is what my constituents want,” Birdsell said.

Birdsell said she is prepared to be accused by opponents of Election Law Reform of trying to suppress Voting. “They can say that, but there will be language in this bill saying, for instance, that if you are a student, and you have a residence on campus, you can vote.” “We are not trying to suppress,” she said. “We’re just trying to make sure that if you are claiming domicile here, you have a vested interest in what happens in your community.”

Regarding claims by Trump and others of Election Fraud in the State, Birdsell said, “I don’t completely buy the claims of election fraud. I’d say that what we have are fairly loose laws. But I’m sure there are going to be people who hate it. There are going to be people who like it and there are going to be people who can live with this.” “I’ve learned as a state representative and a state senator that you can’t please everybody all the time. So this is the best that we’re going to be able to do.”

As for Trump’s claims, Birdsell said, “He obviously doesn’t know New Hampshire as well as he thinks he does.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Border Patrol Agents Stop Domestic Travelers at NY Airport

Passengers of a Domestic Delta flight from San Francisco to New York were told to show their Identity Documents to Uniformed Agents of the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) upon their arrival at John F. Kennedy Airport on Wednesday evening.

Experts explain that the Administration appears to have overlooked several crucial details. CBP officers are Border Agents, whose Statutory Authority is generally limited to International Arrivals.

CBP Agents inspected Passenger Identifications on the jetbridge by the door of the aircraft. A CBP spokesman insisted that this action is "nothing new" and that there is "no new policy." But the unusual, and Legally questionable, search of Domestic travelers comes days after the Department of Homeland Security outlined its plans to implement President Trump's sweeping Executive Order targeting millions of "removable aliens" for Deportation.

Upon deplaning from Delta Flight 1583 in New York, passenger Anne Garrett tweeted, "We were told we couldn't disembark without showing our 'documents.'"

Another passenger, Matt O'Rourke says the Delta Flight Attendant alerted passengers, "You'll need to show your papers to agents waiting outside the door." "She was weirded out by it," he says. The Agents, O'Rourke says, said nothing to him, but took his ID and scrutinized it for nearly 30 seconds before letting him pass. He describes the experience as "a little bit alarming." Only later did O'Rourke find himself asking, "Why is a customs agent doing this search? The flight didn't enter from another country."

In a statement, a spokesperson for CBP said the Agency had been asked "to assist in locating an individual possibly aboard Delta flight 1583" who had been "ordered removed by an immigration judge." The spokesman added that CBP agents "requested identification from those on the flight" but that ultimately "[t]he individual was determined not to be on the flight."

CBP was asked to point to its Statutory Authority to stop and examine the Identity documents of deplaning domestic passengers.

The spokesman sent a link to a document titled CBP Search Authority. The document refers to CBP's Authority to inspect international arrivals. Specifically, it cites 19 C.F.R. 162.6, which states, "All persons, baggage and merchandise arriving in the Customs territory of the United States from places outside thereof are liable to inspection by a CBP officer." The CBP document adds: "CBP has the authority to collect passenger name record information on all travelers entering or leaving the United States."

Asked to clarify CBP's Authority over Domestic passengers, the spokesman replied that "at this time this is all I have."

CBP was asked to clarify whether the CBP Document search was truly a "request" – or instead a Legally binding demand by the Agents. The spokesman again could not clarify CBP's Legal Authority, warning only, "It is always best to cooperate with law enforcement, so as to expedite your exiting the airport in a timely manner."

The New York Civil Liberties Union Staff Attorney Jordan Wells writes that "CBP does not have carte blanche to refuse to let people off a domestic flight until they show ID." His advice: "While one may choose to produce identity documents to avoid further hassle, it is important to remember that in the United States people have a constitutionally protected right to remain silent."

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

AG Sessions Reverses Government's Stance on Private Prison Use

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has signaled his support for the Federal Government's use of Private Prisons, rescinding a memo meant to phase out their use.

Sessions issued a new memo Thursday replacing one issued last August by Sally Yates, the Deputy Attorney General at the time.

Yates memo told the Bureau of Prisons to begin reducing and ultimately end its use of Privately Run Prisons. She said the facilities were less well run than those managed by the Bureau of Prisons, and were less necessary given declines in the overall Prison Population.

But Sessions says in his memo Thursday that Yates' Directive Contradicted longstanding Justice Department policy and "impaired the Bureau's ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system."

Today, For-Profit companies are responsible for approximately 6% of State Prisoners, 16% of Federal Prisoners, and, according to one report, nearly half of all Immigrants detained by the Federal Government.

The Department's report on Future Trends show:

- The number of privatized prisons is likely to increase, but not at the pace exhibited during the past decade.

- The number of companies operating privatized prisons is likely to decrease as competition and the costs of doing business increase, thus forcing a consolidation of firms within the industry.

- It is unlikely that privatized prisons will develop a strong market in the high-security inmate population market due to the recent flurry of well publicized disturbances. However, important inroads can be expected for the private sector within low-security medical, mental health, and geriatric inmate populations.

- Speculative prisons will face the greatest scrutiny and resistance by State and Federal Correctional Agencies. These facilities are the most difficult to monitor and regulate.

- Unless there is a sharp reduction in major incidents at private prisons, litigation directed at facilities that are immune from the Prison Litigation Reform Act will likely increase.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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