IVN.us http://ivn.us Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News Tue, 30 Jun 2015 19:27:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 FISA Court: Yes The NSA Can Still Spy on You… And It Will http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/fisa-court-yes-nsa-can-still-spy-will/ http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/fisa-court-yes-nsa-can-still-spy-will/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 18:32:27 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295665225 FISA Court: Yes The NSA Can Still Spy on You… And It Will

National Journal reported Tuesday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court, or FISC) authorized the continuation of the NSA's bulk collection of American phone records, despite calls from members of the legislative branch to cease these activities immediately.

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FISA Court: Yes The NSA Can Still Spy on You… And It Will

National Journal reported Tuesday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court, or FISC) authorized the continuation of the NSA’s bulk collection of American phone records, despite calls from members of the legislative branch to cease these activities immediately.

From the National Journal:

“The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved a government request to renew the dragnet collection of U.S. phone metadata for an additional five months—a timeframe allowed under the Freedom Act, a newly enacted surveillance reform law that calls for an eventual end to the mass spying program exposed by Edward Snowden two years ago.

 

The Senate passed the Freedom Act days after allowing the June 1 expiration of the Patriot Act’s three spying provisions, including Section 215, which the NSA uses to justify its bulk collection. The court order renews the surveillance until November 29, 2015—six months after enactment of the reform law.

 

“This application presents the question whether the recently-enacted USA Freedom Act … ended the bulk collection of telephone metadata,” the order, issued Monday and obtained by National Journal, reads. “The short answer is yes. But in doing so, Congress deliberately carved out a 180-day period following the date of enactment in which such collection was specifically authorized. For this reason, the Court approves the application in this case.”

While the debate over the constitutionality of the FISA Court is justified, it is the language in the USA Freedom Act that actually allows the bulk collection of phone records to continue. And the request to authorize the continuation of the program came from President Obama, who signed the USA Freedom Act into law.

“Acknowledging the unusual situation that finds the government again extending a controversial program Congress fought to dismantle, the Court began its opinion with a dose of French prose that translates to, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same,'” Dustin Volz of the National Journal reports.

It appears so…

Read the full article from National Journal here.

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Photo Credit: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

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http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/fisa-court-yes-nsa-can-still-spy-will/feed/ 3 confederate-battle-flag votes1 Stacey Toney, left, and Anna Mason, right, are married by Rev. Annie Standish, center, outside the Mecklenburg County register's office on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Jeff Willhelm) magna-carta
#MoralTakeover Protestors Demand Fair Funding for Pennsylvania Schools http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/moraltakeover-protestors-demand-fair-funding-for-pennsylvania-schools/ http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/moraltakeover-protestors-demand-fair-funding-for-pennsylvania-schools/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 13:37:34 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295665136 #MoralTakeover Protestors Demand Fair Funding for Pennsylvania Schools

As the June 30 deadline for passing a budget approaches in Pennsylvania, faith group leaders and advocates from around the state are holding events at the capitol in Harrisburg as part of the #MoralTakeover campaign to demand adequate funding for the state's public schools.

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#MoralTakeover Protestors Demand Fair Funding for Pennsylvania Schools

As the June 30 deadline for passing a budget approaches in Pennsylvania, faith group leaders and advocates from around the state are holding events at the capitol in Harrisburg as part of the #MoralTakeover campaign to demand adequate funding for the state’s public schools.

Since June 20, hundreds of citizens have held rallies, fasted, and even broken into song inside the legislature to bring attention to the state’s education funding crisis.

Calling for a “moral budget that funds our schools fully and fairly,” the movement is asking the legislature and Governor Tom Wolf to add billions to the state budget to fund public schools and to distribute that money in an equitable way.

According to federal statistics, Pennsylvania has – by far – the most unequal spending by the state and local governments. Students in the poorest districts receive one-third less funding per pupil than students in the wealthiest districts. In Philadelphia, for example, the district spends approximately $13,000 per student: just a few miles away in Lower Merion, that figure is $23,000.

"Students in the poorest districts receive one-third less funding per pupil than students in the wealthiest districts."Andrew Gripp, IVN Independent Author
In Pennsylvania, this disparity is largely the result of how school districts are funded, which, for most schools, is through property taxes. Consequently, wealthy areas have well-funded schools and poorer areas, where property values are low, have poorly-funded schools.

In Chester Upland School District, for example, where the median household income for the county is $86,000, per-pupil expenditures are $35,000. In Cambria Heights School District, where the median household income for the county is half that of Chester County’s, per-pupil spending is $12,500.

In 2006, the legislature commissioned a study to look into funding levels for public schools. In 2007, the final report found that 95 percent of the state’s 500 school districts were underfunded by a total of $4.4 billion.

In 2011, Republican Governor Tom Corbett abolished the state’s school funding formula while also cutting back state subsidies. He justified the cuts, declaring, “I am here to say that education cannot be the only industry exempt from recession.” That year, 135 school districts raised their property taxes above the “normal legal limits” to compensate for the state’s austerity, according to reporter Daniel Denvir.

Pennsylvania is just one of three states in the country that does not have a school funding formula.

In 2014, Corbett’s administration instituted the “Ready to Learn” grant initiative that critics say benefited the state’s wealthiest and best-performing school districts.

Then in November, six school districts from around the state joined two statewide organizations, including the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, to sue the governor, state lawmakers, and the state’s Department of Education. It claimed that the state’s meager funding violated its constitutional mandate to “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education.”

The case was rejected by the Commonwealth Court, but in May 2015, the plaintiffs appealed this decision and are now asking the state’s Supreme Court to hear the case.

The #MoralTakeover protestors’ call for equitable funding is buoyed by a report released just days before their campaign began. On June 18, a bipartisan panel recommended that the state adopt a new formula that weighs several factors in determining how to allocate state aid to school districts, including poverty, enrollment changes, the number of non-English speaking students, and a district’s ability to raise funds locally through property taxes.

However, the panel did not recommend an increase in funding – only a new mechanism to dictate how new spending should be distributed. As state education reporter Kevin McCrory put it, “The proposed formula does not suggest how large the pie should be, only how it should be sliced.”

This is something that #MoralTakeover is attempting to change as well. On its website, the group points out that the state is currently funding education at 15 percent of what should be considered full funding – an indirect reference to the 2007 report’s $4.4 billion figure.

Perhaps nowhere is this insufficient funding more apparent than in Philadelphia, the eighth largest school district in the country.

Philadelphia’s education funding crisis stretches back decades. In 1993, the legislature decided to freeze the state’s then-extant funding formula and not increase expenditures based on enrollment changes at a time when the city’s K-12 student population increased.

As the city’s students began to perform badly on the state’s PSSA exams, the legislature took notice. In 1998, it passed a law granting the state the authority to takeover schools experiencing financial distress, and in 2000, it marked the Philadelphia School District as ripe for takeover if it did not improve its performance on the PSSA exams.

In December 2001, the state officially declared it had taken over the Philadelphia School District. It created a five-member panel called the School Reform Commission (SRC) to manage the district, with three of its members appointed by the governor.

While Philadelphia initially received a temporary boost in funding, it later experienced numerous financial difficulties under the SRC’s control. For example, prior to the takeover, the city implemented a 10-year tax abatement program to promote development – a policy that will have deprived the city of $240 million in tax revenue by 2016, including $144 million in school funding, according to one report.

The funding crisis reached its apex in 2013, when the SRC approved a “doomsday budget” that resulted in a 27 percent decline in staff for the city’s schools, including layoffs for nearly 6,000 workers. Many schools lost teachers, aides, nurses, and counselors.

Throughout the district, there was just one counselor for every 3,000 students. The American School Counselor Association suggests there should be one counselor for every 250 students.

The budget resulted not only in major cuts to staff and supplies and in deteriorating school conditions, but also possibly at least one death. In September 2013, a 12-year-old student died of an asthma attack. When she began having difficulty breathing, her teacher told her to “stay calm.” Her school only had a nurse on staff just two days a week.

In 2014, the state legislature responded to the city’s desperation by approving a $2-per pack tax on cigarettes to bring in $80 million annually to the district, but the additional revenue was only enough to help balance a “bare-bones” budget. District Superintendent William Hite and Mayor Michael Nutter both recognized after the measures went into effect that the funding was below the levels needed to provide an adequate education to the city’s students.

In November, Tom Wolf was elected as governor in large part due to his contrasts with Governor Corbett regarding education spending. During his gubernatorial campaign, Wolf supported adopting a 5 percent severance tax on the state’s booming natural gas industry to pay for billions of dollars in additional funding for education.

In February 2010, Gov. Corbett signed a pledge written by Grover Norquist to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” Corbett resisted the implementation of a severance tax as energy companies flocked to the state to extract gas trapped in the massive Marcellus Shale.

In the ongoing budget talks, it is Wolf’s proposed severance tax – among other thorny issues — that is causing partisan gridlock. On June 30, the budget deadline, natural gas industry leaders intend to visit the capitol and lobby against the measure.

Republicans are proposing their own budget that excludes this tax.

With the stalemate in Harrisburg between a Democratic administration and a Republican legislature, it may be the special interests that determine the fate of the state’s education policy. Despite its firm commitment, it does not look like one that #MoralTakeover is poised to win.

Andrew GrippIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/moraltakeover-protestors-demand-fair-funding-for-pennsylvania-schools/feed/ 6 student-loan-debt Are Local Administrations Failing the American School System Image source: commons.wikimedia.org (Author: Lin Kristensen) tuition
The Cost of Big Political Donors is Bigger Political Favors http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/cost-big-political-donors-big-political-favors/ http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/cost-big-political-donors-big-political-favors/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 13:03:49 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295665115 The Cost of Big Political Donors is Bigger Political Favors

Presidential hopefuls Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), along with a handful of other Republicans and one Democrat have reintroduced S.1668, "A bill to restore long-standing United States policy that the Wire Act prohibits all forms of Internet gambling, and for other purposes."

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The Cost of Big Political Donors is Bigger Political Favors

When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.
― Napoléon Bonaparte

Napoléon was probably crying sour grapes at the fact that his military campaigns in Europe were often funded by the bankers in the countries he was trying to subdue — and that money always has its price politically.

Today is no different. While political differences in America are fought in the ballot box and the courts — not on the battlefield as in 19th-century Europe — money still has its political price.

You Can’t Buy an Election… Yet…

As Sheldon Adelson found out in 2012, you still can’t outright buy elections in the United States. Adelson spent a total of close to $93 million on a hand-picked Republican slate, and not a single one of his choices was elected to national office.

"While you can't outright buy the election, you can still sway the legislative process with that kind of open wallet."
While you can’t outright buy the election, you can still sway the legislative process with that kind of open wallet.

And what is near and dear to Adelson’s wallet is becoming nearer and dearer to those who are receiving his funds. Adelson, a casino mogul, has taken a position of being sharply against online gambling, and has renewed his call on the politically faithful to enforce existing laws.

Presidential hopefuls Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), along with a handful of other Republicans and one Democrat have reintroduced S.1668, “A bill to restore long-standing United States policy that the Wire Act prohibits all forms of Internet gambling, and for other purposes.”

This is the second time Graham has introduced this legislation — suspiciously coinciding with a large influx of cash from Adelson into his re-election campaign funds.

Marco Rubio has been aggressively courting Adelson’s backing in the so-called Adelson Primary–and improving Adelson’s bottom line in his core business just might seal the deal at winning him over.

The “Family Values” Political Card

Republicans seem to have made themselves the self-proclaimed defenders of family values, often using it as a political tool to undermine their opponents stances on issues ranging from welfare to abortion.

While critics contend that this is only a blatant example of cronyism and political-payback, supporters are trying to promote this legislation as protecting their platform of family values.

This argument contends that it is easier to limit minor’s access to gambling in brick-and-mortar casinos, than online where anyone can have virtual anonymity.

But this kind of “over-regulation” is also in conflict with the much cherished ideal of eliminating the so-called “nanny state” from American politics — something that Marco Rubio has expressly sought by introducing legislation simplifying the federal regulations on American families.

While this legislation isn’t on the level of the Keystone XL or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it is unique in that it directly rewards a specific donor.

Buying influence is nothing new in American history, but at some point we ought to be honest about the practice.

While unlikely, it would be refreshing to see a politician actually admit to pandering to their campaigning coffers, instead of hiding behind family values or rejecting the nanny state.

Photo Credit: Brian A Jackson / shutterstock.com

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http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/cost-big-political-donors-big-political-favors/feed/ 7 vote-scale GANG OF EIGHT SPEAK ON IMMIGRATION ON CAPITOL HILL david-koch Credit Reinhard Hunger for The New York Times
3 Biggest Hurdles Bernie Sanders Will Need to Clear to Finish the Race http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/3-biggest-hurdles-bernie-sanders-will-need-clear-finish-race/ http://ivn.us/2015/06/30/3-biggest-hurdles-bernie-sanders-will-need-clear-finish-race/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 10:00:34 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295665075 3 Biggest Hurdles Bernie Sanders Will Need to Clear to Finish the Race

As the number of Republican presidential candidates grows on a seemingly daily basis, the Democratic field is slowly becoming more crowded. It now includes Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

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3 Biggest Hurdles Bernie Sanders Will Need to Clear to Finish the Race

As the number of Republican presidential candidates grows on a seemingly daily basis, the Democratic field is slowly becoming more crowded. It now includes Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

While Sanders entered the race as a distant second to Clinton, his campaign has gained momentum. Nevertheless, in the months ahead, his campaign will face three particular challenges.

One potential challenge for Sanders could be gaining ballot access across the country.

In recent weeks, there has been a debate as to whether Sanders would be able to appear on Democratic Party ballots, given that Sanders is politically an independent.

New Hampshire, for instance, requires candidates to fill out a form stating their party registration. However, Vermont – like 19 other states — does not have party registration, so Sanders cannot simply change his party affiliation to “Democrat” before submitting his paperwork.

Yet this technicality is unlikely to keep Sanders off the ballot in New Hampshire. Previous presidential candidates have been able to appear on a party’s ballot in the state because of their espousal of that party’s ideals, or because the candidate has appeared on party ballots in other states. Sanders – who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate and who has received the party’s nomination in Vermont – clearly satisfies both criteria.

The state’s party chairman has assured the public, “At the end of the day, Sen. Sanders will appear on the New Hampshire Democratic Party ballot.”

A similar debate over ballot access occurred in New York, where officials at first suggested that Sanders would be kept off the ballot by citing the state’s Wilson-Pakula law, which prevents non-party members from receiving a party’s nomination.

Yet after ballot access expert Richard Winger weighed in and observed that New York’s primary does not nominate a presidential candidate – a function performed by the national party at its nominating convention – election officials stated Sanders would be able to appear on the ballot after all.

Sanders, therefore, is all but guaranteed ballot access for the earliest and most momentous state contests, including Iowa and New Hampshire, where, according to the latest polls, he is chipping away at Clinton’s leads.

Nevertheless, some contests will be more difficult than others – especially in larger states later on in the campaign, and they speak to a second challenge for the Sanders campaign: fundraising.

Sanders, a consistent critic of the role of money in politics, has sworn not to rely on an affiliated super PAC or to accept donations from wealthy donors. Instead, he has solicited contributions of small amounts – sometimes as little as $5. With an average donation of $40, Sanders has thus far raised approximately $8 million. He aims to raise $50 million before the Iowa caucuses take place on February 1, 2016.

These figures pale in comparison to those of his primary competitor, Hillary Clinton. Since officially launching her campaign, she has already raised $17 million – a figure that does not include the millions raised by her supporting super PACs. Some anticipate that Clinton’s campaign could raise as much as $2 billion.

This paucity of funds can inhibit Sanders from establishing a strong presence on the ground in larger states, where organizing a staff and mobilizing supporters will be a greater challenge for Sanders than it will be for Clinton, who leads him in terms of resources and political connections.

Unlike Clinton, who is running a professional and systematic “50-state” strategy, Sanders is instead launching an early-states-first strategy fueled by grassroots support. In recent weeks, he has delivered speeches to large crowds – many of them drawing thousands – in cities such as Des Moines, Minneapolis, and Denver.

Such events will be a significant component of Sanders’ campaign, since he lacks the means – and desire – to bombard the airwaves with slick television ads touting his credentials and taking swipes at his Democratic opponents. Sanders has sworn not to run a negative campaign or issue attack ads, so his limited presence in the mainstream media may be to his benefit.

Still, Sanders’ campaign faces a larger problem with the media, which poses as his third challenge. In the months and years prior to Hillary Clinton’s official campaign announcement, the media treated the lack of declared primary challengers as a sign that her victory in securing the party’s nomination was “inevitable.”

Given the media’s fascination with the Clintons and the politics of celebrity, Sanders and the media will be engaged in a kind of meta-struggle: Sanders will want to talk at length about the issues in his usual forceful way, whereas the media will impatiently interrupt his statements and try to turn the primary contest into a battle of personalities.

Because of his political independence and strictly out-of-necessity association with the Democratic Party, his grassroots and populist campaign strategy, and his hot-and-cold relationship with the media, it is clear that Sanders’ campaign is not only about trying to secure the party’s nomination: he is also waging a campaign against the “traditional” campaign itself. And that may be his greatest challenge of all.

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CA FWD: SCOTUS Redistricting Ruling a Victory for Voters http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/ca-fwd-scotus-redistricting-ruling-victory-voters/ http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/ca-fwd-scotus-redistricting-ruling-victory-voters/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 22:17:34 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295665156 CA FWD: SCOTUS Redistricting Ruling a Victory for Voters

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision was a strong affirmation of California’s independent redistricting process and constitutional right of voters to prevent self-interested gerrymandering by state legislatures.

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CA FWD: SCOTUS Redistricting Ruling a Victory for Voters

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision was a strong affirmation of California’s independent redistricting process and constitutional right of voters to prevent self-interested gerrymandering by state legislatures.

Without a doubt, the court granted a victory to the power of voters and their authority to enact important reforms through voter-led initiatives.

A vibrant democracy requires citizen involvement. That is why California Forward worked hard to pass Proposition 11 in 2008 and to support the successful implementation of Props 11 and 20. CA Fwd believes the public must reassert its ownership of government to restore the capacity of legislatures to respond to and resolve critical public issues.

— Statement on behalf of James Mayer, president and CEO of CA Fwd

Editor’s note: This statement fro CA Fwd President and CEO James Mayer originally published on the CA Fwd website on June 29, 2015.

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http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/ca-fwd-scotus-redistricting-ruling-victory-voters/feed/ 3 scotus-building i-am-dc register-to-vote SHALLOTTE, NC NOVEMBER 4: Signs direct voter to the polls at a polling station on November 4, 2008 in Shallotte, North Carolina. After nearly two years of presidential campaigning, U.S. citizens go to the polls today to vote in the election between Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Republican nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). (Photo by Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images)
SCOTUS: Ultimate Political Power Resides with The People http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/scotus-ultimate-political-power-resides-people/ http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/scotus-ultimate-political-power-resides-people/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 18:20:39 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295665130 SCOTUS: Ultimate Political Power Resides with The People

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the use of an independent redistricting commission to decide how electoral districts are drawn in Arizona. The 5-4 decision validated the citizen initiative process, which Arizona voters used to implement the state's independent redistricting commission in 2000, ruling that it was "invented in full harmony with the Constitution's conception of the people as the font of government power."

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SCOTUS: Ultimate Political Power Resides with The People

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the use of an independent redistricting commission to decide how electoral districts are drawn in Arizona. The 5-4 decision validated the citizen initiative process, which Arizona voters used to implement the state’s independent redistricting commission in 2000, ruling that it was “invented in full harmony with the Constitution’s conception of the people as the font of government power.”

“Both parts of the Elections Clause are in line with the fundamental premise that all political power flows from the people,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes in the court’s opinion, citing McCulloch v. Maryland.

Voters in Arizona approved Proposition 106 in 2000, which amended the state constitution to take redistricting power away from the state legislature and gave it to an independent redistricting commission. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) consists of five members, four of whom are chosen by the legislature from a list compiled by a state agency. The fifth member is chosen from that same list by the other four members and is the commission’s chairperson.

The Republican-controlled Arizona State Legislature filed a lawsuit in 2012, challenging the constitutionality of the AIRC after it approved new electoral maps in 2010 that some argue favored Democrats. The Legislature argued that by giving redistricting authority to the AIRC, the people usurped the powers granted to the legislative body by the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The AIRC tried to get the case dismissed on lack of standing, but a three-judge district court panel denied this request.

The fundamental issue in this case is how the high court interprets the phrase, “by the Legislature thereof” in Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution (also known as the Elections Clause):

“The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.” – U.S. Constitution

The district court ruled that ‘Legislature’ in this instance can be interpreted to include a voter-mandated commission that exercises the state’s redistricting power independently of the legislative body.

“[T]wo of the judges on the three-judge district court panel held that lawmaking power, according to Arizona’s constitution, included the power to enact laws by ballot initiative, which in turn made Arizona’s independent redistricting commission legitimate under the Elections Clause. (Arizona State Legislature, 997 F. Supp. 2d at 1056.),” IVN correspondent Daniel Kim writes.

 

Read More on the Background of the Case

 

The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision on both grounds: (1) the state had standing to challenge the constitutionality of the AIRC, “having lost authority to draw congressional districts”; and (2) “lawmaking power in Arizona includes the initiative process, and that both §2a(c) and the Elections Clause permit use of the AIRC in congressional districting in the same way the Commission is used in districting for Arizona’s own Legislature.”

"Arizona voters sought to restore 'the core principle of republican government,' namely, 'that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.'"Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Arizona State Legislature v. AIRC
The dissenting opinion from Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, argues that if ‘Legislature’ was meant to mean anything other than a state’s representative body of lawmakers, there would have been no reason to ratify the Seventeenth Amendment, which transferred power to elect U.S. senators from ‘the Legislature’ of each State, Art. I, §3, to ‘the people thereof.’”

Roberts cites 17 provisions in the U.S. Constitution referring to the “Legislature” of a state that he argues cannot possibly be read to mean “the people.”

“Arizona’s Commission might be a noble endeavor — although it does not seem so “independent” in practice — but the ‘fact that a given law or procedure is efficient, convenient, and useful . . . will not save it if it is contrary to the Constitution.’ INS v. Chadha, 462 U. S. 919, 944 (1983),” Roberts writes.

While some of the justices argued that it was not the place of the high court to rule on the matter, including Justice Scalia, who said he would have rejected the case on jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has upheld the people’s fundamental right to decide how they are governed. Ginsburg argued that by implementing the independent redistricting commission, “Arizona voters sought to restore ‘the core principle of republican government,’ namely, ‘that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.'”

Read the full decision, including the court’s opinion and the dissent opinions:

Photo Credit: M Dogan / shutterstock.com

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http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/scotus-ultimate-political-power-resides-people/feed/ 212 ca-redistricting i-am-dc register-to-vote SHALLOTTE, NC NOVEMBER 4: Signs direct voter to the polls at a polling station on November 4, 2008 in Shallotte, North Carolina. After nearly two years of presidential campaigning, U.S. citizens go to the polls today to vote in the election between Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Republican nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). (Photo by Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images)
Battle-Tested Congressman Prepares for Another Fight with Party Hawks in 2016 http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/battle-tested-congressman-prepares-another-fight-party-hawks-2016/ http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/battle-tested-congressman-prepares-another-fight-party-hawks-2016/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 13:11:05 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295665117 Battle-Tested Congressman Prepares for Another Fight with Party Hawks in 2016

Since beginning his opposition to the Iraq war, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of the 3rd district -- and one of the more independent members of Congress -- has been a thorn in the side of his party and its leadership. In 2012, Jones was stripped of his position on the House Financial Services Committee and in 2014 faced the toughest primary challenge of his political career. Winning that primary with only 51%, it was reasonable to think his party antagonists would try again.

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Battle-Tested Congressman Prepares for Another Fight with Party Hawks in 2016

Almost one year away from the 2016 primary, one North Carolina representative is already facing a primary challenge.

Since beginning his opposition to the Iraq war, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of the 3rd district — and one of the more independent members of Congress — has been a thorn in the side of his party and its leadership. In 2012, Jones was stripped of his position on the House Financial Services Committee and in 2014 faced the toughest primary challenge of his political career. Winning that primary with only 51%, it was reasonable to think his party antagonists would try again.

Over the weekend, the Weekly Standard reported that one of the more promising potential challengers to Jones, state transportation secretary Anthony Tata, was not going to run. A retired brigadier general and West Point graduate, the loss of Tata may move Jones’ party rivals to support another candidate, Phil Law.

A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a “site development supervisor” for Hewlett-Packard in Jacksonville, Law announced his candidacy in March. Taking issue with Jones’ effectiveness as a representative, he told local media, “Jones talks a good talk but he doesn’t actually get anything done.”

Law also addressed what he felt was the problem with 2014’s challenger, Taylor Griffin. Law said, “he was the wrong man” for the job:

“He wasn’t from North Carolina – he lived in DC – he was sent down, he was an operative, he was a registered lobbyist. And a lot of outside money, which Jones pointed out, backed him.”

It is difficult to predict which issues Law might challenge Jones on because the 11-term congressman has amassed a conventionally conservative voting record. Opposing executive amnesty for illegal immigrants, executive orders on gun control, and the Affordable Care Act, Jones was also ranked #39 on the Club for Growth’s most recent scorecard, finishing ahead of party favorites Paul Ryan and Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

In a review of the “Issues” tab on Law’s campaign website, on only two topics is Jones mentioned or alluded to: National Security and Veterans Issues. Jones’ skeptical views on intervention post-2003 are well-known. On veterans issues, Law criticizes Jones for being one of five members in the House to vote against a veterans bill. However, Jones issued a press release at the time explaining his reasoning.

Arguing that the proposed bill, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014, would add “$10 billion in deficit spending” and amount to a new entitlement, Jones wrote that he could not support a bill while allowing:

“…the current broken system to remain in place and increasing federal spending at a time that our national debt has already reached $17 trillion.”

It should be noted that the vote came after Jones had survived the primary. An argument for fiscal responsibility could fall on deaf ears in a district housing the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base, although Walter Jones has weathered the storms for nearly a decade.

The difference will likely be whether any other candidates enter the race or if sufficient numbers of Republican hawks will support and energize Law’s campaign.

Image: U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.)

Carl WicklanderIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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The Export-Import Bank: Another Can for Congress to Kick Down the Road http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/export-import-bank-another-can-congress-kick-road/ http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/export-import-bank-another-can-congress-kick-road/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 10:30:56 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295664451 The Export-Import Bank: Another Can for Congress to Kick Down the Road

Perhaps the Export-Import Bank is a relic from the New Deal era, but that doesn't mean that Republicans are opposed to it. The Ex-Im Bank has served a purpose for around three quarters of a century and has benefited small as well as big businesses and it is about to expire at the end of June if the Democrats and Republicans can't agree on how to pass a reauthorization.

Brandon FallonIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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The Export-Import Bank: Another Can for Congress to Kick Down the Road

Perhaps the Export-Import Bank is a relic from the New Deal era, but that doesn’t mean that Republicans are opposed to it. The Ex-Im Bank has served a purpose for around three quarters of a century and has benefited small as well as big businesses and it is about to expire at the end of June if the Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on how to pass a reauthorization.

For the political layperson who may not be familiar with what the Ex-Im Bank does, it does what a typical bank does: lend money, guarantee loans, or provides insurance. In this case, it lends money to foreign governments and corporations to purchase U.S. exports. It enhances the “made in America” brand outside of the U.S. while helping U.S. companies, both large and small, deal with international competition.

"(The Ex-Im Bank) lends money to foreign governments and corporations to purchase U.S. exports."
Another benefit is that it props up employment figures among the businesses the bank deals with.

The current debate can best be characterized by the term, “kicking the can down the road.” The last extension, which commonly lasts two years, came in September 2014, prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year. More importantly, it came before the midterm elections. The extension was short-term at best and left the decision to the new Congress. It is just another agency that is being held up from developing plans for the future.

That is the same type of needless uncertainty that corporations fear Congress is creating.

In a relatively weak rebound from the Great Recession, the economy can’t afford to take a hit on the unemployment figures or have businesses — big and small — fall behind their international competitors. There are nearly 60 versions of the Ex-Im Bank in other countries like China and Europe that could very well take advantage of the short-term extensions. That alone is evidence that the bank does work. Even the controversies or conservative talking points can’t derail the agency for long and it does generate revenue, $674 million to the Treasury in FY 2013.

Republicans, who regained the majority in the Senate after the November elections, are divided on the bank. Some view it as wasteful spending, while others see the benefits it has on small businesses, employment, and point to the success stories.

The Ex-Im Bank falls under the jurisdiction of the House Financial Services Committee and its chairman, U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). Texas is a hotspot in exporting activities, totaling $4 billion in insurance and including 332 small businesses getting assistance from the Ex-Im Bank. That didn’t stop Hensarling from characterizing the bank as “crony capitalism” and “corporate welfare.”

“I just don’t think, ultimately, you can ever deal with the social welfare state unless you first deal with the corporate welfare state… On a macro-economic level, the bank is of little consequence. But what is important is what direction we take as a nation.”

Backing the chairman are fiscal conservative groups such as the Club for Growth. An ad war with lobbyists as soldiers is already taking place, costing millions.

On the opposite side are groups like the pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has a countdown to the bank’s expiration date on its site. The Chamber has supported Republicans in the past and is quick to point to the jobs the agency helps create. There are still pre-existing loans and payments coming in. As a matter of fact, the vast majority – approximately 90% – of the bank’s customers are small businesses.

Ironically, Democrats, who are commonly pro-bank regulation, tend to be bigger supporters of the Ex-Im Bank.

Obama may have called it “corporate welfare” in his 2008 campaign, but small businesses like Aquatech International Corporation in Pennsylvania or California’s Capstone Turbine Corp. rely on the bank for help with their exports.

A recent attempt by congressional Democrats to attach the reauthorization to Obama’s grand trade deal failed, but there is still hope.

The next step may be to work a reauthorization amendment into July’s transportation funding bill. That would entail the bank’s charter lapsing, but the 400 or so employees working will not lose their jobs right away.

There is still controversy amid the Democratic support. Critics have labelled the Ex-Im Bank the “Bank of Clinton” due to the revolving door between Clinton’s friends and bank officials.

Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state under Clinton, is now a chairwoman at the corporate consulting firm, Albright Stonebridge Group. One of its clients is Siemens, one of the bank’s big multinational clients.

Alice Albright, the secretary’s daughter, was the Ex-Im Bank’s COO from 2009 to 2013, overseeing $772 million to Siemens.

On top of that, one of the bank’ former employees was charged with accepting bribes over a 7-year span. The crony capitalism claim is supported by Boeing receiving nearly 30% of the bank’s authorizations.

Perhaps the Ex-Im Bank has been around long enough to accrue controversies. Perhaps its past reauthorizations have been bipartisan and now the agency is targeted for deletion by staunch fiscal conservatives. Perhaps there is a benefit to both small and large businesses and in promoting the “made in America” brand around the world, but the bottom line is that the Export-Import Bank has become one of those cans getting kicked down the road at the expense of taxpayers.

Brandon FallonIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Millennials Aren’t Failing The System; The System is Failing Millennials http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/millennials-arent-failing-system-system-failing-millennials/ http://ivn.us/2015/06/29/millennials-arent-failing-system-system-failing-millennials/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 10:00:32 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295664773 Millennials Aren’t Failing The System; The System is Failing Millennials

The apathetic voting habits of young Americans is a constant fixation during each election cycle. The challenges facing this generation are generally accepted across age groups, with majorities of Gen Xers, Boomers, and Silents saying young adults face more economic challenges today than they themselves faced when they were starting out. The apathetic brand is a convenient way to explain why more Millennials don't engage with the system: they don't care.

Centrist ProjectIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Millennials Aren’t Failing The System; The System is Failing Millennials

Between September and December 2014, you probably heard a lot about Millennials. Prior to the election, the conversations and articles likely focused on “Will they vote?” Afterwards it shifted to, “Why didn’t they vote?”

The apathetic voting habits of young Americans is a constant fixation during each election cycle. The challenges facing this generation are generally accepted across age groups, with majorities of Gen Xers, Boomers, and Silents saying young adults face more economic challenges today than they themselves faced when they were starting out. The apathetic brand is a convenient way to explain why more Millennials don’t engage with the system: they don’t care.

Apathy is not the mass character flaw of an entire generation. It is a brand allowing the economic challenges Millennials face to be recast as problems of our own making, while shifting attention away from the root cause of our low participation.

Millennials Face A Real Economic Dilemma

Young Americans are most closely tied to student loan debt. It is easy to attribute their massive student loan debt as a product of entitlement, another description Millennials are frequently branded with. This assumes that Millennials have the same choices as previous generations, and masks an economic dilemma unprecedented in recent history.

In 1970, the median yearly income of a male high school graduate 25 years or older was equivalent to $51,691 today. In 2010, the same man would have an income of $30,250 ($32,989 in 2015). In 1970, not going to college was vastly more palatable than it is in 2015. Millennials who hope to improve their economic situation don’t have a choice at all.

This lack of choice forces young Americans to shoulder the radically increasing cost of an education. In 1970, the average cost of one year at a four-year public college or university was equivalent to $8,127 today. In 2010, that same school would cost on average of $15,918 ($17,359 in 2015), more than doubling the price since 1970. The cost of a private four-year institution has done the same.

While young Americans are being forced to shoulder more and more debt, they are finding that a college education is worth far less than it was for their parents. In 1970, a male college graduate 25 years or older had an average annual income equivalent to $74,430 today. By 2013, that figure had declined to $58,170 ($59,380 in 2015).

Labeling Millennials as apathetic allows us to say that their problems could be fixed, if only they voted. The reality is that Millennials have little reason to believe their vote will do anything.

Government Has Failed Young Americans

For many Millennials, the first political event they engaged in was the 2000 presidential election, in which the candidate with the highest popular vote lost. What followed was over a decade of war and growing partisanship. In 2008, Millennials flocked to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, believing in the power to change America. Instead, they received a harsh lesson in bitter partisanship and Washington gridlock.

The harsh realities of the new century and the scale of the challenges they face have left young Americans deeply cynical. A Harvard University Institute of Politics survey found that faith in institutions has declined among young Americans over the past several years. In 2013, just 18% of voters under 30 trusted that Congress will do the right thing.

“The hyperpartisanship and gridlock that has befallen Washington, D.C., is having a traumatic effect not just on our nation’s status at home and abroad, but on the political health of tens of millions of once (and hopefully future) idealistic young people,” wrote John Della Volpe, the Harvard institute’s polling director, in the study’s conclusion. — The New York Times

Continual campaign promises to address student debt have been left unfulfilled victims of the hyper-partisanship and gridlock of Washington, and young Americans have been conditioned to see campaign promises for what they are: hollow. Instead, young voters are constantly reminded that the government is making exorbitant amounts of money off of their struggles with debt. Just one program, the Parent PLUS Loan program, makes $3 billion a year for the government off of loans made to parents working to send their children to school.

Millennials Are Not Apathetic

In this context, the deep cynicism of my generation is easily understood. We have inherited a massive economic problem that is readily apparent to Americans of all generations. Deep partisanship and gridlock have dominated our political perspective, and we have been conditioned to expect nothing from Congress.

The democratic process has done nothing for Millennials. We have no reason to believe that any congressional or Senate candidate will be able to accomplish anything significant once in office, regardless of party. Instead it is far more likely that they will only perpetuate the partisanship and gridlock which prevents substantive action.

In response, Millennials have simply withdrawn from the democratic process. This isn’t apathy; it’s realism.

Restoring Faith In Democracy

Calling Millennials “apathetic” mischaracterizes the roots of the problem. Someone standing in the rain is not apathetic about getting wet if they don’t have an umbrella. Millennials care deeply about the challenges they face, because these challenges will economically handicap them for the rest of their lives.

"n 2013, just 18% of voters under 30 trusted that Congress will do the right thing."Andrew Smith, The Centrist Project
Forced to choose between partisan candidates on the left and right, both of whom will accomplish nothing while perpetuating a dysfunctional system, Millennials have withdrawn from the process altogether. Their withdrawal from the democratic process may seem deeply cynical, but look at the state of American governance and say it isn’t also justified.

Restoring Millennials’ faith in democracy doesn’t require some grand solution. Millennials will vote if you give them a reason to vote. If you are a voter, regardless of age, be conscious of the candidates you support. Demand that politicians be realistic in their campaign promises, and earnest in their efforts. Support problem solvers who care about voters, not politicians who want to win key demographics.

As a community, let’s promote this new brand of candidate, identify them now, and empower them to be successful. Now is the time to do this; if we wait until November 2016, it will be too late.

Editor’s note: This article, written by Andrew Smith, originally published on the Centrist Project’s website on June 26, 2015, and has been edited for publication on IVN. You can learn more about the Centrist Project on its website or follow the organization on Twitter and Facebook.

Centrist ProjectIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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SCOTUS Did Not End the Legal Debate over Same-Sex Marriage http://ivn.us/2015/06/26/scotus-not-end-legal-debate-sex-marriage/ http://ivn.us/2015/06/26/scotus-not-end-legal-debate-sex-marriage/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 17:17:54 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295665061 SCOTUS Did Not End the Legal Debate over Same-Sex Marriage

To be honest, I'm a bit surprised at today's Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States. Not in the outcome -- in my mind that was all but a foregone conclusion. But instead, in the way it played out.

David YeeIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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SCOTUS Did Not End the Legal Debate over Same-Sex Marriage

To be honest, I’m a bit surprised at today’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

Not in the outcome — in my mind that was all but a foregone conclusion. But instead, in the way it played out.

I was banking on one of two things: a convoluted split-majority opinion that would force the issues to be fought out in the lower courts for more years to come while upholding current pro-rulings, or a unanimous decision in favor.

Obviously, the tactic of the convoluted decisions on same-sex marriage is nothing new; it’s been the tactic of SCOTUS for at least a decade. For them to continue this path would be just maintaining the status quo, something the courts have always been especially good at.

But on pressing civil rights decisions, especially landmark decisions, justices don’t like to have their legacy “on the wrong side of history.”

Decisions like Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) were far from universally endorsed by the justices at first, but the court realized that such a landmark ruling would need unanimous consent to make it stick (as well as the “wrong side of history” issues).

"Yes, support of same-sex marriage is increasing, but it is far from universal in agreement."David Yee, IVN Independent Author
Brown was heard by the Supreme Court twice, an unusual event — and then Chief Justice Warren kept circulating majority opinions that were revised until everyone could sign on.

Today’s decision is different, because it falls largely along ideological lines, and those ideological lines represent about a 50/50 (maybe a 60/40 in favor) split in American opinion.

Yes, support of same-sex marriage is increasing, but it is far from universal in agreement — one way or the other.

This is where SCOTUS made its error. The court is now going to be a political target for the 2016 election and implementation of same-sex marriage will probably continue to be fought out in the courts at every stage.

It’s not like there isn’t already a huge faction of Americans, especially conservatives, who believe the courts overstep their authority “by legislating from the bench.” A non-unanimous decision fuels this opinion, and keeps alive the divide.

Also, without a unanimous opinion, the idea of a “glimmer of hope” remains where there will be challenges against the implementation of same-sex marriage at every stage, from bakers refusing to make cakes to churches refusing to accept lawful marriages. It’s going to be endless.

In many ways, I feel that today’s decision was the worst of the two paths. A convoluted decision would have given America more time to increase its acceptance of same-sex marriage, while also giving the courts more time to build unanimous consent.

But SCOTUS has the final word on judicial matters, and while same-sex marriage is now a reality nationwide, we are still far from over hearing about court cases involving it.

David YeeIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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