Monday, February 27, 2017

Utah House Passes Term Limits Convention

The Utah State House of Representatives voted today to Pass the Term Limits Convention by an overwhelming 45-27 vote margin.

It got support from both sides of the aisle with Republicans and Democrats working together to fix our Country.

The Resolution now moves to the State Senate for consideration.

If the Senate votes YES, Utah will officially call for the Term Limits Convention.

Term Limits on Congress can be implemented through the Article V Convention, a Constitutional tool that allows States to ratify Amendments without the permission of Congress. The Campaign will need Two-Thirds of State Legislatures passing resolutions calling for the establishment of a Term Limits Convention. Following this Convention, each member of Congress will be Term Limited through a National, Constitutional Amendment.

This is just the beginning of the 2017 efforts.

There is still the need to finish the job in Utah and get through as many State Legislatures as possible this year.

It is very encouraging that state Legislators are willing to do the job that Congress refuses to do.

That is exactly how America's Founders intended it to work.

CLICK HERE to see the States' status.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Trump DOJ Reverses Course in Major Texas Voter ID Case

For the last six years, the Justice Department (DOJ) has sided with the Citizens and Civil Rights groups fighting Texas' Voter ID Law, which a Federal Judge at one point found to be intentionally Discriminatory against Black and Latino voters. But its position changed Monday when the Department decided to Drop its Claim that Republican State Lawmakers enacted the Law to make it harder for Minorities to Vote.

"This signals to voters that they will not be protected under this administration," said Danielle Lang, the Deputy Director of Voting Rights at the Campaign Legal Center, which is challenging Texas' Law in Court.

The reversal, on the eve of a key hearing in the Case, is a clear sign of the DOJ's direction under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime Advocate of Voter ID Laws and other Voting restrictions. The Department signaled its intentions last week when it joined with the State of Texas to ask the Court to hold off on judging the Constitutionality of the Law until Republican Lawmakers can modify it. The Court Rejected this request.

Lang said that the DOJ reached out Monday morning to her and the other Voting Rights Groups fighting the Law to notify them of their new position.

“There have been six years of litigation and no change in the facts,” Lang said. “We have already had a nine-day trial and presented thousands of pages of documents demonstrating that the picking and choosing of what IDs count was entirely discriminatory and would fall more harshly on minority voters. So for the DOJ to come in and drop those claims just because of a change of administration is outrageous.”

The groups suing Texas over the law, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Campaign Legal Center, say they will continue to fight despite the loss of the DOJ's support.

"We will move forward," Lang said. "None of the record evidence has changed. We fully expect to prevail."

Texas enacted the Strict Voter ID law in 2011, and it has been tied up in Court battles ever since. Civil Rights Groups say the policy, which accepts gun licenses but not student IDs at the polls, discriminates against low-income and minority voters who are far less likely to possess an ID and face difficulties obtaining one. In some parts of the State, the Groups argued in Court, people would have to drive more than 100 miles to reach the nearest office where they could obtain and ID, a burden many cannot overcome.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the State from fully enforcing the Law for the 2016 Presidential Election, a move that preserved the Voting Rights of more than 16,000 Texans, according to State records. Last summer, the Appeals Court agreed with the challengers, which then included the Justice Department, that the Law had the effect of discriminating against Minority voters, but it sent the question of whether the Law was intentionally Discriminatory back to the District Court for further review after the Election. The District Court will hear arguments on that question in the Hearing scheduled for Tuesday, but the Justice Department will no longer be on the side of Voting Rights Advocates.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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NYC Congresswoman and Assemblyman Win DNC Vice-Chairmanships

Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng and Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake both won their bids for Democratic National Committee (DNC) Vice-Chair in the vote among Party insiders held in Atlanta, combined with new Chairman Tom Perez, brings the number of New Yorkers in the Leadership echelons of the Party organization to three.

Out of 814 votes cast with a 211-vote threshold for Election for two female at-large Vice-Chair positions, Meng received 216.5 votes, while Maria Elena Durazo, a prominent Californian Labor Leader endorsed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio received 228.5 votes.

Blake, a 34-year-old a veteran of former President Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign and White House, received the most votes, 171, for the remaining position, open to a male or female out of 411.5 Ballots received, but a second round was held because all contenders fell short of the 206 vote threshold. Blake won 237 votes in the next go-round after several candidates withdrew.

Both Blake and Meng called in their platforms for rebuilding Party infrastructure to support new candidates for Local office.

Blake alluded to the Chairman tension in his victory speech. “We have to leave here united,” Blake said. “We cannot walk out of here as Obama Democrats or Hillary Democrats or Bernie Democrats, we are a united Democratic Party and that is who we are.”

In a show of unity, Perez asked the 400-plus DNC Members to Elect Ellison his Deputy Chairman. They complied, and Ellison accepted the post.

Before the Ballot casting began, the Assemblyman described his humble beginnings in the Bronx to the crowd and predicted the Party would recover from last year’s Election Day decimation. People yelled “Michael Blake!” multiple times after he concluded his address.

“If we believe in a 50-state strategy and for territories and for those in Democrats Abroad, then we understand that the two votes that happen in Idaho are just as powerful as the two in California,” Blake said. “I am not someone that’s gonna vote for just one coast, we will fight for everyone across the country. That is leadership for tomorrow!”

Meng was first elected to the DNC last year. In her speech, the Congresswoman urged fellow Democrats to compete in Races across the Electoral map, despite the increasingly citified (an urban style of living ) nature of the Party Leadership. “I look forward to continuing to work with all of you across the country in red and blue states, in rural, urban and suburban areas to rebuild our parties and to win elections in 2017, ’18 and back the White House in 2020,” she said during her nominating speech ahead of the vote.

During her victory speech, she said that people have told her the way forward is for people to work together “no matter what the results” are of the DNC Elections.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn all endorsed Blake and Meng.

De Blasio endorsed Ellison for DNC Chair and traveled to Atlanta to campaign on the Congressman’s behalf. But he received some criticism for refusing to support Meng and Blake, both fellow New Yorkers, and his decision to endorse Durazo.

Blake has emerged as a major critic of the Mayor over the past few years, while Meng is an ally of Congressman Joseph Crowley, the Queens Democratic Boss who clashed with de Blasio and his left-wing allies for control of the City Council Speakership after the 2013 Election. The Mayor’s pick, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, ultimately triumphed.

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

Alabama Gerrymandering Case

A Federal Appeals Court ruled that Alabama, has engaged in Unconstitutional Racial Gerrymandering in at least 12 Legislative Districts to protect a Super-Majority for the Republican Party.

The ruling is a Victory for the State’s Legislative Black Caucus, which has been fighting in Court for years against Voting Maps that intentionally limit the Voting power of African Americans by packing them into as few oddly-shaped Districts as possible.

The Court ordered the State of Alabama to re-draw the Districts because they were drawn “predominantly” based on Race.

It's clear that if we don't stay on offense, the toxic effects of Gerrymandering on our Democracy will spread to even more States. Of course, there is an easy solution to this problem, and that is taking the power to draw Districts out of the hands of Partisan Politicians through Ballot Initiatives.

In light of the ruling, the Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) said that exact same thing:

“Today’s ruling highlights the need to take the politics out of drawing legislative districts and instead, rely on an independent, non-partisan commission"

We need to provide the momentum so Leaders like Rep. Ford have the power of a National Grassroots Movements at their backs.

CLICK HERE for more information about Independent Lines Advocacy.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Trump's Election Scares Data Scientists

When Trump was Elected, most people probably weren't concerned about the future of Data. But for some groups, that was top of mind.

Data Refuge was founded after the Election, with a goal of Tracking and Safeguarding Government Data.

The volunteer group of hackers, writers, scientists and students collects Federal Data about Climate Change in order to preserve the information and keep it publicly accessible.

"When things like science are politicized, scientific information will be less accessible," said Dr. Bethany Wiggin, Co-Director of Data Refuge. "If you can keep knowledge out of the hands of your political opponents, that's an effective win."

In the past three months, Data Refuge has hosted 17 events where hundreds of volunteers figure out how to copy and Publish Research-Quality Data. The group, which grew out of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, also monitors Scientific Research that depends on Government Funding because there's concern this could dry up.

These fears are stoked by the fact that some content has already been removed from Agencies' websites. For instance, ProPublica found that the Energy Information Administration edited an Educational website for kids to significantly downplay the Negative impacts of Coal.

The White House also removed all of the Data from its portal of searchable Federal Data. The site previously included Data on everything from Budgets to Climate Change to LGBT issues. It now displays a message telling people to: "Check back soon for new data."

Additionally, some USDA Data on Animal Testing, Puppy Mill Cruelty, and Company Audits has been completely removed since Trump's Inauguration.

A spokeswoman for the USDA said it was in response to Current Litigation around Information posted on the website, and it removed data to protect Privacy.

No Climate Data has been removed from the EPA website, but with Congressional Republicans pushing to eliminate the EPA entirely, Data Refuge is preparing for the worst case scenario.

"We're making sure that the data also continues to be accessible for those governmental agencies ... who rely on U.S. federal climate and environmental data," said Wiggin, who is also the Founding Director of the Penn Program in Environmental Science.

Data Refuge is working with Organizations and Universities like Tufts, Union of Concerned Scientists, Association of Research Libraries, Mozilla, and the Sunlight Foundation.

The Sunlight Foundation is a Nonpartisan Government transparency organization that uses Data to keep Government Accountable. It publishes instances of Data Removal and Links to Archived Information.

"There are lots of reasons to be concerned about the future of open government data in the U.S., but it's not because of it being taken offline, although that's a risk factor," said Alex Howard, Deputy Director of the Sunlight Foundation. "It's that it might be de-funded in Congress."

In January, Arizona Representative Paul Gosar introduced a Bill that would limit the Collection and Disclosure of Data about Racial Disparities in Fair Housing. It also would prohibit organizations that use Federal Funds from studying this Data.

Public Data is used for everything from GPS, to Product Recalls, and the Weather Forecast. The Government spends almost $140 billion a year in Scientific Research and Development, according to a Study from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The National Institutes of Health alone spends over $32 billion annually for Medical Research.

To gear up for potential Data droughts, groups are organizing through traditional social tools like Twitter and Facebook. One platform,, is a social network exclusively for people who want to find and collaborate on building Data Sets, much like how programming site GitHub lets coders collaborate on building apps. It already has tens of thousands of Open Government Data Sets available.

"There's a lot of different ways that civic activism is happening right now and this is one of them," Howard said. "There is organized activity going on around the country, and we're certainly focused on this in a way we wouldn't have been with a different electoral outcome."

As bad as Fake News and lack of Funds for future Storage of Researched Data, the real scare is the Distribution of Fake Data.

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

Three Hidden Policy Changes in Trump’s Immigration Memos

The headlines from President Trump’s new Immigration-Enforcement memos are clear: in a sharp reversal of Obama-era Policy, he wants to expand the number of Undocumented Immigrants targeted for Deportation, hire thousands more Immigration Agents and restart a controversial program that Automatically checked the Immigration Status of people in Local jails.

Though draconian, the two Memos released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday were also expected: the Executive Orders Trump released five days after his inauguration had already outlined his broad crackdown on Illegal Immigration. The new guidance is just the "how-to" plan to make it happen.

But in the days since it was issued, Immigration Experts have been combing the Documents to figure out the full impact, and buried in their 19 pages have found a number of small but important Policy Shifts that hadn't been seen before. “There are real and meaningful changes ahead,” Michael Neifach, a Lawyer who held Senior positions at DHS during the Bush Administration, wrote in an email.

The new Policies could affect everyone from Undocumented Immigrants to Local Police to U.S. Soldiers. What will they look like? POLITICO spoke with nearly a dozen Immigration Experts on the right and left, many of whom previously have held Senior roles at the Department. They highlighted three Under-the-Radar but important new shifts buried in the DHS memos:

1. Limiting “Parole”

Immigration officials have long been able to use an Immigration policy called "Parole" to create some flex in the system, cracking open the door for Non-Citizens who technically aren't supposed to enter the U.S., but who have some Personal or Political claim to Leniency. The “wet-foot, dry-foot policy” that Obama ended in January used Parole as the mechanism to allow Cuban Immigrants to stay in the Country if they made it onto U.S. soil. Another program, known as “Parole in Place,” allows close Undocumented relatives of U.S. Service Members and Veterans to apply for a Green card without leaving the U.S., keeping Military families together. Perhaps the most common use of Parole, called “Advance Parole,” allows Immigrants who are in the U.S. and applying to adjust their status, mainly applying for a Green Card, to travel Abroad and return while their Applications are pending.

To Immigration critics, these broad policies amount to a systematic abuse of the Parole system, which is supposed to be judged strictly on a Case-by-Case basis, rather than handed out to broad categories of Immigrants. In what sounds like a slap at the Obama Administration, one subsection of a Memo says expanded use of Parole “has contributed to a border security crisis, undermined the integrity of the immigration laws and the parole process, and created an incentive for additional illegal immigration.”

The new Memo calls for Parole to be used “sparingly” and directs the Heads of the three main Immigration Agencies to issue Regulations clarifying when Parole can be used. How the Immigration Agencies will Reform Parole programs won’t be clear until they release Final Regulations. But Experts on both sides of the Immigration debate believe the intent is to turn Parole from an Exemption that certain people can count on to an Infrequent Privilege, Curtailing or Eliminating many of these programs, including the “Parole in Place” program for U.S. Soldiers' families.

2. Deputizing local law enforcement as Immigration Agents

One of the most controversial elements of Trump’s Immigration Policies has come with the bland bureaucratic name of 287(g), named for its corresponding section of Immigration Law, that allows Local Law Enforcement Agencies to sign agreements with Immigration Agencies to allow Local Police to act as Immigration Agents. The Obama Administration ended the 287(g) program in 2012, after harsh criticism from Activists and little engagement from Law Enforcement Agencies.

Trump’s original Executive Order called for the DHS to revive the program. But the new Memo goes a step further and actually expands it: Previously, Local Law Enforcement Agencies could only sign 287(g) Agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which largely operates in the interior of the Country. Now, they can also sign such Agreements with Customs and Border Protection, which largely operates at Ports of Entry and along the Border.

John Sandweg, former Acting Director of ICE under Obama, called the move “unprecedented.” Neifach, the Bush-era DHS official, also said the “change caught my eye.” What does this mean? It’s tough to know until ICE and CBP actually issue additional guidance. Experts said that Local Police would gain few additional authorities from partnering with CBP than they wouldn’t already have from partnering with ICE. But they could gain additional Powers near the Border, including boarding any vessel in search of Undocumented Immigrants and searching Private Lands within 25 miles of the Border, said Neifach. “I would envision that there will be some local sheriffs along the border who will dispatch deputies to do some patrol-like activities,” Sandweg said.

Local Law Enforcement Agencies have been hesitant to sign 287(g) Agreements in the past, worried that such deals could reduce Trust with the Local Community. But those Agencies that have signed Agreements have gained far-reaching Immigration Powers, including apprehension, Arrest, Detention, and even the decision over whether to initiate Removal Proceedings. Experts said that careful oversight of the 287(g) program is critical to ensure that Local Police do not abuse it, and some are concerned that the expansion of the program to include CBP could lead to worse oversight and training. “Traditionally, ICE has been more sensitive to civil rights concerns and provided a higher degree of training about how to do operations and enforcement,” Sandweg said. “The oversight will change of how these agencies conduct enforcement under the agreement. That will be the biggest change.”

3. Expanding the use of Expedited Removal

Under U.S. Law, Undocumented Immigrants are entitled to a Hearing before being removed from the Country, with an exception called “Expedited Removals” for Immigrants who haven't been here long. The rationale for the Policy is that such Removals are acceptable on Humanitarian grounds because the Immigrant hasn’t established roots in the Country. Such Deportations avoid additional stress on the Immigration Court system, which already faces a backlog of more than 500,000 Cases.

Though the Law allows Immigration Agents to use Expedited Removal for any Undocumented adult captured within two years of entering the U.S., the official DHS Policy limited its use to those captured within 14 days of entering the Country and within 100 miles of the Border. The new Memo says that DHS will expand the policy, although it does not say how.

Former officials under the Obama Administration and Immigration activists both pinpointed the change as meaningful, saying it could be used to Deport Immigrants who have been here long enough to become established Community Members. “That is significant,” said Noah Kroloff, a former Senior DHS official under Obama. “[It] essentially means anyone who can’t demonstrate that they have been in the country for two years is potentially subject to expedited removal.”

According to data from Pew, the vast majority of Undocumented Immigrants have been in the U.S. more than two years. In 2014, just 14% had been here less than five years. Therefore, the expansion of Expedited Removal won’t suddenly put millions of Immigrants at risk of Deportation without a Hearing. But it still is a significant broadening of a program that many activists already oppose, one that could stretch its reach from the Border Regions through every State in the U.S.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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GOP Senator Wants Flynn to Testify On Russia Ties

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Wednesday she wants former National Security Adviser Flynn to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating ties between the Trump Campaign and Russia.

Collins, a Member of the Intelligence Panel, also said campaign Officials have been asked to preserve all records that might be relevant to the Investigation.

“We've asked all of the agencies and campaign officials involved to preserve all documents, all emails, all text messages that could be in any way relevant to the investigation,” Collins said.

Intelligence Chairman Burr (R-N.C.) and Ranking Democrat Warner of Virginia sent letters on Friday to more than a dozen Federal Agencies and individuals asking them to preserve information that could be relevant to the probe, as The Associated Press reported over the weekend.

Collins also said Wednesday she is open to issuing Subpoenas for Trump’s Tax Returns to determine whether the President has Financial ties to Russia. “I don't know whether we will need to do that,” she said. “If it's necessary to get to the answers, then I suspect that we would.”

Collins said she and other Members of the Intelligence Committee would request that Flynn be called to testify as part of its larger Investigation into Russia’s meddling in the Presidential Election.

Burr last week would not rule out the possibility of seeking testimony from Flynn, who resigned as Trump’s National Security Adviser after it became clear he misled Vice President Pence about the nature of his Pre-Inauguration Contacts with Russia’s Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

"We will cast a wide net to look at individuals who can provide us additional insight into what went on," Burr told ABC News.

Meanwhile, the Republican Chairman and top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sens. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Feinstein (D-Calif.), have sent a letter to the Trump Administration asking that it turn over transcripts between Flynn and Kislyak.

Collins told Maine Public she is confident Senate Investigators will "get to the bottom of" Russia’s involvement in the presidential election.

“We have very experienced staff that have the top level of security clearances," the Senator said, "and we have very aggressive committee members.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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