Tag: bill

The ‘Spycops’ bill undermines the rule of law and gives a green light to serious crimes

The so-called culture wars are not just about race and gender. They encompass a barrage of attacks on progressive or “woke” values to distract attention from catastrophic pandemic management in both Washington and Westminster. On closer inspection, some of the targets in the crosshairs are actually rather conservative; a case in point being the rule of law.



text, whiteboard: Photograph: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Stock Photo


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Photograph: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Stock Photo

If the prime minister and the home and defence secretaries are anything to go by, lawyers are the new enemies of the state. But as these ministers are not averse to employing briefs in their own causes – both personal and political – I rather suspect it’s the message, not the messengers, that they are trying to destroy.

Related: David Greene: Condemning lawyers for doing their jobs is inherently dangerous

It is now well over a decade since former master of the rolls Tom Bingham published his seminal book The Rule of Law. The most glittering legal and judicial career notwithstanding, he wanted to make this vital constitutional principle more readily accessible to the people it is designed to protect. He asked me to endorse his book and chair his discussion of it at the Royal Society for Arts. The greatest jurist of my lifetime was also incredibly good at plain English. He set out eight tests for the rule of law with a succinct clarity that any pundit or politician would envy.



text, whiteboard: Banners outside the Royal Courts of Justice during the judge-led public inquiry into alleged misconduct of undercover police officers who spied on hundreds of different political groups.


© Photograph: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Stock Photo
Banners outside the Royal Courts of Justice during the judge-led public inquiry into alleged misconduct of undercover police officers who spied on hundreds of different political groups.

Bingham’s third rule was that “the laws of the land should apply equally to all” . His fifth was, “the law must afford adequate protection of fundamental human rights”. At the time, we thought the former incontrovertible and the latter slightly contentious. Ten years on, both values are in peril.

Two bills currently before the House of Commons would undermine these principles. The overseas operations bill would make it much harder to prosecute British personnel for serious crimes – including torture – overseas, and immunise the Ministry of Defence from claims by the very veterans it has neglected.

The second, the covert human intelligence sources (criminal conduct) bill, is arguably even more abhorrent. It grants a host of state agencies the power to licence its agents and officers to commit grave crimes in advance, even here in the United Kingdom.

To be clear, I believe many undercover operations to be essential. Yet it was always ridiculous that, while judicial warrants were required for the searches of premises, they were not needed for the far more intrusive and dangerous placing of spies in people’s homes, offices, trades unions, friendship circles and even bedrooms. These remain a matter of administrate discretion for security services, police forces and a host of other state agencies, without the need for any external authorisation.

Related: The UK government is attempting to bend the

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Bill to allow virtual government meetings headed to Whitmer for signature

LANSING, MI – Guidance on public and virtual meetings could be headed to local governments across the state after the passage of a bill in the legislature.

In the wake of the Michigan Supreme Court striking down Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders last week, a handful of local entities quickly nixed public meetings scheduled to be held via Zoom. Whitmer’s executive orders allowed public bodies to hold electronic meetings since March. Remotely held meetings of public bodies could otherwise violate the Open Meetings Act.

Senate Bill 1108, sponsored by state Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, would permit virtual public meetings as long as the local government declares a state of emergency. It passed 85-16 during House a session Tuesday, Oct. 13.

It passed 36-1 in the Senate later Tuesday night. The bill now heads to Whitmer’s desk for final consideration.

The legislation would allow for virtual meetings by local governments until December 2021. The bill also seeks to clear up the question of whether local governments violated the Open Meetings Act after April 30, since the Michigan Supreme Court invalidated Whitmer’s executive orders after that date.

The bill also replaces elements of Whitmer’s executive order allowing for virtual meetings. Those include requiring an explanation within 18 hours of the meeting for why it needs to be held virtually, ensuring two-way communication for members to hear each other, posting agenda updates online and establishing how the public can view meetings.

There were dissenting comments from both Republican and Democratic representatives that signaled lingering issues with elements of the bill.

In its current form, the bill would allow members of public bodies to remotely tune in and vote during in-person meetings under certain circumstances, including required military duty, a medical condition or a state of emergency that would “risk the personal health or safety of members of the public or the public body,” according to analysis from the House Fiscal Agency.

The last two provisions prompted proposed amendments by Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain. He suggested that medical conditions must require quarantine to allow an absence by a local official. If that person is hospitalized, he also suggested they be required to be in hospital within 100 miles of the public meeting to be involved in the vote.

“There’s no requirement that the individual be even sick with COVID-19,” he said on the House floor. “They could’ve broken their leg, and could avoid the scrutiny of the public and get around the Open Meetings Act and the transparency to the public that goes along with it.”

Lastly, the state of emergency should be one linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, and not something such as flooding or fires, he proposed. The amendment was denied.

Additionally, Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, offered an amendment calling for the allowance of virtual meetings until March 2022, rather than the end of next year. That amendment was also scrapped.

Local municipalities have been dealing with the issue of meeting virtually since last week’s Supreme Court decision. On Monday, Oct.

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Lamont Signs Utility Reform Bill Into Law

CONNECTICUT — Gov. Ned Lamont signed Connecticut’s electric utility reform bill into law Wednesday. The law will implement performance-based incentives for electric utilities instead of a flat-rate investment. The bill received near-unanimous support in the state House of Representatives and Senate.

“Utility companies provide a critical service that can quite literally mean life or death in certain situations, and ratepayers deserve a level of respect that puts them above profits,” Lamont said in a statement. “I congratulate Senator Needleman, Representative Arconti, Senator Formica, Representative Ferraro, and subject-matter experts and stakeholders across the state on sending a bill to my desk that sets Connecticut firmly on the path toward tying utility rates to utility companies’ performance.”

The bill was spurred by a few factors. Tropical Storm Isaias knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of electric customers across the state with some people not getting power back for a week or more. Municipal leaders were particularly critical of Eversource’s communication with town crews on restoration efforts.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority opened up an investigation into Eversource and United Illuminating’s preparation for the storm. Eversource had underestimated the storm’s impact and only forecasted up to 380,000 outages when the number was more than double that, according to the CT Mirror. UI’s forecast was accurate.

Eversource and UI also came under fire for not reimbursing customers for spoiled food caused by long-term power outages despite other nearby utilities providing relief for their customers. The bill includes a mandatory reimbursement process for outages lasting more than 96 hours.

Eversource also increased its electric rate over the summer. Many customers had sticker shock over bills due to the rate increase and a record-setting hot summer. More people were also spending time at home during peak A/C hours due to the coronavirus pandemic and offices being closed.

Connecticut’s electric rates are among the highest in the continental U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Eversource’s five highest-paid executives received around $40 million in total compensation in 2019, according to reports from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Some state legislators, including legislative Energy and Technology Committee Chair Sen. Norm Needleman went as far as calling for Eversource CEO James Judge to resign after the storm response. Lamont didn’t call for Judge’s resignation and said that the company has been through several CEOs since storm Sandy, but not much had changed.

The state Office of Legislative Research has analyzed different aspects of the bill. Below is a summary of some parts of the bill:

Account credits for outages and food/medicine reimbursement
Starting July 1, 2021, Electric companies will need to credit customers $25 per day for customers that have outages for more than 96 consecutive hours.
Residential customers can also be compensated with $250 for food or medication that expires or spoils for outages lasting more than 96 consecutive hours after an emergency.
Electric utilities won’t be able to recover the costs of reimbursement through rate increases.

Financial performance incentives
The state Public

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Baltimore City Council approves worker recall bill over law department, hotel industry objections

The Baltimore City Council on Monday passed legislation aimed at protecting hospitality workers’ jobs, despite objections from the city’s law department and the hotel industry.

The bill would require hospitality businesses to hire laid-off workers once they reopen. Thousands of housekeepers, banquet servers and other employees have lost their jobs as the industry suffers from the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns.

The council also passed a second, less-contested bill that would ensure a hotel retains its staff if the business’ ownership changes hands.

The bills now head to the mayor’s desk for his consideration. Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has not indicated whether he plans to sign them, but issued a statement via a spokesman saying he will review the legislation.

Hotel workers have rallied around the bills, saying they’re looking for some certainty that they will eventually get to go back to work.

More than 1,500 hospitality workers had lost their jobs as of mid-September at hotels, the Baltimore Convention Center, Royal Farms Arena and other event centers, according to UNITE HERE Local 7, the union that represents them.

Other cities, including Los Angeles, have taken similar steps to protect workers.

But the Young administration’s law department said the return-to-work bill was not the right way to help workers. It said legislation mandating an employer rehire a laid-off person is “an unconstitutional impairment of the employer/employee freedom of contract.”

That legal interpretation was dismissed by other attorneys who testified before the City Council, including those with the Public Justice Center.

The Maryland Hotel Lodging Association also opposed the legislation. Representatives said the bills would strip them of flexibility to recover from the economic crisis, as it would require them to hire employees back based on seniority. That may not align with their immediate needs, they said.

Workers with years of experience in the industry testified to the council in favor of the bill. William Murray, a longtime banquet server at Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, told the council he’s been laid off since March.

“The COVID-19 crisis has hit our industry hard,” he said. “We have stood by our employer and made them successful for years. We deserve the right to have some certainty that we will be able to return to our jobs.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, Democratic City Council President Brandon Scott introduced a bill to establish a program to provide some tenants with legal counsel during eviction proceedings.

Housing activists are bracing for a wave of evictions as COVID-19 continues to wreak economic turmoil. They’ve long pushed for the city to provide tenants with free lawyers when they face being kicked out of their homes.

A recent study, funded by the Abell Foundation, estimates it would cost $5.7 million to provide about 7,000 tenants with representation. By keeping people out of homelessness, the study said it would save more than six times that. It also found that 96% of landlords had representation to argue their cases in rent court, while only 1% of tenants had

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Government suffers Lords defeats over immigration bill

UK borderImage copyright
PA Media

The government has faced a string of defeats in the House of Lords over its post-Brexit immigration bill.

The proposed legislation has passed its initial stages in the Commons – where Boris Johnson has a majority of 80.

But peers have now approved four amendments while scrutinising the bill.

They include keeping the current rules for unaccompanied child refugees after the end of the transition period, which sees them reunited with close relatives in the UK.

It is the second time the so-called Dubs amendment – presented by Labour’s Lord Dubs – has been approved by peers, but turned down by MPs.

  • MPs give initial backing to immigration bill
  • Care homes face staffing ‘black hole’

Afterwards, Lord Dubs tweeted: “The Commons now needs to do the right thing by these uniquely vulnerable children and support the amendment.”

But Home Office Minister Baroness Williams said the UK had made a “credible and serious” offer to the EU agree new arrangements; and that it wouldn’t be right to undermine those negotiations through domestic legislation.

And a Home Office spokesperson added: “”We have a long and proud history of providing protection to vulnerable children, and have presented a genuine offer to the EU on future reciprocal arrangement for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.”

The government also faced three further defeats on other amendments proposed to the bill, namely on:

  • Ensuring an inquiry into the impact of the bill on social care, especially staffing – passed by 304 votes to 224
  • Preventing Britons returning to the UK with their EU families from March 2022 facing financial conditions – passed by 312 votes to 223
  • And an amendment granting EU children in care settled status in the UK – passed by 323 votes to 227

The legislation will now go back to the Commons for approval – but with a large government majority, the amendments are unlikely to remain.

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In ad blasting Biden for 1994 crime bill, Trump undermines law and order case

A new Trump campaign commercial makes an engaging pitch for support from black Americans, but it repeats an attack against opponent Joe Biden that is flagrantly inaccurate and egregiously hypocritical.



a group of people walking on a city street


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The ad begins with an attractive black couple saying President Trump’s tenure has been beneficial for their business. So far, so good. The ad pivots, though, to an attack on the 1994 crime bill that Biden helped negotiate while chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The claims in the ad are just plain false.

“Joe Biden wrote the crime bill,” it says. (No, he didn’t, but he did help oversee its legislative progress.) “Hundreds of thousands of black Americans were put in jail for minor offenses.” As those words cross the screen, the wife in the ad says that “the one thing Joe Biden has done in 47 years in Washington, D.C., has made it difficult for black people.”

Every element of that portion of the commercial is wrong. It makes the common but mistaken assumption that the 1994 bill cracked down hard on low-level drug-possession offenses and the like, and that blacks disproportionately suffered.

“The 1994 Crime Bill did not and is not driving so-called ‘mass incarceration,’” said Sean Kennedy, a visiting fellow specializing in criminal justice issues at the conservative Maryland Public Policy Institute. “Most of that law’s provisions applied to violent and sexual offenses at the federal level and did not impact federal drug offenses or state law … More than 99.9% of drug-related offenders are sentenced for trafficking [significant drug dealing], not possession, and a quarter of them are foreigners running drug operations or smuggling narcotics.”

The statistics overwhelmingly bear that out. Yes, federal incarceration has grown from 83,000 in 1995 to 182,000 today, but the vast bulk of the increase in federal incarceration has come for either weapons offenses, immigration-related crimes, white-collar crimes, sex crimes, or trafficking. In fact, of those 182,000 federal inmates today, a grand total of 247, barely more than a tenth of a single percent, are there for mere possession of illegal narcotics.

As for the advertisement’s claim about black Americans being particularly harmed by the 1994 bill, that’s just not true. While blacks still make up a significantly greater share of the prison population than of the U.S. population as a whole, the percentage of black inmates to total inmates has dropped substantially in the past 25 years. The percentage of white prisoners has increased, and that of Hispanics has jumped significantly. And, to whatever extent federal law even indirectly affects state imprisonment practices, the trend of combined federal and state imprisonment of blacks is downward as well. I don’t have the following particular statistic from 1995 to 2000, but since the turn of the century, the imprisonment rate among black women has dropped 47% and that among black men has fallen by 22%.

Again, the reason these results don’t match the ad’s claims is that the bill itself wasn’t even remotely aimed at

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1,612 DOJ Alumni Warn Bill Barr Will Use Law Enforcement Powers to Undermine Free and Fair Elections

U.S. Attorney General William Barr could attempt to influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, according to allegations made in an open letter from 1,612 former members of the Department of Justice.

Barr has claimed that this year’s election results could be tallied incorrectly because of the prevalence of mail-in ballots. In September, Barr said that the mail-in ballots could be highly susceptible to fraud. Barr has also said that foreign entities, such as the Russian government, could forge ballots and send them in which could cause election results to be unfairly unbalanced.

In the letter, the DOJ alumni cited a fear that Barr “intends to use the DOJ’s vast law enforcement powers to undermine our most fundamental democratic value: free and fair elections. He has signalled this intention in myriad ways, from making false statements about the security of mail-in voting from foreign hackers to falsely suggesting that mail-in ballots are subject to widespread fraud and coercion.”

Newsweek reached out to the DOJ for comment.

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Both Barr and Trump have condemned the practice of widespread mail-in voting. In a September interview with CNN, Barr said that the use of mail-in ballots was “reckless and dangerous.”

Trump has attempted to delineate between mail-in voting and absentee voting, a process Trump himself claims to use.

william barr
Former members of the U.S. Department of Justice are concerned that Attorney General William Barr may be attempting to undermine this year’s presidential elections.
Oliver Contreras/AFP/Getty

“I’m an absentee voter because I can’t be in Florida because I’m in Washington,” Trump said at a July press conference. “I’m at the White House, so I’ll be an absentee voter. We have a lot of absentee voters, and it works.”

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According to Trump, mail-in ballots are different because they are sent to people who did not request them. Trump cited California as an example where “tens of millions” of ballots are expected to be sent out.

All registered voters in California are expected to receive mail-in ballots because of the threat of community spread coronavirus at polling places. However, if an individual chooses to vote in person, they must take their mail-in ballot with them as verification that they did not vote twice.

Barr has also expressed concerns in a September interview with CNN that states could receive ballots that have been counterfeited “either by someone here or someone overseas.”

When asked by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer if the DOJ had received any reports of such ballots, Barr said, “No. But most things can be counterfeited.”

In response to Trump’s social media posts about the dangers of mail-in voting, Twitter placed a fact-checking link on some of Trump’s tweets. Upon clicking the link, Twitter users are taken to a page with the headline, “Voting by mail is legal and safe, experts and data confirm.”

In a corporate blog post published in September, Twitter said it would either label or remove “false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence

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Philly Council OKs bill allowing down zoning for Society Hill

Philadelphia City Council voted unanimously Thursday to pass a measure that will allow down zoning of much of Society Hill.

The bill, introduced in January by City Councilmember Mark Squilla, includes new strict height restrictions for buildings, increased parking requirements, and the elimination of bonuses and exemptions in the name of historic preservation.

Opponents of the bill said it will only serve to prevent any affordable, multi-family housing from being developed in the area, thereby preserving not just its historic character but also its largely white and wealthy residential makeup.

“Letting a handful of residents define Society Hill’s urban context, while ignoring its history of wanton urban renewal that demolished ‘nonconforming’ mid-rises, is the epitome of hypocrisy and the opposite of good preservation policy,” Benjamin She, a volunteer for the urban advocacy group 5th Square, said in prepared testimony.

Society Hill today is in large part the result of urban renewal policies and blight clearance in the 1960s.

“Society Hill was and always will be part of Center City, and it’s exactly where we should be providing abundant housing for all income levels for maximum opportunity and minimum risk of displacement,” She’s statement read.

Society Hill Civic Association president Larry Spector stressed that the bill aimed only to preserve the scale and historical character of the area, and took issue with it being classified as NIMBY-ist.

“This is not an anti-affordable housing effort,” said Spector, who lives at Sixth and Addison streets and has been in the neighborhood for over 30 years.

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The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association – Government funded through Dec. 11 after Trump’s late-night bill signing

 

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–> A midday take on what’s happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha–breaks down crying hysterically. 

 

The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Senate panel votes to subpoena Twitter, Facebook, Google CEOs |  ‘Trump fatigue’ spells trouble |  Senate GOP frustrated after Tuesday’s debate |  Trump signs funding bill after short lapse | NYC becomes first big city to reopen all schools |  Five cursing parrots separated

 

LATEST WITH GOVERNMENT FUNDING

A teeny lapse in government funding:

 

 

Via The Hill’s Niv ElisPresident TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE signed the government funding bill, shortly after midnight, to avert a government shutdown. https://bit.ly/3jj8ujm

Meaning: There was a very brief lapse in government funding.

What that meant for agencies: “The White House told agencies not to shut down despite the fact that legal funding ran out at midnight because Trump was expected to sign it quickly upon his return, as Politico first reported.”

Why it was signed after midnight: “Trump did not sign the bill, which passed in the House last week and in the Senate on Wednesday, until after returning from a rally in Minnesota after midnight.”  

How long the bill extends government funding: Until Dec. 11

It’s Thursday. It is officially October! I’m Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what’s coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to [email protected] — and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.

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NEWS THIS MORNING

Trump proposes a low refugee cap:

President Trump is proposing that only 15,000 refugees be allowed to resettle in the U.S. in the next fiscal year, marking an historic low of admission for some of the world’s most vulnerable peoples.” https://bit.ly/3l8u4HP

 

 

SPONSORED CONTENT — ALPA

Aviation Workers Keep U.S. Safe, Connected

 

 

Aviation accounts for five percent of the nation’s GDP, supporting millions of jobs across U.S. industries, including manufacturing, hospitality, tourism, engineering and national defense. Learn more.

 

 

IN CONGRESS

You get a subpoena! And you get a subpoena! Subpoenas all around!:

The Senate Commerce Committee voted to subpoena the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter. https://bit.ly/36p0j1m 

Why: “[Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerRestaurants brace for long COVID-19 winter The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Facebook – Republicans lawmakers rebuke Trump on election Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance

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Trump signs stopgap spending bill to avert government shutdown

Washington — President Trump signed a stopgap government spending bill just after midnight Thursday that funds the government into December, averting a partial government shutdown.

The measure was passed with bipartisan support by the Senate on Wednesday and approved by the House last week. It was sent to the White House on Wednesday evening and signed by Mr. Trump after he returned to Washington, D.C., from a campaign swing through Minnesota, White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

The bill, known as a continuing resolution, keeps the government funded through December 11 and delays further congressional debate on routine government spending until after the presidential election. Negotiations over a new relief bill to address the coronavirus crisis are continuing.

While funding officially lapsed at midnight and Mr. Trump signed the bill after the deadline, federal operations were unaffected.

The spending bill is the result of a bipartisan deal between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It includes an additional $8 billion for nutrition assistance programs and renews provisions of public health and transportation programs.

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