Tag Archives: federal

Federal marijuana bill would legalize some cannabis strains

Federal marijuana bill would legalize some cannabis strains

“…A bill being introduced Monday in the U.S. House of Representatives could be Cox’s ticket home. The three-page bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act — the federal law that criminalizes marijuana — to exempt plants with an extremely low percentage of THC, the chemical that makes users high…”


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Ex-governor tries to live on a minimum wage budget — and fails

Ex-governor tries to live on a minimum wage budget — and fails

“I had $77 to spend on food, transportation, activities and other personal expenses for the week,” the Ohio Democrat and current president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund wrote in Politico magazine. “I didn’t make it.”

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America’s Best Internet Is in the City You’d Least Expect

America’s Best Internet Is in the City You’d Least Expect

“…Here’s how it works: More than 20 states have laws that won’t let local communities compete with telecom companies. Tennessee, for instance, has a law that won’t allow EPB to operate outside the city. So, while EPB would love to offer faster, cheaper Internet to the one in five Tennessee residents who has no Internet access, it needs permission from the FCC to preempt its state law.

The FCC, in a fit of common sense, has signalled that it would allow this preemption to occur. House Republicans want that to be illegal, protecting cable companies instead. Their argument is framed around states’ rights — thanks to the state non-compete laws — while ignoring the fact that the national government would be telling local towns and cities what they can and can’t do.

Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who introduced the amendment in the House, was called “Big Telecom’s best friend in Congress” by Vice. AT&T and Verizon are her second- and third-largest donors, and Comcast as well as the National Cable and Telecommunications Association have chipped in tens of thousands each…”

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Post-Hobby Lobby, Religious Orgs Want Exemption From LGBT Hiring Order

Post-Hobby Lobby, Religious Orgs Want Exemption From LGBT Hiring Order

*explosion of expletives* 

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McDonald’s Can’t Figure Out How Its Workers Survive on Minimum Wage

 JUL 16 2013, 11:39 AM ET

“Well this is both embarrassing and deeply telling.

In what appears to have been a gesture of goodwill gone haywire, McDonald’s recently teamed up with Visa to create a financial planning site for its low-pay workforce. Unfortunately, whoever wrote the thing seems to have been literally incapable of imagining of how a fast food employee could survive on a minimum wage income. As ThinkProgress and other outlets have reported, the site includes a sample budget that, among other laughable assumptions, presumes that workers will have a second job. 


As Jim Cook at Irregular Times notes, the $1,105 figure up top is roughly what the average McDonald’s cashier earning $7.72 an hour would take home each month after payroll taxes, if they worked 40 hours a week. So this budget applies to someone just about working two full-time jobs at normal fast-food pay. (The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour, by the way, but 19 states and DC set theirs higher). 

A few of the other ridiculous conceits here: This hypothetical worker doesn’t pay a heating bill. I guess some utilities are included in their $600 a month rent? (At the end of 2012, average rent in the U.S. was $1,048). Gas and groceries are bundled into $27 a day spending money. And this individual apparently has access to $20 a month healthcare. McDonald’s, for its part, charges employees $12.58 a week for the company’s most basic health plan. Well, that’s if they’ve been with the company for a year. Otherwise, it’s $14

Now, it’s possible that McDonald’s and Visa meant this sample budget to reflect a two-person household. That would be a tad more realistic, after all. Unfortunately, the brochure doesn’t give any indication that’s the case. Nor does it change the fact that most of these expenses would apply to a single person. 

Of course, minimum wage workers aren’t really entirely on their own, especially if they have children. There are programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and the earned income tax credit to help them along. But that’s sort of the point. When large companies make profits by paying their workers unlivable wages, we end up subsidizing their bottom lines. “

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by | July 17, 2013 · 8:54 pm

Governor suspends lawmakers’ salaries in Illinois pension stalemate

By Rick Pearson, Tribune reporter

7:58 p.m. CDT, July 10, 2013


“Accelerating an increasingly bitter feud with the General Assembly, Gov. Pat Quinn suspended the pay of state lawmakers Wednesday, saying he believed the best way for legislators to reach a long-sought fix to Illinois’ massive public worker pension debt was to “hit them in the wallet.”

Quinn used his veto powers to zero-out the $13.8 million budget for legislative salaries and leadership stipends, effectively eliminating the state’s ability to send lawmakers their Aug. 1 paychecks. The governor said that until now taxpayers — not lawmakers — have had to pay for the legislature’s failure to resolve an unfunded pension liability that has grown to more than $100 billion through higher borrowing costs, lower credit ratings and money squeezed from social services.

“This is an emergency. This is a crisis. This requires full attention of those who are elected to the General Assembly, take an oath of office, to do the right thing for the public. For too long, we’ve had legislative inertia, delay and excuses on this paramount issue to the people of Illinois,” said Quinn. The governor, who makes $177,412 annually, said he was voluntarily suspending his own pay until the issue is resolved.

“We want to have a alarm bell for our legislators to understand that this is an emergency that demands their undivided attention. They cannot take time away and ignore this issue. They must have that alarm bell ringing in their ears and the best way to do that is to hit them in the wallet,” he said.

But many lawmakers accused Quinn of once again using his bully pulpit to engage the media rather than working directly with the General Assembly over how he wants to deal with Illinois’ underfunded public pension system, the worst in the nation.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, of Chicago, called Quinn’s actions “unproductive” and “political grandstanding.” He defended lawmakers’ efforts to come to grips with the state’s most vexing problem — one that is full of political and constitutional hurdles.

The fighting between the governor and the legislature echoes battles between Quinn’s predecessor, disgraced and imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and the Democratic-led General Assembly. On many occasions Blagojevich, under whom Quinn served as lieutenant governor, sounded populist themes while trashing lawmakers who opposed him.

Quinn did not call lawmakers into session to deal with the pension crisis. Instead, he noted that lawmakers had failed to meet several of his self-imposed deadlines for pension action — the latest on Tuesday — and contended that when powerful special political interests set deadlines, the legislature is quick to act.

“It’s interesting when Commonwealth Edison sets a deadline for the legislature, they hop to it,” Quinn said. “When the National Rifle Association sets a deadline for our legislature, they’re right on it. But what about the taxpayers? What about the people?”

Quinn’s reference to the NRA came a day after lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected his effort to add restrictions to a compromise bill that authorized the carrying of concealed firearms in the state. Illinois faced a Tuesday deadline to legalize concealed carry under a federal court ruling. Lawmakers rebuked Quinn for failing to participate directly in the gun negotiations earlier, only to later accuse them of “surrendering” to the NRA.

However, House Speaker Michael Madigan, arguably the state’s most powerful Democrat, refused Wednesday to engage in criticizing Quinn. Madigan said he understood Quinn’s “frustration” and added “I am hopeful his strategy works.”

Madigan lauded those lawmakers who backed the pension proposal he wrote that would require state workers to take more money out of their paycheck, would increase retirement ages and would scale back cost-of-living increases. Cullerton contends Madigan’s plan is unconstitutional, and Democratic senators have favored a union-backed plan that requires public workers to pay more, but gives them options to gain access to state health care in exchange for their cost of living increases.

While Madigan chose to stay out of the fight, his chamber’s point person on pension reform, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, of Northbrook, said Quinn’s actions “only serve as an unnecessary distraction.”

“Our work will continue unimpeded,” said Nekritz, who sits on a bipartisan pension conference committee of House and Senate members delegated with coming up with a solution. “We would urge the governor to join us as we push to the finish line to really do what is right for Illinois.”

Illinois lawmakers receive a base salary of $67,836, but most earn thousands more in stipends, either by being a member of the Democratic or Republican leadership or by chairing or vice chairing legislative committees.

Quinn maintained he had the legal authority to take the action under a case he was involved in years earlier, as a citizen, in which the state Supreme Court cited the governor’s ability to reduce or line-item veto any spending items in appropriation bills passed by the General Assembly.

But the court decision did not involve another provision in the state Constitution that prevents any changes in the salary of legislators during the two-year term of the General Assembly. State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said she was asking for a legal review of Quinn’s action before Aug. 1, when her office would next send paychecks to state lawmakers. They received their last paychecks June 29.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the daughter of the House speaker and a potential challenger to Quinn next year, did not provide an answer Wednesday on whether the governor has the authority to eliminate lawmakers’ pay.

“The governor’s actions raise a series of constitutional and procedural issues that have never been resolved by the courts,” attorney general spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said in an email. “We’re looking closely at them.”

The legal issue could prove to be a thorny one for the state’s top lawyer.

Siding against Quinn could be seen as supporting her father, giving fodder to critics who say Lisa Madigan shouldn’t be governor while Michael Madigan is speaker. And backing the restoration of pay to lawmakers also could become a populist issue to be used against her by opponents.

Quinn is already facing a primary challenge from Bill Daley, the brother and son of former Chicago mayors who also has served as White House chief of staff.

Ronald Rotunda, an expert on the Illinois Constitution, said the issues raised are in “uncharted waters,” making it difficult to say whether a court would side with the governor’s constitutional veto power or the constitutional provision aimed largely at preventing lawmakers from raising their pay in the middle of a term.

Quinn can cut money lawmakers approved to cover the cost of legislative paychecks “given the very broad line-item veto power that the Illinois governor has,” said Rotunda, a professor of law at Chapman University in California. As a result, Quinn could argue he is not changing the state law that sets the rate of pay assigned to legislators, he is simply not going along with the funding, Rotunda said.

“Who’s to say what’s solid legal footing?” Rotunda said. “It’s a reasonable argument.”

In any case, he said, the issue may take a while to play out because lawmakers have the right to convene a special session and override the governor’s salary veto, and “they haven’t done that yet.”

The governor predicted lawmakers wouldn’t dare.

“Anyone in the legislature who would thumb their nose at the taxpayers is making a big mistake,” Quinn said. “I think the taxpayers are on my side here.”

rap30@aol.com rlong@tribune.com

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC”

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by | July 11, 2013 · 3:58 pm

From the Mouths of Babes

I’ve been on food stamps since August of last year to help me feed myself while I interned  at a theatre in Louisville, KY. My internship paid me $1000 for 8 months, that’s roughly $30 a week, and it kept me working for over full time (sometimes hitting 60 hours a week). Food stamps helped me make ends meet on top of a $600/mo. apartment plus utilities of $30-80/mo. and phone bills of $80/mo., etc. I got $200/mo. from food stamps which helped out enormously. I view it as the government investing in my future because I’ve paid taxes since I was 15 and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I was lucky to have parents that paid out of pocket for my college education so that I wasn’t saddled with any debt. But, that also means that they don’t have much more left to help me survive now. So, what do you think? Am I part of the entitled poor that are sucking up tax-payers money? – Claire E Jones






Published: May 30, 2013

“Like many observers, I usually read reports about political goings-on with a sort of weary cynicism. Every once in a while, however, politicians do something so wrong, substantively and morally, that cynicism just won’t cut it; it’s time to get really angry instead. So it is with the ugly, destructive war against food stamps.

The food stamp program — which these days actually uses debit cards, and is officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — tries to provide modest but crucial aid to families in need. And the evidence is crystal clear both that the overwhelming majority of food stamp recipients really need the help, and that the program is highly successful at reducing “food insecurity,” in which families go hungry at least some of the time.

Food stamps have played an especially useful — indeed, almost heroic — role in recent years. In fact, they have done triple duty.

First, as millions of workers lost their jobs through no fault of their own, many families turned to food stamps to help them get by — and while food aid is no substitute for a good job, it did significantly mitigate their misery. Food stamps were especially helpful to children who would otherwise be living in extreme poverty, defined as an income less than half the official poverty line.

But there’s more. Why is our economy depressed? Because many players in the economy slashed spending at the same time, while relatively few players were willing to spend more. And because the economy is not like an individual household — your spending is my income, my spending is your income — the result was a general fall in incomes and plunge in employment. We desperately needed (and still need) public policies to promote higher spending on a temporary basis — and the expansion of food stamps, which helps families living on the edge and let them spend more on other necessities, is just such a policy.

Indeed, estimates from the consulting firm Moody’s Analytics suggest that each dollar spent on food stamps in a depressed economy raises G.D.P. by about $1.70 — which means, by the way, that much of the money laid out to help families in need actually comes right back to the government in the form of higher revenue.

Wait, we’re not done yet. Food stamps greatly reduce food insecurity among low-income children, which, in turn, greatly enhances their chances of doing well in school and growing up to be successful, productive adults. So food stamps are in a very real sense an investment in the nation’s future — an investment that in the long run almost surely reduces the budget deficit, because tomorrow’s adults will also be tomorrow’s taxpayers.

So what do Republicans want to do with this paragon of programs? First, shrink it; then, effectively kill it.

The shrinking part comes from the latest farm bill released by the House Agriculture Committee (for historical reasons, the food stamp program is administered by the Agriculture Department). That bill would push about two million people off the program. You should bear in mind, by the way, that one effect of the sequester has been to pose a serious threat to a different but related program that provides nutritional aid to millions of pregnant mothers, infants, and children. Ensuring that the next generation grows up nutritionally deprived — now that’s what I call forward thinking.

And why must food stamps be cut? We can’t afford it, say politicians like Representative Stephen Fincher, a Republican of Tennessee, who backed his position with biblical quotations — and who also, it turns out, has personally received millions in farm subsidies over the years.

These cuts are, however, just the beginning of the assault on food stamps. Remember, Representative Paul Ryan’s budget is still the official G.O.P. position on fiscal policy, and that budget calls for converting food stamps into a block grant program with sharply reduced spending. If this proposal had been in effect when the Great Recession struck, the food stamp program could not have expanded the way it did, which would have meant vastly more hardship, including a lot of outright hunger, for millions of Americans, and for children in particular.

Look, I understand the supposed rationale: We’re becoming a nation of takers, and doing stuff like feeding poor children and giving them adequate health care are just creating a culture of dependency — and that culture of dependency, not runaway bankers, somehow caused our economic crisis.

But I wonder whether even Republicans really believe that story — or at least are confident enough in their diagnosis to justify policies that more or less literally take food from the mouths of hungry children. As I said, there are times when cynicism just doesn’t cut it; this is a time to get really, really angry.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on May 31, 2013, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: From The Mouths Of Babes.”

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by | May 31, 2013 · 7:44 pm