It has been an exhausting and significant week of news on so many fronts. The student activists organized powerful and emotionally moving marches across the country, with estimates of 800,000 in D.C. alone. The Omnibus spending bill was signed and it includes funding for many important areas such as the EPA and education and does not fund a big beautiful see-through wall. And of course you are getting your popcorn and shot glass ready for tonight’s 60 Minutes interview to kick off what will no doubt be another crazy week. This is an edited version of the weekly post. My highlights for this week are;
- #MarchForOurLives The turnout and coverage of the March for Our Lives protests rivaled or may have even surpassed that of the Women’s marches. The media was forced to talk with, listen to, and report on the young people speaking and organizing as most of the adults behind the scenes, including celebrities, refused to be part of the media coverage. Their message was clear, loud, and powerful. I’m in awe and like many others, they give me hope for the future. I don’t think you need me to point you to news coverage. My favorite signs from the NY March
- #ImmigrationReform A Colorado judge ruled that the El Paso County Sheriff cannot continue to jail suspected undocumented immigrants passed the time state law requires their release in order to give ICE more time to pick them up under a detainer request and ordered the sheriff’s office stop the practice. And the Supreme Court declined to hear a case seeking to prevent Arizona’s DACA recipients from keeping their state driver’s licenses.
- #RightToChoose A U.S District Judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks.
- #ClimateChangeIsReal Not only are children working to save us from gun violence, they are also working to save us from destroying the planet as a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit by young people claiming the federal government is violating their constitutional rights by ignoring the harms caused by climate change can proceed.
- #BlueWave2018 It’s a great time to be a voter in PA as both the U.S. Supreme Court and a three judge panel of a U.S. District Court declined a request by republicans to block the newly drawn, and now free of unfair gerrymandering Pennsylvania congressional map for the 2018 elections.
- #Vote Washington Gov. signed a package of bills aimed at increasing voter participation by instituting automatic voter registration for citizens obtaining a state driver’s license or identification card.
💰BIG WINNERS IN THE OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL – SPOILER ALERT – NOT THE PERSON WHO MADE AN EMPTY THREAT TO VETO IT While the budget is over 2,000 pages and it was just released a lot of the details are not yet fully analyzed yet, but what is clear is that Congress rejected a lot of the bad-negotiator-in-chief’s budget demands. The Education Secretary’s agenda of spending 1 billion on private/charter school choice was ignored, and Congress kept funding for after-school programs for needy youth, programs to help low-income students go to college, and money for the Office for Civil Rights among others. A slew of provisions that would have gutted environmental and campaign finance laws were removed to win democratic support and the EPA saw no cut in funding. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities will continue to get funding. The Election Assistance Commission will receive $380 million for state funding for election-related cybersecurity and the FBI gets $300 million for counterintelligence to combat Russian hacking. Only $1.6 billion was for defenses on the U.S.-Mexico border, but most of the money is earmarked for specific projects that were likely to have been funded regardless of the election, but the biggest gift was the prohibition of using the funding to build any of the new big, beautiful wall prototypes.
IN OTHER GUN REFORM AND GUN CONTROL ACTIVISM NEWS The Omnibus spending bill also takes a step in the right direction on gun control, it “clarifies” that the CDC can’t use taxpayer funds to promote or advocate for gun control, but specifies that the CDC does have the authority to conduct research on gun violence. This weakens the “Dickey Amendment” which has prohibited the CDC from gun research for years. In New York City, a local NRA fundraiser has now been booted from two popular venues because of community outage and Moms Demand Action showed up in the snow for Advocacy Day in NY. The #Pennridge225 students continue to serve detention for participating in the March 17th walkout, by sitting in silence, arms linked in a circle, with the names of the Parkland shooting victims on them, with supports outside the school.
COMPANIES LIKE CITIGROUP AND YOUTUBE DO THEIR PART FOR GUN CONTROL Citigroup will stop doing business with clients that sell high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, including small business, commercial and institutional clients, and credit card partners, including co-brand or private label. YouTube introduced tighter restrictions on videos and now bans videos that promote or link to websites selling firearms and accessories and videos with instructions on assembling firearms. Kroger announced it will no longer sell print magazines featuring assault rifles.
🗳LOCAL ELECTION WINS IN FLORIDA George Oliver, III defeated a four-term incumbent to become the first African-American elected to the Ocoee City Commission. Gail Johnson was elected to the Gainesville City Commission and is the first black woman to be elected citywide in at least 21 years.
🧕THE COMMUNITIES OF DENVER AND SAN ANTONIO STOOD UP FOR IMMIGRANTS: Denver launched ”The Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund to provide legal access to residents facing removal proceedings.The San Antonio School District unveiled a handbook designed to combat fears about the state’s “anti-sanctuary city” law and how it may affect their undocumented community.
ACTIVISTS AND THE ACLU HELP GET THREE IMMIGRANTS RELEASED; Laura Monterrosa, an asylum-seeker who alleged sexual abuse at an immigrant detention center was released after a four months long bombardment of letters, calls, protests, an FBI investigation, a federal lawsuit and the intervention of 46 members of Congress. The ACLU helped release and reunite a Congolese mother and asylum seeker with her 7-year-old daughter after they were detained separately for more than four months. Lawyers were able to obtain the release of a mom without bail, whose arrest by ICE in front of her 3 U.S. citizen daughters was captured on video generating a huge outcry over ICE actions, given that no charges of smuggling were even filed.
⚖️ECONOMIC MEETS SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR CONSUMERS AND THE INFIRM The Supreme Court rules that both state and federal courts can hear certain securities class actions alleging violations of the Securities Act of 1933, a plus for consumers as it gives them options for where to bring cases. Federal regulators cited the University of Maryland Medical Center for mistreatment treatment of an African-American emergency room patient after the release of a video of the confused patient wearing only a hospital gown taken by guards to a bus stop on a cold night and left there.
WORKERS WIN BENEFITS IN NEW JERSEY AND MISSOURI AFTER STRIKING AND PROTEST IN ARIZONA The 3,100 teachers in Jersey City (NJ) went on strike for a reduction in their share of the cost of health insurance and reached an agreement quickly. Workers at a nursing home in Ferguson (MI) ended a 104 day strike after management agreed to a new contract shortly after being found by the National Labor Relations Board to have engaged in unfair labor practices. Nine schools in Arizona closed for a day when a wave of teachers called in sick to stage a #RedForEd rally for higher wages and more school funding at the state Capitol.
💗COURTS HELP TO STOP HATE A federal magistrate denied a neo-Nazi’s motion to dismiss a harassment case brought against him by a woman over a hate-filled troll storm he unleashed on her last year.
👨🏿ADVOCATES FIGHT FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE IN SACRAMENTO AND FOR NATIONWIDE BAIL REFORM Hundreds of protesters filled the streets of Sacramento, shutting down Interstate 5 and blocked the entrance of the Golden 1 Center stadium before a game after police shot and killed a 22-year-old unarmed black man in his grandmother’s backyard. First Round Capital helped raise more than $3 million to fund the new app Promise, which aims to improve the bail process and decrease recidivism by allowing government agencies and individual participants to use it to access a calendar of court dates and deadlines and tracks progress for participants using an Individualized Care Plan. NFL players meet with lawmakers in northeast cities to discuss bail reform as part of the kickoff to the Player-Owner social justice initiative.
COURTS PUNISH AND STOP CRIMINAL JUSTICE WRONGS Teenager Monique Tillman and her brother won a $500,000 award against Tacoma (WA) when the jury found the officers used excessive force and assaulted them for riding their bikes in a mall parking lot. ACLU settled a lawsuit with Teller and Pueblo counties in Colorado and the counties agreed to bring arrestees before a court, including for setting bond, within two court days of arrest. A U.S. Circuit Ct of Appeals ruled Americans with Disability Act applies to police making an arrest. The Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for a Missouri man. New Hampshire Superior Ct Chief Justice Nadeau announced the court is taking a first step in bail reform and launching a bail review initiative. Legal aid lawyers in Washington successfully argued that when a vehicle is serving as a person’s home, the government cannot seize and sell it to pay off debts.
DECRIMINALIZING MARIJUANA Pennsylvania moved forward with their plan to permit medical schools to conduct medical marijuana research.
🌎COURTS, STATES, SAN FRANCISCO, AND SCIENTISTS STEP UP TO SAVE THE PLANET A U.S. District Judge granted much-needed protection for farm workers when he ruled the EPA created substantial risk by delaying protections for people exposed to dangerous pesticides and vacated the delay of rules regarding pesticide applicators. The Virginia Governor signed a law allowing the Virginia Dept of Environmental Quality to issue a stop work order on land-disturbing activities for gas pipeline construction if it determines the activities have, or will cause, a substantial adverse impact on water quality. Scientists have identified a new low-cost and sustainable material alternative to the costly activated carbon that is used for reducing waste-water and air pollution. #ScienceIsReal. San Francisco voted to ban the sale of fur and became the largest U.S. city to approve the prohibition. Washington Gov signed a bill to phase out non-stick chemicals in food packaging.
👩THE #MeToo AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS MOVEMENT HAS NOT STOPPED The Washington Governor signed four bills to address sexual harassment that includes prohibiting nondisclosure agreements that prevent employees from disclosing sexual harassment/ assault and voids employment contracts or arbitration agreements that don’t have terms protecting an employee’s rights to file sexual harassment/assault complaints and so much more. He also signed a measure that seeks to reduce the wage gap between men and women and provide equal growth opportunities and fair treatment in the workplace. A former officer of the Wyoming National Guard, who quit her job after being sexually harassed by her supervisor won her civil lawsuit against the Wyoming Military Dept and was awarded $221,030.62 in back pay, saying they.. “should be, embarrassed by the multiple failures of the human resources office and a supervisor in this matter.” A California charter school was sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly paying a female math tutor less than a male tutor. Starbucks has achieved pay equity across gender and race in its U.S. workforce according to the National Partnership.
🗽BECAUSE MONUMENTS AND NAMES MATTER TO THE PEOPLE THAT SEE THEM The Florida governor signed a bill to remove a Confederate statue from the U.S. Capitol building and replace it with one of Mary Bethune. Her statue will be the first one of a black woman in Statuary Hall, where each state is allowed to honor two people who contributed to their state. The Maryland Transit Administration agreed to save part of a historical bridge that served as a lifeline to African-Americans during segregation as they put in a new rail system. A public school district in Oklahoma removed a monument at an elementary school that was dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Tampa removed a Confederate monument from the front of a courthouse annex.
🏳️🌈LGBTQ PROGRESS IN FLORIDA, INDIANA, CALIFORNIA, AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS Gainesville passed an ordinance banning “gay conversion therapy.” A high school student is organizing the first LGBTQ Pride festival in Columbus, Indiana, the hometown of Mike Pence. City College of San Francisco will allow transgender students to use their chosen names for student identification cards, etc., instead of the names assigned to them at birth. John Oliver’s story of Marlon Bundo, a little gay bunny who belongs to Mike Pence, is No. 1 on Amazon’s best-seller list and sold so quickly it is now on back-order, and it knocked pre-ordered copies of the upcoming memoir by James Comey down to No. 2. America’s doing some great reading these days, Fire and Fury, a gay Bunny, When they Call You a Terrorist, and next up the Comey Memoir.
LGBTQ AROUND THE WORLD Sweden became the first country in the world to compensate transgender citizens who were forced to undergo sterilization in order to be allowed to change their sex. Israel elected its first ever gay mayor. The Court of Appeal in Kenya ruled that it is illegal to force people suspected of being homosexual to undergo anal examinations.
🤰🏽WOMEN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE GOT BETTER IN TWO STATES The Washington State governor formally signed the Reproductive Parity Act which requires all insurance plans in the state that cover maternity care to also cover abortions and all FDA approved contraception, including emergency contraception, without cost-sharing. The world is a little upside down, with the Governor of Utah, one of the more conservative states, signing one of the most progressives bills, allowing women 18 and older to get birth control directly from a pharmacist rather than making an unnecessary and frequently expensive trip to a doctor.
🗳️COURTS AND MATHEMATICIANS ARE TAKING VOTING SERIOUSLY Circuit Ct Judge Josann Reynolds ordered the Wisconsin governor to call special elections to fill two vacant seats in the Legislature. A federal court agreed with the ACLU that the Sumter County (GA) current school board district lines are unfair to African-Americans and ordered them to draw fair district lines because the current districts dilute their voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a Utah law that allows candidates to qualify for the ballot through the caucus convention system and/or by collecting signatures. A federal district judge ruled the Federal Election Commission wrongly dismissed a complaint against a nonprofit aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan after it failed to register as a political committee and report the millions it spent on advertising for an election in a complaint by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. A Mathematician has created a tool to identify gerrymandering in maps.
👩🎓WOMEN ARE BREAKING MILITARY AND POLITICAL BARRIERS Toni Atkins was sworn in as the first woman and first openly gay Senate president pro tem in California. The governor of Mississippi is appointing Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) to the U.S. Senate to fill a vacancy, she is the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress. Sarah Zorn was selected as the first woman regimental commander of cadets at The Citadel. Paula-Mae Weekes was sworn in as the first woman President of Trinidad and Tobago.
🙂FOR YOUR INFORMATION A New York Supreme Court Judge ruled a defamation lawsuit against the misspeller-in-chief by Summer Zervos may go forward. On the same day, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, sued American Media, seeking to be released from a contract that paid her $150,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with the sexist-in-chief. And Fox News will have one less analyst to discuss these new developments after Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters quit the network and blasted the channel as having turned into a “propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.”
FIGHTING FOR ETHICS ALL OVER THE PLACE In another attempt to stop the liar-in-chief with the Emolument Clause, the attorneys general in Washington, D.C. and Maryland sued him alleging he is violating the clause because foreign governments are staying at Trump properties causing economic losses to businesses in DC and MD. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) is currently being investigated by the Federal Election Commission for possible campaign-finance violations. The New York City Dept of Buildings is investigating possible “illegal activity” involving applications for construction work at 13 Kushner owned buildings.
📜FREE SPEECH WINS The Washington state Gov signed a law that makes it unlawful for school administrators to censor content in school newspapers and other student-run media except under limited circumstances. Savannah (GA) tried to ban signs in a “Pence Zone,” the ACLU sued and won and when VP Pence arrived for St Pats, activist made sure every Pence photo in the media had a gay pride sign in the background
🧟ANOTHER ONE (OR TWO) BITES THE DUST John Dowd, the lead attorney on the misspeller-in-chief’s personal legal team resigned. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was removed. And top lawyer Theodore Olson declined to even jump onto the sinking ship and will not be joining the legal team. Who will be next? The suspense is killing me.