Monday, January 8, 2018

Supreme Court to Hear Argument Concerning Voter Roll Purges in Ohio

On January 10, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the landmark voting rights case Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute—a challenge to Ohio’s voter roll purges.

In Husted v. Randolph Institute, the Supreme Court is considering whether Ohio’s practice of purging voters who are registered to vote in federal elections from voter rolls based on a registrant’s failure to vote violates the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA).

In Ohio, a registered voter will receive a confirmation notice from the state if he or she fails to vote within a two-year period. If the voter fails to respond to the notice and then does not vote within the next four years, Ohio will nullify that person’s voter registration and require that he or she register again. In 2016, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute filed suit in U.S. District Court, claiming that this practice violates the NVRA, which prohibits states from removing “any person from the official list of voters registered to vote in an election for Federal office by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” The district court upheld Ohio’s voter purge. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision. Ohio asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, and it agreed to do so.

Read more about this at the Constitutional Accountability Center

More information and News:

Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute -- SCOTUS BLOG

Americans for Progress "Rally to Protect the Vote and End Voter Roll Purges at U.S. Supreme Court"


By Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

Washington, D.C. - January 8, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the need for employers to upgrade their sexual misconduct policies:

The clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church made headline news in 2002, even though most of the offenses took place from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. Over the past decade and a half, the Church launched many new policies to check this problem, the result being a dramatic reduction in cases of abuse. Indeed, there is no institution in the nation today, religious or secular, that has a better record in dealing with sexual misconduct than the Catholic Church.

Ironically, it is precisely the Church’s most prominent and vocal critics who are now undergoing their own sexual misconduct problems: journalism, the arts, Hollywood, and education have all been hit with scandal.

The media have had more than their fair share of problems dealing with sexual predators. Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Glenn Thrush, Michael Oreskes, and Mark Halperin are the big names, but no one knows just how deep the scandal goes. Payouts are commonplace, but little in the way of policy changes have been announced.

The Society of Professional Journalists has an impressive list of resources available to members, ranging from freedom of information to ethics in the newsroom. But the only statement it has on its website regarding sexual harassment in the newsroom is a list of articles on the subject.

One of those recommended articles is from the New York Times, a rather strange source of advice given the newspaper’s serious problems with sexual misconduct. The suggested article offers nothing more than tips on training and the need to promote more women. The latter is particularly embarrassing: when Jill Abramson was deputy to Michael Oreskes, she knew of his alleged offenses yet she admits she never did anything about them.

For thirty years, Peter Martins ran the New York City Ballet. Insiders knew of his serial offenses: he verbally and physically abused men as well as women. Also, board members knew of his wife beating, yet did nothing about it.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled Harvey Weinstein on October 14, but reports are surfacing saying that many members now regret doing so. Roman Polanski continues to be defended by many in Hollywood, even as new allegations are being made. A task force on sexual misconduct has been launched by the Academy, but it has yet to finalize anything.

Stories of predatory professors abound, and this is especially true of grad students. Yet the only formal committee on sexuality that is listed by the American Association of University Professors deals with “Sexual Diversity and Gender Identity.” There is no institutionalized mechanism to address the sexual exploitation of students by professors.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops not only has a comprehensive training program for all its employees on sexual abuse, it conducts background checks on all those who work with children. Regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, each diocese has its own policy. The Archdiocese of New York, for instance, has a detailed employee handbook section on this issue, which includes termination in cases of serious sexual misconduct.

The Catholic Church’s policies on sexual misconduct provide a model for all organizations and professions. It is high time it received credit for the progress it has made. More important, those who have been its harshest critics need to learn from what it has accomplished and start instituting policies that mirror those of the Church.

See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site

AEM Signs Letter to Congress Urging Infrastructure Bill

By Association of Equipment Manufacturers

Washington, D.C. - January 8, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- AEM joined nearly 120 trade groups and other organizations to urge Congress to make infrastructure a top priority in 2018 and beyond.

AEM cosigned a letter sent to congressional leaders late last week, one which called for the passing of a comprehensive package to transform the nation’s infrastructure beyond the status quo.

Addressing the country’s infrastructure needs is critical to ensuring it can maintain economic competitiveness, and AEM is committed to elevating the conversation on the topic of infrastructure. Along with several equipment manufacturers, AEM recently put together a set of policy recommendations to help the U.S. regain its infrastructure advantage.

To learn more, download the U.S. Infrastructure Advantage™.

See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site

Congress needs to end Obama housing rule through defund process

By Americans for Limited Government

Fairfax, VA - January 8, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning has issued the following statement urging Congress to defund the 2015 Obama HUD housing rule that rezones recipients of community development block grants along income and racial criteria:

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development is on the right track by delaying implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing assessment tool until 2020, an unworkable bi-product of the 2015 Obama housing rule that effectively puts the federal government in charge of local zoning issues. The rule cites zoning no less than six times as a basis for compliance with the regulation. The House-passed omnibus bill defunds that aspect of the regulation, and we strongly support that rider’s inclusion or expansion in the final 2018 funding bill. This is a perfect way for Congress to begin to reassert its rightful Article I constitutional prerogatives, by defunding those regulations that go far beyond the scope of federal law.”

See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site

ATA Offers Support for Proposed Association Health Plan Rule

By American Trucking Association

Arlington, VA - January 8, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- The American Trucking Associations said it welcomed a proposal by the U.S. Department of Labor making it easier for small businesses and self-employed individuals to purchase high-quality, lower cost health insurance through expanded association health plans.

“Today’s proposal is a step in the right direction for improving access to affordable, quality health care for all Americans,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “We were pleased in October when President Trump signed an executive order allowing self-employed individuals to pool together to purchase health insurance plans sponsored by larger associations and groups, and we are happy to see his Administration take the next step in advancing this plan today.”

The trucking industry is primarily comprised of small-businesses– with more than 90% of registered motor carriers operating fewer than six trucks – making it uniquely positioned to benefit from the establishment of association health plans. ATA, a 50-state federation of associations representing the trucking industry, has been a strong supporter of the Trump administration’s health care reform efforts.

“President Trump and Secretary Acosta should be commended for their leadership in increasing access to affordable health insurance for thousands of Americans through this action,” said ATA Chairman Dave Manning, president of TCW Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. “By allowing self-employed individuals and small businesses to pool their resources and offer affordable insurance options, this administration is making good on its promise to improve our health care system.”

See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site

American Action Network Releases Highlight Reel Showcasing Results Of Pro-Growth Tax Reform

By American Action Network

Washington, D.C. - January 8, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- American Action Network (@AAN) has released a digital reel highlighting the early results families are seeing thanks to pro-growth tax reform becoming law. The video promotes the positive effects workers are already experiencing, like bonuses and wage raises, following the December enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The video will be backed by six figures and will run on digital platforms.

“In less than a month, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has already shown that pro-growth tax reform is a win for America’s middle class,” said Corry Bliss, Executive Director of American Action Network. “Pro-growth tax reform will lead to higher wages, more jobs, and a tax cut of $2,000 for middle-class families. In the months ahead, AAN will tout the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as hardworking families and individuals are able to keep more of their money.”

AAN was the leading outside group advocating for the House passage of tax reform legislation, spending over $26 million since August, advertising on television, radio, digital, direct mail, and mobile billboards in over 60 congressional districts nationwide. Over the next several months, AAN is committed to spending $10 million spread the message of what meaningful, pro-growth tax reform means for working families across the country.

See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site

Pro-life centers to Supreme Court: Don’t allow govt to force us to advertise for abortion

Source: Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington, D.C. - January 8, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed their opening brief Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit challenging a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy care centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. ADF represents a pro-life pregnancy care center network, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, and two independent centers in the case, which in November the high court agreed to take up.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a federal district judge’s decision to allow the law to remain in effect while the lawsuit, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, proceeds. The brief asks the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling, halt the law, and affirm that forcing the centers to provide the free advertising contrary to their core mission is a violation of their constitutionally protected freedoms.

“No one should be forced to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. This is particularly true when the ones who are being forced to provide it are pro-life pregnancy care centers,” said ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris, who will argue the case before the high court. “Compelled speech strikes at the very heart of constitutionally protected liberties, which are most at risk when speakers are targeted by government officials who disagree with their thoughts and ideas. Targeting people who disagree with the government is exactly what the California law does.”

California’s Reproductive FACT Act, AB 775, requires licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. The disclosure must also include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry. The law also forces unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures in multiple languages about their non-medical status in all advertisements, which obscure and crowd out their pro-life speech. Other courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City.

According to the opening brief filed with the Supreme Court, “This Court has long held that compelled speech is highly disfavored because it imperils freedom by giving government control of the voices of private actors—and that laws targeting particular speakers because of their views are especially dangerous. The government ‘may not substitute its judgment as to how best to speak for that of speakers and listeners; free and robust debate cannot thrive if directed by the government….’ This Court should continue its steadfast defense of this fundamental freedom against governmental attempts to compel speech, and reverse the judgment of the Ninth Circuit.”

“These non-profit pregnancy centers exist to encourage expectant mothers to give their children the opportunity for life,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of the U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner. “The last thing the centers should be forced to do is point these women to the abortion industry.”

“National Institute of Family and Life Advocates member centers exist to empower a mother’s choice of life. They do this by providing assistance and resources free of charge—often in the form of pre-natal vitamins, baby clothes, and ultrasounds,” added NIFLA President and Founder Thomas Glessner, J.D. “All of their speech is designed to further this goal. California’s law purposely hampers this right from the beginning of a pregnancy center’s interaction with expectant mothers.”

“The legislative record demonstrates that the State chose to mandate these compelled messages precisely because of the pregnancy centers’ pro-life views,” the opening brief explains. “The legislative committee report described the centers’ messages as ‘unfortunate’ because they ‘aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions….’ The Legislature created exceptions within the Act, seeking to ensure it applies only to centers that express this disfavored view. Such government targeting of viewpoints runs afoul of this Court’s cases ‘establish[ing] that the State cannot advance some points of view by burdening the expression of others.’”

ADF-allied attorney John Eastman of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, Anne O’Connor of NIFLA, and Dean R. Broyles of The National Center for Law and Policy are co-counsel in the lawsuit on behalf of NIFLA and the two pregnancy centers.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site


Source: Alaska Governor’s Office

Anchorage, AK - January 8, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Governor Bill Walker issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Interior released its new draft Five-Year Oil and Gas Offshore Leasing Program for the Outer Continental Shelf. The proposal includes 19 lease sales in Alaska.

“The Department of Interior’s draft five-year offshore leasing plan is an important step toward allowing Alaskans to responsibly develop our natural resources as we see fit. My administration is committed to responsible resource development, and has established a pattern of working successfully with our Congressional Delegation and federal agencies to unleash Alaska’s energy potential. I thank Secretary Zinke for his Department’s work on this plan, and invite him to cooperatively engage with Alaskans as the plan’s development process continues. We look forward to continued dialogue to ensure that any offshore development takes into account environmental and safety concerns, and robust input from community residents who live, work, and subsist in the lease sale areas included in this proposed plan.” –Governor Bill Walker

The Department’s proposed plan for Outer Continental Shelf leasing for 2019-2024 is available here .

See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans Ended by DHS

Source: Federation for American Immigration Reform
and Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. - January 8, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- The Secretary of Homeland Security announced her determination that termination of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador was required pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act. To allow for an orderly transition, she has determined to delay the termination for 18 months. The designation will terminate on Sept. 9, 2019.

The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador was made after a review of the disaster-related conditions upon which the country’s original designation was based and an assessment of whether those originating conditions continue to exist as required by statute. Based on careful consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, the Secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.

The Department of Homeland Security has conducted extensive outreach to Salvadoran communities throughout the country. This includes, but is not limited to, community forums on TPS, panel discussions with Salvadoran community organizers, stakeholder teleconferences, regular meetings with TPS beneficiaries, news releases to the Salvadoran community, meetings with Salvadoran government officials, meetings at local churches, and listening sessions. The Secretary met recently with the El Salvadorian Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United States, and spoke with President Sánchez Cerén.

Following the 2001 earthquake, El Salvador received a significant amount of international aid to assist in its recovery efforts, including millions of dollars dedicated to emergency and long-term assistance. Many reconstruction projects have now been completed. Schools and hospitals damaged by the earthquakes have been reconstructed and repaired, homes have been rebuilt, and money has been provided for water and sanitation and to repair earthquake damaged roads and other infrastructure. The substantial disruption of living conditions caused by the earthquake no longer exist.

Additionally, in recent years, the U.S. government has been repatriating individuals back to El Salvador - more than 39,000 in the last two years - demonstrating that the temporary inability of El Salvador to adequately return their nationals after the earthquake has been addressed.

To allow for an orderly transition, the effective date of the termination of TPS for El Salvador will be delayed 18 months to provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible. Salvadorans in the United States who benefited from TPS may still receive other protections under our immigration system for which they are eligible.

The 18 months will also provide time for El Salvador to prepare for the return and reintegration of its citizens. During this timeframe, DHS will work with the Department of State and the Government of El Salvador to help educate relevant stakeholders and facilitate an orderly transition. In addition to materials posted online, DHS components will participate in outreach activities such as teleconferences, town halls and roundtables to ensure that affected populations have a full and accurate understanding of their rights and obligations.

Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution addressing the lack of an enduring lawful immigration status of those currently protected by TPS who have lived and worked in the United States for many years. The 18-month delayed termination will allow Congress time to craft a potential legislative solution.

Salvadorans with TPS will be required to re-register for TPS and apply for Employment Authorization Documents in order to legally work in the United States until the termination of El Salvador’s TPS designation becomes effective Sept. 9, 2019. Further details about this termination for TPS, including the re-registration period, will appear in a Federal Register notice. Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries should not submit re-registration applications until the re-registration period is announced through the Federal Register notice.

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) President Dan Stein in response to the announcement by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that the administration is ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for citizens of El Salvador, has issued this statement:

"The decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans, effective September 2019, is long overdue and welcome, sending the strongest signal yet that rampant abuse of the TPS program will no longer be accepted by this administration. However, we do believe that six months' notice is all that would be necessary.

"TPS is a policy tool created by Congress in 1990 that allows the U.S. government to extend temporary protections for those visiting the U.S. whose home countries experience natural disasters while they are here. However, in practice, most of the true beneficiaries of TPS are not temporary visitors, but rather people who entered the United States illegally. This holds true for most of the roughly 260,000 Salvadorans who have enjoyed protections since a series of devastating earthquakes ravaged their country nearly 20 years ago.

"If those who benefit from TPS status never return home due to a pattern of unjustified extensions, then future administrations will be unwilling and unable to justify extending this temporary public policy safety net to those who find themselves in a similar situation in the future. Secretary Nielsen and the administration should be applauded for recognizing the temporary nature of this policy tool and for their willingness to stand up for the original intent of the law as passed by Congress.

"Today's announcement underscores the temporary nature of TPS, and reminds us that it was never intended to be used as a tool to sidestep the legal immigration process. 'Temporary' clearly does not mean 'forever.'"

Founded in 1979, FAIR is the country's largest immigration reform group. With more than 1.3 million members and supporters nationwide, FAIR fights for immigration policies that serve national interests, not special interests. FAIR believes that immigration reform must enhance national security, improve the economy, protect jobs, preserve our environment, and establish a rule of law that is recognized and enforced.

Other Reactions:

Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ)

“This decision to end protections for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans – including thousands right here in New Jersey – is heartless and a grave mistake. TPS was created to offer temporary, humane protection to foreign nationals living in the United States when extraordinary conditions make it impossible for them to return home. It is clear that El Salvador is not in a position to receive these families, and rescinding their TPS designation only stands to jeopardize the health and safety of thousands while tearing families apart. The Department of Homeland Security should reverse this decision and extend El Salvador’s TPS while Congress finds a permanent solution.”

Sendator Benjamin L.Cardin - (D - MD)

“Instilling fear in vulnerable children and families should not be the American way, but it seems to be a recurring pattern with the Trump Administration. This latest in a string of ill-advised immigration decisions will have a devastating impact on the American and Salvadoran families currently living in the United States. It isn’t right and it runs counter to the American values that built this great Nation.

“I am concerned about what will happen to these individuals – many mixed nationality families – who have been a part of American communities for so long. For nearly a decade, the country has consistently suffered per capita murder rates that have been among the worst in the world. In 2016, the people of El Salvador were victims of over 5,200 homicides, an alarming rate of more than 80 per 100,000 people and the highest globally. El Salvador has limited capacity to absorb the nearly 200,000 individuals who could be subject to immediate deportation. We welcomed these individuals to America to save them from danger; the Trump Administration cannot inject them back without regard for their safety and current circumstances on the ground in El Salvador.

“We also must take into account the more than 190,000 U.S. born children – American citizens – who have Salvadoran parents that are TPS beneficiaries. Forcing these parents to return to El Salvador would create unnecessary burdens and separate families. In Maryland alone, 19,800 Salvadorans in are TPS holders, and 17,100 U.S.-born children in Maryland have Salvadoran parents who are TPS holders. 18,000 workers in Maryland are Salvadoran TPS holders, and $1.1 billion would be lost from state GDP annually without Salvadoran workers who hold TPS.

“I call on my colleagues to take up our legislation to create a pathway to legal residency for hundreds of thousands of TPS recipients who call America their home. Let's do it now. Such a bill is truly in line with America’s values. It’s the right thing to do.”

Senator Tammy Ducksworth (D - IL)

“The Trump administration’s announcement that they will tear families apart and no longer allow America to be a refuge for hundreds of thousands whose lives are at risk in El Salvador is not just shortsighted; it’s heartbreaking and it flies in the face of the values that built this great nation.”

Joaquin Castro (D-TX, 20th)

“Revoking the Temporary Protected Status of hundreds of thousands of people who live and work in the United States is the Trump Administration’s latest attack on immigrants that will have negative consequences for our nation. TPS recipients submit to regular background checks, received work authorizations, and have children who are American citizens. These hardworking individuals enrich the United States’ economy, especially in Texas where over 30,000 Salvadorans reside. 

“Previous administrations determined that forcing the return of Salvadorans to their country would  be a threat to their personal safety. The Trump Administration’s failure to extend the TPS designation for these individuals paves the way for the deportation of hundreds of thousands of people and endangers their lives. This decision comes shortly after the administration’s November decision to end protections for hardworking citizens of Haiti and Nicaragua. The President is relentless in pushing his anti-immigrant agenda, to the detriment of all Americans.”

Elijah Cummings (D-MD, 7th)

“The Trump administration has decided to continue its cruel immigration policy with today’s announcement ending TPS for hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans living in the United States.  I have said time and again that ending TPS cruelly and needlessly upends the lives of these individuals and the lives of their children while adding to the profound challenges that El Salvador, and other TPS-designated countries, continue to face.  Today’s decision harms regional stability and does not reflect the reality on the ground in El Salvador.

“TPS recipients have been repeatedly and thoroughly vetted by the United States.  They have become an integral part of our society and many have U.S. citizen children.  The administration has decided it is more important to destroy families rather than protect them by allowing these individuals to remain in the United States.

“Congress must act to protect TPS recipients. I again call upon Speaker Ryan to bring legislation to the floor that will protect these individuals from removal, protect Dreamers, and enact comprehensive immigration reform.”

Carlos Curbelo (R-FL, 26th)

“While hoping and waiting they would be able to return to their native countries for years, Salvadoran, Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Haitian immigrants have become essential parts of the South Florida community by contributing to our local economy and culture. Today’s decision about Salvadoran TPS – and previous decisions about Honduran and Nicaraguan TPS – are disappointing. Many years of short-term extensions have created anxiety and uncertainty, not only for these immigrants and their families, but also for employers and neighbors who have welcomed them to our communities. 

“Congress has a responsibility to our constituents to address the status of both TPS immigrants and the DREAMer population. There are multiple legislative solutions that have already been introduced to address the DREAMer and the TPS populations, including my bipartisan RAC Act and ESPERER Act. TPS recipients and DREAMers are running out of time. It’s time for the Leaders of both parties to start taking this issue seriously so we can give these immigrants and those counting on them the peace of mind to continue giving back to their communities, contributing to our economy and supporting their families.”