“What this bill does is show women that, hey, these congressmen aren’t just faceless legislators; they’re real politicians whose agendas are being destroyed. Once they see the actual eyes and ears and other features of the lawmakers whose spirits they’re breaking, I believe they’ll rethink what they’re about to do.”
A bill introduced in the Texas House of Representatives would make it illegal for private citizens to record police within 25 feet.
House Bill 2918, introduced by state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) on Tuesday, would make the offense a misdemeanor. Citizens who are armed would not be permitted to record police activity within 100 feet of an officer, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Only representatives of radio or TV organizations that hold an FCC license, newspapers and magazines would have the right to record police.
“My bill … just asks filmers to stand back a little so as not to interfere with law enforcement,” Villalba tweeted.
House Ways and Means Committee Passes IRS Reform Bills
Congress may not be moving anywhere on tax reform, but they are moving forward on IRS reform. The House Ways and Means Committee has passed several bills that add up into all the IRS reform measures addressing issues that have been in the news so much.
For starters, one of the bills prohibits IRS workers from using private email for official business.
It’s no surprise the bill was approved by the Committee in bipartisan fashion, given the IRS’ own recent history about lost emails and the importance this issue of private emails used for government business is going to have in the next election.
Other IRS reform bills approved in bipartisan fashion included one that enacts the taxpayer bill of rights and another one that streamlines the process in which an organization can apply for tax-exempt status. Another one exempts taxes on donations to tax-exempt groups.
All these bills are connected to the House Ways and Means investigations that began with an acknowledgment by the IRS that agents targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Investigations into the actions of Lois Lerner, who has since retired, showed that she and other IRS workers had used personal email accounts to send taxpayer information.
The IRS reform bills passed by the Committee therefore tackle all these issues. In his opening statement during the markup of these bills, Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan said that the point they’re trying to make here is this:
“The IRS works for the taxpayer, not the other way around. It’s their job to make doing your taxes as easy as possible. And so the burden is on them to prove any wrongdoing. The burden is on them to protect people’s privacy. And the burden is on them to tell taxpayers their rights. That’s the attitude they should have.”… “Now, these reforms are simply common sense. All we’re saying are things like, ‘Don’t target people because of their political beliefs. Don’t tax donations to tax-exempt groups. Don’t send taxpayer information to your private email.’
The Ways and Means Committee also passed a bill that would eliminate the estate tax. This was predictably passed along a 22-10 party line vote.
If it becomes law, it will cost the government about $269 billion in reduced tax revenue over a decade. There’s no chance of that happening until after the next elections, and it would still need Republican control of the House, Senate and White House.
Even then, it’s not something that the new President is likely to take up as a priority. It would especially make no sense if a comprehensive tax reform bill is in the works or already approved and does not include the estate tax repeal.
“There is an ever-expanding piece of law called ‘the Lacey Act’ that has been around since 1900. It was created to help stop the massive slaughter of native game animals for export by commercial hunters. Today, it does a lot more than that, as government likes to keep adding to their lists of things to do.
Perhaps one of the most useless pieces of the Lacey Act is the "Injurious Wildlife List.” Injurious means “causing or likely to cause harm.” The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which is responsible for enforcing this monster, defines Injurious Species as: “ Injurious wildlife are mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, mollusks and their offspring or gametes that are injurious to the interests of human beings, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, wildlife or wildlife resources of the United States. Plants and organisms other than those listed above cannot be listed as injurious wildlife.”
When a species is added to the Injurious Wildlife list, it makes it a federal crime to transport that species across state lines. You can keep them, breed them and sell them- within your own state- but you can’t take them if you need to move across the country, and you can’t sell them to someone outside your state.
Take a look at the mammals that are currently classified as “Injurious Wildlife”
Flying Fox (Fruit Bat) Mongoose European Rabbits Raccoon dog Brushtail possum Indian Wild Dog aka Dhole Multimammat mouse aka Soft-furred rat
How many do you recognize? How many have you heard about on the news? Any hint that fruit bats or Indian wild dogs are invading the United States and wreaking havoc? Lots of brushtailed possums damaging agriculture? Seen a mongoose lately? Nope. The only animal you’re probably familiar with on that list is the European Rabbit. They are literally everywhere in the United States. They’re all over, fully established feral populations- but if you transport one across state lines- that would be a federal offense. Nevermind that all the domestic rabbits came from the European rabbit…
The flying fox is invasive in Australia. Brushtailed possums have colonized New Zealand, and the mongoose is invasive on several tropical islands. The Raccoon Dog is invasive in North Europe. The Indian Wild Dog is not only NOT invasive, it’s now classified as Endangered in what is left of it’s native territory. It is classified as injurious because it kills livestock in it’s home country… A similar situation exists for the multimammate mouse- they cause damage in their native African habitats, but they have not invaded any other countries.
Remember the definition which clearly stated the species had to be detriment to the United States? Only the mongoose qualifies, since they are in Hawaii…though the mongoose was listed 59 years before Hawaii became a state. Legislators heard some scary news from other countries and dropped the ban hammer, with little to no consideration of whether or not those animals actually pose a risk to the U.S.
Now- let’s take note of which mammals are missing from this list: The wild boar is conspicuously absent. These invasive mammals cause damage to the United States agricultural sector and environment estimated at 1.5 BILLION dollars *per year*. NOT LISTED AS INJURIOUS.
The common house mouse as well as the black and brown rats are NOT native species- we brought them over from Europe! They are responsible for crop and property damage to the tune of over $19 billion dollars a year in the United States. NOT LISTED AS INJURIOUS
Nutria (a beaver sized water rat) are yet another introduced species which can now be found in 40 states. Each year- in the United States, mind you, not some distant country- they are responsible for a minimum of one million dollars worth of damage by wrecking levees, banks and roadbeds with their burrowing activities. NOT LISTED AS INJURIOUS.
You might say, “Well, the rats and nutria have been here forever!” Okay, I see where you are coming from, but remember the Fish & Wildlife Service still thinks the European Rabbit needs to be on the list, and they’ve been around “forever” as well.
Two of the first animals added to the Injurious list were the European Starling and the House Sparrow . Yep- those are also not native to North America! They have displaced native species and have been causing crop damage valued at as much as 800 million per year.- They were removed from the Injurious List in 1960 because regulators realized having them listed ***DID NOTHING*** to prevent them from spreading. You don’t say?
In the 113+ years that the Lacey Act has been around, dozens of species have been added, most of them very damaging aquatic species (fish, mollusks & crustaceans) Since those species can spread themselves without any help just by traveling through waterways, having them listed is virtually useless as well.
It wasn’t until 1990 that a reptile was added to the Injurious Species List- the Brown Tree Snake. You won’t find any in the United States, either. They became invasive in Guam, which, if we are nitpicking- is a US “territory”.
In 2012, more species were added- big, “scary” snakes- the Burmese python, yellow anaconda and two subspecies of African Rock Python. Anacondas have never colonized outside of their native south american habitat, anywhere in the whole world. There are no invasive colonies in the United States today. The same is true of the Rock Pythons.
The Burmese python- due to the destruction of import facilities by Hurricane Andrew in 1992- were able to establish a small colony in the Everglades. It has been 22 years and they have failed to expand outside of southern Florida. Cold spells in the winters of 2008 and 2010 demonstrated that the Everglades Burmese pythons cannot tolerate temperatures near freezing.
Are the Burmese invasive in the Everglades? Absolutely. What is not being said is that a full 25% of the animal life and nearly half of the plant species found in South Florida are NON NATIVE!
Now the Fish & Wildlife Service wants to add even more species to the list! They want to go ahead and throw in the other three species of anaconda- even though they are rare in captivity, and have never, ever established an invasive population- not even in the Everglades!
They’re also after the famous boa constrictors- which are also not invasive or damaging to anyone, anywhere in the United States. As a matter of fact, there are boas that are native to northern Mexico- if the boa could expand further north, nature would have run that course all by herself! Also on the list- the Reticulated python- which has the impressive record of never having established a colony outside of it’s native range, EVER- and there are no wild colonies in the United States.
These species clearly do not fit the definition of Injurious wildlife given by USF&W- but they do represent people’s pets and a niche industry that focuses on the *captive* breeding of fantastically colored versions of these snakes that sell for thousands of dollars both domestically and overseas.
With over a century of history under it’s belt, it’s glaringly obvious that the Lacey Act is 100% ineffective at preventing the spread of invasive animals in the U.S. Moreover, the law doesn’t even attempt to curb the activity of the absolute worst of the worst injurious wildlife species- instead focusing on those animals with sensational taglines that “might” possibly be injurious. If it were not so injurious to the US Citizen, the Injurious Wildlife list would quite the joke.
Only two things will be accomplished by the addition of these species to the Lacey Act- the destruction of dreams, and the bankrupting of small businesses.
Denmark Law Allows Citizens To Choose Gender Without Surgery
A recent law allows transgender citizens to decide their own gender without the need for medical approval.
Denmark has often led the way when it comes to LGBT issues: It was
the first country to legally recognize same-sex civil unions in 1989;
and back in 1930, Danish artist Lili Elbe became one of the first people
in the world to change genders through reassignment surgery.
Now the country has introduced one of the world’s most progressive
laws for transgender people. As of September 1, 2014, Danish citizens have
been able to self-determine their legal gender—without the need for
medical approval of any kind.
Niels Jansen, a transgender man from Denmark, welcomes the new law:
“You can legally change your gender just by filling in a form saying
that you are transgender—it’s fantastic,” he said.
Before his legal gender change Jansen worried about the confusion his
identification could cause. “Personally it was the thought of what
could happen that was stressful. I thought, what if I get pulled over by
the police in some routine control and they don’t believe that this is
He also chose to limit his travel abroad. “I’d heard of others that
had problems and I didn’t want to put myself through that,” he said. “So
I’m looking forward to traveling with my new passport.”
Twenty European countries and
most U.S. states currently require sterilization for a legal gender
change and almost all still require at least a medical statement or
court order of some kind. Although Denmark may have leaped ahead on
the legal side of the issue, Jansen still feels the country lags behind
when it comes to health care provision.
“Unfortunately, access to medical care has not followed this great
new law,” he said. “In fact, we’re way behind the U.S. and pretty much
every other country in the Western world.”
Those wanting to undergo surgery in Denmark must still go through a
long and complicated process in order to get the treatment they want.
“The program is very invasive: They evaluate your sex life and write
down what you wear every time you show up to note how well you are
presenting yourself as whatever gender you want to be,” said Jansen.
Rights groups also criticize Denmark for the fact that even under
the new law, applicants must be over 18 and married couples must
divorce and re-marry as a gay couple if one decides to change gender.
Despite these issues, Denmark’s new law makes it the most legally
progressive European country for transgender people, and globally it is
matched only by Argentina. Elsewhere in the world, most countries have
no way whatsoever of changing a person’s gender on legal documentation.
Progress is being made though. In recent years several European
countries have dropped the need for sterilization and so too have the
states of California, Iowa, New York, and Washington, according to Dr.
Rebecca Allison, president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.
There is also a similar movement emerging to include a “third gender”
option on legal documentation. Nepal was the first country to do so, in
2007, with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Germany, New Zealand, and most
recently Australia, in April, all following suit.
Though the Danish system clearly isn’t perfect, campaigners are
hopeful that other countries will follow its example on the issue of
legal gender self-determination.
“Trans activist groups worldwide are seeking to change the law in
this way,” said Stephen Whittle, vice president of U.K. transgender
organization Press for Change.
Whittle believes that such changes come in waves: “The U.K. allowed
gender recognition for all legal purposes without any demand for
sterilization or any medical input, other than diagnosis of gender
dysphoria, in 2005. South Africa followed in 2005, Sweden in 2013 and
Holland in 2014. Once the UK had taken this step the others started to
fall. The world is changing.”
“It’s time to address poverty, mental health and the plight of the homeless head-on as a social issue and not a criminal issue,“ State Sen. Carol Liu [D-L.A., Cañada Flintridge], said in the release. "Citing homeless people for resting in a public space can lead to their rejection for jobs, education loans and housing, further denying them a pathway out of poverty.”
Liu introduced Right to Rest Act, SB 608, in the state Senate on Friday. Similar bills, widely referred to as a “Homeless Bill of Rights,” have been introduced by state legislators in Colorado, Oregon and Hawaii.
California’s Right to Rest Act would give homeless people the right to use public space without discrimination. It also describes the right to rest in public, to protect oneself from the elements in public, to eat in public and to occupy a legally parked car as “basic human and civil rights,” according to the text of the Senate bill. “The bill would authorize a person whose rights have been violated pursuant to these provisions to enforce those rights in a civil action”
Just last week, HB 4188, HB 4189 and HB 4190 passed out of the Michigan House of Representatives. This package of bills would allow an adoption agency to deny an adoption placement based on that agency’s moral or religious beliefs, even if the agency receives public funds. The bill now heads to the Senate where it is expected to move quickly.
Michigan has 13,000 children in foster care at any one time.These bills could threaten the placement of the more than 3,000 children in the Michigan foster care system whose biological parents’ rights have been terminated and who are just waiting for homes. The test for adoption should always be the best interests of the child, not the religious views of the adoption agency.
I’ve been seeing scare tactics going around various comic artists over the past couple of days concerning an “update” to US Copyright law as a new act, and the reintroduction of legislation known as the Orphan Works Act. According to the misinformed postings and a YouTube video, the legislation would: The Next Great Copyright Act” would replace all existing copyright law. It would void our…
But even before the new law was introduced, police had been intimidating legal sex workers.
In early 2014, in a nationwide police operation dubbed Northern Spotlight, plainclothes officers supposedly targeting traffickers posed as clients and, in the words of sex workers, bullied them as they pretended to rescue them.
For Asian sex workers, who may not speak English and have no reason to trust police, these recent warrant-less incursions into their homes and workplaces are especially frightening.
Lam says, “We see a kind of racial profiling, so this is very problematic. Even when women have [legal immigration] status, there is a lot of abuse. They are being detained; their personal information is being taken.”
In May, a survey of Asian sex workers in Toronto and Vancouver by the Supporting Women’s Alternatives Network (SWAN) revealed that 95 per cent of respondents never seek help from law enforcement - even if they are experiencing violence, abuse, harassment or exploitation. In Toronto, not a single respondent trusted the police.
“Nobody calls the cops, even though they’re getting robbed and assaulted. And clearly they’re correct not to call the police, because it identifies certain places for the police to visit,” says Chabot.
Asian sex workers here illegally are more easily targeted, stigmatized and terrorized. Meanwhile, their legal co-workers are getting caught up in the raids and prevented from earning a living.
“Yes, some women might be working in exploitative situations, but how does it help to criminalize or arrest them?” Lam demands. “What police are doing is making it more difficult to get the support they need.
"Asian and migrant sex workers are always being used to push the rescue model. Now we can show a different story and show the harms of enforcement and the anti-trafficking discourse.”
Concludes Chabot: “[These arrests are] all really nicely packaged for the public, but the reality is much darker. There’s no such thing as a war on sex work without a war on sex workers - and this is what all this looks like.”
An open letter to Judiciary Committee Members: Sen. Rick Jones, Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, Sen. Tory Rocca, Sen. Patrick Colbeck, Sen. Steven M Bieda
Did you know that you can be fired or denied housing in 29 states just for being or being perceived as gay? Even more ludicrous is that any company can fire you if your relative is gay. In 31 states you can get fired for being transgender or transexual. There are just no legal protections. 
This is highlighted in Michigan by a recent article of Rolling Stone that ran on November 24th entitled, “The 5 Worst States for LGBT People”. Michigan was the fifth worst state, beating Tennessee and North Dakota out for this “honor”. The main reason (among many reasons) is that Michigan has a disproportionate hate crime rate on the LGBT community, largely targeting transgender women of color.  Transgender individuals are about 400 times more at risk to be assaulted, murdered or commit suicide than the rest of the population. 
We can improve conditions for the LGBTQ community by updating Michigan’s Elliott Larsen Act. Act 453 of 1976 guaranteed protection for religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, or marital status against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.  However it appears the Michigan Congress has plans otherwise. Last month, the State House passed a dangerous bill, Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (House Bill 5958, 2014). This bill died in the Senate when the legislative session ended. Senate Bill 0004  appears to start up where that bill failed.
Senate Bill 0004 would legalize discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. Under this legislation, a police officer could refuse to defend a mosque or synagogue, a guidance counselor could deny help to a gay student, or a landlord could refuse to rent to a single mother based on their religious beliefs. Senate Bill 0004 falsely claims to protect religious freedoms that are already protected by the current Elliott Larsen Act.
It is my belief that ALL humans should have the basic human rights afforded by the constitution. LGBT people live in every part of the world and are hard working members of society. By expanding the Elliott Larsen Act, it will give LGBT people a sense of dignity and allow them to better contribute to our economy.
27600 Marquette St
Garden City, MI 48135
Something extraordinary happened last Thursday to advance fairness and equality in the United States. Members of Congress introduced legislation to amend the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 to embrace a more robust vision of equality.
WTF! Why does the Republican Party not respect our one and only environment? Do they have a backup plan? I doubt it since they don’t tend to support space exploration either… Please contact your representatives to voice your scientific opinions!
Over objections from the White House and many science and environmental groups, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives this week approved two bills that would change how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) obtains and uses scientific data and advice. The bills aren’t likely to become law this year, but they are fueling an intense political battle that is likely to resurface when the new Congress convenes in January.
Proponents of the bills, which the House passed almost entirely with GOP votes, say they would increase transparency in how EPA uses data to justify its regulations and result in better, more balanced scientific advice for the agency. “EPA has an extensive track record of twisting the science to justify their actions,” and so reform is needed, said Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), head of the House science committee, in a statement supporting one of the bills.
But opponents say the legislation would do more harm than good. “These bills are the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress,” said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX), top Democrat on the House science committee, in a statement.