Kentucky: Unions Sue Governor Blevins Over His Un-Constitutional ‘right to work law’)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE RICHMOND REGISTER OF KENTUCKY)

Labor groups sue over right-to-work law

  • Ronnie Ellis/ [email protected]

FRANKFORT — Labor groups filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court on Thursday claiming the recently passed Kentucky right-to-work law violates the state constitution’s prohibition on illegal takings and unequal treatment.

The Kentucky AFL-CIO and Teamsters Local 89 are asking the law be thrown out and seek an injunction prohibiting its enforcement, claiming it discriminates against unions while not prohibiting forced dues collections by other volunteer member organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Kentucky Bar Association.

The suit alleges that the law violates the constitutional bar on “illegal takings without just compensation” because it robs unions and their members of unreimbursed expenses for negotiating wage and benefits for workers who choose not to pay union dues or join the union.

After Republicans captured control of the state House of Representatives last year, giving the GOP control of the governor’s office and both legislative chambers, the General Assembly quickly passed right-to-work legislation in the first week of the 2017 General Assembly. The law prohibits unions from requiring workers at union work places to pay dues in support of collective bargaining expenses.

Republican Matt Bevin urged its passage and credits the legislation for subsequent announcements by Braidy Industries to construct an aluminum mill near Ashland and Amazon to expand operations in northern Kentucky.

“It’s shameful that groups like the AFL-CIO and Teamsters are playing political games at a time when Kentucky is experiencing unprecedented economic development growth,” said Amanda Stamper, Bevin’s spokeswoman.

“This frivolous lawsuit threatens to hurt Kentucky’s families, robbing them of high-paying job opportunities — a good example of which are the 550 jobs coming to northeastern Kentucky as a result of the new right-to-work law,” she said.

House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, who sponsored the legislation, said he’s confident it will stand up in court.

“Not only am I confident the Kentucky Right-to-Work Act is constitutional, but we are also seeing results we predicted when the bill was passed.”

But AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan called claims that right-to-work laws improve a state’s overall economy a “total falsehood” aimed at attracting low-wage industries and dividing workers.

“In other states where right-to-work laws have been implemented,” Londrigan said, “wage rates have gone down. We found that across the United States when we compare right-to-work states to non-right-to-work states, there is a significant amount of wages that workers make, ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 a year less a year in right to work states.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the law is constitutional and pointed to a recent federal district court that dismissed a suit challenging Wisconsin’s right-to-work law.

But Irwin Cutler Jr., one of the attorneys for the AFL-CIO and Teamsters, said that’s only half the story.

That suit challenged the Wisconsin law under provisions of the federal constitution. But a second suit that challenges the law under the Wisconsin constitution won a favorable lower court decision. So did a similar suit in West Virginia. All three suits are under appeal.

Cutler and William Johnson, another attorney representing the union groups, said they are challenging the law under Kentucky’s constitution because it has stronger “illegal takings” and equal treatment provisions than the U.S. Constitution.

“In each state, you have to look at how the law that was passed comports with the constitution of that state and we think that is a strong point in our suit,” Johnson said.

Cutler said federal law requires unions to represent all workers at a worksite with a collective bargaining unit, even if they can’t collect dues from some workers.

“Under this law, unions still have the obligation to represent every worker in the plant, and yet the only ones who pay for that service are the ones who decide they want to,” Cutler said. “That constitutes, under the Kentucky Constitution, an unlawful taking of the services, the property, of the labor union and its members.”

The suit also contends the right-to-work law is discriminatory because it applies only to unions but not to other groups which require membership dues. (In fact, the law specifically exempts several membership organizations, including chambers of commerce and the Kentucky Education Association.)

Cutler said Kentucky law actually requires Chambers of Commerce to collect dues to pay for their services — “yet unions are required to pay for their services and are prohibited from charging dues unless someone voluntarily wants to pay for that service.”

Chapter 102.020 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes authorizes chambers of commerce and specifies articles of incorporation. It says in part: “The annual dues of the members of this corporation shall be not less than twelve dollars ($12), payable as provided in the bylaws of the corporation.”

Ashli Watts, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, didn’t dispute the language of that statute but said it is open to interpretation. She said the state chamber supports right-to-work.

“As the last southern state to pass right to work, Kentucky is already benefiting from this law that’s only been in effect 5 months. The point to be made is that membership in the Kentucky Chamber, and other chambers of commerce, is voluntary,” Watts said. “We are confident that the law will be upheld, like it has been in other states.”

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Follow him on Twitter @cnhifrankfort.

A jury was selected Wednesday for comedian Bill Cosby’s June 5 trial

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) A jury was selected Wednesday for comedian Bill Cosby’s June 5 trial.

The full panel of 12 jurors and six alternates was seated after three days of jury selection in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County.
The jury is composed of four white women, six white men, one black woman and one black man. The alternates include four white men, one black woman and one black man.
The case will start June 5 about 300 miles away in Montgomery County, north of Philadelphia, where the criminal charges were filed. The jurors will be bused to Montgomery County and sequestered in a hotel for the length of the trial.

Why Bill Cosby is going to trial now

Why Bill Cosby is going to trial now
Cosby, 79, is charged with three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault from a 2004 case involving Andrea Constand, an employee at his alma mater, Temple University.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Cosby, dressed Wednesday in a blue suit, appeared the most relaxed he has been throughout his jury selection.
Cosby didn’t talk to reporters after the first two days, but he did after court adjourned.
“I just want to be very specific about the wonderful people Allegheny County and I also want to also thank the sheriff’s department, because they made everything very very smooth here,” he said.
He walked away and some reporters asked questions about the case.
Judge Steven O’Neill dismissed one prospective juror. No reason was given, but that juror had previously disclosed his youngest sister was the victim of a sexual assault.
Two alternate jurors said they had close family members who were victims of sexual crimes. Both said the crimes wouldn’t affect their verdict in this case.
One alternate, a white man in his 50s, said he hasn’t read or heard anything about Cosby’s criminal case in the last two years.
More than 50 women have come forward in recent years to accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct over the decades, but this is the only criminal trial he has faced. The judge ruled that only one additional accuser may testify against Cosby.
Many of the women allege he drugged and sexually assaulted them.
Cosby has said he will not testify in his defense at the trial. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

Polls Show That Most Americans Believe Trump Is A Liar Concerning Firing Of FBI Director Comey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) A majority of Americans believe that President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey to deter that agency from investigating Trump’s ties to Russia, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

Fifty-five percent of those polled by Quinnipiac University say Comey was removed “to disrupt the FBI investigation into potential coordination,” a reasoning that Trump has denied. Trump says Comey was fired because he no longer had confidence in him to lead the agency, a claim that only 36% of Americans say they believe.
More than half of those polled, 54%, also say Trump is more generally abusing the powers of his office and Trump’s approval rating continues to sag. Thirty-seven percent of Americans told Quinnipiac that they approve of Trump’s job performance; 55% say they do not — largely in line with daily tracking polls.
Americans also generally do not seem to believe the narrative Trump has told about the Comey firing: 54% say they do not believe that Comey told Trump three times that he was not under investigation, which Trump claimed in his letter firing Comey.
And 55% say they believe Comey when he claims that Trump asked him to drop the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, which Comey said in memos happened during private conversations with the President.
The survey was conducted from May 17 to May 23, meaning that all interviews happened after the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s Russia investigation. The poll surveyed 1,404 voters and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Philippines President Duterte Declares Martial Law On ISIS Held Island Of Mindanao

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday after a fierce bout of fighting between the army and militants linked to Islamic State in the city of Marawi.

Three members of the security forces were killed and 12 wounded, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a news conference, as clashes erupted in the wake of what the military said was a raid on a flat where about 15 rebels were hiding.

Lorenzana was speaking in Moscow, where he was accompanying Duterte on an official visit.

Duterte canceled a meeting set for Wednesday with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and planned to cut short his trip, during which he was also due to meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Putin will meet Duterte later Tuesday, rather than Thursday, his press secretary Dmitry Peskov was quoted as TASS news agency.

The government urged civilians on Mindanao to stay in their homes or flee if it was safe, and the military said reinforcements of an initial 500 soldiers were on the way, but were being hamstrung by rebels blocking roads.

The militants belong to the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State in the Middle East. Previous military offensives against the Maute, based in Lanao del Sur province, have lasted several days.

“There are Maute snipers all around, so the troops are still holding and elements have already joined,” Lorenzana.

Fires raged in Marawi but the military and the city’s mayor said the situation was now under control.

Witnesses told local television that gunfire was clattering sporadically around the city. Several buildings were on fire, including a church, officials said.

“(Duterte) has already declared martial law for the entire island of Mindanao,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters in Moscow.

“This is on the grounds of resistance and rebellion based on what is happening,” he said, adding that martial law would last for 60 days, as stipulated in the constitution.

Brigadier General Rolando Bautista, commander of the Philippines’ First Infantry Division, said security forces were trying to locate the militants.

“Based on our assessment right now there are more or less 100 divided into groups of 10 in different locations,” he told news channel ANC.

“Since they are advocating ISIS ideology they have to show ISIS that they are a force to be reckoned with,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato and; Martin Petty; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters.

Bill to Regulate Marijuana Introduced in New Jersey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MPP NEWS)

Bill to Regulate Marijuana Introduced in New Jersey

May 22, 2017 , , , ,


Last week, Senator Nicholas Scutari (D) introduced his long-awaited bill that would end marijuana prohibition in New Jersey and replace it with a system that regulates and taxes cannabis similarly to alcohol. Please contact your lawmakers and urge them to support S3195.

While Gov. Chris Christie has made no secret of the fact that he would veto such a bill, he is leaving office in January 2018. It’s important to get New Jersey’s lawmakers to discuss this important policy and show their support of ending prohibition now, so that change can happen quickly once a new governor is in office. While Sen. Scutari’s bill doesn’t include every provision in MPP’s model bill — notably not allowing for home cultivation — it would be a dramatic improvement over the status quo. One noteworthy provision would allow people with marijuana possession convictions to expunge their records immediately.

Despite someone being arrested for marijuana possession every 22 minutes in New Jersey, prohibition hasn’t stopped cannabis use, and it has disproportionately impacted African-Americans. If you are a New Jersey resident, please ask your legislators for their support in ending this failed policy.

NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing ‘nut job’ Comey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing ‘nut job’ Comey

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak came one day after Comey was fired.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not refute the Times story but said it was Comey’s “grandstanding and politicizing” of the Russia investigation that put pressure on the administration’s ability to engage Moscow.
“The President has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia as it relates to Syria, Ukraine, defeating ISIS and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the American people,” Spicer said in a statement to CNN. “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”
He added, “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”
Trump’s dismissal of Comey was met with bipartisan derision. The move, which came after Trump asked Comey for his loyalty and, according to memos written by the former FBI director, requested he kill an investigation into Trump’s top national security adviser, was seen as a clear violation of protocol and had some Democrats calling for impeachment.
The President maintains he was surprised by the response to Comey’s firing.
“Director Comey was very unpopular with most people,” he said Thursday at a news conference. “When I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.”
The news broke shortly after Trump took off for his critically important five-country, eight-day foreign trip, the first of his presidency.
Even before Friday’s report, news about Comey and the newly named special counsel for the Russia investigation has threatened to overshadow Trump’s trip.
Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was controversial before news of talk about Comey ever came out. No United States media were invited in for the meeting, but a photographer from TASS, the Russian state media organization, was in the room for at least part of the gathering. The meeting was also personal request from Vladimir Putin. The Russian President asked that they meet when he spoke with Trump earlier this month.

Senate tees up ‘accountability act’ as regulation fight intensifies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Senate tees up ‘accountability act’ as regulation fight intensifies

The U.S. Capitol Building is seen May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
By Lisa Lambert | WASHINGTON

The U.S. Senate could soon approve a major overhaul of the federal bureaucracy and make lasting changes to regulation of the environment, education, banks and other areas.

On Wednesday a Senate committee sent a bill on to the full chamber that, supporters say, will make regulators more accountable to lawmakers and provide greater understanding of how rules affect the economy.

The next step, debating the bill on the Senate floor, has not been scheduled. The House of Representatives approved companion legislation in January.

Critics say the bill, the Regulatory Accountability Act, creates so many new requirements that it would paralyze regulators working to establish even the most basic rules and standards. They also say it makes cutting industry and banks’ costs a higher priority than protecting public health and safety.

For decades the political parties have been starkly divided over regulation and Republicans are currently winning their battle to lessen the red tape they say ties up business and hurts the economy. Republicans also say former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, pushed regulators to go beyond their duties of executing laws passed by Congress to create policy on their own.

Democrats say regulation, which touches nearly every part of American life, shields average people from health, financial and other threats and is needed to accomplish the goals set in laws.

The Senate bill would require more cost-benefit and other analyses, give courts and the White House greater checks on rulemaking, classify regulations by potential economic impact, and lengthen rulemaking processes.

One progressive group, Public Citizen, estimates it would add 53 steps to major rulemaking, possibly doubling the average amount of time it takes to finalize a regulation – currently four years.

The bill has pitted the powerful business group, the Chamber of Commerce, against progressive ones such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Senator Heidi Heitkamp broke ranks with her fellow Democrats to write the accountability act, indicating some members of the party may support the bill when the closely-divided Senate votes.

Also, Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, is working on alternative legislation that her party could find more palatable and could keep some of the bill’s measures.

Since Republicans swept Congress and the White House in November’s elections they have moved swiftly against regulation.

Using the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers killed 14 Obama-era regulations in the span of three months.

Trump’s efforts have yielded mixed results. His order to cut two existing regulations for every new one has stalled during a legal challenge. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency was jammed with thousands of pleas to maintain regulations when it asked for public comment on Trump’s order to look into repealing or rewriting current rules. The comment period closed Monday.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Former Obama Justice Department official slams Sessions over drug sentencing reversal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS)

Former Obama Justice Department official slams Sessions over drug sentencing reversal

Caitlin Dickson

Breaking News Reporter
Yahoo News May 15, 2017

Vanita Gupta, the former head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, called Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ harsh new sentencing policy “incredibly disappointing” in an interview Monday.

Last week, Sessions directed all federal prosecutors to pursue “the most serious, readily provable offense,” including those that carry mandatory minimum sentences — effectively reversing course on Obama-era policies aimed at drug sentencing reform.

Gupta, who also served as principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration, said the move was not entirely surprising given Sessions’ record in the Senate of resisting criminal justice reform. Still, she told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric, the new policy marked a “resounding step backwards into the 1980s of failed policies in our criminal justice system that resulted in us having the highest incarceration rate of industrialized nations in the world.”

“It’s a real throwback in a lot of ways, and very troubling,” Gupta said, arguing that Sessions seems more guided by politics and rhetoric than evidence showing that mass incarceration is ineffective as a means of promoting public safety.

Evidence-based criminal justice reform is “one of the few issues that has brought Americans of all political stripes together over the last several years,” she said. “Yet the attorney general and [the Trump] administration seem to be out of line with the evidence and the momentum for reform.”

Gupta’s comments echoed a statement issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder last week, in which he called Sessions’ new tough sentencing policy “dumb on crime.”

Gupta had some equally harsh words for the president’s newly created commission to target voter fraud and its co-chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leading proponent of restrictive voting laws.

Obama Deputy AG’s concerns over Trump’s Election Integrity Commission in two words: ‘Kris Kobach’

Vanita Gupta, former principal deputy assistant attorney general and acting head of the Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division under President Obama, spoke to Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric about President Trump’s creation of an Election Integrity Commission. She described her concerns in two words: “Kris Kobach,” the Kansas secretary of state.

In addition to the fact that several studies have found no evidence of mass voter fraud in the U.S., Gupta said there is “simply no way to take this commission seriously or to think that it is in any way independent, given that Kris Kobach has been named at the helm of it.”

Kobach, who has publicly supported Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 election, insisted on CNN Monday that the commission “is not set up to disprove or to prove President Trump’s claim, nor is it just looking at the 2016 election.”

“We’re looking at all forms of election irregularities — voter fraud, voter registration fraud, voter intimidation, suppression — and looking at the vulnerabilities of the various elections we have in each of the 50 states,” he said.

But Gupta isn’t buying it.

“It really just feels like a response to a political promise,” she said, adding that more than anything, the commission “seems to be setting the stage for efforts at mass voter suppression down the road.”

“I think those of us who care about voting rights are deeply, deeply troubled by this commission,” Gupta said.

Obama Deputy A.G. on Sessions, Comey’s firing and Trump’s Election Integrity Commission

Vanita Gupta, the former principal deputy assistant attorney general and acting head of the Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division under President Obama, spoke to Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric about Attorney General Sessions rolling back Obama- era guidance on sentencing, the firing of FBI Director James Comey and President Trump’s newly created Election Integrity Commission.

Read more from Yahoo News:

Attorney General Orders Tougher Sentences, Rolling Back Obama Policy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has in the past suggested that prosecuting drug crimes more vigorously will broadly reduce other crime. CreditJim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors late Thursday to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations.

The drastic shift in criminal justice policy, foreshadowed during recent weeks, is Mr. Sessions’s first major stamp on the Justice Department, and it highlights several of his top targets: drug dealing, gun crime and gang violence. The Justice Department released the new directives on Friday.

In an eight-paragraph memo to the nation’s prosecutors, Mr. Sessions returned to the guidance of President George W. Bush’s administration by calling for more uniform punishments — including mandatory minimum sentences — and directing prosecutors to pursue the strictest possible charges. Mr. Sessions’s policy, however, is broader than that of the Bush administration, and will be more reliant on the judgments of United States attorneys and assistant attorneys general.

The policy signaled a return to “enforcing the laws that Congress has passed,” Mr. Sessions said on Friday at the Justice Department, characterizing his memo as unique for the leeway it afforded federal prosecutors around the country.

Continue reading the main story

“They deserve to be un-handcuffed and not micromanaged from Washington,” he said. “It means we are going to meet our responsibility to enforce the law with judgment and fairness. It’s simply the right and moral thing to do.”

The guidance allowed for limited exceptions. “There will be circumstances in which good judgment would lead a prosecutor to conclude that a strict application of the above charging policy is not warranted,” Mr. Sessions wrote.

His memo replaced the orders of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who in 2013 encouraged prosecutors to consider the individual circumstances of a case and to exercise discretion in charging drug crimes. Mr. Holder directed prosecutors — when considering nonviolent defendants with insignificant criminal histories and no connections to drug trafficking or other criminal organizations — to omit details about drug quantities from charging documents so as not to lead to automatically harsh penalties.

Document: Memo by Sessions to U.S. Attorneys on Charges and Sentencing

Mr. Holder called the new policy “unwise and ill-informed,” saying it ignored consensus between Democrats and Republicans, and data demonstrating that prosecutions of high-level drug defendants had risen under his guidance.

“This absurd reversal is driven by voices who have not only been discredited but until now have been relegated to the fringes of this debate,” he said in a statement.

Supporters of Mr. Holder’s policy have argued that quantities of drugs are a weak indicator of how dangerous a person may be.

“Long sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses do not promote public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation,” Mr. Holder wrote in his 2013 memo, noting that in fact they exacerbate an expensive, overburdened prison system. The Obama administration, which led a bipartisan push for more lenient and flexible sentencing laws, presided over the first decline in the federal prison population in a generation.

Mr. Sessions’s memo explicitly mentioned Mr. Holder’s 2013 directive in a footnote and rescinded it effective immediately.

Mr. Sessions’s policy was most similar to one issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2003. Then, Mr. Ashcroft outlined six specific types of “limited exceptions” in his memo — which ran nearly four times the length of Mr. Sessions’s new guidance, and repeatedly referenced particular federal statutes. Mr. Sessions, by contrast, outlined no specific scenarios and provided little detail.

Instead, he simply directed prosecutors to “carefully consider whether an exception may be justified.” He said any exceptions to ease criminal penalties must be documented and approved by United States attorneys, assistant attorneys general or their designees.

“There’s a long history of these memos saying both that prosecutors should charge the most serious, readily provable offense, but also that prosecutors should exercise some discretion,” said David Alan Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford University who specializes in criminal justice. “There’s tension between those two things.”

Once Again Jeff Sessions Makes A Pathetic Joke Out Of The “Justice Department”!!!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘VOX’ NEWS SITE)

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