Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Washington’s War on the Visibly Poor: A Survey of Criminalizing Ordinances & Their Enforcement

Source: Justin Olson, Scott MacDonald, Sara Rankin, Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 15-19, Published by the SU Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, May 6, 2015

From the abstract:
Throughout the country, cities increasingly enact laws that punish behaviors necessary for survival. For those without shelter, there is no alternative but to conduct these behaviors in public. Camping outdoors, sleeping, going to the bathroom, receiving food, sitting or lying down on sidewalks — these laws target homeless people either in practice or outright. But until now, no one knew how widespread these laws are throughout Washington State, or how they are being enforced. This brief answers these questions.

HRAP researchers surveyed the municipal codes of seventy-two cities across Washington to identify ordinances that essentially criminalize homelessness in each jurisdiction. From this survey, researchers created a chart tracking every ordinance they could find. Seven of the cities were selected as case studies for closer examination of the enforcement and citations of these ordinances. The findings reveal that homeless criminalization exists regardless of where you live. From densely populated urban cities to scattered rural townships, city councils are increasingly passing these laws, often drafting them in a way that raises serious legal and policy concerns about how Washington treats its most vulnerable residents.

This brief shines a spotlight on the problems with these laws: how they are written, how they impact the homeless community, and how easily cities can fall into the trap of vilifying already vulnerable populations in the name of safety and public health. This report shows that the problem of criminalizing homelessness, so often buried in municipal codes, is both widespread and systemic.

Person, State or Not: The Place of Business Corporations in Our Constitutional Order

Source: Daniel J.H. Greenwood, University of Colorado Law Review, Vol. 2, No. 87, 2015

From the abstract:
Business corporations are critical institutions in our democratic republican market-based economic order. The United States Constitution, however, is completely silent as to their status in our system. The Supreme Court has filled this silence by repeatedly granting corporations rights against the citizenry and its elected representatives.

Instead, we ought to view business corporations, like municipal corporations, as governance structures created by We the People to promote our general Welfare. On this social contract view, corporations should have the constitutional rights specified in the constitutional text: none. Instead, we should be debating which rights of citizens against governmental agencies should also apply to these state-like governance institutions.

Forget Congress: Reforming Campaign Finance Through Mutually Assured Destruction

Source: Nicholas Warshaw, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 15-09, June 22, 2015

From the abstract:
Congress will not enact meaningful campaign finance reform. Under the nation’s current legislative, regulatory, and judicial regimes, remedies to the problem of money in politics appear unattainable. This Comment provides an entirely novel and viable approach towards reducing the corrosive influence of outside money on the nation’s governance. Aided by the power of the profit motive, this Comment proposes the creation of a new non-partisan private entity, Super PAC Insurance, to help solve this vexing problem. Such a company will have one central goal: deterring third-party outside Super PACs and 501(c)(4) organizations from spending money. The Comment details the mechanics of Super PAC Insurance, addresses its legality, and proposes several variations on the basic model.

Super PAC Insurance, creates a disincentive to outside political spending by applying the principle of “Mutually Assured Destruction.” As was demonstrated in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race, when Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Scott Brown took The People’s Pledge, adding costs to Super PACs’ spending decisions effectively deters outside spending. Similarly, if a Super PAC knows its spending will trigger a barrage of spending against their preferred candidate from an insurance entity, they should be less likely to spend against an insured candidate; which in turn should reduce the influence of money in politics writ large.

In the wake of Citizens United and its progeny, American political spending has skyrocketed out of control. Rather than produce despondency though amongst reformers, this reality must catalyze innovation. The enclosed Comment offers a workable path forward beyond government paralysis; a non-state based solution to reducing the influence of outside money in politics.

Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers

Source: Department of Treasury, Council of Economic Advisers, and the Department of Labor, July 2015

From the summary:
“Occupational licensing” may sound like a dry subject, but its rise has been one of the more important economic trends of the past few decades. Today, one-quarter of U.S. workers must have a State license to do their jobs, a five-fold increase since the 1950s. Including Federal and local licenses, an even higher share of the workforce now has a license. Smart regulation of workers can benefit consumers through higher-quality services and improved health and safety standards. Yet too often, policymakers do not carefully weigh the costs and benefits when licensing a particular profession, resulting in a patchwork of different licensing decisions and requirements. Estimates suggest that while 1,100 professions are regulated in at least one State, fewer than 60 are regulated in all 50 States. A report from the Department of Treasury, Council of Economic Advisers, and the Department of Labor released today explores the rise in occupational licensing and its important consequences for our economy.

Who’s Calling the Shots in State Politics? Corporations playing politics with ballot measures

Source: Liz Essley Whyte, Center for Public Integrity, September 2, 2015

….The Center for Public Integrity reviewed 55 publicly traded companies and top corporate givers to ballot measures and found nine instances of curious positions — positions taken even when the companies’ policies emphasize their business interests as the overriding criteria in doling out political contributions. The areas of interest were fairly diverse, but most seemed to focus on social issues or were aimed at fundamental changes to how state government operates….

….Some of the contributions that don’t line up with company policy appear to be aimed at building corporate political clout in the states. Companies are keen to make governors and legislatures as friendly as possible to business, according to Paul Kelly, a board member of the Association of Government Relations Professionals, which represents lobbyists. Sometimes that means contributing to issues that control how those politicians are elected…..

The Racial Equity Impact of Secret Political Spending by Government Contractors

Source: Naila Awan & Liz Kennedy, Dēmos, 2015

From the summary:
….Many have called for measures that would pull back the curtain on corporate political spending. Greater transparency of such spending is particularly needed with respect to government contractors, who are given taxpayer dollars to do the people’s business. These contractors often turn around and engage in political spending to influence policies that preserve their profits at the public’s expense, or affect contracting decisions. Government contractors often heavily advocate for, and profit when the federal government adopts, policies that disproportionately harm people of color and other traditionally disenfranchised populations. An executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending would help the public hold government contractors accountable for political spending that benefits their bottom lines while entrenching structural racism in our country…..

Race, Federalism, and Voting Rights

Source: Guy-Uriel E. Charles, Luis E. Fuentes-Rohwer, Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2015-24, May 28, 2015

From the abstract:
In Shelby County v. Holder, the Court struck down an important provision of the Voting Rights Act, section 4, on federalism grounds. The Court argued that Congress no longer had the power to enact section 4 because of the “federalism costs” imposed by the Act and because the Act violated “basic principles” of federalism. Unfortunately, the Court failed to articulate the costs to federalism imposed by the Act, much less conduct a cost-benefit analysis in order to determine whether the benefits of the Act outweighed its costs. Moreover, the Court failed to discuss whether the Reconstruction Amendments ought to matter at all to the federalism debate. In this Essay, we ask three basic questions in response to Shelby County. First, what does the Court mean by “federalism costs,” and why have these costs undermined the constitutionality of the VRA? Second, does the failure to discuss Reconstruction and the Reconstruction Amendments undermine the Court’s decision in Shelby County? And third, we ask how should we understand the utility of federalism in the context of race and voting. We suggest that if one purpose of federalism is that it enables minorities to engage in self-rule, we should ask whether federalism enables racial minorities to engage in self-rule.

Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage

Source: Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists, Secrecy News blog, August 26, 2015

Several new reports from the Congressional Research Service examine the implications of the 40% excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health care coverage, known as the “Cadillac tax,” that will take effect in 2018.

Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage: In Brief, August 14, 2015
The Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance: Estimated Economic and Market Effects, August 20, 2015
The Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage: Background and Economic Analysis, August 20, 2015

2015 Report on State Immigration Laws (January-June)

Source: Ann Morse, Gilberto Soria Mendoza, Leila Malow, Hannah Weigle, National Conference of State Legislatures, Immigrant Policy Project, July 31, 2015

From the introduction:
In the first half of 2015, enacted legislation related to immigration increased by 16 percent to 153 compared with 132 laws in 2014. The number of resolutions bounced back to 238 after last year’s sharp decline to 84. Lawmakers in 46 states and Puerto Rico enacted 153 laws and 238 resolutions related to immigration, for a total of 391. An additional 10 bills were vetoed by governors and 20 are pending signatures. Four states did not enact immigration-related legislation in the first half of 2015: Alaska, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Ohio. The increase can be explained in part because every state was in regular session in 2015, unlike 2014 when five states were not in session….
2015 Laws and Resolutions by State (PDF)
2015 Laws and Resolutions by Subject (PDF)