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Check Out These Bills That Would Loosen Marijuana Laws, and Call Your MoCs to Support Them

Call your MoCs to support bills that would loosen marijuana regulations, such as H.R. 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, and S. 1689, the Marijuana Justice Act.

 

As intoxicants go, marijuana is pretty tame. It’s nowhere near as addictive as opioids or meth. Alcohol probably has a worse impact on society, all told, than marijuana does. But our laws don’t reflect reality. It’s classified as a Schedule I drug, which means it’s considered dangerous, with no medical use.

 

Worse still, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is convinced that marijuana is a scourge and wants to go back to a more punitive approach on the federal level just as the states are legalizing medical and recreational use.

 

A law in the House of Representatives could change things for the better. Republican Tom Garrett, who represents Virginia’s 5th District, introduced H.R. 1227 in late February, 2017.

 

Dubbed the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, it would amend the Controlled Substances Act to remove most penalties associated with the drug. Knowingly shipping or moving marijuana to a state where it’s illegal would still be a crime punishable by a fine, a prison term of one year at most, or both. It would also remove marijuana and related psychoactive chemicals from schedule one.

 

According to GovTrack, the bill has a Skopos Labs rating of a 15 percent chance of passage. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone anywhere since Garrett introduced it early in his first term in Congress.

 

A note: Since we prepped this post, you might have heard about Congressfolk introducing or gaining coverage for more bills that loosen regulations on marijuana.

 

On April 19, New York Senator Chuck Schumer announced he’s preparing a bill that would take marijuana off the federal schedule of controlled substances. This is one of the things that H.R. 1227 would do if passed.

 

The other bill is the Marijuana Justice Act, which was introduced in the Senate (S. 1689) last year by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and in the House (as H.R. 4815) in January by California Representative Barbara Lee.

 

The Marijuana Justice Act would not only take the substance off the federal schedule, it would attempt to address how non-whites have been disproportionately affected by marijuana laws. (Scroll down to read about it.)

 

Among other things, the bill would allow judges to review sentences for marijuana-related crimes in the interest of making things fairer and more just.

 

Skopos considers H.R. 1485/S.1689 a longer shot than H.R. 1227, giving it a two percent chance of passage. FWIW we at OTYCD would prefer a law that addresses the historic injustices inflicted on people of color.

 

Sample script: “Dear [House Rep/Senator Lastname], I am [Firstname Lastname, from town, state.] I am calling to ask you to support and think about supporting bills that would loosen regulations on marijuana. One is H.R. 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017. Another is H.R. 1485/S.1689, the Marijuana Justice Act. Both would remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances. The Marijuana Justice Act would go further and address the ways in which marijuana laws have disproportionately punished people of color. Regardless of which you prefer, our marijuana laws are antiquated and do not reflect reality. We cannot go back to the wrong-headed outlook of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who favors a punitive approach. I hope you will look into these bills and consider supporting or cosponsoring one or more of them. Thank you.”

 

 

See the GovTrack page on H.R. 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr1227

 

 

See the GovTrack pages on S. 1689 and H.R. 4815, the Marijuana Justice Act:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s1689

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr4815

 

 

Visit the GovTrack homepage:

https://www.govtrack.us

 

 

Become a GovTrack Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/govtrack

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

See a March 2017 Forbes blog post on Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2017/03/13/a-house-republican-has-revived-bernies-bill-to-end-federal-ban-on-weed/#7803cb30559e

 

 

Read about Democrats’ renewed interest in loosening federal laws on marijuana:

http://www.businessinsider.com/marijuana-justice-act-marijuana-legalization-bill-introduced-in-house-2018-1

 

 

Read about the Marijuana Justice Act in particular:

http://www.businessinsider.com/cory-booker-introduced-a-bill-to-end-the-federal-ban-on-marijuana-2017-8

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Call Your MoCs and Support S. 1342, the Eliminating Federal Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act

This OTYCD entry originally posted in September 2017.

 

Support S. 1342, the Eliminating Federal Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act, which would do just that–close a loophole that unwittingly encourages the use of tax dollars to fund sports stadium construction.

 

An article on GovTrack Insider alerted us to this and oh yes, we were all over it. The bill was introduced on June 12. It has a house counterpart in the form of H.R. 811, the No Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act.

 

We’re going to quote the ‘Context’ section of the story because it’s a case study in unintended consequences:

 

“It all stems from a provision in a 1986 tax reform bill, which accidentally created a loophole which allowed tax avoidance for many bonds used to finance sports stadiums.

 

The provision stated that such bonds could be tax-exempt if they were used for more than 90 percent of a stadium’s construction, under the logic that this would almost never happen. After all, most sports teams were owned by billionaires or multi-millionaires who would help front much of the costs.

 

However, the opposite happened, as taxpayers started paying for way more of stadium costs than they had before. In the 21st century, that taxpayer money has included $431 million towards Yankee Stadium, $205 million for the Chicago Bears, $185 million for the New York Mets, and $164 million for the Cincinnati Bengals.”

 

Talk about perverse incentives, right? Though passing this bill might feel like closing the barn door after team after team of horses have escaped, and GovTrack admits the odds are long even though the bill should get serious public support, it’s worth the fight.

 

A note before giving the sample script: First off, if New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker is your senator, and if Oklahoma Republican Steve Russell is your House rep, call and thank them for sponsoring these bills.

 

Now, the sample script: “Dear (Senator/House Rep Lastname,) I am (Firstname Lastname, of town, zip code). I am calling to ask you to support (S. 1342/ H.R. 811), which would close a loophole that perversely encourages using tax dollars to fund sports stadium construction. Sports team owners are wealthy–some are billionaires. They can, and should, pay to build or improve their own stadiums. The law, as currently written, encourages team owners to chase precious tax dollars that should go to municipal and state needs instead of wants. The bills moving through Congress now will take away that perverse incentive.”

 

 

Read the GovTrack story on the bills that close the stadium funding loophole:

https://govtrackinsider.com/eliminating-taxpayer-subsidies-for-stadiums-act-would-end-taxpayer-tax-support-for-sports-stadiums-94a7ec189c8c

 

 

Read a Brookings Institution story on why the government should stop funding sports stadiums:

https://www.brookings.edu/research/why-the-federal-government-should-stop-spending-billions-on-private-sports-stadiums/#federal-subsidy

 

 

See the GovTrack page on S. 1342, the Eliminating Federal Tax Subsidies for Stadium Act of 2017:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s1342

 

 

See the GovTrack page on H.R. 811, the No Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr811

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

Like GovTrack on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/govtrack

 

 

Follow GovTrack on Twitter:

@govtrack

 

 

Donate to GovTrack:

https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?c=350193

 

 

 

House Bills, Federal · Russian Scandal, Emoluments Clause · Use Your Power, Recruit Friends

Ask Your House Rep to Support H.R. 2884, the COVFEFE Act

This OTYCD entry originally posted in June 2017.

Ask your House rep to support H.R. 2884, the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act, aka the COVFEFE act. 

OK, Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley was having a bit of fun when he named his act, but it has a serious and worthy purpose. It would amend the Presidential Records Act of 1978 to specify that a president’s communications over social media count as presidential records.

Amending the law in this manner formally recognizes that Donald Trump’s tweets, be they from his POTUS account or his personal account, are considered presidential communications, and must be documented for posterity. The law could also prevent Trump and future presidents from deleting tweets and might prevent a president from blocking individuals on Twitter.

 

Read GovTrack’s backgrounder on the COVFEFE Act:

https://govtrackinsider.com/the-covfefe-act-would-permanently-archive-all-of-president-trumps-social-media-posts-c77b97d5802b

 

See the GovTrack page on the bill:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr2884

 

Read the text of the COVFEFE Act:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr2884/text

 

 

 

Call Your House Rep · House Bills, Federal · Stand Up for Civilization · Stand Up for Norms

Ask Your House Rep to Support H.R. 3876, the SWAMP FLIERS Act

Ask your House Rep to support H.R. 3876, the SWAMP FLIERS act, which would prohibit spending federal funds on private aircraft for any senior political appointee who’s traveling for official government business.

California House Rep Ted Lieu introduced the bill in September 2017 after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned for spending more than $1 million in taxpayer money on private aircraft travel while doing business for the government.

Private jets, military helicopters, and the like are expensive to run–far, far more expensive than commercial flights. While there are situations where private and military  aircraft is the only option available to get the job done, those situations are rare. According to CNN, two secretaries of the interior who served the Obama administration spent $971,000 on non-commercial travel over the course of seven years.

Secretaries of the interior probably have greater need for private and/or military travel options than other cabinet secretaries. The job can require them to go to the off-roadiest of off-road spots–places that American Airlines can’t reach.

Current Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has been less strict with our money than his immediate predecessors. He racked up more than $72,000 in noncommercial travel expenses between March and October 2017. The departure of Price doesn’t appear to have chastened Zinke. As of early October, the inspector general of the department of the interior had opened an investigation into Zinke’s questionable trips.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin triggered a department-level investigation after an Instagram post by his wife raised concern. Between March and October, Mnuchin took seven trips at taxpayers’ expense, at a cost of more than $800,000. The seven were found to be legal, but investigators dinged Mnuchin for the tenuous justifications that he offered for them. It also came out that Mnuchin had requested the use of a military plane for his honeymoon. (Officials turned him down.)

EPA head Scott Pruitt is yet another Trump cabinet member who has taken non-commercial flights in 2017. He took at least four trips between February and September at a cost of $58,000. The department did provide documents that showed that its Office of General Counsel had authorized the travel. In August, the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General announced it would look into Pruitt’s trips to his home state of Oklahoma.

We shouldn’t have to pass a law that stops senior administration appointees from choosing private and military flights when less expensive commercial options are available, but the actions of Price, Zinke, Mnuchin, and Pruitt shows that we do. Lieu’s bill would codify what should be common sense, and what was common sense before Trump was elected.

Lieu’s bill, dubbed the Stop Waste and Misuse by Presidential Flyers Landing Yet Evading Rules and Standards (SWAMP FLIERS), would require affected officials to provide proof that no commercial flight options were available. The bill has a low chance of passage. Since its introduction on September 28, 2017, it hasn’t moved along, and GovTrack’s page cites a Skopos Labs estimate that it has a two percent chance of passage.

But given the nonsense that those three former and current cabinet members got up to in 2017, it seems like a good idea to support this bill.

Sample script: “Dear House Rep (Lastname), I am (Firstname Lastname from town, zip code). I’d like you to support H.R. 3876, the SWAMP FLIERS Act. It was introduced by California House Rep Ted Lieu in September 2017, and it would outlaw using federal funds for official travel by senior political appointees on private aircraft and for other purposes.

 

See the GovTrack page on H.R. 3876:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr3876

 

Read Rep. Lieu’s September 28, 2017 statement about the bill:

https://lieu.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-lieu-statement-introduction-swamp-flyers-act

 

Read a story from The Hill about the introduction of H.R. 3876:

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/352913-democrats-unveil-bills-to-ban-cabinet-members-private-jet-travel

 

Read about Price’s resignation and the scandal that led to it:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/09/tom-price-resigned/541608/

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/29/price-has-resigned-as-health-and-human-services-secretary-243315

 

Read the CNN story on the tab for non-commercial travel for interior secretaries under Obama, which includes the 2017 figures for Zinke’s private travel:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/09/politics/obama-interior-secretaries-air-travel-cost/index.html

 

Read about Zinke’s problematic travels, which have led to an investigation:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal-watchdog-opens-probe-into-travel-by-interior-secretary-ryan-zinke/2017/10/02/3f24fbf8-a7ad-11e7-92d1-58c702d2d975_story.html?utm_term=.3ec542cb3ed0

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/watchdog-says-interior-secretary-ryan-zinke-failed-to-properly-document-travel/2017/11/16/3277bac6-ca3f-11e7-b0cf-7689a9f2d84e_story.html?utm_term=.5fc4165735ab

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/16/ryan-zinke-wife-travel-investigation-167054

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/17/politics/ryan-zinke-travel-investigation/index.html

 

Read about Steve Mnuchin’s non-commercial 2017 travel, which prompted an internal investigation that deemed the trips legal:

Read about the trips that Pruitt took in 2017:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/09/27/epas-pruitt-took-charter-military-flights-that-cost-taxpayers-more-than-58000/?hpid=hp_rhp-more-top-stories_pruitttravels-730pm:homepage/story&utm_term=.d8d5392003ba

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Save This Tool for Contacting Congress

This OTYCD entry originally posted in March 2017.

 

Save this convenient web site that shows you how to contact any member of Congress.

 

The very first post on OTYCD was about how to find your three members of Congress. It’s advocacy 101, yes. Even still, this tool is worth saving.

 

It’s really well-designed and gives a handy overview of EVERYONE in Congress, with their photos, contact info, location, district, social media accounts, plus when they were first elected and when they’re due for re-election.

 

http://contactingcongress.org

 

Special thanks to @theonetruebix for the tip and the site.

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the blue button on the upper right or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!

Call Your Members of Congress · Ethics · House Bills, Federal · Russian Scandal, Emoluments Clause · Senate Bills, Federal · Stand Up for Norms · Use Your Power, Recruit Friends

Call Your Members of Congress to Support the Presidential Conflicts of Interests Act

This OTYCD entry originally posted in February 2017.

 

Call your members of Congress to support the Presidential Conflicts of Interests Act of 2017.

 

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced it in the senate as S.65; Massachusetts Fifth District representative Katherine Clark introduced it in the house as H.R. 371.

 

If passed, it would reinforce the Emoluments clause of the Constitution by stating that the president and vice president must divest themselves of any assets that could pose a conflict of interest, and place them in a blind trust.

 

The law would also apply to those officials’ spouses and dependent children, but not their grown children or their spouses. It would also impose the same disclosure requirements on the president that are required of members of Congress.

 

In short, it would force Trump to do something that the last several presidents have done voluntarily, because it’s common sense.

 

 

Here is the congress.gov link to S.65, A bill to address financial conflicts of interest of the President and Vice President:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/65

 

 

Here is the congress.gov link to H.R. 371, which has pretty much the same title as the senate version:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/371

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

See this New York Times op-ed from Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under the Bush administration from 2005 to 2007, on Trump’s stated plans for complying with the Constitution:

 

See this (not very hopeful) Washington Post article about Warren and Clark’s legislative efforts:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/01/09/democrats-introduce-conflicts-of-interest-act-but-are-unlikely-to-get-a-vote/?utm_term=.e4e1d52a6952

 

 

Here is Senator Elizabeth Warren’s press release on the bill. It names all its co-sponsors in the senate and the house. Do you see your members of Congress listed? If so, call and thank them for supporting these bills.

http://www.warren.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1342

 

 

Call Your Members of Congress · Common-sense Gun Laws · Health Care · House Bills, Federal

Ask Your MoCs to Fund CDC Research Into the Causes of Gun Violence

Ask your MoCs to fund research allowing the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to study the effects of gun violence.

 

This post originally called for asking MoCs to repeal the Dickey Amendment, a 1996 law named for then-House Rep Jay Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas, which stated: “None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.”

 

The Dickey amendment effectively stopped the CDC from researching the causes of gun violence and identifying ways to curtail it. It also effectively stopped the CDC from treating its epidemic of gun violence as, well, an epidemic, aka a public health problem.

 

But! The $1.3 trillion “omnibus” bill that Trump signed on Friday, March 23, 2018, contained a clarification in its ancillary materials that said the following: “While appropriations language prohibits the CDC and other agencies from using appropriated funding to advocate or promote gun control, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has stated the CDC has the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence.”

 

There’s the good news. The CDC is explicitly free to study what causes gun violence.

 

Now the bad news. The bill that was just passed? The bill that outlined $1.3 trillion in spending? It didn’t include any money for the CDC to research gun violence.

 

 

Time to call your MoCs and ask them to write a bill that gives the CDC money to study this important public health issue.

 

Sample script: “Dear [House Rep/Senator Lastname], I am [Firstname Lastname from town, state]. I am happy that the recently passed omnibus spending bill made it clear that the Center for Disease Control is free to study the causes of gun violence. Unfortunately, the bill did not include any funding for CDC research on this. I am asking you and your colleagues to consult with medical researchers and come up with a bill that would allow the CDC to get started on this important work. Thank you.”

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

 

Read a March 22, 2018 article from The Atlantic that describes gun control measures in the omnibus spending bill:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/congress-guns-fix-nics-baby-steps/556250/

 

 

 

Read a March 23, 2018 Washington Post piece on the same topic:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/03/23/hey-marchers-heres-what-congress-just-did-on-guns-and-what-it-probably-wont-do-anytime-soon/?utm_term=.4728c38dc54c

 

 

Read about HHS Secretary Azar’s openness to letting the CDC resume research on gun violence:

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/feb/15/alex-azar-hhs-signals-open-gun-violence-research/

 

 

Read a June 2016 piece from The Daily Beast on John Oliver demanding the repeal of the Dickey amendment following the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/john-oliver-blasts-the-nra-in-the-wake-of-orlando-repeal-the-dickey-amendment

 

 

Read a February 2018 article from The Atlantic on how the Dickey amendment has hobbled the CDC for decades:

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/02/gun-violence-public-health/553430/

 

 

A note: We at OTYCD intend to nurture and encourage the movement sparked by the Margory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting by devoting one post at least every other week to gun safety-related issues.

 

The reason that the NRA has a death grip on Congress, and in particular, GOP Congressfolk, is that NRA members get off their asses and call if there’s a whisper of a muttering of a hint that a law might pass that could impose even the slightest imposition on ownership of guns in America.

 

That’s what the politicians are afraid of. It’s not just that some of them get metric buttloads of money for their campaigns from the NRA. Those who embrace the NRA’s outlook pounce on their phones and berate their representatives the instant they think their beloved guns are under threat.

 

So, yes, it’s on us to shout back.

 

We have to adopt the tactics of those who support the NRA.

 

We have to call our representatives often to make it damn clear that the status quo is unacceptable, and we want common-sense gun safety laws.

 

OTYCD will start out with one weekday post every two weeks, at minimum, that has to do with improving gun safety and pushing back against the NRA.

 

We do this in honor of the Parkland victims, and all victims of mass shootings in America, and everyone who has been fighting to change our laws on firearms all along.

 

If Trump finally bows to the will of Congress and imposes the sanctions against Russia for messing with the 2016 election, we will switch to devoting one post per week to these issues.

 

Honor the victims of the Parkland shooting, and all other shootings, by stepping up and calling your reps about common-sense gun safety laws, and by supporting politicians who have low grades from the NRA, and voting out those who do the NRA’s bidding.

 

#NeverAgain. For the love of all that is right and good, Never Again.