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With ‘No More Campaigns to Run,’ Obama Refuses to Back Down

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by George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

NEWS ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The strongest line in President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night was adlibbed. When he said toward the end of his one-hour speech, “I have no more campaigns to run,” Republicans laughed. He quickly shot back, “I know because I won both of them.”

That brief exchange tells us what we can expect in Obama’s final two years in office and reflects two different realities. A confident and relaxed Obama, making it very clear that he is not going to curl up in a corner and concede the next two years to Republicans, outlined his bold vision for the future, a vision that does not abandon his key policy positions.

Though Obama did indeed win both times his name was on the ballot, Democrats suffered major losses in the 2014 mid-term elections. Consequently, Republicans hold a 247-188 edge in the House. In the Senate, there are 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and two Independents who usually vote with Democrats.

On Tuesday night, President Obama seemed to be setting the stage for 2016 when in addition to the White House, there will be a major battle for control of the Senate, where 25 Republicans will be up re-election, compared to only 10 Democrats.

Though it will be difficult to get many of the proposals President Obama said will be in his budget when it is delivered to Capitol Hill in two weeks, he argued forcefully that his polices had worked, despite strident Republican opposition over the past six years.

“We are 15 years into this new century,” he began in his address to a joint session of Congress. “Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

“But tonight, we turn the page. Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before. More of our people are insured than ever before. And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

“Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.

“America, for all that we have endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.”

As has become customary during State of the Union speeches, Democrats stood and applauded when Obama made a point that appealed to them while dour-faced Republicans remained seated. Unlike 2009 when Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, violated congressional decorum by shouting, “You, Lie,” Republicans were mostly polite, while making it clear they were not endorsing Obama’s vision for his final two years in office.

Noticeably absent from Tuesday’s State of the Union were three of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Thomas has called the event so partisan that it makes him feel uncomfortable. Scalia has dismissed it as a “childish spectacle” and Roberts has likened it to “a political pep rally.” In modern years, regardless of a court member’s personal views, the robbed justices have attended the yearly event, most of the time displaying no emotions.

Reviewing his accomplishments over the past six years, Obama boasted, “We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

“We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.”

With Democrats applauding, Obama continued, “We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. More Americans finish college than ever before.

“We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.”

Like most politicians, Obama cherry-picked some numbers, according to FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania that describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.

For example, it noted, “It’s true that nearly 8.2 million private sector jobs have been added since February 2010, which was the low point of the great job slump that began a year before Obama took office and continued through his first year. But total employment has risen less – by 7.6 million – held back by layoffs of state and local government workers. Obama was technically correct, as he was careful to speak of jobs “’our businesses have created.’”

It also explained, “The president said that ‘because of the Affordable Care Act … more than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.’ But that total includes Medicaid renewals, not just new recipients that gained Medicaid coverage because of the health care law.

“The 9 million figure includes 3 million Americans who have chosen insurance plans on the federal or state marketplaces and 6.3 million who were determined eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. An estimated 3.1 million young adults under age 26 also joined their parents’ plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.”

There is a growing consensus that the economy has largely recovered under Obama’s stewardship – with little help from Republicans.

“At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years. This is good news, people,” he said to laughter and applause.

“So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix a broken system. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it. It will have earned my veto.”

Exercising the veto is one of the few tools Obama has except for issuing executive order in a Republican-controlled Congress. Until recently he has been reluctant to sign executive orders or veto bills that crossed his desk.

Obama has issued only two vetoes in six years. By contrast, George W. Bush issued 12; Bill Clinton, 37; George H.W. Bush, 44; Ronald Reagan, 78; Jimmy Carter, 31; Gerald R. Ford, 66; Richard Nixon, 43 and Lyndon B. Johnson, 30, according to Senate records. The last two-term president to approach Obama’s rate was James Monroe, who vetoed only one bill from 1817 to 1825.

There was a similar pattern with executive orders.

Despite Republican charges that Obama is a “socialist dictator” and operates an “imperial presidency,” he has issued the fewest executive orders since Grover Cleveland, who was in the White House from 1885 to 1889.

But Obama promised to be more combative his last two years, if necessary.

He outlined a broad agenda that, among other things, offers two years of free community college, shifts $320 billion in new taxes on the wealthy largely to the middle class, vetoes any legislation that would undermine his executive order on immigration or sanction Iran over its nuclear program while negotiations are underway, and mocks Republicans denials of climate change.

On the latter, he said, “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], and at NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] , and at our major universities. And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

Continuing his in-your-face style, Obama challenged Congress to raise the minimum wage.

“Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages,” he said. “That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

Before Obama delivered his State of the Union speech, new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it clear that it didn’t matter what goals Obama articulates.

At a news conference before the speech, McConnell, who once said his goal was to make Obama a one-term president, said, “With all due respect to him, he doesn’t set the agenda in the Senate.”

In his speech, Obama said he realizes Democrats and Republicans have different ideas on major issues, but urged cooperation where possible.

“Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different,” he said. “Understand, a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine. A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values, and principles and facts, rather than ‘gotcha’ moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.”

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U.S. House Prepares Historic Session on Reparations Legislation

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and on society.

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“The markup of H.R. 40 by the Judiciary Committee is a major step toward the creation of a long-overdue national commission to study and develop reparation proposals. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
“The markup of H.R. 40 by the Judiciary Committee is a major step toward the creation of a long-overdue national commission to study and develop reparation proposals. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, April 14, plans to hold the first-ever markup of H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.

The 10 a.m. session on Capitol Hill will help advance legislation first introduced about three decades ago that establishes a commission to examine slavery and discrimination in the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.

“Why is this significant now to have a markup in this historic moment in our history? The bill was introduced a year after the Civil Liberties Act that provided reparations for our Japanese-Americans, and we as African Americans supported it,” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) said during a news conference with African American media members.

“The bill would allow the country to finally confront the stark social disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions,” Jackson-Lee, the bill’s lead sponsor, stated.

The historic markup of H.R. 40 is intended to continue a national conversation about how to confront the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the enduring structural racism that remains endemic to American society today added House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

“Long after slavery was abolished, segregation and subjugation of African Americans was a defining part of this nation’s policies that shaped its values and its institutions,” Nadler remarked.

“Today, we still live with racial disparities in access to education, health care, housing, insurance, employment, and other social goods that are directly attributable to the damaging legacy of slavery and government-sponsored racial discrimination,” Nadler remarked.

“The creation of a commission under H.R. 40 to study these issues is not intended to divide, but to continue the efforts commenced by states, localities and private institutions to reckon with our past and bring us closer to racial understanding and advancement.”

While a specific monetary value on reparations isn’t outlined in the bill, it does focus on investigating and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of African people, racial healing, and transformation.

The bill would fund a commission to study and develop proposals for providing reparations to African Americans.

The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and on society.

“Since its introduction in 1989 by the late Chairman John Conyers, and now through its continued introduction, H.R. 40 has galvanized governmental acknowledgment of the crime of slavery and its continuing societal impact,” Jackson Lee maintained.

“The markup of H.R. 40 by the Judiciary Committee is a major step toward the creation of a long-overdue national commission to study and develop reparation proposals.

“Through this legislation, we will finally be able to confront the stark societal disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions.

“By passing H.R. 40, Congress can also start a movement toward the national reckoning we need to bridge racial divides. Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation — and the hope that one day, all Americans can walk together toward a more just future.”

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Gov. Pritzker Signs Legislation Strengthening Voting Access for Most Vulnerable Residents.

CHICAGO DEFENDER — “There are hundreds of active efforts to undermine the right to vote in nearly every state – the most horrific of which signed into law by Georgia’s governor – but here in Illinois, we hope to lead the way in strengthening access to the ballot so residents can have their voices heard,” said Governor JB Pritzker.

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Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, First Army Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas S. James and Illinois National Guard Deputy Assistant Adjutant General - Army Brig. Gen. Mark Jackson listen to Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs Acting Director Linda Chapa LaVia speak during the Gold Star Mothers Luncheon The Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs Gold Star Mothers Luncheon gives senior civilian and military leaders a chance to thank Gold Star mothers for their service to our nation and its military. Governor JB Pritzker thanked the Gold Star Mothers and said he was humbled to have the opportunity to speak with them. In addition to the sacrifice their sons and daughters gave to their nation, many Gold Star mothers keep their Fallen Heroes memories alive and continue their service to the community and to the military, said Lt. Gen. Thomas S. James, the Commander of First Army and keynote speaker at the luncheon. The luncheon was held at the First Infantry Division Museum at Cantigny in Wheaton, Illinois, on Sunday, Sept. 29. (Photo: Lt. Col. Bradford Leighton / Wikimedia Commons)
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, First Army Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas S. James and Illinois National Guard Deputy Assistant Adjutant General - Army Brig. Gen. Mark Jackson listen to Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs Acting Director Linda Chapa LaVia speak during the Gold Star Mothers Luncheon The Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs Gold Star Mothers Luncheon gives senior civilian and military leaders a chance to thank Gold Star mothers for their service to our nation and its military. Governor JB Pritzker thanked the Gold Star Mothers and said he was humbled to have the opportunity to speak with them. In addition to the sacrifice their sons and daughters gave to their nation, many Gold Star mothers keep their Fallen Heroes memories alive and continue their service to the community and to the military, said Lt. Gen. Thomas S. James, the Commander of First Army and keynote speaker at the luncheon. The luncheon was held at the First Infantry Division Museum at Cantigny in Wheaton, Illinois, on Sunday, Sept. 29. (Photo: Lt. Col. Bradford Leighton / Wikimedia Commons)

Chicago Defender Staff Report

Building on efforts that ensured the safe and active participation in the 2020 elections, Governor JB Pritzker signed HB 1871 into law to establish permanent ballot drop boxes and allow curbside voting across Illinois for early voting or on Election Day. The new law codifies safety measures that were implemented ahead of the 2020 general election, allowing residents to safely exercise their constitutional right to vote.

“There are hundreds of active efforts to undermine the right to vote in nearly every state – the most horrific of which signed into law by Georgia’s governor – but here in Illinois, we hope to lead the way in strengthening access to the ballot so residents can have their voices heard,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “No one should have to risk their personal health in order to participate in our democracy. By making ballot drop boxes and curbside voting permanent features of our elections, we’re ensuring that all voters can access the ballot, especially our most vulnerable residents who may face barriers to voting in person. I want to thank Senator Morrison and Representative Stuart for bringing this legislation to the finish line so that all Illinoisans can continue to safely exercise their right to vote during the pandemic and in the years to come.”

“Today is a monumental day for voters across the state who have long expressed a desire for greater access to their right to vote,” said Senate Majority Caucus Whip Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest). “The November 2020 election proved the need—and want—for voting expansion measures, and I applaud my colleagues and the governor for their support.”

“The right to vote is fundamental. A lot of research and study of other states where there is a robust Vote By Mail system went in to the crafting of this bill,” said State Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville). “I am so thankful that Governor Pritzker is signing this bill today, and letting everyone know that Illinois is a leader in preserving access to the ballot for everyone.”

During the pandemic, a record number of Illinoisans voted by mail or through secure drop boxes and curbside options. These alternatives allowed vulnerable residents, such as seniors and individuals with disabilities to wield their right to vote, without the risks of voting in-person during a pandemic. Under the new law, these options will remain in effect for future elections.

Drop Boxes

This legislation permits election officials to install drop box sites where voters can submit mail-in ballots without postage. Election officials must collect and process all ballots at the close of each business day, and voters can return vote by mail ballots at any collection site through the close of polls on Election Day. Ensuring voter safety is paramount, and all collection sites must be secured by locks and only opened by election authority personnel. To further bolster security, the State Board of Elections can establish additional guidelines for the collection sites.

Curbside Voting

The legislation permits local election authorities to establish curbside voting for individuals to cast a ballot during early voting or on Election Day. Curbside voting allows certain voters to complete their ballot from their vehicle in a designated zone outside of the polling place. Prior to the new law, this option was only available to voters with a temporary or permanent disability, who may face difficulties entering the polling place. In this instance, the voter may request that two election judges—at least one from the Democratic Party and one from the Republican party—deliver a ballot to the voter at each vehicle where curbside voting is taking place.

Help America Vote Act

Previously, the Governor worked with the State Board of Elections to dedicate funding from the federal Help America Vote Act to help subsidize ballot drop boxes and increase pay for local election judges across the state. This legislation builds on those efforts by permitting the State Board of Elections to distribute any remaining funds they may have received under the Help America Vote Act to local election authorities to help with the maintenance of drop boxes.

The new law takes effect immediately.

The post Gov. Pritzker Signs Legislation Strengthening Voting Access for Most Vulnerable Residents. appeared first on Chicago Defender.

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Florida GOP Lawmakers Vote to Strip Newspapers of Legal Advertising Revenue

NNPA NEWSWIRE — House Bill 35 repeals part of the law that requires placement in newspapers announcements about tax increases, special elections, and other public notices. Estimates suggest that such notices provide the state’s 100-plus newspapers with millions of dollars in annual revenue. The Republican-sponsored measure passed this week by an 85-34 vote.

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The Republican-sponsored measure passed this week by an 85-34 vote. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
The Republican-sponsored measure passed this week by an 85-34 vote. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Florida lawmakers are acting like alligators who smell blood – they are out for the kill.

Their sights set on the struggling newsprint industry, the Florida House passed a bill that would strip the state’s newspapers of desperately needed legal advertising revenue.

House Bill 35 repeals part of the law that requires placement in newspapers, announcements about tax increases, special elections, and other public notices.

Estimates suggest that such notices provide the state’s 100-plus newspapers with millions of dollars in annual revenue.

The Republican-sponsored measure passed this week by an 85-34 vote.

“When the telegram industry died because communication methodologies changed, government didn’t step in and require people to continue to send telegrams,” a cynical GOP Rep. Randy Fine, the bill’s primary sponsor, argued.

Fine called payments to newspapers an unnecessary subsidy and said the government should not save the “dying industry.”

The 60-page bill notes, in part, that if a governmental agency publishes a legal notice in a newspaper, each legal notice must be posted on the newspaper’s website on the same day that the printed notice appears in the newspaper, at no additional charge, also in a separate web page titled “Legal Notices,” “Legal Advertising,” or comparable identifying language.

The measure continues:

“A link to the legal notices web page shall be provided on the front page of the newspaper’s website that provides access to the legal notices. If there is a specified size and placement required for a printed legal notice, the size and placement of the notice on the newspaper’s website must optimize its online visibility in keeping with the print requirements.

“The newspaper’s web pages that contain legal notices must present the legal notices as the dominant and leading subject matter of those pages. The newspaper’s website must contain a search function to facilitate searching the legal notices. A fee may not be charged, and registration may not be required for viewing or searching legal notices on a newspaper’s website if the legal notice is published in a newspaper.”

The Senate version of the legislation, SB 402, is scheduled to be heard in its first Senate committee next week.

“There may be an asteroid out there somewhere, and it may be hurtling towards us right now. But until it hits, there’s still some dinosaurs like me left walking around,” Democratic Rep. Joe Geller countered during a Floor argument. “We’re not as comfortable with what you’re proposing as you are.”

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Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President on Reparations: “…There Should Be a Discussion About Redress”

NNPA NEWSWIRE — As federal lawmakers ponder H.R. 40, legislation led by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) that forms a commission to study reparations, some U.S. municipalities have moved to address systemic racism and forms of redress to African Americans.

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“There are definitely merits to it in the sense that, if people have been harmed by laws, then there should be a discussion about redress,” Bostic told CNN Business in an interview posted on Monday, March 29.
“There are definitely merits to it in the sense that, if people have been harmed by laws, then there should be a discussion about redress,” Bostic told CNN Business in an interview posted on Monday, March 29.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Count Raphael Bostic, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, among the growing and vocal majority who support reparations as a way to address the consequences of racism and inequality in America.

“There are definitely merits to it in the sense that, if people have been harmed by laws, then there should be a discussion about redress,” Bostic told CNN Business in an interview posted on Monday, March 29.

“The legacies of past racism are still present in our society,” said Bostic, who in 2017 became the first Black president of a regional Fed bank.

“We have to think about what things are necessary to offset the impacts of those old systems that still flow through.”

In the interview, Bostic specifically called out systemic obstacles that inhibit wealth building among minorities, including redlining and other forms of housing discrimination.

“We have African Americans today who have a lot less wealth,” he said, “in part because they have not been able to inherit the wealth that would have accrued had their ancestors been able to accrue that wealth.”

As federal lawmakers ponder H.R. 40, legislation led by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) that forms a commission to study reparations, some U.S. municipalities have moved to address systemic racism and forms of redress to African Americans.

Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that the city would begin a guaranteed income project that would provide $500 per month to Black and Indigenous families.

The assistance, which targets low-income families of color in the 426,000-population city, will last 18 months.

Mayor Schaaf detailed that the money comes with “no-strings attached,” and recipients can use it as they please.

“We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Mayor Schaaf told the local ABC News station.

Evanston, Illinois, a city where 18 percent of its more than 74,500 residents are Black, approved the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program, which provides up to $25,000 for housing down payments or home repairs to African Americans.

In September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law historic legislation that paves the way for African Americans and descendants of slaves in the Golden State to receive reparations for slavery.

The bill, authored by California Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, establishes a nine-person task force that will study the impact of the slave trade on Black people.

It does not commit to any specific payment, but the task force will make recommendations to legislators about what kind of compensation should be provided, who should receive it, and what form it would take.

“After watching [the presidential] debate, this signing can’t come too soon,” Newsome declared during a videoconference with lawmakers and other stakeholders, including the rapper Ice Cube, who championed the bill.

“As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions,” the governor stated.

Last summer, Asheville, a North Carolina city where Black people make up just 11 percent of the more than 92,000 residents, formally apologized for its role in slavery. The City Council voted unanimously to provide reparations to African American residents and their descendants.

“Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that fills the cup we drink from today,” said Councilman Keith Young, one of two African American members of the City Council that voted 7-0 in favor of reparations.

“It is simply not enough to remove statutes. Black people in this country are dealing with systemic issues,” Young declared.

Asheville’s resolution doesn’t include monetary payments to African Americans but promises investments in areas where Black people face disparities.

Earlier this year, Congress debated H.R. 40, a bill that doesn’t place a specific monetary value on reparations but focuses on investigating and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of African people, racial healing, and transformation.

The bill would fund a commission to study and develop proposals for providing reparations to African Americans.

The Commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and society.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee, who sits on numerous House committees, including Judiciary, Budget, and Homeland Security, has made the reparations legislation her top priority during the 117th Congress.

“I think if people begin to associate this legislation with what happened to the descendants of enslaved Africans as a human rights violation, the sordid past that violated the human rights of all of us who are descendants of enslaved Africans, I think that we can find common ground to pass this legislation,” Congresswoman Jackson Lee pronounced.

“Can anyone imagine that we’ve never gotten a simple, effective, deeply-embedded, and well-respected apology?”

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Concerned Georgia voters rally for State Rep. Park Cannon, election rights

THE ATLANTA VOICE – Friday afternoon, voters used their First Amendment right to stand in solidarity with State Rep. Park Cannon who was arrested Thursday after she knocked on Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s office door while he signed Senate Bill 202, an omnibus election bill that rewrites Georgia’s election rules. The bill creates new voter ID requirements, limits drop boxes, and allows state takeovers of local elections.

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Unlike some bills that can pass through a process called reconciliation, the voting rights bill in its current form would need 60 “yes” votes to overcome a GOP filibuster. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
“It’s just outright voter suppression not even hidden anymore and then what do they do while he’s signing that into law? They arrest Representative Cannon. It’s just so Jim Crow,” said Ann White, a white female voter who has lived in Atlanta for 21 years.

By Jesssika Ward, The Atlanta Voice

Friday afternoon, voters used their First Amendment right to stand in solidarity with State Rep. Park Cannon who was arrested Thursday after she knocked on Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s office door while he signed Senate Bill 202, an omnibus election bill that rewrites Georgia’s election rules. The bill creates new voter ID requirements, limits drop boxes, and allows state takeovers of local elections.

“My colleague, who is the secretary of the caucus knocks on the door and gets arrested? That’s not right. There’s no right in it,” said Rep. Viola Davis who stood alongside voters and protestors, wearing a sweater that read “it’s time to abolish the filibuster”.

Speaking to the words on her clothing, Rep. Davis says she fears Georgia won’t pass the John Lewis Voting Act without abolishing the filibuster. According to documents on the legislation, the legislation would restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were weakened by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Rep. Davis told voters she spent 15-20 years as an activist before being elected to serve as a State House Representative, reminding voters that elected officials should be serving the people.

“It is your vote that hires and fires elected officials like me. It is your vote that places us in that gold dome. That gold dome isn’t owned by us, it’s owned by you. It is your tax money that pays for that. It is your tax money that pays my salary,” says Rep. Davis. “The elected officials are the employees. With a humble spirit, I stand here to say I am hired and fired with your vote. I am paid with your tax money.”

Rep. Park Cannon’s colleagues say Cannon is facing federal charges for knocking on Gov. Kemp’s door. They also say Cannon has bruises on her neck and wrists—injuries sustained during her arrest.

Daniel Blackman ran for election to the Georgia Public Service Commission to represent District 4, losing in January of 2021. Advocating for the end of voter suppression, he was one of the people supporting Rep. Cannon and her decision to knock on Gov. Kemp’s door at Friday’s demonstration.

“Our voter rights are under attack,” said Blackman. “Park didn’t do this for notoriety. She wanted to witness what the Governor felt was in the best interest of this state, which we all disagree with.”

Critics are referring to the election bill and the acts of Gov. Brian Kemp as Jim Crow 2.0, saying the bill is a voter suppression bill that will negatively affect people of color and people who vote as a Democrat. Sabrina Rahim and Ann White both spent time away from their families to express their thoughts on SB 202.

“I felt compelled to come out. I have been here for 17 days of the nearly 23 days we have been out here fighting against voter suppression,” said Rahim, a mother of two who left her home right before her household dinner time to be a part of the demonstration. “This is outrageous what they’ve done and we have been out here protesting, hoping that they will come to their senses and do what’s best for all Georgians, but it doesn’t seem to have work.”

“It’s just outright voter suppression not even hidden anymore and then what do they do while he’s signing that into law? They arrest Representative Cannon. It’s just so Jim Crow,” said Ann White, a white female voter who has lived in Atlanta for 21 years.

Devin Barrington-Ward, the Managing Director of the Black Futurists Group says young black people need to vote and remain educated. The Black Futurists Group is an organization that uses public policy, community organizing, media engagement, and political education as tools to build reimagined, equitable, and liberated Black futures.

“We are the ones who are going to end it. This is White Supremacy’s last stand. I’m grateful for the work that our ancestors have done and the ones who come before us that have gotten us to this point. I can truly say that liberation and freedom will be won for our people in my lifetime,” said Barrington-Ward. “That’s why we have to be out here. Our future depends on it.”

This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Voice.

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Maryland General Assembly 2021: GOP stealthily push for mandatory minimums, advocates argue

THE AFRO – “Overall, African Americans are more likely than White Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as White men and Hispanic men are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic White men.”

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Sen. Will Smith (D-20) of Montgomery County (Courtesy Photo)
Sen. Will Smith (D-20) of Montgomery County (Courtesy Photo)

By Sean Yoes, AFRO Senior Reporter
syoes@afro.com

With less than two weeks before the end of what many believe is a consequential 2021 Maryland General Assembly, legislators and advocates are grappling to secure perhaps the most meaningful law enforcement reform legislation in decades.

However, SB 852 is sounding alarms for some of those legislators and advocates

This week the bill was voted out of the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee chaired by Sen. Will Smith (D-20) of Montgomery County. The bill is sponsored by 14 Republican Senators and it was voted out of committee along party lines, except for Smith and the committee’s co-chair, Jeffrey Waldstreicher (D-18) also of Montgomery County. The two Democrats were the deciding votes to bring SB 852 to the Senate floor.

The summary of the bill seems somewhat benevolent, advocating for some inmates to receive “a re entry kit that includes clothing, an identification card, contact information on re entry services, information on Medicaid and the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, and transportation,” it says. But, according to criminal justice and law enforcement reform advocates there is language in the bill that implements enhanced sentencing guidelines making certain misdemeanors felonies and therefore having the effect of mandatory minimums, a practice and policy viewed by many as the lifeblood of mass incarceration.

“One of the things that has become clear is that the public sentiment against the notion of mandatory minimums is something that is pretty palpable,” said Dayvon Love, director of Public Policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a Baltimore-based grassroots think tank. “Part of what has happened is there are ways in which legislators who are trying to push mandatory minimums try to find ways around it.”

According to The Sentencing Project, an organization that has advocated for criminal justice reform for three decades, the implementation of mandatory minimums has played a vital role in keeping people, disproportionately Black, Brown and poor in prison for longer periods of time.

“Sentencing policies, implicit racial bias, and socioeconomic inequity contribute to racial disparities at every level of the criminal justice system. Today, people of color make up 37% of the U.S. population, but 67% of the prison population,” according to a recent report issued by The Sentencing Project.

“Overall, African Americans are more likely than White Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as White men and Hispanic men are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic White men.”

Rolling back the policy of mandatory minimums has proven to be a bipartisan effort on the national level. However, Love suggests that SB 852 is ultimately a stealthy bipartisan effort to implement mandatory minimums in certain cases.

“It doesn’t matter how many enhanced sentences you put (in place). All you are doing is exposing more people who are susceptible to get sucked into the criminal justice system, subjecting them to the possibility of them doing more time,” said Love. “And therefore creating more people who otherwise shouldn’t be in jail, exposing them to an environment that is prone to criminality and produces the very criminal element that we’re trying to address in our communities,” he added.

The AFRO reached out to Sen. Smith for a comment concerning his support of SB 852, but did not receive a response by press time.

“Sen. Smith and Sen. Waldstreicher and other supporters would say, `These aren’t technically mandatory minimums.’ And technically they would be correct. But, the argument that we’re making is what they’ve done is change certain misdemeanors to felonies as a way to trigger certain penalties, to enhance sentences as the mechanism by which they would argue this deals with crime,” Love said.

“It seems to be the kind of performative politics of signaling to what we call the purple districts of Maryland…When it comes to issues that deal with Black people and criminal justice and race they tend to be more conservative and are capitulating to a population that is conservative on these issues.”

The post Maryland General Assembly 2021: GOP stealthily push for mandatory minimums, advocates argue appeared first on Afro.

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