Archive for the 'Laws' CategoryPage 2 of 80

Trump Repeals Internet Privacy

For someone who ran for President on a platform promising to “Make America Great Again,” he sure has done a lot of things to make Americans feel like we’ve moved backward, not forward. Since January 20th, President Trump has turned away refugees, encouraged the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and acted personally and professionally sexist toward women. His new bill that he quietly signed into law repeals internet privacy rules passed last year by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) under the Obama administration. It seems like another huge step backward.

TrumpWhat Did the Internet Privacy Law Do?

Adopted on October 27, 2016 and issued on November 2, 2016, the FCC established a rule that protected the privacy of customers of broadband and other telecommunication services. It also gave broadband customers more choices, transparency, and security over their personal data. The rule empowered users to decide how data was used and shared by broadband providers. In other words, it forced internet service providers (Comcast, Xfinity, AT&T, and Verizon, to name a few) to ask consumers before it collected certain personal information.

Why Is the Privacy Rule Important?

The rule has not gone into effect yet, and it won’t go into effect now that Trump has repealed it. However, the law was intended to require more transparency by internet service providers. Companies use data to target advertising. This is known as data mining, sometimes known as data or knowledge discovery. It is the process of analyzing data and summarizing it into useful information. The information is then sold from the internet service providers to specific companies that target their advertising to the consumer based on their data.

That was complicated, so let me give you an example. I’m a new mom and my internet service provider can ascertain this information through my search habits. Let’s say they sell that information to Babies R’ Us, Carter’s, and other baby stores, who then sends me coupons for various deals on car seats, baby toys, and diapers. My internet service provider just profited off of invading my privacy.

Why We Haven’t Heard about the Law

Trump has been acting like a bull in a china shop, signing controversial executive orders with big hoopla and making unfounded allegations about his predecessor President Obama. Why, then, have we heard very little about his decision to repeal the internet privacy law, especially when it has such a huge effect on the American people?

It seems that the Trump administration tries to sneak anything controversial or unpopular quietly into law. That way, there’s less backlash.

Should We Be Worried about Net Neutrality?

In 2014, the FCC released a plan that would have allowed internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to charge more depending on what the consumer uses. For instance, instead of providing things like Facebook and Youtube for free so long as you have internet access, big companies want to sell package deals that allow one access to Facebook and Youtube only if they use their company and buy a particular package. The proposal was met with so much resistance that it was shelved.

Net neutrality is the principle that treats all websites and services the same. Specifically, it prevents certain internet service providers from charging more for specific content. It prevents companies like Comcast from charging users for a package subscription to Netflix and Hulu.

People are concerned that Trump’s repeal is just one step away from the end of net neutrality, and they should be concerned. Trump is a well-known businessman. His failed Trumpcare attempted to create huge tax breaks for the super wealthy. He’s appointed cabinet members who primarily favor big business. It should come as no surprise that this President may attack net neutrality when he has consistently shown preferential treatment toward big business at the expense of “the little people.”

H.R. 861 and H.R. 899: the End of the EPA and the Dept of Education

On February 3, 2017, the House of Representatives presented H.R. 861. The bill proposes to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency by December 31, 2018. On February 8, the House of Representatives also presented bill H.R. 899, a bill that proposes to terminate the Department of Education by December 31, 2018.

H.R. 861 and H.R. 899Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) was proposed under President Nixon in 1970 and approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The goal of the EPA was to make “the 1970s a historic period when, by conscious choice, [we] transform our land into what we want it to become.” The EPA’s mission is simple: to protect human health and the environment.  It is run by an agency of the Federal Government which writes and enforces environmental regulations based on laws passed by Congress. The EPA also gives grants to state environmental programs, non-profits, and educational institutions with the underlying purpose of protecting human health and the environment.

EPA Most Notable Accomplishments

You’ve probably heard of the Clean Air Act, a federal law designed to control air pollution. The Act is one of the most comprehensive air quality laws in the world and is administered and enforced by the EPA.

The Energy Star Program was launched by the EPA in 1992. It’s a voluntary program that encourages energy efficiency among various products such as major appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electronics and more.

Most recently, the EPA has been involved in researching the effects of climate change. The topic is controversial because many members of the GOP refuse to believe climate change exists, including our own President.

Department of Education

The Department of Education was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and began operating in 1980. It is administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education. The current Secretary of Education is Betsy DeVos. The Department has approximately 4,400 employees and its annual budget was $68 billion in 2016.

It’s a common misnomer that the Department of Education establishes schools and colleges. It does not. Instead, the primary function is to “establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on U.S. schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.” Its mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering education excellence and ensuring equal access.

Department of Education Notable Accomplishments

The Department of Education is responsible for gathering data to assess how well certain programs and grants are working. It also awards Pell grants federal financial aid through loans. With the rising cost of public education, more students than ever rely on financial aid to fund their education. An overwhelming majority of full-time undergraduate students at four-year colleges receive financial aid.

The Department also oversees and protects disadvantaged children from receiving sub-par education.

How to Pass the Bills

A bill becomes a law when it passes first through the House and then the Senate. A simple majority of the House (at least 218 votes) and the Senate (at least 51 votes) need to approve the bill for it to become law. Finally, the President must sign the bill into law, but the President can veto the bills and neither would become laws.

What Happens if the EPA and Department of Education Are Terminated?

All the advantages that the EPA and Department of Education provides would cease to exist. That means we would no longer fight climate change. It also means that financial aid would not be provided to students on a federal level. Students would have to rely on their individual states to help fund their education, which receives far less money. In turn, it will become harder for students to fund their education. And the disadvantaged youth of our nation will be left behind, with the wealthy receiving superior education and the struggling receiving sub-par education.

Rep. Devin Nunes: Understanding Rep. Nunes Fall From Grace

Another day, another scandal.  Temperamental tweets from Trump are becoming the norm, yet Trump’s recent claims that Obama wiretapped him prior to winning the election still came as somewhat of a surprise.

There were previous reports that, while monitoring Russians, the intelligence community may have intercepted communications from members of the Trump team, but Trump’s tweet claimed Obama specifically ordered the wiretapping.  That’s a pretty hefty claim to make and he did so without any substantiating evidence.  Then along came Devin Nunes, who recently held a press conference making statements that appear to somewhat validate Trump’s claims.  The Congressman has been under heavy scrutiny ever since and people are questioning his ethics.

Rep. Devin NunesLet’s Take a Step Back to Get Some Context

Earlier this year, the House Intelligence Committee was tasked with investigating whether there was Russian interference into the 2016 elections as well as collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign.  The House Intelligence Committee is led by chairman Devin Nunes, which, until recently, wasn’t necessarily a household name.

A week ago, Nunes held a press conference and, to keep it simple, he announced that an unnamed source had given him information that appeared to validate, at least somewhat, Trump’s wiretapping allegations.  Here’s what Nunes said:

“First, I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.  Details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in the intelligence community reporting.  Third, I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked.  Fourth and finally, I want to be clear. None of this surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.”

Because Nunes says that the information wasn’t related to the surveillance on Russia and that it also wasn’t related to the Trump-Russia investigation, Nunes’ statements suggest that some of the members of the Trump transition team were in fact under surveillance.

Why All the Fuss?

Here’s a brief rundown of how it went down:

  • On March 21st Nunes made an unscheduled trip to the White House where an unnamed source provided Nunes with information about incidental collection of Trump and his associates. That information, according to Nunes’ press conference, contained unmasked names.
  • On March 22nd Nunes held the press conference with the statement above. Nunes claims the information came from FISA surveillance.  Nunes then went directly to the White House to brief Trump on the intelligence reports.  Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, released a statement that Nunes did not share this information with other members of the Committee before going to brief Trump.

The press conference itself wasn’t necessarily the issue; the issue is where the documents came from and why did Nunes go to Trump with the information before his own Committee members?  Regardless of whether the information was unrelated to the Trump-Russia investigation, Nunes still should have presented the information to the Committee first.  Even after Nunes apologized for going to Trump first, the water has gotten even murkier on whether Nunes had any real evidence to support the statements as he has yet to release the documents to the Committee.

Actions Affect the Committee’s Investigation

Who did Nunes meet at the White House?  Why did Nunes need to meet his source at the White House?  Why didn’t Nunes take the information straight to the Committee?  These are the unanswered questions floating around that make what Nunes did suspicious.  The running theme coming from the Democrats is that, because Nunes was a member of Trump’s transition team, Nunes is improperly providing political cover for Trump’s claims that Obama wiretapped his phone.

Nunes’ actions do affect the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation because it tarnishes the office’s credibility.  Being chairman of the House Intelligence Committee holds certain responsibilities and, as a member of that Committee, Nunes’ loyalty should have been to the Committee, especially since Trump is currently being investigated.  Instead, Nunes claimed he felt he “had a duty and obligation” to tell Trump because “he’s [Trump] taking a lot of heat in the news media”.

If Nunes is covering for Trump, he’s not being an impartial member of the Committee.  Not only does it tarnish the creditability of the House Intelligence Committee, but it also jeopardizes the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation.  There’s also a good argument Nunes’ actions violate protocols for handling classified information, which is why he’s received numerous ethics complaints.

Despite statements that all the fuss is “entirely false and politically motivated”, Nunes has since stepped aside from the Trump-Russia investigation.

H.B. 2: North Carolina Bathroom Bill Repealed for Basketball

North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill,” which required transgender people to use a bathroom matching the gender on their birth certificate, has been repealed–at least in part. Unfortunately, while the removal of this discriminatory rule-H.B. 2-is good news, the changes leave some of the worst elements of the law in force for the foreseeable future. In fact, the compromise reached between the conservative majority and liberal majority in North Carolina’s Congress in achieving this repeal has people on both side of the issue criticizing the outcome–some calling any compromise on the law a mistake and the other side pointing to how damaging the parts that remain are to the LGBT community.

The original rule was put in place after Charlotte passed a local law including LGBT persons in their anti-discrimination laws–the North Carolina Congress felt that it was so pressing that they called an emergency session to put a rule in effect blocking cities from passing anti-discrimination laws beyond what the state already has–the bathroom ban was a part of this law. While the bathroom rules have been repealed, the new version leaves in place the rules forbidding any individual city from passing local laws which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity until 2020.   This is certainly better than the previous version which included the same restrictions but lasted indefinitely, however, it still leaves several years where the LGBT community will be left adrift.

The Democratic Governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, ran on a platform of repealing the “bathroom bill.”  The repeal now is a result of a number of failed initiatives to get rid of the law–ultimately leading to the compromise we see today. The Governor described the repeal as “not perfect” but “an important step forward.”  It’s certain that he has had an uphill battle in even reaching this point trying to push the change through a Republican-majority state legislature. The step is just that, a step. However, in the face of such serious restrictions on protecting the LGBT community it feels like a baby step at best.

H.B. 2The Story Behind The Rule’s Repeal

With the odds so stacked against any change to the law whatsoever, you may be wondering how any repeal got through the North Carolina Legislature at all. The truth is that the changes are as much a story of money and basketball as a story of overcoming discrimination.

When the original law was passed, it led to serious sanctions from some of the biggest cities in the nation. The mayors of Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Washington, and a number of other cities all placed bans on state-sponsored travel to North Carolina. The entire states of Connecticut, New York, Minnesota, Washington, and Vermont have banned travel by public employees and representatives to North Carolina

A number of businesses also got in on refusing to business with North Carolina. Paypal and Deutche bank are notable examples of businesses which took a stand by cancelling expansion plans in North Carolina after the law was passed. Musicians and artists, from Bruce Springsteen to Cirque de Soleil, all refused to perform and cancelled performances in North Carolina  The 2017 NBA All-Star game was pulled from Charlotte.

H.B. 2 also led to something which, for North Carolina, was maybe even more serious–sanctions from the NCAA. The NCAA pulled all tournaments out of North Carolina-golf, swimming, and (most importantly) basketball. North Carolina currently has the number one ranked college basketball team and college basketball is huge business in North Carolina. As long as H.B. 2 continued to exist, the NCAA refused to host any events in North Carolina.

All told, conservative estimates had the economic losses suffered due to H.B 2 in the hundreds of millions with projections that they would stand to lose billions in the coming years. The partial repeal of H.B. 2 came shortly before a NCAA deadline which would have cost North Carolina future hosting opportunities if H.B. 2 remained in place. It’s no stretch to say that it is near certain that economics, and not a desire to end discrimination, were the real motivation behind the changes to H.B. 2.

North Carolina May Still Not Get What They Want

Economics may be the motivation behind the changes, but the changes themselves may be too half-hearted to convince governments, businesses, and the NCAA to change their mind on North Carolina. The mayors of San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City, New York and Washington have already said the changes leave the worst of the law in place and they won’t be lifting their sanctions.

The NCAA has publically announced that it based its ban, at least in part, on both the bathroom ban, the bar on local LGBT anti-discrimination laws, and the travel bans from states and cities. Both the bar on local laws and the travel bans look to be staying in place. However, in the wake of the repeal, the NCAA has “reluctantly voted” to remove their ban on hosting events in North Carolina. The decision led to much criticism after the NCAA itself described the repeal as having “minimally achieved” a non-discriminatory environment. This being said, the NCAA is making it clear that they may change their mind at any time as the situation evolves.

North Carolina Conservatives Gambling on the Fed

The Republican North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger has made it clear that changing the prohibition on local anti-discrimination laws from indefinite to lasting until December of 2020 is a move attempting to “allow federal litigation to play out.”  In other words, they believe Congress will pass laws explicitly limiting anti-discrimination laws when it comes to the LGBT community and make H.B. 2 irrelevant.

In the courts, the opposite trend seems to be the case. A number of cases out the EEOC in recent years have included sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected subsection of gender. In fact, just around a week ago the highest court yet–a Federal Appeals Court in Chicago—made a ruling saying just this.

On the flip side, President Trump recently rescinded an Obama-era Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order which prohibited federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity–basically saying it is alright to start discriminating on this basis.

The reliance on Congress to limit anti-discrimination in this way seems to read the priorities and positions of the Trump administration fairly well. However, the trends in the courts show that any such law would face serious legal challenge and more and more precedent saying that such a move might be unconstitutional.

The repeal of H.B. 2 feels like a mostly symbolic gesture in light of how bad the parts of it that remain are for the LGBT community. That being said, the changes still help restore some of dignity stolen from transgender people in North Carolina–and that is a victory. The story of laws like this is not over, Texas already is considering a similar law despite the backlash against North Carolina. What’s more, the belief that the issue will be addressed–one way or another–at a federal level is feeling more and more like an inevitability. This repeal is a small victory, but both sides will have eyes to the future for the ultimate determination of the underlying issue–sexual orientation and gender identity as a legally protected class.

Proof of Residency is Not Required to Eat Out

Are you required to show identification before sitting down for lunch?  If you’re ordering alcohol, sure.  But what if you were asked to show proof of legal residency?  Brenda Carrillo and a friend sat down at the Saint Marc Pub-Café, an upscale eatery in Huntington Beach, when a waiter asked:

“Can I see your proof of residency?”

When the patrons repeated the question back to the waiter in disbelief, the waiter responded with:

“I need to make sure you’re from here before I serve you.”

Is this legal?  After complaints to the manager, the patrons were offered to be re-seated, but declined and left the restaurant.  Castillo commented that she had never felt so judged in her entire life.

Proof of ResidencyNo Shoes, No Service

You know those signs that read, “We reserve the right to refuse service” or “No shoes, no service”?  Can a restaurant really refuse service to whoever they want?  The short answer is no.  After Trump’s inauguration, it seems some feel emboldened to start showing their prejudices and, despite the waiters cruel and discriminatory intent, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to hear these types of stories popping up across the country.

When is a restaurant justified to legally refuse service then?  For starters, a restaurant can never refuse service based on discrimination.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating based on race, color, religion or national origin.  Although a restaurant is considered private property, it’s still considered a place of public accommodation—equal protection laws still apply.

There aren’t necessarily a set of circumstances that would warrant a legal right to refuse service but, as a general rule of thumb, restaurants can refuse service if a guest puts the health, safety, or welfare of the establishment, or other guests, at risk.  That doesn’t help much, does it?  Certainly not an exhaustive list, but here are a few instances when a restaurant could legally refuse service:

  • When a guest is acting unreasonably rowdy or threatening other patrons,
  • When a guest doesn’t meet the company’s health requirements (think lacking adequate hygiene),
  • When a guest breaks lawful rules such as no-pet policies,
  • When the establishment has met capacity limits, or
  • When the establishment is getting ready to close.

Have you ever seen those signs that say ‘dress shirt and tie required’?  A restaurant can even refuse service if a guest doesn’t meet their clothing requirements., but refusing to serve a patron based on residency is not an acceptable reason because it’s a form of discrimination that the Civil Rights Act strictly prohibits.

I.D. Required Only in Limited Circumstances

The waiter had no right to ask the guests for identification.  When is proof of residency required?  One of the most obvious instances is obtaining a driver’s license or showing proof of citizenship to get a U.S. passport.  Many jobs require proof that you’re legally eligible to work in the U.S. and laws requiring a person suspected of a crime to show identification are legal as well.

The restaurant contacted Carillo with an apology after the story showed up on social media accounts.  The restaurant’s manager confirmed the behavior was not within company standards and the waiter was ultimately fired.  When the restaurant offered to host Carillo and her friends as “VIP guests,” Carillo and her friends declined the offer but, instead, asked Saint Marc Pub-Café to donate 10% of the weekend’s sales to an organization that advocates for immigrants living in the country illegally.

Did the patrons have another option?  They certainly could have brought a discrimination suit against the restaurant. Certain types of discrimination and civil rights violation allegations require a person file a claim or complaint with a federal or state agency before a lawsuit is brought, but Carillo likely would have had no problem getting the go-ahead to file a lawsuit.  At that point, it would have been up to Carillo to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” (that it’s more likely than not that the allegations are true) that the restaurant discriminated against her.