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June 22, 2021 at 12:54 pm #1204313089
Senate dives into D.C. statehood debate in second-ever hearing
MARTY JOHNSON AT 13:52 PM EST
The Senate, for only the second time in its long history, took up the issue of statehood for Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, with a hearing where arguments for and against the country’s potential 51st state were passionately aired.
Held by the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the hearing comes as support publicly and politically for D.C. statehood is at an all-time high.
Recent polling has shown that national approval on the measure is hovering just above 50 percent and in April the White House formally threw its support behind D.C. statehood with a statement of administration policy, a first.
“The country was founded on the principles of no taxation without representation and consent of the government,” District House Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) told the panel in introductory remarks.
“D.C. residents are taxed without representation, and cannot consent to the laws under which they as American citizens must live.”
A third-generation Washingtonian and one of the longest-tenured members of the House, Norton is one of the original champions of the cause.
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Ct.), who was one of the first senators to join Norton’s efforts, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) were also on hand to voice their support.
H.R. 51, which would establish much of the nation’s capital as the 51st state in the Union, has passed the House twice in as many years, though has struggled to gain traction in the evenly split upper chamber.
Proponents like Norton and Bowser have been constant in their reasoning behind the push for statehood for the District.
Not only do D.C. residents lack a vote in both chambers of Congress—taxation without representation—but per capita, Washington pays more federal income tax than any state and more taxes overall than nearly two dozen of them.
With roughly 700,000 residents, D.C. is more populous than two states and comparable to a handful more.
Another pivotal technicality that was brought to the nation’s attention in the past year is the fact that D.C. doesn’t have control over its National Guard. This became apparent during last summer’s protest over the police murder of George Floyd and then again during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Additionally, D.C. was initially shorted over $700 million in COVID-19 relief aid at the beginning of the pandemic because lawmakers labeled D.C. as a territory instead of a state.
“There is no legal or constitutional barrier to D.C. statehood,” Bowser testified. “The prevailing constitutional issue is a civil rights violation of 700,000 DC residents who fulfill all obligations of United States citizenship, but are denied any representation in this body.”
The mechanics of H.R. 51 are novel. The capital wouldn’t cease to exist, but rather be shrunk to include the National Mall, monuments, White House and other federal buildings. The rest of the city would become the new state—Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.
People residing inside the revised federal capital would be able to vote in the state where they previously lived.
H.R. 51 also includes a provision that would fast-track the repeal of the 23rd Amendment, which currently gives D.C. electoral votes in presidential elections.
However, Republicans view the proposal as a blatant Democratic power grab, saying that D.C.’s liberal tilt will all but guarantee two additional Democrat senators.
Attacks on the proposal have been varied, with GOP lawmakers choosing to either scrutinize the constitutionality of H.R. 51—insisting that D.C. can only become a state through a constitutional amendment—or present arguments that poke at D.C.’s unique standing as a hybrid city-state.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) during the hearing argued that people know what they’re getting into when they move to the District.
“Any individual that moves to Washington D.C., understands that Washington, D.C., is unique. This is a place where you don’t have a vote for a senator or a House member,” Lankford said, acknowledging that D.C. does have a non-voting member of the House in Norton.
“It’s been well known that when you move to Washington, D.C., at any point, you’re moving to an area that doesn’t have two senators or a House member,” the Oklahoma senator continued. “That’s a volitional choice; no one’s compelled to actually be here, knowing that that’s been the situation for more than 200 years.”
Democrats have bristled at the non-constitutional arguments, painting them as thinly veiled racism.
For decades, the District was predominantly Black. Today, D.C.’s population is over 45 percent Black and remains a majority-minority city.
Progressives and civil rights advocates have increasingly framed D.C. statehood as a racial justice issue.
Lieberman, in his remarks to the committee, described GOP dissent as “excuses for something that is inexcusable.”
At the moment, unified Republican opposition is enough to keep H.R. 51 from reaching President Biden’s desk.
Without bipartisan support, the bill can’t clear the 60-vote threshold of the Senate filibuster, a problem many of Democrats’ legislative priorities face.
Moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are against axing the procedural rule, and even if the filibuster were somehow done away with, Manchin has also said that he’s against H.R. 51, concurring with Republicans that a constitutional amendment is needed to make D.C. a state.June 23, 2021 at 11:28 am #1204314824
Supreme Court backs cheerleader over school in free speech case
BY JOHN KRUZEL 06/23/21 10:30 AM EDT
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with a teen student who claimed her school district violated the First Amendment by punishing her for a profanity-laced social media post she sent while away from school grounds ripping her rejection from the varsity cheerleading squad.
The 8-1 ruling is likely to have major implications for student speech rights in a social media age that has blurred the line between on- and off-campus speech.
Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, avoided drawing sharp geographical boundaries around school officials’ authority, noting that schools retain an interest in regulating some student speech that occurs away from campus, including bullying, threats and violations of academic policies.
But he said that “courts must be more skeptical of a school’s efforts to regulate off-campus speech, for doing so may mean the student cannot engage in that kind of speech at all” if the speech in question is prohibited on school grounds.
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the majority opinion.
The dispute arose after Brandi Levy, a high school freshman at the time, posted an expletive-filled social media message airing frustration over her rejection from the cheerleading squad.
“F— school f— softball f— cheer f— everything,” the 14-year-old wrote in a 2017 post on Snapchat alongside a picture of herself and a friend with raised middle fingers. Levy sent the Snap on a weekend while at a convenience store.
The post eventually made its way to the school’s cheerleading coaches, who suspended Levy from the junior varsity cheering squad for a year, prompting her lawsuit against Mahanoy Area High School in rural Pennsylvania.
A panel of judges on the Philadelphia-based Third Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Levy, finding that the school exceeded its authority by disciplining off-campus student speech.
Although Wednesday’s ruling affirmed the Third Circuit panel’s judgment, the justices did so on narrower grounds.
“Unlike the Third Circuit, we do not believe the special characteristics that give schools additional license to regulate student speech always disappear when a school regulates speech that takes place off campus,” Breyer wrote. “The school’s regulatory interests remain significant in some off-campus circumstances.”
Breyer said that as a general matter, school officials’ power to regulate off-campus speech is diminished when compared to the authority they possess at school. But he added that similar disputes over student speech would have to be determined by courts on a case-by-case basis.
Thomas, in dissent, accused the majority of relying on “vague considerations” in deciding the case for the student, while ignoring 150 years of history that supported the cheerleading coach’s decision to discipline Levy.
“A more searching review reveals that schools historically could discipline students in circumstances like those presented here,” Thomas wrote. “Because the majority does not attempt to explain why we should not apply this historical rule and does not attempt to tether its approach to anything stable, I respectfully dissent.”June 23, 2021 at 12:33 pm #1204314935
Tom Perez launches Maryland governor bid
by RUBY CRAMER, SARAH FERRIS, and ZACH MONTELLARO
06/22/2021 08:00 PM EDT
Updated: 06/23/2021 10:12 AM EDT
Tom Perez, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee and former Labor secretary under Barack Obama, launched a bid for Maryland governor on Wednesday morning.
POLITICO first reported that Perez would launch a bid on Tuesday evening.
The gubernatorial election in 2022 will be an open contest because Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is term-limited.
Perez kicked off his campaign with a video talking about his roots in the state and highlighting his service in the Obama administration, which features footage of the former president at the White House podium praising his work as Labor secretary.
Maryland represents perhaps Democrats’ best chance of flipping a gubernatorial seat in 2022. The state voted for President Joe Biden by over 30 points in 2020.
Perez, a resident of Takoma Park, a close-in D.C. suburb, did not immediately respond to a voicemail or email asking for a comment at contact information listed for him at a law firm he started at last month.
What does the field look like: The Democratic gubernatorial primary in the state is expected to be an incredibly crowded contest.
Already, several candidates have declared their bids: Rushern Baker, the former Prince George’s County executive, state Comptroller Peter Franchot; former state Attorney General Doug Gansler; John King Jr., a former education secretary under Obama; author Wes Moore; Mike Rosenbaum, a Baltimore businessman; Jon Baron, a former nonprofit executive; and Ashwani Jain, a former Montgomery County Council candidate.
Perez served for four years as the head of the DNC, taking the helm of a beleaguered national party three months after Hillary Clinton’s surprise loss to former President Donald Trump. Before he served as Labor secretary under Obama, he was head of the Department of Justice civil rights division, as well as state Labor secretary and a member of the Montgomery County Council.
On the Republican side, current state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz has declared a bid. Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford declined to run to succeed Hogan.
Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele has also floated a bid.June 23, 2021 at 12:36 pm #1204314946
Buffalo’s Walton on verge of becoming first big city socialist mayor in 60 years
by BILL MAHONEY 06/22/2021 11:17 PM EDT
ALBANY, N.Y.—Political newcomer and unabashed socialist India Walton is on the verge of defeating Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown in a Democratic primary on Tuesday night. It would be a stunning loss for one of the most prominent figures in New York’s Democratic establishment.
If Walton holds onto her lead and goes on to win the general election, she would become the first socialist mayor of a large American city since Milwaukee’s Frank Zeidler, who left office in 1960.
As the the state’s progressives struggled to drive the narrative in New York City’s mayoral election, organizations such as the left-leaning Working Families Party made Walton’s campaign a major priority. Still, she had scant resources compared with her well-established opponent, an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
With over 99 percent of in-person votes counted, Walton led Brown 52 percent to 45 percent.
Brown said that he would not immediately concede.
The Democratic nominee is always the overwhelming favorite in a Buffalo mayoral election. Voters haven’t sent a Republican to City Hall since John F. Kennedy was in the White House.
Brown was seeking a fifth term. He ran a Rose Garden campaign and avoided debates.
The mayor recently served as Cuomo’s pick to chair the state Democratic Party. He’s appeared with Cuomo at four press briefings in the past couple of months, twice as many as any other elected official in the state.
Long-struggling Buffalo has undergone something of a renaissance during Brown’s tenure. Major projects have been built downtown, and the city is poised to gain population in a census for the first time in generations.
But there’s always been some criticism that those gains have not benefited all of the city.
“Folks are ready for change,” Walton said in an interview earlier this month. “The mayor’s been in office for 16 years, and we have not seen significant improvements in many of our communities, especially those that are primarily occupied by Black people and brown people and poor people.”June 23, 2021 at 5:57 pm #1204315350
Britney Spears asks judge to end “abusive” conservatorship
BY JUDY KURTZ 06/23/21 05:59 PM EDT
Britney Spears eviscerated her more than decade-long conservatorship in scorching remarks to a judge on Wednesday, saying she’s been “traumatized” and left in “shock” by it.
The “Toxic” singer was heard via a remote audio feed in an appearance before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny during a highly anticipated hearing Spears had requested regarding the status of her 13-year conservatorship.
“I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive,” Spears told the court in her first public remarks on the subject. “I don’t feel like I can live a full life.”
The entertainer’s father, Jamie Spears, has headed up her conservatorship since 2008, following his now-39-year-old daughter’s mental health and substance abuse struggles.
Britney Spears ran down a laundry list of startling allegations, accusing the conservatorship of preventing her from marrying her boyfriend or having a baby by requiring her to wear an IUD, of making her undergo nonstop psychiatric evaluations, and of forcing psychiatric medication on her that led to her feeling “drunk.”
“I would like to progressively move forward, and I want to have the real deal. I want to be able to get married and have a baby,” she said. “I was told right now on the conservatorship I’m not able to get married or have a baby.”
“I wanted to take the [IUD] out so I could start trying to have another baby, but this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have any more children,” she added. “So basically this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good. I deserve to have a life. I’ve worked my whole life.”
According to a New York Times report earlier this week citing court records, Britney Spears has been attempting since as early as 2014 to cut her father’s ties to the conservatorship.
Jamie Spears has said in the past through an attorney that he believes “every single decision he has made has been in her best interest.”
The younger Spears torched her father Wednesday, recounting what she described as a phone conversation with him in which she was told she needed to enter a rehabilitation program. “The control he had…to hurt his own daughter, 100,000 percent, he loved it,” Britney Spears said.
“I’ve lied and told the whole world I’m OK and I’m happy. It’s a lie,” she said. “I thought just maybe [if] I said that enough, maybe I might become happy because I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized. You know fake it till you make it? But now I’m telling you the truth: I’m not happy.”
A judge ruled in February that Jamie Spears didn’t have the sole power to delegate his daughter’s investments.
The mother of two’s conservatorship gained renewed attention earlier this year after the release of the Hulu-New York Times documentary “Framing Britney Spears.”
Fans of Britney Spears who oppose the conservatorship have rallied around the chart-topper as part of the “Free Britney” movement. On Wednesday ahead of her court appearance, Britney Spears’s longtime boyfriend Sam Asghari sported a shirt with “Free Britney” written on it in an image posted on his Instagram account.
The recording artist said she didn’t speak out about the conservatorship before because she was concerned about the reaction from the public, saying, “People would make fun of me or laugh at me and say, ‘She’s lying. She’s got everything. She’s Britney Spears.'”
“I’m not lying,” she said. “I just want my life back, and it’s been 13 years, and it’s enough.”
“All I want is to own my money, for this to end and my boyfriend to drive me in his f—ing car,” she continued.
“I would honestly like to sue my family,” she told the judge.
Britney Spears also expressed a desire to share her story “with the world,” saying she wanted to expose “what they did to me instead of it being a hush-hush secret to benefit all of them.”
“I want to be able to be heard on what they did to me by making me keep this in for so long. It’s not good for my heart. I’ve been so angry, and I cry every day,” she said.
Saying she has worked since the age of 17, Britney Spears said in court, “I have the right to use my voice and take up for myself.”
After the court broke for a recess following Britney Spears’s statement, a lawyer for Jamie Spears told the judge that he “is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain.”
Before ending the status hearing, the judge said both parties would likely “be talking about how they want to proceed” going forward. Penny also commended Britney Spears for “stepping forward and stepping out to have your thoughts heard by not only by myself but everybody who’s been involved in this case.”
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