News You Can Use Digest - July 30, 2021 - State and Federal Communications

July 30, 2021  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 30, 2021


As Coronavirus Surges, GOP Lawmakers Are Moving to Limit Public Health Powers
MSN – Frances Stead Sellers and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021

Republican lawmakers are rallying around the cause of individual freedom to counter community-based disease mitigation methods, moves experts say leave the country ill-equipped to counter the resurgent coronavirus and a future outbreak. In some states, anger at perceived overreach by health officials has prompted legislative attempts to limit their authority, including new state laws that prevent the closure of businesses or allow lawmakers to rescind mask mandates. Some state courts have reined in the emergency and regulatory powers governors have wielded against the virus. In its recent rulings and analysis, the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled its willingness to limit disease mitigation in the name of religious freedom.

As Trump Pushed for Probes of 2020 Election, He Called Acting AG Rosen Almost Daily
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 7/28/2021

Then-President Trump called his acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, nearly every day at the end of last year to alert him to claims of voter fraud or alleged improper vote counts in the 2020 election and asked what the Justice Department was doing about the issue. There are notes of some of the calls that were written by a top aide to Rosen. The notes could be turned over to Congress in a matter of days if Trump does not file papers in court seeking to block such a handover. Both Rosen and Donoghue could be questioned about the conversations by congressional committees examining Trump’s actions in the days after the election.

China Critic Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama Violated Stock Disclosure Law, Sold Alibaba Option
CNBC – Dan Mangan | Published: 7/27/2021

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville ran for office while arguing for the “rule of law” and criticizing China, but in less than eight months on the job, the Alabama Republican violated a federal financial transparency law, while also selling stock options of China’s leading e-commerce company. Tuberville failed as required by the STOCK Act to file disclosures of about 130 stock and stock options trades executed from January through May within a maximum 45-day window. The trades ranged in total value from $894,000 to more than $3.5 million.

Democrats Broaden Probe of Trump-Era Meddling at CDC
MSN – Dan Diamond (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2021

Congressional investigators expanded their inquiry of political interference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under former President Trump, citing newly obtained documents and additional reports of the administration’s meddling in government scientists’ work. The expanded investigation centers on efforts to blunt the CDC’’ Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, which offer public updates on scientists’ findings. The reports had been considered untouchable by political appointees in the past, but Trump appointees pushed to edit the findings, worried they undermined Trump’s more optimistic spin on the pandemic.

Democrats Look to Move Past Partisan Rancor and Set Serious Tone for Jan. 6 Investigation
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2021

Members of the House select committee have been preparing for weeks to move swiftly with an investigation examining key unanswered questions surrounding the breaching of the Capitol by a mob of former President Trump’s supporters who echoed his false claims about the 2020 election while seeking to stop Congress’s efforts to certify its results and declare Joe Biden the next president. Those questions include to what degree the attack was coordinated, what led to the security lapses, and how Trump and his administration responded as lawmakers scrambled to safety while the insurrectionists marched through the halls of Congress.

‘Good Trouble’: Black caucus embraces civil disobedience
MSN – Marty Johnson (The Hill) | Published: 7/28/2021

Civil disobedience was an integral part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and is playing a pivotal role again as Black lawmakers express discontent over inaction on voting rights. U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson were arrested after staging separate voting rights protests at the Hart Senate Office Building. Their actions stem from mounting frustration over the filibuster, which has thrown the passage of both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act into jeopardy.

Justice Department Declines to Defend Rep. Mo Brooks Against Jan. 6 Incitement Lawsuit
MSN – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/27/2021

The Justice Department and the House of Representatives declined on to represent U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks in a lawsuit that accuses him of helping to incite the deadly riot at the Capitol on January 6. The Alabama Republican is one of several defendants in the suit filed by U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, who says Brooks knowingly incited a mob of then-President Trump’s supporters to storm the Capitol, using incendiary rhetoric at a rally near the White House before the violent assault began. Trump himself, as well as Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Justice Department Issues Policy Limiting White House Contact
MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/21/2021

Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a directive seeking to limit political influence on law enforcement matters by strictly limiting contacts between Justice Department personnel and the White House. The memo follows through on campaign pledges by Joe Biden to reestablish the department’s independence after a series of episodes where then-President Trump publicly and privately complained about prosecutors’ decisions, urging them to lay off his friends and target his political enemies.

K Street Clamors for Democratic Hill Aides, Who Don’t Want to Leave
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 7/29/2021

Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill are in high demand – on K Street, in the Biden administration, and in burgeoning political campaigns. But the level of clamoring for them, especially in the booming lobbying sector, has surprised even veteran observers of the “revolving door.” But Democratic aides are reluctant to leave, even for bigger paychecks, given that their party controls the House, Senate, and executive branch. They have that rare opportunity to help craft once-in-a-generation legislative packages and, potentially, to help shape public policy for decades to come.

One Third of States Have Passed Restrictive Voting Laws This Year
MSN – Reid Wilson (The Hill) | Published: 7/27/2021

One in every three states across the nation have passed new laws restricting voter access to the ballot in the wake of the 2020 elections, a pace that showcases the national battle over election reform. Voting rights experts and advocates say they have never seen such an explosion of election overhauls. Legislatures in 17 states have passed 29 bills that would in some way curtail a voter’s access, according to a tally maintained by the Brennan Center for Justice. The overhauls vary widely by state.

Trade Groups Wrestle with Supporting GOP Lawmakers Who Embrace Trump’s Election Lie
MSN – Allan Smith (NBC News) | Published: 7/26/2021

The January 6 Capitol riot forced the sprawling network of Washington, D.C. trade associations, which represent everything from hedge fund managers to construction contractors, to reconsider their political contributions. These groups donate liberally to members of both parties, typically with little scrutiny. Some of these organizations have since dialed down or stopped donating to the large number of Republican lawmakers who objected to the election results. Others, after a brief pause, have restarted their giving.

Trump’s PAC Collected $75 Million This Year, but So Far the Group Has Not Put Money Into Pushing for the 2020 Ballot Reviews He Touts
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2021

Former President Trump’s political PAC raised roughly $75 million in the first half of this year as he trumpeted the false notion the 2020 election was stolen from him, but the group has not devoted funds to help finance the ongoing ballot review in Arizona or to push for similar endeavors in other states, according to people familiar with the finances. Instead, the Save America leadership PAC, which has few limits on how it can spend its money, has paid for some of the former president’s travel, legal costs, and staff, along with other expenses. The PAC has held onto much of its cash.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Commission Staff Recommends $52,650 Fine Against Anchorage Mayor Bronson for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Emily Goodykoontz (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 7/24/2021

Staff of the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) recommended a $52,650 fine against the campaign of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson for what it says are multiple violations of state campaign finance law. The report found the campaign violated transparency rules when it did not disclose tens of thousands of dollars in debt for more than seven months after it was incurred – until after this year’s April 6 election and the May 11 runoff – among multiple other infractions, according to the report.

Arizona Appeals Court Tosses Former Arizona Lawmaker’s Lawsuit Over Expulsion
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 7/22/2021

A federal appeals court tossed out the claims of former state Rep. Don Shooter that his rights were violated when he was expelled in 2018 from the Arizona House.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the claims against former House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and former gubernatorial aide Kirk Adams cannot survive the fact they have qualified immunity for their actions. Judge Daniel Collins pointed out the Arizona Constitution empowers the House to discipline its own members and even oust them with a two-thirds vote. He said that limits the ability of federal courts to second-guess the procedures used here.

California Calif. Task Force Recommends Public Archive for Digital Campaign Ads
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 7/27/2021

A task force convened by the California Fair Political Practices Commission is recommending the creation of a digital archive to track online advertisements promoting candidates for state office. The task force members say a public database of digital ads would help voters, researchers, journalists, and others keep better track of campaign spending by state office seekers. The online archive would be the first of its kind among the 50 states, although similar programs already exist in cities like New York and Los Angeles, the report noted.

California Hefty Contracts for Campaign Contributors in Huntington Park
KCET – Erick Cabrera and Julie Patel | Published: 7/26/2021

An examination of public records from 2018 through 2020 confirmed several companies contracted by Huntington Park gave gifts and campaign contributions to council members during that time. In all, $38,000, or over 30 percent of the roughly $125,000 in campaign donations to current Huntington Park council members, came from eight companies and their executives that were identified as city contractors at some point during that time. At least half of the roughly $4,300 in gifts provided to council members came from city contractors or subcontractors, according to economic interest forms.

California In El Monte, a Close Friendship Shatters Over Cannabis Vote, Surgery Payment
Yahoo News – Adam Elmahrek (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/24/2021

One was a lobbyist and the other was an El Monte City Council member, but they also were best friends who thought they had a special bond. But the friendship shattered when Victoria Martinez Muela voted against allowing retail sales of cannabis in the city, a proposal that Sigrid Lopez had championed. Now, Lopez has signed a sworn declaration as part of a complaint submitted to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office alleging Martinez Muela may have accepted a $1,100 gift from her for a medical procedure and failed to disclose it on financial statements, in violation of California law.

California Powerful Developers, Lobbyist Helped Hire San Jose Planning Director
San Jose Spotlight – Eli Wolfe | Published: 7/24/2021

San Jose’s new planning director was chosen by developers and lobbyists, many of whom have projects pending at City Hall. The planning director is one of the most powerful positions in San Jose’s government because they make initial decisions on major developments and land use projects. A city insider said it is not unusual to have developers and land use lobbyists on interview committees for high-level jobs. They said this is by design because San Jose’s government wants planning directors who will green light development projects, which have become an increasingly important part of the city’s economic growth strategy.

Florida Dark Money Group Intervening in FPL Rate Case Asks PSC to Hide Members
The Capitolist – Brian Burgess | Published: 7/27/2021

A group seeking to intervene in a rate case filed by Florida Power and Light (FPL) is refusing to disclose its donors and took steps to shield its member list from public view. Floridians Against Increased Rates (FAIR) was founded by lobbyist and former Jacksonville Electric Authority board member Michael Hightower. As part of the process, FAIR initially submitted a list of over 500 members, many of which they claim are FPL customers who allegedly oppose any increase in rates. But FAIR blocked an attempt to verify their membership list by filing a motion to shield the names and other information about the group.

Florida Ethics Panel Rejects Penalty for Sham No-Party Candidate as Not Tough Enough
MSN – Ana Ceballos (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/23/2021

The Florida Commission on Ethics rejected a $6,500 fine against a sham no-party candidate who ran in a 2020 Miami-Dade legislative race, a rare move that was triggered by calls for stiffer penalties in a case one commissioner called one of the “most egregious” in the state. The commission also found probable cause that Alexis Pedro Rodriguez filed inaccurate campaign documents and accepted money from former state Sen. Frank Artiles with the understanding he would change his party affiliation from Republican to no party to qualify to run in the Senate District 37 election.

Florida Ex-Florida State Sen. Frank Artiles Worked Closely with Top GOP Consulting Firm During ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scheme, Documents Indicate
MSN – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 7/27/2021

On June 11 of last year, authorities say Frank Artiles met Alex Rodriguez in the parking lot of a Miami bank, where Artiles gave Rodriguez $2,000 in cash so his friend could open a campaign account and run as a sham candidate in an important state Senate election in South Florida. Then, they say, Artiles told Rodriguez he had to rush to the airport so he could fly to Tallahassee and hand-deliver Rodriguez’s elections paperwork. Records show Artiles billed Data Targeting, the political consulting firm that was at the same time being paid millions of dollars by state Republican leaders to run Senate campaigns, for the cost of a plane ticket. Artiles is now awaiting trial on charges related to the sham-candidate scheme.

Florida Trust at Issue as Miami-Dade Ethics Commission Takes Big Step Away from Transparency
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 7/27/2021

In a blow to transparency, the Miami Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust is no longer posting its investigative reports online. And soon, the ethics commission will remove other public documents that have been available on its website for years. Usually less than 10 pages long, the reports provide brief summaries about closed cases, including descriptions of witness interviews and evidence collected during a probe. The reports also state whether a case became a formal complaint to the ethics commission, closed without taking any further action, or was forwarded to the state attorney’s office to conduct a possible criminal probe.

Georgia Georgia Judge Dismisses Election Suit Against Fulton County but Allows Claim Against Individual Officials
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/27/2021

Superior Court Judge Brian Amero dismissed claims filed against Fulton County, the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections and the Fulton County Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Courts on the basis of Georgia’s sovereign immunity laws. Superior Court Judge Brian Amero granted a request by the plaintiffs to add the county’s election board members as individuals, not as a collective group, to the lawsuit as new respondents, effectively keeping alive a small group’s efforts to inspect all 147,000 absentee ballots cast in the state’s largest county last November.

Illinois Cook Co. Official Defends Hiring Her Cousin as Chief of Staff
MSN – Alice Yin (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/24/2021

A complaint that a Cook County elected official hired her first cousin as her chief of staff triggered an ethics inquiry earlier this year, but the official in question shot down calls for the relative to resign. Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt hired her cousin Todd Thielmann as the top staffer in her office. Questions about the employment prompted an inquiry from the board’s ethics officer, who in a letter to Wendt noted the board’s ethics policy restricts the hiring of relatives of agency officials. During a June board meeting, Wendt did not answer questions about the hiring and then voted against an amended ethics policy that would have more clearly prohibited such a move.

Massachusetts Essaibi George Is Running for Boston Mayor. Her Husband, a Housing Developer, Has Had a Lot of Problems with City Hall
MSN – Andrew Ryan and Danny McDonald (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/28/2021

After developer Douglas George built a luxury condominium building, he christened it “The Vista” for its “jaw dropping views” of Boston’s skyline. When another developer wanted to build next door at obstruct that view, in stepped George’s wife, city Councilor Annissa Essaibi George. Now a candidate for mayor, Essaibi George used her office to try to block the rival project. Her office’s involvement, which appears to violate state conflict-of-interest law, raises questions about the councilor’s actions, but also underscores the entanglements between a leading mayoral candidate and her husband, with whom the city has long battled over his real estate practices.

Massachusetts Mass. State House Remains Closed, Even as Other Buildings Open
WBUR – Steve Brown | Published: 7/29/2021

While most cities and towns in Massachusetts have lifted the pandemic restrictions on their libraries and other buildings, the State House likely will not reopen to the public for at least another couple of months. Secretary of State Bill Galvin, whose office oversees tours of the building, is pushing lawmakers to end the 16-month closure more quickly, arguing the structure could reopen with little risk to public health. Lobbyist Arline Isaacson said the closure has made it harder to talk to politicians.

Michigan Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey and Office Worker Allegedly Accepted $35,000 in Bribes
MSN – Joe Guillen (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 7/28/2021

Detroit City Councilperson Andre Spivey and an unnamed worker on his staff accepted more than $35,000 in bribery payments, federal prosecutors alleged. The payments were part of an alleged bribery conspiracy from 2016 to 2020 to influence city business, prosecutors said. Spivey was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

Michigan Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Uses a State Policy to Raise Millions
Yahoo News – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 7/27/2021

By using a state policy that allows officeholders facing recalls to collect unlimited contributions from donors, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s has taken in an extra $3.4 million from dozens of contributors who normally would have been capped at $7,150 each. Whitmer is facing multiple recall efforts, although it is unclear how serious they are, that have at least sought permission from the Board of State Canvassers. Former Secretary of State Richard Austin found it would be improper to allow committees seeking to recall officeholders to raise unlimited amounts while capping contributions to those officeholders who must defend themselves.

Missouri Missouri Ethics Commission Seeks $191,550 from Former Ferguson Lawmaker in Federal Prison
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 7/28/2021

Former state Rep. Courtney Curtis’s legal troubles continue behind bars after he was sentenced in March to nearly two years in federal prison for misuse of campaign funds. The Missouri Ethics Commission said in a lawsuit that Curtis owes the state $191,550 after he did not comply with two orders in 2017 and 2019 which required him to file necessary campaign reports and to pay fines.

New Mexico New Mexico State Rep. Williams Stapleton Under Criminal Investigation
MSN – Robert Knott (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 7/28/2021

State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton is under criminal investigation on allegations of racketeering, money laundering, and receiving illegal kickbacks. Investigators conducted searches at her business and home and had been looking into irregularities in her work as an administrator at Albuquerque Public Schools. The allegations involve Williams Stapleton’s connections to Robotics Management Learning Systems, which has provided web-based learning materials to Albuquerque. The affidavit outlined an elaborate scheme in which Williams Stapleton was able to be involved with the procurement of a contract with the company and approve invoices for payments.

New Mexico Proposal Would Give Unpaid New Mexico Lawmakers a Salary
MSN – Daniel Chacón (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 7/26/2021

As members of the only Legislature in the country that serve in office for free, New Mexico lawmakers are once again broaching the politically thorny idea of giving themselves a salary. But they are hoping to avoid the predictable backlash by letting others decide what the amount should be. A proposed constitutional amendment would put the decision-making in the hands of the State Ethics Commission, which would review and establish salaries for legislators every two years. The commission also would set the salaries of all elected officers of the executive and judicial branches of state government.

New York Cuomo Said AG Probe Would Clear Him. Now His Aides Say It’s Political.
Politico – Anna Gronewold | Published: 7/24/2021

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing a cascade of misconduct claims earlier this year, wrote a letter in March directing state Attorney General Tish James to investigate the scandals that were threatening to end his career. When James is done with her work, Cuomo assured the public, everyone will see he had done nothing wrong. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion,” he said at the time, refusing calls to resign. Now, James and the outside attorneys she hired to conduct the work appear close to wrapping up the inquiry after interviewing the governor. But Cuomo’s top aides no longer seem convinced James will deliver the findings their boss had promised and staked his future on.

North Dakota North Dakota Ethics Commission OKs $10 Food/Drink Exception to Gift Rules
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 7/28/2021

The North Dakota Ethics Commission unanimously adopted a $10 food and drink exception to its gift rules for public officials. The panel also is looking into questions about conference expenses for public officials when the conference organization offers to pay for their attendance, and what levels of educating versus advocating are occurring at such events. Commission Executive Director Dave Thiele said the issue “seems to come up fairly routinely.”

Ohio DeWine Says He Didn’t Know About Alleged $4.3m Bribe of Utility Regulator He Appointed
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 7/27/2021

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine distanced himself from a utility regulator he appointed who was accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from FirstEnergy Corp. FirstEnergy said in a court it paid Sam Randazzo $22 million in consulting fees in the decade leading up to his appointment as chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. This includes a $4.3 million payment, sent shortly before DeWine appointed Randazzo in early 2019, to hand down rulings favorable to the company. DeWine said while he did not know about the $4.3 million payment, “everybody” knew Randazzo worked for FirstEnergy during the appointment process.

Ohio FirstEnergy Admitted Secretive Dark Money Made Bribery Scheme Possible. So What Happened to Ohio Legislation That Called for More Disclosure?
MSN – Laura Hancock (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/26/2021

In a deal with federal prosecutors, FirstEnergy had to admit it could not have bankrolled the massive House Bill 6 bribery scheme had it not been for “dark money.” The utility admitted its executives funneled more than $60 million in bribes through a secretive group controlled by now-indicted former House Speaker Larry Householder. When Householder was arrested, many members of the Ohio General Assembly seemed to agree “dark money” was a problem, introducing bills that would require entities known as 501(c)(4)s to disclose donors. Legislation was introduced by members of both parties during the current two-year session and the last. Yet no bill has made it past the finish line to become law.

Oregon Mike Nearman Pleads Guilty to Official Misconduct, Receives 18 Months Probation
MSN – Connor Radnovich (Salem Statesman-Journal) | Published: 7/27/2021

Former state Rep. Mike Nearman pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree official misconduct for letting rioters into the closed Oregon Capitol during a special session in 2020. In exchange for dropping a charge of trespassing, Nearman accepted a sentence that includes probation, an 18-month ban from Capitol grounds, 80 hours of community service, and $2,900 in fines and restitution. Nearman allowed dozens of rioters, some armed, to gain access to the Capitol, which was closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. Six officers were injured.

Pennsylvania Pa. Lawmaker Resigns Amid Theft Charges but Likely Will Keep Her Taxpayer-Funded Pension and Health Benefits
MSN – Jan Murphy (PennLive) | Published: 7/24/2021

State Rep. Margo Davidson, charged with misusing thousands of dollars from her campaign and legislative accounts, resigned from the Pennsylvania House. Her charges relate to misuse of campaign funds and legislative expenses between 2015 and 2019. During that time, investigators found she had sought taxpayer reimbursement for overnight stays in Harrisburg that she had already paid for out of her campaign accounts, as well as for some nights when she did not stay in Harrisburg. Davidson is also accused of soliciting a witness to lie to investigators regarding the criminal investigation into her campaign finances and per diem.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Promised ‘Transparency and Accountability’ for Border Wall Donations. But Donors Don’t Have to Use Real Names
Texas Tribune – James Barragan | Published: 7/23/2021

Despite promises from Gov. Greg Abbott that transparency in the crowdfunding process for funding construction of the border wall in Texas would be paramount, donor information released to The Texas Tribune for the first week of collections was bereft of any way to verify the identities of the majority of the donors. Abbott’s office is not disclosing the locations of donors, nor is it requiring they identify themselves with their real names. The shortcomings in the disclosures have raised ethical concerns about the private fundraising effort for the governor’s major state initiative. Experts have warned that without clear disclosure rules, it could invite the perception of a “pay-to-play” system in which anonymous donors benefit from their contributions to one of Abbott’s priority projects.

Virginia Anemic Start for Virginia’s Campaign Finance Study Could Delay Final Report
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 7/29/2021

As both political parties flood supporters with desperate-sounding pleas for money to win the 2021 elections, an effort to study campaign finance reform in Virginia is off to a less urgent start. A joint General Assembly subcommittee approved in February to study whether the state needs stricter laws on money in politics still has not held its first meeting. With less than 100 days left to finish its work by a November 1 deadline, some policymakers are now wondering if they have enough time to complete the study on time.

Virginia Lobbyists Load Va. Lawmakers onto Private Jet to Kick Off Push to Loosen Slots Laws
Virginia Mercury – Ned Oliver | Published: 7/22/2021

A coalition of gambling companies hoping to get slot machines back into Virginia convenience stores and bars kicked off its legislative push with a private flight for four state lawmakers to Chicago. While the plush jet raised some eyebrows – Virginia politicians have generally eschewed gifts of private air travel after scandal consumed former Gov. Bob McDonnell – organizers said it was strictly an opportunity to learn from Illinois, which broadly legalized video gambling terminals in 2009.

Washington DC D.C. Reforms Gave Inmates a Vote. Now an Elected Official Is Working from Jail.
MSN – Stephanie Lai (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2021

Joel Castón gets ready for his day not as an inmate convicted of first-degree murder nearly three decades ago, but as newly elected city official with a few months left behind bars. He is Washington. D.C.’s first incarcerated person to win an election. Like most Advisory Neighborhood Commission members, who serve to connect and provide input from their community to the city council, the responsibilities are tacked on to other work. Castón’s public service is voluntary. But unlike his colleagues who attend meetings or visit constituents, Castón cannot leave his housing unit and constituents cannot visit him. Instead, they contact him through the jail’s mailing system. He works on a schedule set by the jail.

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