Saturday, March 28, 2015

Michigan Legal Community Against Children Hate Legislation

The Family Law Section of the Michigan Bar opposes legislation allowing child placing agencies to deny services in child welfare based on religious belief on the position that the State will be severely financially penalized with reductions in its federal participation rates.

I consider the legislation to be purely cruel and of moral turpitude but the best part is the State Bar has recognized the potential federal funding issue of violating civil rights.

What happens to these State laws when SCOTUS upholds gay marriage?

There is more to this than gay marriage. This is about getting their hands on child welfare money.

I am putting my money on the Governor doing a veto.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Will Michigan Attorney General Let CPS Over Rule Them?

I seem to have a serious problem with the position of Livingston County CPS.

If the County Prosecutor has decided not to pursue termination of parental rights, then how is it that Livingston County CPS has the authority to take up the pursuit?

Let's begin with the authority of CPS.

CPS is supposed to be considered as a fact finding entity which provides services.  In this instance it has now transformed itself into a self-governing entity with usurpation powers.

Where is it written that CPS can, against the authority of the State, hire an external prosecutor?

I would like to know the legal authority on this because I am quite sure it does not exist.

With that being said, CPS would have to take its request, for budgetary and representative reasons, to a public body for approval.

If the County Prosecutor is under the authority of the Attorney General would that not mean that CPS would have to formally request some kind of grant of leave from the State in order for approval to budget and pay for an external prosecutor who would than be granted subpoena powers of the State, including powers to represent the State of Michigan in a court of law?

Were there any federal funding appropriation in the grants and cost reimbursements to allow for external prosecution outside the purview of the Attorney General?

Someone in the Burns camp needs to FOIA these concerns of representational and funding authority to the State.

I would even strongly encourage contacting the HHS OIG and DOJ as a whistleblower and request investigation into the issues of independent prosecution.

Prosecutors won't seek to terminate father's parental rights in controversial Baby Naomi abuse case

HOWELL, Mich. (WXYZ) - Prosecutors in Livingston County are now saying they won’t try to terminate the parental rights of a father who’s at the center of a case that involved a controversial child abuse conviction.
The Burns family has maintained from the start that they were being unfairly accused of child abuse. Now there’s a sudden shift in the mood in Livingston County, as the prosecutor is backing down on some aspects of this case.
Last week, a Livingston County Judge cited the growing community support for the Burns family when she went against state guidelines and only sentenced Josh Burns to one year in the county jail.
The 38-year-old Brighton father was convicted of second degree child abuse, a 10-year felony.
Josh Burns says that when his daughter Naomi was 2-months-old, she slipped off his lap, and he caught her by the face to keep her from hitting the floor. 
Both Josh and his wife Brenda say it was an accident, and Josh passed a polygraph examination.
 "It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” Burns told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo during an exclusive interview in January.
Later, doctors discovered bleeding between the baby’s skull and brain and they found retinal hemorrhages. Both parents and some medical experts say that Naomi’s injuries were largely caused by birth trauma and illness. 
But prosecutors say it was abuse.
Last year, Brenda was cleared of all abuse allegations, and now has custody of Naomi.
But as the 7 Investigators have reported, she had to go into hiding recently when Child Protective Services started coming after her again – even bringing five Brighton cops into her home one night.
“I am in fear. I have nightmares at night,” said Brenda Burns during the January interview.
Earlier this month, both Livingston County Prosecutors and CPS filed a petition against Brenda Burns – demanding to see Naomi.
Now prosecutors have dropped that. They’re also dropping their bid to terminate the parental rights of Josh Burns.
Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt tells the 7 Investigators that because Burns is locked up in jail – and then has to face 2 more years of probation – prosecutors no longer have concerns that he would have contact with the baby.
Now they say, the termination of his parental rights is “no longer a viable option.”
So far, CPS caseworkers are moving forward with both the termination hearing and with their petition against Brenda Burns. But they have to hire a new lawyer to do that; Livingston County prosecutors will not be on the case.
“I will pursue justice for families for the rest of my life,” said Josh Burns, shortly before his sentencing last week. “We plan to start a foundation to educate folks around the country about CPS abuses and prosecutorial misconduct.”
Legal experts tell the 7 Investigators, these moves by the prosecutor’s office could signal that this family could be reunified at some point.
That’s what the Burns want.
Now they just have to wait to see if CPS will agree with them, and allow that to happen.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. Opening Statement on Net Neutrality

WASHINGTON - Today, during a full House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Wrecking the Internet to Save It? The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules,” Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) delivered the following opening statement:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“The Judiciary Committee has a central role in studying the issue of net neutrality and, more generally, competition on the Internet. As the Committee considers today the specific question of what impact the Federal Communications Commission’s latest Open Internet Order has on competition and innovation, we should keep several factors in mind.

“To begin with, whatever approach one uses to ensuring an open Internet, inaction is not an option.  There are real threats to net neutrality.
“As I have previously observed at hearings held on the issue of net neutrality in 2008, 2011, and 2014, there are many areas in the United States where consumers have the choice of only one or two broadband Internet service providers.  As a result, these broadband providers effectively function as monopolies or duopolies.  In turn, their control over the broadband access market can result in differential treatment of content depending on how much a content provider pays, whether the broadband provider also offers competing content, or if any other the financial incentives for discriminating for or against given content were present.

“The concerns that I have previously expressed have only become more problematic since then particularly in light of further acquisitions by broadband providers that may result in even less consumer choice, less innovation, higher costs, andmore power in the hands of fewer broadband providers.

“In light of this threat, I commend the Federal Communications Commission for its work in crafting a strong set of rules for ensuring an open Internet. Congress created the FCC to develop the specialized expertise to properly regulate the complex telecommunications industry in service of the public interest.  And, after a lengthy rulemaking period during which almost 4 million Americans and all industry stakeholders made their voices heard on this issue, the FCC has fulfilled that mandate with respect to preserving and promoting an open Internet. Rules to address net neutrality have the benefit of addressing potential threats to an open Internet before they fully materialize.

“Additionally, having a set of best practices enshrined in rules would provide certainty for industry.  The FCC’s net neutrality rules, therefore, must be given the opportunity to take root.

“I am particularly pleased that the FCC’s Open Internet Order contains key provisions that I and many others have long called for and that will help protect competition.  These include –

●          a rule preventing broadband providers from blocking or throttling Internet access or from imposing paid prioritization of Internet traffic;

●          a restriction prohibiting any other practices that unreasonably interfere with or disadvantage users’ ability to access broadband service or lawful content applications, or services; and

●          a requirement mandating disclosure to users of information concerning network management practices and any terms, conditions, or limitations on the broadband service.

“These measures are critical to protecting the virtuous cycle of innovation which net neutrality fosters, and which ensures both competition and innovation among broadband and content providers, to the ultimate benefit of consumers.

“Finally, enforcement of existing antitrust law as the exclusive or primary means of ensuring an open Internet would be insufficient. Under current antitrust law, there is relatively little that regulators can do outside the merger review context to address the conduct of a regulated industry such as broadband Internet service with respect to enforcing net neutrality principles.

“Through a series of decisions, the Supreme Court has limited the potential to successfully pursue claims under the Sherman Antitrust Act with respect to net neutrality.

“Moreover, exclusive reliance on antitrust enforcement is simply insufficient.  While having the benefit of a more nuanced and fact-specific approach to the problem, antitrust enforcement alone would also be a cumbersome, more limited, more resource-intensive, and after-the-fact way to develop a regulatory regime for net neutrality.

“Another potential approach would be for the Federal Trade Commission to use its authority under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act to stop “unfair methods of competition.”

“Although I hold an expansive view of Section 5, to the extent that this approach goes beyond the scope of the Sherman Act or other antitrust laws it would be very controversial, as my friends on the other side of the aisle would be the first to note.

“Moreover, antitrust law is not sufficiently broad in scope as it fails to address the non-economic goals of net neutrality, including the promotion of innovation and the protection of free speech and political debate. This is why Former Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Representative Zoe Lofgren and I introduced bipartisan legislation back in 2006 to strengthen antitrust law to address net neutrality, in part because the FCC was doing too little at that time, in my view.

“I do not have that concern with the FCC’s latest Open Internet Order.  Rather, I congratulate them on their good work and welcome the Order’s full implementation.”

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House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. Opening Statement on Patent Reform

WASHINGTON - Today, during a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet hearing on “Patent Reform: Protecting American Innovators and Job Creators from Abusive Patent Litigation,” Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) issued the following opening statement:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Today’s hearing provides yet another opportunity to examine the issue of abusive patent litigation and why a targeted legislative approach is necessary.

“One of the first issues we must consider is how legislative proposals to stop abusive patent litigation can impact small businesses, the start-up ecosystem, and innovators. Small businesses and others who rely on patents require strong intellectual property protections. We must not weaken those rights.

“Our innovators – whether they create their inventions in their garages or basements or as a group in an incubation hub – recognize that their patents and the ability to protect them through enforcement in the courts is a critical factor in whether their businesses will be a success or a failure. Indeed, some angel investors and venture capitalists require ideas to be patented before investing.  But, they may very well be dissuaded from investing if there is a risk that a court will not uphold the validity of those patents or, at a minimum, there will be substantial litigation costs entailed.

“This means that fledgling entrepreneurs will never get off the ground and become a flourishing business employing thousands of Americans, such as Overstock, which is one of our witnesses today.

“Overly broad legislation could engender more rather than less litigation and weaken patent enforcement protections, thus discouraging investments in innovation.

“Instead, we should take a cautious approach and not push solutions – such as H.R. 9, the ‘Innovation Act’ – that may end up doing more harm than good to our start-up ecosystem. One way to stop abusive patent litigation is to address the problem of the extortionist use of demand letters.  So, I want the witnesses to discuss how we can curb the abusive problem of demand letters.

“Patent litigation opportunists exploit the patent process and patent litigation system.  In particular, they attack patents of weak quality in order to obtain quick settlements or to bleed the alleged infringers. Individual inventors and small businesses have to decide whether to risk incurring potentially overwhelming costs of litigation or enter into a settlement which could make them liable to attack by other abusive patent litigants.  We must find a way to stop this insidious problem that threatens the strong culture of innovation in our Nation.

“Finally, the Committee needs to conduct further hearings on the changing landscape affecting patents before we take any congressional action.

“While I applaud the Chair for holding a hearing last month on recent Supreme Court decisions in the patent arena, the Committee should also hold additional hearings on what actions other government stakeholders are taking in the patent arena.

“For instance, we should hear from Michelle Lee, the newly appointed Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to hear her views about how we should address abusive patent litigation. In addition, Director Lee could enlighten us about the conclusions from the Patent Quality Summit that her Office is hosting today and tomorrow. The Director could also update us on how her Office is implementing the America Invents Act.

“We should also hear an update from the Federal Trade Commission about its efforts to combat abusive patent litigation behavior.

“Further, the Judicial Conference could share its expertise at a hearing on the effectiveness of lower courts recently adopting model discovery orders or discovery guidelines that limit discovery in patent lawsuits.  The Conference could also inform us of the actions the Supreme Court is taking to eliminate Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 84 and its Form 18, which will lead to the higher pleading requirements of Twombly and Iqbal. It could also update us on other proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure aimed at achieving proportionality in discovery and promoting early and active judicial case management.

“These efforts may better address abusive patent litigation in a more targeted approach than the overly broad approach taken by the Innovation Act. Congress must respond to the problem of abusive patent litigation, but it should do so in a more balanced and effective approach that protects our Nation’s entrepreneurs and innovators.”
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Maine Launches Medicaid Fraud in Child Welfare Awareness Campaign

Maine did not accept the Medicaid Expansion of the Affordable Care Act.

In order to qualify for the Medicaid Expansion, which would have provided funding for services to families with children who need assistance, Maine would have been mandated to come into compliance in dealing with Medicaid fraud.

Instead of complying to stop Medicaid fraud in child welfare, it becomes fiscally beneficial to allow fraud to flourish through billing of reactionary programs.

This has nothing to do with child abuse prevention.  It is a marketing campaign about profiting from poverty at the expense of the most vulnerable of society.

Poverty is the crime of child abuse.

It goes hand in hand with his push to repeal child labor laws for cheap labor, reimbursed through Medicaid.

Maine to Launch Child Abuse Prevention Effort - A Mary Mayhew Photo Opportunity

Attn World!!!  Gov. LePage declares April Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Month

Ever notice that the one department in DHHS that never gets the proper conservative criticism regarding cost or efficiency is The Department of Children and Families, AKA Child Protective Services and Maine's Foster Care System?

Sure, they'll take away your drug treatment, cut off your food stamps, and even put thousands at risk of loosing their psych meds by pulling their health care out from under them...  But God forbid you say anything about the cruel and sadistic frauds who are supposed to protect Maine's most vulnerable children from abuse or neglect and instead bounce them from home to home; dope them up on psych meds and cut them off from any and all contact with their friends and families, and in some cases abuse them so that they end up in the teen shelters and on the streets of Portland just to avoid being in the system.  Nope, these are wonderful people deserving of our love and respect.  They should be placed on the highest of pedestals and we should give them raises and glorify their names!
In ceremonies kicking off Child Abuse Awareness Month, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said that DHHS plans to launch a new initiative next year aimed at reducing child abuse. 
Maine to Launch Child Abuse Prevention Effort
New initiative?  What is that supposed to mean?
Next year, Mayhew said, DHHS will launch a new initiative that will seek to prevent child abuse by setting up a new unit of specially trained staff that will review all reported cases of abuse and neglect and assess all of the cases, with a mandate to establish specific action plans to address each case on an individual basis.
Didn't we already have that?  The workers who answer the phones at the Child Abuse Hotline perhaps?   Are they not specially trained to determine whether or not a report merits further investigation and are very liberal in that regard already?  Are their supervisors not trained to review these decisions?  Now they're going to set up a specific action plan based on every single call to the Child Abuse Hotline?

Okay so let me get this straight, so a call comes into the child abuse hotline, it is a self-righteous helicopter-parent who is concerned about their neighbors neglect because their kid stepped out onto the front porch without a jacket, now what do you do?  Do you send a social worker out there to do a state sponsored anal probe of the family?  Do you send them to Coats for Kids or even Goodwill with a voucher... oh wait never mind that's welfare.   No!  You add a whole new level of bureaucracy to create an action plan just because somebody made a phone call when just a few short years ago the state was bragging about being anational model child welfare system who excelled at keeping kids safe while in the home by setting up an individual safety plan specifically designed for every family based on the needs of that child and family when in many cases the best that could be done was to leave the family alone and focus on the kids who really are abused and neglected so that they don't fall through the cracks while social workers are off chasing shadows.

When did this all change so that they gotta address the problems now?  And how is it that Mary Mayhew can turn this all into a photo opportunity by suddenly deciding that this is necessary when the state has already increased the number of kids they snatch, and that we should now spend what will most likely be an awful lot of money to implement such a program and create action plans for every case?   

Considering the fact that teachers and health care providers are mandated to report every little scrape on the knee, they're bound to be busy.

What a pathetic waste of time and money by the utterly clueless who should learn to leave well enough alone or let those with the right expertise to handle it.  But hey, if you can convince them that it will keep kids safe, the legislature will overwhelmingly vote for it because they will otherwise be chastised as being anti-child or pro-child abuse for voting against it.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Conyers: Five Years Later, The Affordable Care Act is Saving Lives and Taxpayer Dollars

Washington, D.C. – Congressman John Conyers, Jr. issued the following statement on the fifth anniversary of the enactment of the Affordable Care Act:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Five years ago, President Obama signed into law one of the most important pieces of legislation in a generation: the Affordable Care Act.  Along with some of our most historic legislative achievements, including Social Security and Medicare, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) stands as a central pillar of America’s social safety net and a key step toward realizing the universal right to health care."
“Thanks to the ACA, more than 16 million previously uninsured Americans now have access to affordable high-quality coverage.  At least 105 million Americans have been relieved of the threat of an annual or lifetime limit on care.  More than 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage and women can no longer be charged higher premiums than men for the same plan."

“The ACA has not only been essential for Americans’ health—it’s also been crucial for slowing the growth of healthcare costs.  After more than a decade of runaway cost increases, the growth in health care costs has slowed to the lowest level in 50 years.  The Medicare Trust Fund is more solvent than it has been in a decade. "

“The evidence is clear: the ACA works.  It means greater coverage, better care, stronger consumer protections, and lower overall costs.  I am proud to salute this landmark legislative achievement and look forward to the additional progress that will come of it.”

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Monday, March 23, 2015


Report Finds Significant Loss Of Federal Grant Funding Due To Reduced Personnel Levels

DETROIT –On March 20, 2015, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in response to a request from Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to analyze the impact of financial distress on the ability of municipalities, such as Detroit, to obtain and manage federal grant programs.  The study focused multiple cities undergoing bankruptcy, including Detroit and Flint in Michigan, as well as Camden, NJ and Stockton, CA.  The GAO found that budget cuts forced reductions in personnel which led to loss of skilled and experienced staff in Detroit.  In turn, this significantly undermined the City’s ability to effectively obtain and manage federal grants and “caused some [federal] grant funds to remain unspent.”  

Federal grant programs are used by cities across the United States to fund vital services, such as public health and safety, police and firefighting services, education, health care, job training and environmental protection.  These programs, however, are typically subject to extensive accountability requirements that must be satisfied prior to funding distribution to municipalities. 

Among its other findings, the GAO cited a “decrease in state revenue” as one of the “key” sources of Detroit’s fiscal crisis.  As Rep. Conyers previously observed, the failure of the State of Michigan to honor its revenue sharing commitment with municipalities caused cities such as Detroit and Flint to lose millions of dollars in state funding that they could have used to retain critical personnel necessary to manage federal funding programs for the benefit of our citizens. 

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
The GAO also found that the White House Working Group on Detroit, an interagency group comprised of staff from multiple federal agencies, provided important assistance to Detroit.  The Working Group helped to facilitate better coordination between federal agencies and Detroit officials to enable the city to address its fiscal issues by meeting with senior city leaders to learn their priorities and then connecting these officials with available resources and experts.  For example, the Working Group helped to redirect $100 million in federal grant funds to address urban blight in the City of Detroit.

“I applaud the invaluable assistance that the White House Working Group on Detroit provided to the City.  And, it is my hope, that the Administration will document good practices derived from these efforts so other municipalities that encounter fiscal distress in the future will benefit from lessons learned, as recommended by the Government Accountability Office in the report it issued today,” said Rep. Conyers.

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Michigan House Passes Medicaid Fraud Bills

Here is my question:

If the 17 christian (non-capitalization is intentional) child placing agencies can turn away prospective
adoptive persons based on sexual orientation, does it also mean these agencies can deny services to foster children based on sexual orientation also?

These faith-based, nonprofit corporations are exempt from any oversight and typically will proceed with recommendations of extended stays in foster care and termination of parental rights on the premise of whatever they consider to be moral turpitude.

What is next?  Denial based on the color of one's skin?  It could be.

Michigan Children's Institute Superintendent Bruce Hoffman, groomed by Bill Johnson, already makes such decisions when considering adoption.  Based on the Cotton doctrine, the decision to deny adoption must be proved to have been "arbitrary and capricious", not that the decision was wrong or discriminating.

No where in these Bills is there mention of the decision process.  The Bills are severely flawed because they contain prejudicial decision making, or rather, the Bills legislate the courts via prejudice.

Adoption of foster children is a federally funded service.  To deny anyone services based on a questionable internal policy is nothing short of being unlawfully discriminating.

There is no due process in child welfare.

I hope HHS financially penalizes the State, again.

Why would anyone want to "preserve" such a corrupt system which was designed as a predatory aggressor to the poor?

It is because they want the money, Medicaid dollars.  Today, it is child placing agencies, tomorrow it is Social Security.

All policies begin with children.

The faith-based angle using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act began years ago and started out of Michigan.  It failed to succeed in ratifying the Constitution.  Now, they have revamped to diffuse it State by State.

These Bills are the beginning of the dismantling of civil rights through privatization.

Pay close attention to these names:

George Darany, of Dearborn,
Robert Kosowski of Westland,
Sam Singh if Lansing, the Representative who offered amendment of 90 effectuation, and,
Harvey Santana of Detroit,the Representative who introduced the Bill.

What gets me the most is there is language to ban the state departments from regulating these agencies.

These Bills are nothing but legislated Medicaid fraud in child welfare.

Michigan House OKs bills on faith-based adoption refusal

LANSING — Faith-based adoption agencies could refuse to serve prospective parents based on their religious beliefs under a package of bills that passed the state House of Representatives Wednesday.

The bills, which would allow the agencies to refuse service to same-sex or unmarried couples if that goes against their religious beliefs, are moving as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments next month on whether same-sex marriage should be legal in Michigan and several other states in the region.

All three bills passed on 65-44 votes, with Democratic Reps. George Darany, of Dearborn, Robert Kosowski of Westland and Harvey Santana of Detroit, joining all but one Republican in voting for the package. State Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, voted against the bills.

The votes came after passionate debate in the House with supporters saying the bills ensured that the state continue to offer as many adoption options as possible.

"These bills simply preserve the system we use today," said Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, R-Columbus.

"This bill is not about who can and who cannot adopt a child . it's about ensuring the most alternatives for people wanting to adopt a child." Tom Hickson, vice president for public policy at the Michigan Catholic Conference, said the bills were an important tool for finding loving homes for all children.

"Securing diversity in child placement and protecting religious liberty rights for faith based agencies will move children out of the foster care system," he said in a statement.

"Without this legislation there will likely be fewer providers, which means fewer opportunities to find homes for kids that need them."

Opponents, said the bills simply allow state-sanctioned discrimination.

"It's not just discrimination. It's writing a check for discrimination. It's state-funded discrimination," said Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor.

"The only reason you're voting for this bill is that you're blinded by your own faith." Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, one of two openly gay members of the House, said it's scary to be gay in Michigan and the adoption agency bills only contribute to that fear.

"These bills put the best interest of the agency over the best interest of the child," he said. "And it violates the constitution because it elevate some religious beliefs over others.

"Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon, said the bills come as the nation is experiencing a sea change in attitudes toward same sex marriage and the legal rights that are afforded to newly married couples.

The state should look at how it spends its money for adoption services, she added. "The state needs to reevaluate this discriminatory policy," she said.

"I truly value what they provide in our commuities, but I disagree with them imposing their religious beliefs on everyone else."

In the 2014-15 budget year, $19.9 million in state and federal funds went toward supporting adoption agencies for adoption and foster care services, according to the state DHS. Nearly $10 million of that total went to faith-based agencies that would be covered under the religious objection bills.

The bills — HB 4188, 4189 and 4190 — now move to the state Senate for consideration. The same package of bills stalled in the Senate last year and Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said the subject hasn't been addressed by the GOP caucus yet.

Gov. Rick Snyder said last week during a call-in radio show with Michigan Public Radio that he had reservations about the bills and the impact it could have on children getting adopted.

Later in the week, he told reporters, He was in favor of children being adopted by "loving families" and "loving parents."

He didn't specify if that included same sex couples.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Rep. Conyers & Sen. Cardin Reintroduce Legislation To Restore Ex-Offenders’ Voting Rights

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) reintroduced H.R. 1459, the “Democracy Restoration Act of 2015.”  Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) yesterday introduced its Senate companion, S. 772.  The bill would create uniform federal standards for returning the voting rights of ex-offenders to vote in federal elections.  The legislation could result in returning the right to vote for millions of Americans with a prior conviction who served their time and paid their debt to society. 

The Democracy Restoration Act is a narrowly crafted effort to expand voting rights for people with felony convictions, while protecting state prerogatives to generally establish voting qualifications.  The legislation would only apply to persons who are not in prison, and would only apply to federal elections.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“The denial of voting rights by many states to ex-offenders represents a vestige from a time when suffrage was denied to whole classes of our population based on race, gender, religion, national origin and property.  This goes against the very fundamental principles of our Democracy,” said Rep. John Conyers.  

“Just as poll taxes and literacy tests prevented an entire class of citizens, namely African Americans, from integrating into society after centuries of slavery, ex-offender disenfranchisement laws prevent people from reintegrating into society after they have paid their debt by serving time in prison.  Disenfranchisement laws isolate and alienate ex-offenders, and serve as one more obstacle in their attempt to successfully reintegrate into society.”

According to The Sentencing Project, since 1997, 23 states have amended felony disenfranchisement policies in an effort to reduce their restrictiveness and expand voter eligibility.  These reforms have resulted in an estimated 800,000 citizens regaining their voting rights.  Despite these reforms, over 5.8 million citizens continue to be ineligible to vote in Federal elections.  More than 4 million of the disqualified voters are not in prison, but are on probation, parole, or have completed their sentence.  Nearly 3 million of the disenfranchised have completed their entire sentence, including probation and parole. 

“The United States is one of the few Western democracies that allows the permanent denial of voting rights for individuals with felony convictions.  State disenfranchisement laws deny citizens participation in our democracy and the patchwork of laws leads to an unfair disparity and unequal participation in Federal elections based solely on where an individual lives, in addition to the racial disparities inherent in our judicial system,” said Senator Cardin.  “Congress has a responsibility to remedy these problems and enact a nationwide standard for the restoration of voting rights.”

The current patchwork of state laws creates widespread confusion among election officials throughout the country.  For example, in Ohio, an erroneous interpretation of state law deprived thousands of people with felony convictions of the opportunity to register.  Only federal law can conclusively resolve the ambiguities in this area plaguing our voting system.

H.R. 1459 was introduced with the support of the following original cosponsors: Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Cummings (D-MD), Rep. Hastings (D-FL), Rep. Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL), Rep. Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Moore (D-WI), Rep. Serrano (D-NY), Rep. Wilson (D-FL), Rep. McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Sewell (D-AL), Rep. Chu (D-CA), Rep. Richmond (D-LA), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Rep. Honda (D-CA). Democracy Restoration Act of 2015

Section-By-Section of HR 1459 the Democracy Restoration Act

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Progressive Answer to the GOP's Regressive Budget

By John Conyers, Jr.
Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Je.
A federal budget is a statement about our society's values.

If you believe in this notion as I do, there's a conclusion we can't help but reach: The GOP's new House budget proposal makes some troubling assertions about what's right and wrong.

In a time of unprecedented retirement income insecurity and student debt, the GOP budget cuts funding for the elderly, the ill, and students in order to boost bloated Pentagon budgets, offer tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans, and protect corporate welfare for multinational firms that ship American jobs overseas.

While this troubling budget plan will likely win approval in the GOP-led House of Representatives, the regressive proposals it contains have little chance of making it past President Obama's desk.

But we have a bigger task than blocking the conservatives' backward march. Our task is to present and implement our own positive progressive vision that elevates the interests of jobs, justice, and peace.

This week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) presented just such an actionable vision.
By strengthening the safety net and investing in 21st-century infrastructure, manufacturing, education, and environmental protection, the CPC's "People's Budget"will create 8.4 million new jobs and give low- and moderate-income Americans a much-needed raise.

The CPC budget focuses like a laser on achieving full employment. This is essential because, though the official headline unemployment statistics show the jobless rate at 5.5 percent, more than 20 million Americans are either unemployed, underemployed, or unwillingly out of the labor force.

Taking all these factors into account, the real unemployment rate is closer to 13 percent. In both rural and urban pockets of the country, including my hometown of Detroit, the rate is closer to 25 percent.

The investments in the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget will boost employment while addressing the most pressing challenges of our time: repairing America's rapidly aging roads and bridges, upgrading our energy systems to address climate change and adapt to its impacts, keeping our communities safe, and preparing our young people to thrive as citizens and workers.

By restoring full employment, the People's Budget addresses the persistent problem of stagnant wages, ensuring that working people have the purchasing power needed to sustain balanced economic growth. The last time our country achieved full employment -- under the Clinton administration in the late 1990s -- workers across the country gained the power to bargain for higher wages, and working families' share of the nation's income rose precipitously.

It's important to note that the Progressive Caucus budget achieves all this without breaking the bank.

By cutting excessive Pentagon spending, enacting fair marginal tax rates for millionaires and billionaires, equalizing the tax treatment of capital income and labor income, making the estate tax more progressive, abolishing inefficient corporate tax loopholes, putting a fee on too-big-to-fail banks, and enacting a tax on Wall Street transactions, our proposal expands safety net programs like Medicare while reducing the nation's deficits. The budget's tax proposals are sound ways to not only raise revenue but restore fairness in our economy. It's unconscionable that, in the 21st century, a major multinational firm like GE could pay no federal tax, or that a billionaire like Warren Buffett could enjoy a lower marginal tax rate than his secretary.

If we believe that budgets are "moral documents," then the dueling budgets released this week present a remarkable contrast in values. Having served in Congress for the past half-century, I can say with authority that the values that define this country are not "survival of the fittest" and "winner takes all."

The values our budget should reflect are the values that the Reverend Martin Luther King spoke of 50 years ago and that the People's Budget reflects today: jobs, justice, and peace.

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Reps. Conyers and Sensenbrenner Introduce The Judicial Redress Act

WASHINGTON – Today, House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Sensenbrenner (R- Wis.) introduced the Judicial Redress Act of 2015, which:
·        Extends citizens of major U.S. allies the core benefits that Americans enjoy under the Privacy Act with regard to information shared with the United States for law enforcement purposes. 
·        Serves as an important show of support for our allies and is critical to ensure continued sharing of information that is crucial to law enforcement efforts and to national security. 
·        Has the support of the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement agencies and key European politicians.   
Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Congressman Conyers:  “For more than a decade, our allies in Europe have worked with federal law enforcement to ensure that our recordkeeping is both accurate and complete.  In support of that vital relationship, this legislation offers our allies a limited set of privacy protections.  This bill is a measure of basic fairness—our friends abroad should have some course of redress with respect to information that they provided to the U.S. government in the first place.  The Obama Administration fully backs this proposal, and I look forward to its speedy passage.”

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The fight against terror spans the globe. Coordinating our efforts with friendly nations is vital to our national security and the security of our European allies.  Extending certain rights to their citizens will also help foster a trusting and mutually beneficial relationship for American and European businesses.  In short, this legislation will bolster our intelligence gathering capabilities and protect civil liberties at home and abroad.”

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Foster Care Funds Political Campaigns

Foster care funding and through its supporters for 'christianized' privatization have been funding political campaigns for as long as there was unaccountable systems in child welfare.

Nothing will come of this as there are no laws to be enforced.

Arkansas Republican who gave girls to rapist used foster daughter illegally in campaign ad

Harris family, their three sons and 'Jeannette' (Harris 2014 campaign)
Allegations of wrongdoing continue to pile up against Arkansas Republican state Rep. Justin Harris, who adopted two girls out of the foster system, then “re-homed” them with a man who raped one of them when the girls became too difficult to care for.
According to the Arkansas Times blog, Harris violated state Department of Human Services (DHS) regulations by featuring one of the girls in a campaign ad when he ran for his state house seat.
Arkansas DHS policy strictly prohibits any activity that would compromise a foster child’s anonymity. Harris used the photograph of the girl when she was still a ward of the foster system.
The Times reported that the girl in the ad was the eldest of the three deeply troubled sisters who the Harrises took into their home in the fall of 2012. In order to clearly tell the girls’ story, the newspaper re-named the eldest girl Jeannette, the middle girl Mary and youngest Annie. The Times identified the girl in the photo as Jeannette, whom the Harrises never adopted, but sent on to another foster home.
DHS spokeswoman Amy Webb told the Times that she could not comment on the Harris campaign ad directly, “If we were made aware of a situation like you described, we would immediately call the foster or pre-adoptive parent and tell him to discontinue using the picture on any campaign material. We would not be comfortable with a foster child’s picture being used during a campaign. [DHS's Office of Policy and Legal Services, which according to department rules, has to approve public use of any media featuring a foster child] would not agree to that either.”
Numerous sources have come forward and decried the appallingly botched adoption, which Harris and his wife Marsha reportedly pushed for over the objections of the girls’ previous foster parents, child care professionals and DHS officials. Harris reportedly threatened to cut the DHS budget if his family didn’t get to adopt the girls in spite of the fact that he and his wife were repeatedly warned that the sisters were special needs children who would require intense counseling and other forms of therapy in order to adapt to a new home.
“The problem was simple hubris,” said a foster mother who worked with the girls. “He saw it as, ‘I’m with God. God’s going to solve this.’”
The Harrises have stringently denied any wrongdoing in the case. In an emotional press conference with their attorney last week, they blasted the DHS and the media and insisted that they are being unfairly blamed for the rape of the middle sister by Eric Francis after the Harrises handed the girls over to Francis and his wife Stacey.
They issued a public statement in which they insisted “Rep. and Mrs. Harris have suffered a severe injustice. Due to threats of possible abandonment charges, they were unable to reach out to DHS for help with children who presented a serious risk of harm to other children in their home.”
The DHS vehemently disputes the Harrises’ claims, as do multiple witnesses who said that Marsha Harris was convinced that the girls were possessed by demons and could communicate telepathically. The family kept Mary, the middle girl, locked in a room for the bulk of her day with no toys or books, and monitored her with a video camera.
“The first night I was over there, I just broke down and cried with this little girl because I just felt so bad for her,” said babysitter Chelsey Goldsborough.
Marsha Harris had stripped the girl’s holding room of book, toys and colorful clothes “because a demon told [Mary] not to share,” Goldsborough said. “Demons told her to not appreciate [her toys] and all that, so they took away all the toys and her colored clothes.”
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