September 26, 2019

Abortion Laws by State

Marriage Age and Exceptions by State

Gov. Baker Issues Temporary Ban On Vaping Products, Declares Health Emergency
September 24, 2019
CBS Boston

Gov. Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency in Massachusetts and ordered a four-month temporary ban on all vaping product sales.

The ban, which was approved by the Public Health Council, will go into effect immediately and last through Jan. 25, 2020. Local law enforcement will be in charge of enforcing the ban.

Related: Medical Marijuana Patients Devastated By Ban

“I’m declaring this public health emergency because medical and disease control experts have been tracking a rapidly increasing number of vaping related illnesses that in some cases have led to death. We as a Commonwealth need to pause sales in order for our medical experts to collect more information about what is driving these life-threatening vaping-related illnesses,” Baker said.

There have been 61 reported cases in Massachusetts.

In 2017, 41 percent of teens in Mass. reported at least trying e-cigarettes and one in five said they used e-cigarettes regularly, according to the governor.

U.S. health officials say 530 people have now been diagnosed with vaping-related breathing illnesses.

Vaping pods can contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Related: Vape Stores Fear Ban Will Put Them Out Of Business

“While this four-month temporary ban is in effect, we will wait for the Federal Center for Disease Control to analyze the cases they are currently tracking. Our Department of Public Health will also continue to work with medical providers to review cases of this illness here in the Commonwealth,” said Baker. “With more information, we can then consider legislative action, new regulations, or whatever other tools we need to pursue available at our disposal.”

Massachusetts was the sixth state in the country to raise the minimum legal age for tobacco and vaping product sales from 18 to 21 last summer.

“Vaping products are marketed and sold in nearly 8,000 flavors that make them easier to use and more appealing to youth,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.

“Parents please talk to your kids about vaping. We understand that this can be a difficult topic to raise or to begin, but with resources provided through both of these public awareness campaigns, talking about vaping can be an important educational opportunity for both you and for your children,” she added.

“Vape pens and e-cigarettes are not safer alternatives to smoking and they cause serious harm here and across our country.”

Health Commissioner Monica Bharel also spoke at the announcement. “Our goal is simple: we do not want another generation of children to become addicted to nicotine. We started to hear about these cases of vaping associated pulmonary disease around the country and as you heard, we mandated reporting at the Department of Public Health and cases began to come in. We know that this is an issue, not only nationally, but here as well in Massachusetts…We do not know what is causing these illnesses, but the only thing in common in each one of these cases is the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products.”

Anyone looking to quit can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help.

Link to Story:

Felon Voting Rights

Restoration of Voting Rights for Felons

It has been common practice in the United States to make felons ineligible to vote, in some cases permanently. Over the last few decades, the general trend has been toward reinstating the right to vote at some point, although this is a state-by-state policy choice. (See Recent State Action below for a chronology.)

In all cases, “automatic restoration” does not mean that voter registration is automatic. Typically prison officials automatically inform election officials that an individual’s rights have been restored. The person is then responsible for re-registering through normal processes. Some states, California is one example, require that voter registration information be provided to formerly incarcerated people.

In summary:

  • In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated.
  • In 14 states and the District of Columbia, felons lose their voting rights only while incarcerated, and receive automatic restoration upon release.
  • In 21 states, felons lose their voting rights during incarceration, and for a period of time after, typically while on parole and/or probation. Voting rights are automatically restored after this time period. Former felons may also have to pay any outstanding fines, fees or restitution before their rights are restored as well.
  • In 13 states felons lose their voting rights indefinitely for some crimes, or require a governor’s pardon in order for voting rights to be restored, or face an additional waiting period after completion of sentence (including parole and probation) before voting rights can be restored. These states are listed in the fourth category on Table 1. Details on these states are found in Table 2 below.

To read the entire article click here

Federalism in Canada

The fundamental basis for federalism in Canada (…) was and remains the need to reconcile, balance and accommodate diversityFootnote1 

It is generally agreed that the following characteristics are among those shared by states with a federal system of government2 :

  • at least two orders of government;
  • division of powers between the orders of government defined in the constitution;
  • division of revenue sources to ensure each order of government certain areas of autonomy, also set out in the constitution;
  • written constitution that cannot be amended unilaterally.

Reasons for a state to adopt a federal system include the need to reflect linguistic, economic and cultural differences of a population, especially one that is concentrated geographically.

British North American colonies unite3

Up to 1867, the colonies4 of British North America had no political or geographical links. Each had its own governor appointed by Britain and its own administration including customs and postal system.

In 1867, three colonies in British North America – the Province of Canada5, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – agreed to be “federally united”,6 and form the Dominion of Canada7.

A number of external factors encouraged those colonies to unite, including:

  • the possibility that the United States would not renew the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, which ensured market opportunities for the colonies’ products; the colonies had already lost a substantial share of British markets with the end of the British Preferential System, which until 1848 had provided tariff protection to the colonies’ products;
  • growing insecurity over American expansionism as well as over diplomatic incidents and border incursions in connection with the American Civil War;
  • Britain’s desire to reduce its obligations and responsibilities towards its colonies.

But it was the political conditions prevailing in one of the colonies, the Province of Canada, that favoured a federal type of union.

To read the entire article click here

Which States Rely the Most on Federal Aid?

By Morgan Scarboro
Tax Foundation
January 11, 2017

State-level taxes may be the most visible source of state government revenues for most taxpayers, but it’s important to remember that they are not the only source of state revenue. State governments also receive a significant amount of assistance from the federal government in the form of federal grants-in-aid. Federal aid is given to states for Medicaid, transportation, education, and other means-tested entitlement programs administered by the states.

States differ in the amount of federal aid they receive. The top recipient of federal aid in FY 2014 was Mississippi, which relied on federal assistance for 40.9 percent of its revenue. Other states heavily reliant on federal assistance include Louisiana (40.1 percent), Tennessee (39.9 percent), Montana (39.1 percent), and Kentucky (38.5 percent). As we have previously noted, these states, and others that rely heavily on federal assistance, tend to have modest tax collections and a relatively large low-income population.

Other states have comparatively low reliance on federal aid. North Dakota relies on federal assistance for only 16.8 percent of its general revenue. Other less-reliant states include Virginia (22.8 percent), Connecticut (24.6 percent), Nevada (24.8 percent), and Hawaii (24.8 percent). Trends in these states are opposite those in federal aid-heavy states; they typically have higher tax revenues and a smaller low-income population. Nevada is somewhat of an outlier, however, as it is able to export a large portion of its tax burden through sales taxes due to tourism. North Dakota is also able to export much of its tax burden, through severance taxes.

The map below shows each state’s dependence on federal assistance.

Errata: A previous edition of this post mistakenly referenced federal expenditures in states, not federal aid to states. A previous edition mistakenly referred to federal aid as per capita, not per state.

Click here to read the entire article

JFK’s Civil Rights Legacy: 50 Years of Myth and Fact

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
November 17, 2013

There’s been as much myth as fact regarding John F. Kennedy’s civil rights legacy in the more than 50 years before, during, and especially after, his assassination on November 22, 1963. In the days before he delivered his now famed presidential inaugural address on Friday, January 20, 1961, two of his principal advisers Louis Martin and Harris Wofford battled hard to get Kennedy to add two words “at home” to a pivotal sentence in his speech that addressed human rights. Kennedy meant the human rights fight that the U.S. waged internationally against communism. The “at home” referred to the battle for civil rights in America. Kennedy reluctantly added the words. That reluctance typified the wariness that Kennedy had in making civil rights a centerpiece of his presidency.

The myth and fact about his civil rights legacy came jarringly together in the quip from his wife and widow Jackie Kennedy on his assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, “He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights.” Jackie in the national trauma after his murder understood that Kennedy’s place in history would be even more firmly established if he was seen as the civil rights president, rather than a president who was forced under extreme duress to champion civil rights.

Click here to read the entire article

Why don’t we remember Ike as a civil rights hero?

By Adam Serwer
May 17, 2014

Sixty years ago, with its historic ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools. President Dwight D. Eisenhower didn’t sound too happy about that.

“The Supreme Court has spoken and I am sworn to uphold the constitutional processes in this country; and I will obey,” Eisenhower said shortly after the ruling.

Despite his own Justice Department having sought this ruling, to most observers, it didn’t sound like Ike was much of a fan. And to the South, it signaled that the popular president and war hero wasn’t ready to fight for integration.

Ike’s frosty response to Brown has always cast a shadow over the progress he made on civil rights. After all, he worked to desegregate the nation’s capital and fulfilled his predecessor Harry Truman’s order to desegregate the military.

The liberal federal judges Eisenhower appointed would serve as a bulwark against the segregationists later appointed by President John F. Kennedy, who was beholden to southern senators from his party. But as a strong believer in federalism, Ike was reluctant to use federal power to intervene on behalf of civil rights in the states, and his civil rights accomplishments were ultimately dwarfed by another successor, Lyndon Johnson, who during the 1950s served as Ike’s nemesis in the Senate as Eisenhower sought the first civil rights bills since Reconstruction. Tepid measures, they would nevertheless pave the way for Johnson, who as president would defy his own racist history and sign civil rights laws much broader than those Eisenhower had proposed.

Click here to read the entire article

There couldn't be a more perfect ending to the NFL's season of political controversy

By Allan Smith
Business Insider
February 4, 2018

An NFL season rife with politics from the start is set to be capped by a Super Bowl in which the participants occupy clear spots on either side of the political spectrum.

On one side are the New England Patriots, the sports franchise most closely tied to President Donald Trump. On the other are the Philadelphia Eagles, with multiple players who represented the other side of Trump’s months-long crusade against the NFL.

As the league entered the third week of its four-month regular season schedule, Trump waded into what was a growing controversy — players kneeling during the national anthem prior to the start of games.

Wouldn’t it be nice if owners said, “Get that son of a b—- off the field right now, out,” Trump said of players who kneel during a September rally in Alabama.

Trump doubled and tripled down in the coming days and weeks, turned the NFL into a hot-button political issue. Players, owners, league officials, and fans were in many cases pitted against each other.

Meanwhile, the original intent of the anthem protests became overshadowed by Trump. Beginning in 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee during the anthem to highlight police brutality and the mistreatment of black Americans by the criminal justice system. Kaepernick became a divisive figure as a result, but the story of the anthem protests exploded tenfold once the sitting president decided to take aim.

Click here to read the entire article

Some sex offenders could opt for chemical castration under Oklahoma bill

February 4, 2018

A Republican lawmaker is pushing to add Oklahoma to the list of states in which so-called chemical castration is an option for some convicted sex offenders, albeit an option that is rarely used.

State Rep. Rick West, a first-term lawmaker from Heavener, said he filed the bill at the request of a constituent and that he fully intends to push for its passage — though it’s likely to face strong opposition, even in a conservative state with a tough-on-crime reputation.

In addition, some contend it may ultimately be considered unconstitutional.

“It’s hard to imagine this couldn’t be considered cruel or unusual,” said Allie Shinn, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

If approved the Oklahoma bill becomes law, the state would join at least seven others that allow courts to order chemical treatments that reduce male testosterone for some sex offenders. The seven states are California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon and Wisconsin.

Experts say the punishment is rarely carried out and one described it as a “half fantasy” version of criminal justice.

West, who has also introduced a measure that would allow tobacco back inside state prisons, said he’s confident his constituents would support efforts to prevent sex crimes, especially against children.

Under the bill, anyone convicted of a sexually violent offense could be required as a condition of release to take the drugs designed to reduce a male offender’s testosterone and sexual libido. A second offense would require the treatment unless a court determined it wouldn’t be effective.

The Oklahoma Legislature has over the years entertained various bills involving the castration of sex offenders. In 2002, a measure allowing chemical or surgical castration of sex offenders made it all the way to the desk of Republican Gov. Frank Keating, who promptly vetoed it and derided it as “silly.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tax Plan

Trump’s Tax Plan and How It Affects You
By Kimberly Amadeo
The Balance
February 1, 2018

On December 22, 2017, President Trumpsigned the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent beginning in 2018. The top individual tax rate will drop to 37 percent. It cuts income tax rates, doubles the standard deduction, and eliminates personal exemptions. The corporate cuts are permanent, while the individual changes expire at the end of 2025.

Here’s a summary of how the Act changes income taxes, deductions for child and elder care, and business taxes.

Income Taxes

The Act keeps the seven income tax brackets but lowers tax rates. Employees will see changes reflected in their withholding in their February 2018 paychecks. These rates revert to the 2017 rates in 2026.

The Act creates the following chart. The income levels will rise each year with inflation. But they will rise more slowly than in the past because the Act uses the chained consumer price index. Over time, that will move more people into higher tax brackets.

Income Tax Rate Income Levels for Those Filing As:
2017 2018-2025 Single Married-Joint
10% 10% $0-$9,525 $0-$19,050
15% 12% $9,525-$38,700 $19,050-$77,400
25% 22% $38,700-$82,500 $77,400-$165,000
28% 24% $82,500-$157,500 $165,000-$315,000
33% 32% $157,500-$200,000 $315,000-$400,000
33%-35% 35% $200,000-$500,000 $400,000-$600,000
39.6% 37% $500,000+ $600,000+

To read the entire article click here

Gibbons v. Ogden and "Air Rights"

When describing the different types/stages of federalism one of the topics that generated lots of discussion involved the ownership of water (Gibbons v. Ogden). While discussing this case, debate arose over the ownership of “air rights.” As I mentioned in class, “air” is a commodity that is bought and sold much like carsfood, or bottledwater. For those that are interested in learning more about “air rights” I suggest you check out a few of the posts on Curbed or read the two articles provided below:

Air Rights by Leopold A. Goldschmidt
Why Don’t More Cities Sell Air Rights? by Scott Beyer
Curbed New York articles on Air Rights

SNL and President Trump's Press Secretaries

Donald Trump's Presidential Actions

Donald Trump’s Presidential Actions


Getting a Gun License in Massachusetts

Residents and visitors need a Massachusetts license to legally carry a firearm or pepper spray in the Commonwealth, even if they are licensed in another state.

Any Massachusetts resident who wants to legally possess a firearm in Massachusetts must have a valid Massachusetts firearms license issued by his/her local police department. The Firearms Record Bureau (FRB) at the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) is the repository for all firearms licensing and transaction data in the Commonwealth, and is a resource for anyone seeking information about the Commonwealth’s firearms laws and processes.

To find out more information about the process of obtaining a license in Massachusetts, visit:

Massachusetts Law about Guns and Other Weapons

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on weapons law.

Information regarding firearms licenses, firearms sales and transfers, appealing a firearms license denial, approved firearms rosters, and firearms law for the Commonwealth.

To view gun laws in all 50 states go to the NRA-ILA. Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Mass Shootings and Gun Policy in the United States