“The 11th state to defy federal marijuana prohibition ranks first in social equity ideas to actually address the War on Drugs,” writes Alan Pyke for ThinkProgress. He adds:

“Low-income communities of color that have borne disproportionate shares of the social and fiscal costs of the War on Drugs will have a dramatic leg up in the race for dispensary and grow-shop licenses in Illinois ahead of the law’s primary implementation date of January 1, 2020.

“Those same communities will be first in line for direct investment from the new tax revenues cannabis will generate for Illinois. A full 25 percent of that new money is required to be set aside for the new “Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program,” colloquially known as ‘R3.'”

Here’s the text of the Illinois legislation.

Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate March 6 introduced legislation aimed at overturning the FCC’s 2017 repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order. The bill seeks to re-classify the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934 prohibiting Internet service providers from blocking, throttling or creating fast lanes and slow lanes by charging extra fees to prioritize content. Here’s the text of the bill.

From the introduction to Definition of National Emergency under the National Emergencies Act (LSB10267, Mar. 1, 2019):

The National Emergencies Act (NEA) provides a framework for the President to declare a national emergency, but does not define what may constitute a national emergency. Accordingly, assuming that the plaintiffs have demonstrated standing to bring suit, a court may turn to statutory canons, such as the ordinary meaning doctrine, or to the legislative history of the NEA and related statutes to determine the meaning of national emergency for purposes of the NEA.

From the introduction to The First Step Act of 2018: An Overview (R45558, Mar. 4, 2019): “On December 21, 2018, President Trump signed into law the First Step Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-391). The act was the culmination of several years of congressional debate about what Congress might do to reduce the size of the federal prison population while also creating mechanisms to maintain public safety. This report provides an overview of the provisions of the act.”

NPR is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that he wants the Senate to vote on the pending Green New Deal resolution introduced in the House by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and in the Senate by Sen. Edward Markey on Feb. 7, 2019. See Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal, H.Res. 109 and S.Res. 59.

The companion resolutions call for the creation of a Green New Deal with the goals of

  • achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions;
  • establishing millions of high-wage jobs and ensuring economic security for all;
  • investing in infrastructure and industry;
  • securing clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment for all; and
  • promoting justice and equality.

The resolution calls for accomplishment of these goals through a 10-year national mobilization effort. The resolution also enumerates the goals and projects of the mobilization effort, including

  • building smart power grids (i.e., power grids that enable customers to reduce their power use during peak demand periods);
  • upgrading all existing buildings and constructing new buildings to achieve maximum energy and water efficiency;
  • removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation and agricultural sectors;
  • cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites;
  • ensuring businesspersons are free from unfair competition; and
  • providing higher education, high-quality health care, and affordable, safe, and adequate housing to all.

The Senate vote is not yet scheduled.

Prior to 2010, most states ended foster care services for youth at age 18. However, the Federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 allowed states to use federal funding to extend care up until age 21. More than 45 states extend foster care to serve youth who are over age 18. Here’s the Juvenile Law Center’s 50-state survey of extended foster care.

Constitutional Law Prof Blog reports that Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois District 1 has introduced a Resolution in the House of Representatives to censure Congressman Steve King of Iowa, listing specific incidents beginning in 2006 and ending with the January 10 remark by Steve King to the New York Times: “White nationalist, White supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?”

American Libraries has published a state legislative survey of bills, statutes and executive orders intended to protect net neutrality at the state level. More than 35 states have introduced legislation to protect net neutrality. Four (California, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) have passed laws and six governors have issued executive orders. View the survey here.

The FIRST STEP Act is legislation to reform the federal prison system. The bill will make retroactive the reforms enacted by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences at the federal level. This could affect nearly 2,600 federal inmates, according to the Marshall Project.

The bill would take several steps to ease mandatory minimum sentences under federal law. It would expand the “safety valve” that judges can use to avoid handing down mandatory minimum sentences. It would ease a “three strikes” rule so people with three or more convictions, including for drug offenses, automatically get 25 years instead of life, among other changes. It would restrict the current practice of stacking gun charges against drug offenders to add possibly decades to prison sentences. All of these changes would lead to shorter prison sentences in the future.

The bill would increase “good time credits” that inmates can earn. Inmates who avoid a disciplinary record can currently get credits of up to 47 days per year incarcerated. The bill increases the cap to 54, allowing well-behaved inmates to cut their prison sentences by an additional week for each year they’re incarcerated. The change applies retroactively, which could allow some prisoners — as many as 4,000, according to supporters — to qualify for release the day that the bill goes into effect.

The bill would allow inmates to get “earned time credits” by participating in more vocational and rehabilitative programs. Those credits would allow them to be released early to halfway houses or home confinement. Not only could this mitigate prison overcrowding, but the hope is that the education programs will reduce the likelihood that an inmate will commit another crime once released and, as a result, reduce both crime and incarceration in the long term. (There’s research showing that education programs do reduce recidivism.)

The Washington Post is reporting that “President Trump threw his support Wednesday behind legislation that would loosen some mandatory minimum sentencing laws — a measure backed by powerful Senate Republicans and Democrats, but which could run into opposition from some tough-on-crime conservatives.” The New York Times opines “And now that Mr. Sessions is gone, a bipartisan collection of senators is pushing a plan that addresses some of the core shortcomings of an earlier House version of the legislation that was supported by the White House. The hope is to move the bill during the lame duck session, before the chaos of the new Congress, with its newly Democratic House majority, takes hold in January.”

From the summary of Robbery, Extortion, and Bribery in One Place: A Legal Overview of the Hobbs Act (R45395, Nov. 6, 2018): “The Hobbs Act proscribes obstructing commerce by means of robbery or extortion or attempting or conspiring to do so. The Act applies to individuals and legal entities alike. It permits prosecutions, although the impact on commerce may be minimal. It condemns the robbery -— knowingly taking the property of another by force or threat -— of drug dealers, mom-and-pop markets, and multinational corporations.”

Here’s the abstract for Peter Martin, District Court Opinions that Remain Hidden Despite a Longstanding Congressional Mandate of Transparency – The Result of Judicial Autonomy and Systemic Indifference (2018):

The E-Government Act of 2002 directed the federal courts to provide access to all their written opinions, in text-searchable format, via a website. Ten years later the Judicial Conference of the United States approved national implementation of a comprehensive database of those opinions through a joint venture between the courts and the Government Publishing Office (GPO). Despite the promise implicit in these initiatives, public access to many thousands of federal district court decisions each year remains blocked. They are effectively hidden. Many court websites lack a clear link to opinions, only a bare majority of district courts transmit decisions to the GPO, and far too many courts and judges fail to take the steps necessary for opinion distribution beyond the parties.

Using the large volume of district court Social Security litigation to measure and illustrate these failures, the article examines their dimensions, consequences, and causes. It concludes that the problem is a large one, that it poses a major challenge to those carrying out empirical studies and judicial analytics, and that the courts’ radical decentralization combined with judicial autonomy will continue to frustrate goals of public access unless serious measures are taken at the national level. Finally, it argues that inclusion in the GPO database of federal judicial opinions should cease being optional.

From the press release:

In the first analysis of its kind in 2018, the Brennan Center’s Voting Laws Roundup shows that lawmakers in eight states have introduced at least 16 bills making it harder to vote, and 35 restrictive bills in 14 states have carried over from previous legislative sessions. If passed, the laws would increase restrictions on voter registration and limit early and absentee voting opportunities, among other changes.

Legislatures in 22 states are considering a combined total of at least 144 bills that would expand access to voting, and in 23 states and the District of Columbia lawmakers are considering 263 bills that carried over from the previous session. This includes legislation to automate the voter registration process, a reform with bipartisan backing that increases voter turnout, along with accuracy and security of voter rolls. There are also bills to expand opportunities to register, restore voting rights to people with past criminal convictions, reduce the burden of existing voter ID laws, and more.

The Verge is reporting that the US Senate has approved the Music Modernization Act of 2018, S.2334, with unanimous consent, bringing the first reform for music licensing in 20 years on the cusp of becoming law. The companion version in the House previously passed in April, also with unanimous consent. The bill now must be reconsidered by the House and then ultimately signed by President Trump. Both of those are likely to happen, so the Senate was the last major hurdle. The bill creates a streamlined process for online services to license music and federalizes the patchwork of state laws governing music recorded before 1972. That will mean effectively shortening the term of protection of older music published between 1923 and 1954—under current law, these songs may not fall into the public domain until 2067.

According to The Verge, “the bill revamps Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act, combining three major pieces of legislation:

  • The Music Modernization Act, which streamlines the music licensing process to make it easier for rights holders to get paid when their music is streamed online.
  • The CLASSICS Act (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act) for pre-1972 recordings.
  • The AMP Act (or Allocation for Music Producers Act), which improves royalty payouts for producers and engineers from SoundExchange when their recordings are used on satellite and online radio. Notably, this is the first time producers have ever been mentioned in copyright law.”