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Convictions block too many from voting and jobs, Civil Rights Commission says

Felony convictions can haunt people long after they've served their time, limiting access to everything from voting rights to housing. A report out Wednesday from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission says these "collateral consequences" have too much impact on convicts after they have reentered society.

More than 620,000 are released from prisons each year and are then subject to a variety of "invisible punishments" limiting their opportunities and rights. Many of those, the commission concluded, have nothing to do with the crimes committed.

"When the collateral consequences are unrelated in this way, their imposition generally negatively affects public safety and the public good," Commission Chair Catherine Lhamon wrote in a letter to President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The commission's majority offered eight recommendations, including:

  • Public safety should be the focus of any collateral consequences.
  • Laws should be reviewed to ensure they effectively reduce recidivism and protect the community.
  • Restrictions on food stamps should be eliminated and restrictions on public housing limited.
  • Nonviolent criminal records should eventually be sealed from public view.

The report cited the decision by Florida voters last year to restore voting rights to felons as a prime example of countermanding such collateral consequences. But the report was finalized before the Republican-run state Legislature passed a measure creating hurdles for felons registering including paying all restitution, court costs and fines. GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to soon sign the bill.

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Open Government
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FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub

The struggle is real: FEC stalled on regulations for online political ads

The Federal Election Commission has once again punted on establishing rules for identifying who is sponsoring online political advertisements. Thursday marked the fourth consecutive meeting in which the topic fell to the wayside without a clear path forward.

FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub revived debate on the topic in June when she introduced a proposal on how to regulate online political ads. In her proposal, she said the growing threat of misinformation meant that requiring transparency for political ads was "a small but necessary step."

Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen and Commissioner Caroline Hunter put forth their own proposal soon after Weintraub, but the commissioners have failed to find any middle ground. At Thursday's meeting, a decision on the agenda item was pushed off to a later date.

Weintraub's proposal says the funding source should be clearly visible on the face of the ad, with some allowance for abbreviations. But Petersen and Hunter want to allow more flexibility for tiny ads that cannot accommodate these disclaimers due to space.

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Open Government
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California's Supreme Court is expediting President Trump's challenge to a new state law that would require him to release five years of tax returns in order to get on the state ballot for the 2020 election.

California court expedites Trump challenge to new tax returns requirement

The California Supreme Court is fast-tracking its review of a challenge to a new law that would require President Trump to make public his tax returns in order to get on the state's ballot for the 2020 election.

A lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the law was filed August 6 by the California Republican Party against Secretary of State Alex Padilla. It claims the law violates California's constitution.

Two other challenges, one filed by Trump's personal lawyers, are pending in federal court.

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