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Congress

House to Start Giving Low-Income Public Servants Paid Internships

The House has finalized plans for taxpayer-paid internships on Capitol Hill. It's a symbolic watershed for efforts to enhance the long-term functionality of Congress, because there's widespread belief the legislative branch will work better if more people who aren't rich take jobs there.

Congress appropriated $9 million for paying House interns this year, enough for each of the 435 members to allocate $20,000 in stipends so college or graduate school students of modest means can afford the enormous opportunity for Washington networking and public service experience. Until now, the Hill intern pool has been overwhelmingly the province of people who could afford to spend a semester or a summer working form free although some House and Senate offices have dipped into their regular budgets to pay interns.

"Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle finally have the insight they need to open up Capitol Hill internships to all students, regardless of their family's income, and remove the extreme financial barriers that stand in the way," said Audrey Henson, the founder of College to Congress, a non-profit that provides stipends so Pell Grant-eligible students can work for Hill offices of both parties.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of democracy reform bills this week.

California governor signs three political reform bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Tuesday three democracy reform bills focused on local redistricting, voting access and campaign contributions.

The first piece of legislation prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level by establishing criteria for cities and counties to use when adjusting district boundaries. While California is the largest state to use an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional and state district maps, local districts did not have the same regulations.

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Gov. Ralph Northam used his executive authority to restore voting rights for felons, noting that Virginia is among the states that permanently strips such rights after a felony conviction.

Virginia governor restores voting rights to over 22,000 felons

More than 22,000 Virginians with felony convictions have regained the right to vote thanks to executive actions taken by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam since he took office in January 2018, his office announced this week.

In a statement, Northam's office said he has so far restored the civil rights of 22,205 people who had been convicted of felonies and have since completed their sentences. Those civil rights include the right to vote as well as the right to serve on juries, run for public office and become a notary public.

Northam previously announced in February that nearly 11,000 convicted felons had their voting rights restored under his watch.

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