House Health Care Vote Marks Start of Exciting 2016 Legal Year

Posted on Jan 7, 2016 in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts

House Health Care Vote Marks Start of Exciting 2016 Legal Year

2016 is guaranteed to be an exciting year in law and politics. With the 2016 U.S. Presidential election bearing down on the country, politics and policies will be in the front and center of the news cycle and the public’s mind. If you had your doubts, you didn’t have to wait very long in 2016 before getting a taste of what’s to come throughout the rest of the year. The staunch partisanship that will likely define the year will kick off with a push from House Republicans to pass a bill that would repeal significant parts of Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. “As Congress returns next week, in one of our first acts of the new year, the House will vote on a bill that would eliminate key parts of Obamacare and stop taxpayer funding for abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood,” said Representative Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri, in a video that was released on Sunday. “If this bill becomes law, patients will be able to choose a health insurance plan that works for them—without Washington getting in the way.” Logistically speaking, it is unlikely that this specific bill would actually lead to those results. Were it to pass, President Obama would almost certainly veto the bill, and there’s doesn’t appear to be enough Congressional support to override a presidential veto if it comes to that. Regardless of the results of this vote, this situation shows what we can look forward to for the rest of the year. The tricky aspect of an election year is the influence that reelection can have on the law-making process. Not only is there a Presidential election, but there are also senators and members of Congress that are also up for election. This additional layer of complexity can impact the legal process, whether that comes as seeing laws deliberately put off until the election cycle is over, attempting to push something through the process quickly to change public perception before the general election, or just a more intense form of partisan bickering. Needless to say, we are very interested to see how the rest of the 2016 legal year will turn...

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Pledge of Allegiance Law in Florida Schools Under the Microscope

Posted on Dec 31, 2015 in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts, Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Pledge of Allegiance Law in Florida Schools Under the Microscope

Who doesn’t remember participating in the Pledge of Allegiance? The Pledge used to be a staple in all American schools, though a parade of legal battles and decisions over the past half-century have broken up this standard and made the ceremony much more controversial. The most recent spat over the Pledge recently occurred in the Santa Rosa school system in Florida. The History of the Pledge Of course, the sticking point of most debate over the Pledge of Allegiance stems from the use of the phrase “under God,” which was added in 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower requested the addition. Ever since the 90s, the Pledge has been a controversial topic because of one phrase that calls into the question the separation of church and state. The Pledge of Allegiance has a long and storied history in America, and not all of it is controversial. Click here to see a full rundown of related events from its inception to the present day! Santa Rosa School System According to Santa Rosa School Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick, it all started when a student was late for school while the Pledge of Allegiance was taking place. “The teacher then corrected that student, said the student took that correction, and began to say the Pledge of Allegiance,” he recounted. “A few days later, one of those students’ parents asked that the student not say the Pledge, and from that, began a discussion about when and how notice of not saying the Pledge to each student and the opportunity that they do not have to say the Pledge should be issued.” So what is the policy? As the parent of the student pointed out to school officials, current Florida law states that students are not required to participate in the Pledge and that signs denoting this fact must be hung in around the school to inform students of their choice. However, with the debate now open once again, there are people who want this law changed. Several people feel that posting the signs shows a lack of patriotism and shows a lack of respect for members of the military. So, what is Florida to do? The current proposal is to allow parents to send in request forms for their students to abstain from the Pledge of allegiance, but with the condition that the signs can come down and a simple note in each student’s syllabus will suffice. Hopefully, whatever new decision is made on the matter will have some lasting...

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Several Florida Laws, Including New Gun Law, Will Go to Vote January 12th

Posted on Dec 15, 2015 in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts, Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Several Florida Laws, Including New Gun Law, Will Go to Vote January 12th

During the past session, both chambers of Florida’s Legislature failed to address top-priority votes, including the constitutionally-mandated vote on a budget. Given these failures, Florida’s Legislature will be voting on several laws when the next session begins on January 12th, 2016. Among these laws is a new gun law that is being lauded by critics and the public. The first is a water policy bill that rewrites rules for cleaning up springs and is intended to unify and standardize water policy in Central Florida. Currently, this is split between several water management districts, which creates a lack of uniformity and easily causes confusion. The second bill aims to set up a financial literacy program for the developmentally disabled, as well as providing the developmentally disabled with job training and education on topics like money management. The third bill also focuses on the developmentally disabled and would establish the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities at the University of Central Florida. The center would oversee a statewide program to help match the developmentally disabled with suitable job programs. It would also create related scholarship programs. Finally, the fourth bill (which will be up for a vote in both Houses) aims to make it illegal to fire a gun in a residential area. The proposed bill would make firing a gun outdoors in an area with more than one home per acre illegal, unless in self-defense or if there is “reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety, or property.” Gun laws have become a point of stress and contention in Florida and across the country recently. Following the national stories of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the many violent shootings that have been taking place over the past year in the United States, guns and gun-related legislation has been front and center in the public eye. The debate isn’t one-sided, either. To rival the previously proposed gun law, there is another bill hitting the House during the next session that would allow guns on college and university campuses in Florida. It will be interesting to watch how this issue influences the 2016 U.S. Presidential race as well. Beyond these 4 bills, there will be a total of 33 bills that should see some attention on January...

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U.S. Space Mining Law is Potentially Dangerous and Illegal

Posted on Dec 5, 2015 in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts

U.S. Space Mining Law is Potentially Dangerous and Illegal

President Obama recently signed into law legislation that would allow businesses to mine asteroids and other space bodies. However, International Treaty states that nothing in space can belong to any country, which makes this law potentially controversial. President Obama signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law one day before Thanksgiving 2015. This legislation gives U.S. space firms the right to own and sell natural resources mined from asteroids and other space bodies. It is considered dangerous and potentially illegal by some experts. This law conflicts with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which declares points such as “states shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies” and that celestial bodies and outer space in general are “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” On the other hand, there are several groups that are thrilled to see this law pass. One is Planetary Resources, a firm founded in 2010 and seeking to extract water, important materials, and minerals from asteroids and profit from them. In fact, Eric Anderson (co-founder and co-chairperson of Planetary Resources) lauds the U.S. Space Act as “the single greatest recognition of property rights in history.” “This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economics of history and will encourage the sustained development of space,” he said. Aside from violating international law, one of the main critiques of mining asteroids and other celestial bodies stems from a fear of polluting the rest of the solar system in the same way we have Earth. What’s more, some worry that such interactions will make research on space more difficult with the addition of having to correct for manmade disturbances. This is made even more complicated by other initiatives to get humans back into space. They aren’t all bogus like Newt Gingrich’s claims of a U.S. moon colony by 2020, which likely would have run into similar legal roadblocks. For example, there is MarsOne, a private group that wants to send privately trained astronauts on a one-way mission to Mars using mostly crowdfunding. What would the legal implications of such a mission then entail? Would the participants in MarsOne be restricted by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, or would they be exempt because they aren’t states and merely travelers or...

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Florida Set to Introduce Daily Fantasy Sports Bill

Posted on Nov 16, 2015 in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts

Florida Set to Introduce Daily Fantasy Sports Bill

The legal debate surrounding daily fantasy sports rages on, with a newly proposed bill in Florida. Republican state Senator Joe Negron and Representative Matt Gaetz are introducing a daily fantasy sports bill in Florida, which would make daily fantasy sports legal in the state. “Currently, 3 million Floridians participate in fantasy sports contests, from traditional leagues with friends or coworkers, to the newer, daily fantasy sports contests,” Negron said. “I do not believe that these Floridians should be at risk of criminal prosecution for doing nothing more than participating in the fantasy sports contests they enjoy. However, due to a dated Attorney General opinion, there is a need to clarify in Florida law that fantasy sports are legal, as well as institute commonsense regulations that address consumers. I believe this legislation will do just that.” It is important to note, however, that there are no reports that daily fantasy sports users are currently in any danger of criminal charges. That said, the proposed legislation would clarify that daily fantasy sports are completely legal in the state, and provide some restrictions and regulation on the industry. “Government should have little to no involvement in recreational daily lives of Floridians,” said representative Gaetz. “I have played fantasy football since I was a freshman in high school, and I have never felt the need for protection from the government. Unfortunately, we have some ambitious prosecutors who want to make criminals out of the 3 million Floridians who play fantasy football, which makes this legislation necessary.” The proposed Florida law is quite similar to a bill recently presented in the Illinois state legislature, which critics have called very friendly to the daily fantasy sports industry. Daily fantasy sports companies, most notably Draft Kings and Fan Duel, have sprung up in the past few years and have exploded in popularity and wealth other the past year. As John Oliver notes in the latest episode of his HBO show Last Week Tonight, you’ve more than likely seen one of their ads if you so much as own a television, as the two companies combined were airing TV ads every 90 seconds according to an October report from Wired. John Oliver sketch <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Mq785nJ0FXQ” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe> The appeal of daily fantasy leagues is their low amount of commitment and, for the purposes of making money, the payouts come much more often than traditional leagues. In the past, playing fantasy sports meant drafting a team of real athletes and sticking with the same athletes for an entire sports season. However, daily fantasy leagues allow users to draft a new team every week, or even every single day for singular competitions. The legal issues surrounding daily fantasy sports largely relates to the gray area of classifying these competitions as gambling or a game of skill. On the one side, there are those who claim that betting...

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Trudeau Dismantling Conservative Legal Policy in Canada

Posted on Nov 10, 2015 in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts

Trudeau Dismantling Conservative Legal Policy in Canada

On October 19th, Justin Trudeau was elected to become the next Prime Minister of Canada. Trudeau, a liberal, succeeded a string of conservatives. Trudeau campaigned in Canada on the promise of change, similar to the campaign run by Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. election. Trudeau is wasting little time trying to make a difference! Under Trudeau’s predecessor Stephen Harper, new “tough-on-crime” legislation was quickly passed through the House of Commons and refugees saw their benefits and voting rights greatly reduced. These were two of the many issues that Trudeau promised to change, and has already begun to work on. Recently, newly sworn-in Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she and her ministry will review the use of mandatory minimum sentences. She made clear her desire to look more broadly at the criminal justice system in terms of rehabilitation and “not just simply being tough on crime.” The executive director of Canadian Council for Refugees Janet Dench also expects the new government to drop the appeal in the Tories’ 2012 case. What’s more, Trudeau’s election has given the cannabis industry hope of national marijuana legalization in Canada, something Trudeau promised he would address “right away” after becoming elected. While change can certainly be good, too much change at a very quick rate can be too much to handle. Prior to Trudeau’s 4 international meetings in the coming month (the G20 Leaders Summit, APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, Commonwealth heads of Government Meeting, United Nations Climate Change Conference), former Canadian diplomat and Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute Colin Robertson is recommending patience as Trudeau goes out to meet the world’s leaders. “In global affairs, it’s not the quick step, it’s the long term. So it’s not the first 100 days, it’s going to be the first 1,000 days,” Robertson said. “My advice to the prime minister at these big four events that are coming up would be to look, to listen, and to learn.” It will be exciting to see how Trudeau’s sweeping changes will impact Canada, and whether any of his policies (namely, the potential for nationalized marijuana legalization) will impact the international community at large—especially us here in the...

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