Jacob Fischler

Safe climate a constitutional right, young plaintiffs tell court
But government argues case violates Constitution’s separation of powers

PORTLAND, Ore. — A court case brought by 21 children and young adults asserting a constitutional right to safe climate may turn on the judiciary’s view of its own power to create climate policy.

Much of a hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here Tuesday afternoon centered on the judicial role in establishing a response to climate change and what rights a group of young activists have to challenge the government’s role in creating a climate crisis. If successful, the suit could require federal agencies to create a comprehensive climate action plan. The shape of such a plan is still unclear. 

Washington goes slow on self-driving cars, and states don’t mind
State-level policymakers were among those who sank bills in Congress last year

SAN RAMON, Calif. — Electronic chimes sounded as the self-driving minibus halted its crawl through the parking lot of an upscale office park here. There was no obvious reason for the stop, so its operator made a note to report it, then used a touch screen to restart the shuttle’s test drive.

The bright red, 12-passenger vehicle, which maxes out at 12 mph and was designed by French firm EasyMile, is part of an effort to use autonomous technology to improve access to transit stations in the area. But first, as the unscheduled stop on a breezy April day showed, the shuttle needs extensive testing to make sure it’s safe for public roads.

States spend big on make-or-break 2020 census
California has already allocated $100 million as citizenship question looms

Freed from the budget constraints that dogged them during the last census and with a growing understanding of what accurate population counts mean for the possibility of federal dollars, states are spending at an unprecedented rate on efforts to boost census outreach.

California has already allocated more than $100 million on efforts aimed at getting all its residents counted in the 2020 census. No state approaches that total, but 10 others have enacted laws to spend a total of $31.7 million to make sure as many residents as possible are counted, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

California remains ground zero for data privacy fight
New law seeks to define internet users’ rights

Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed it almost a year ago, but it’s still unclear what California’s first-in-the-nation data privacy law will look like in practice. 

The law was the first in the United States to attempt to define internet users’ rights over their personal data that companies often sell for marketing purposes. But ahead of the law’s Jan. 1, 2020, implementation date, the state is still grappling with the balance between consumer protection and a light regulatory approach that has allowed the tech sector to become a major part of the California economy.

Colorado joins effort to elect presidents by popular vote, go around Electoral College
Colorado is the latest state to join a group pledging to elect presidents based on who wins the national popular vote

Colorado has become the latest state — and the first swing state — to join a group pledging to elect presidents based on who wins the national popular vote.

Eleven other states and the District of Columbia have signed onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement that requires those states to select their presidential electors based on who wins the most individual votes nationwide, regardless of which candidate wins in the state.

State lawmakers seek ban on Amazon-like incentives
Lawmakers in at least 3 states are pushing bills banning incentives similar to what Amazon received for its HQ2

Lawmakers in at least three states are pushing similar bills that would ban the states’ power to give corporate incentives like the kind offered to Amazon to locate its second headquarters.

The bills in New York, Illinois and Arizona would ban the states from offering incentives to any specific company. Existing state incentive agreements would remain in place under the bills. The proposals create a challenge for lawmakers who don't want to implement a prohibition on the incentives in their own states unless other states do as well.

Which ballot measure would you rather have a beer with?
Voters routinely back initiatives that clash with their candidate picks — and that’s changing how things get done

As voters across the country made their choices last year on ballot issues and political candidates, a disconnect emerged.

While Democrats in Colorado swept statewide races, voters sent a different message on taxes and spending by rejecting ballot measures endorsed by Democrats that would have increased revenue for education and transportation.

New Jersey Police Seek Immigrants’ Trust, Get Pushback From ICE
Tensions rise in sanctuary clash between state, federal law enforcement

Ten New Jersey law enforcement officers — including stern-looking state troopers and local police chiefs — are the stars of a series of unusual videos in which they seek the trust of undocumented immigrants, each explaining in a different language that police in the Garden State are not allowed to turn them over to federal immigration officials.

Long Hill Township Police Chief Ahmed Naga speaks in Arabic, and State Police Lt. Col. Fritz Fragé makes the pitch in Haitian Creole. And the top cop in the State Police, Col. Patrick Callahan, says in English that “we cannot do our jobs without the trust of the communities we serve.”

Wisconsin GOP’s Lame-Duck Play: ‘A New Philosophy of Governing’
Democrats’ wins do not prevent late play to curtail their authority in new year

The Scott Walker era in Wisconsin is ending much as it began: With a controversial effort to weaken his political opponents that attracted protests and a national spotlight to Madison.

Tuesday, protestors continued to disrupt an extraordinary session of the state Legislature but didn’t change the outcome as both chambers moved to approve a GOP bill to enhance the Legislature’s power at the expense of Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers, who defeated Walker in the Republican’s attempt at winning a third term last month, and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul. Republicans maintained control of both legislative chambers in the Nov. 6 elections.

Can You Run for Congress and President? Depends Where
Politicians being considered for president in 2020 face diverging state laws on current positions

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed a law this month clarifying that a candidate for one of the state’s U.S. Senate or House seats can also run in presidential primaries.

Locals nicknamed it Cory’s Law, a cheeky acknowledgment that Sen. Cory Booker is up for re-election in 2020 and is also expected to launch a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

End of the Road for the Highway King Shusters
For the first time in 46 years, south-central Pennsylvania will not send a Shuster to Congress

EVERETT, Pa. — Bud Shuster leaned away from a desk in his farmhouse as he considered the differences between his chairmanship of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and that of his son, Bill, who succeeded him in Congress and retires at the end of this session.

In his six years as chairman, the younger Shuster checked off all the major items in his committee’s jurisdiction, shepherding long-term authorization bills for roads, transit and aviation and three consecutive water resources development bills to enactment. In an era when Congress was known more for dysfunction and gridlock than delivering major legislation, that was no small feat, and it set a record unmatched since his father’s stint as chairman from 1995 to 2001.

Senate Republicans Eye Monday or Tuesday Floor Vote on Kavanaugh
Schedule assumes Judiciary Committee hearing, markup does not alter GOP plans

Senate Republican leaders want to schedule a floor vote for Monday or Tuesday on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court “unless something derailed it along the way,” according to Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota. 

Thune told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday that if all goes according to plan, Republicans could get the procedural gears turning over the weekend. That assumes Thursday’s hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee featuring Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexual assault, does not alter the current trajectory that Senate GOP leaders have set. 

FAA Passage Likely, But Timing Unclear in Senate as Deadline Looms
The current Federal Aviation Administration authorization ends on Sunday

Even after lawmakers in both chambers took a major step toward a long-term Federal Aviation Administration authorization over the weekend, the path to enactment before a Sunday deadline remains uncertain as several other important votes jockey for floor time in the Senate.

The House is scheduled to vote this week on the five-year bill, which members of the House and Senate from both parties agreed to early Saturday morning, but the Senate schedule is less certain.

A Workhorse and a Hard Charger Aim for Transportation Top Spot
Sam Graves and Jeff Denham mostly align on policy, but couldn’t vary more in style

The personalities of the two candidates angling to be the next top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee may be the starkest difference between them.

As Steering Committee members decide committee leadership posts later this year, they’ll have to choose between behind-the-scenes operator Sam Graves of Missouri and Jeff Denham, a hard-charging Californian best known for nearly forcing House leadership’s hand on immigration votes by advancing a discharge petition earlier this year. 

FAA Authorization Still Grounded in Senate
Congress could be looking at sixth straight extension as Sept. 30 deadline approaches

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration in June of last year. But the measure’s proponents have struggled ever since to get it to the floor, even as another deadline approaches at the end of this month.

Congress could be headed toward its sixth straight extension of FAA authorization if both chambers can’t pass a yet-unfinished conference bill before Sept. 30. House leaders on the issue, who steered easy passage of their measure earlier this year, have blamed the other chamber, which hasn’t passed its own bill.

Key Players in FAA Conference Negotiations
Committee leaders come with their own priorities for FAA reauthorization

As the Sept. 30 deadline to renew Federal Aviation Administration programs approaches, members of both parties are working to reach a deal on a consensus bill that could be acceptable to both chambers.

The process has been slowed because the Senate did not pass its committee-approved bill. Negotiators in an informal conference committee don’t know how many of up to 90 amendments offered to the Senate measure could be in play or whether any senator will object to a final bill that doesn’t include his or her priorities.

Senators Get Informal as FAA Deadline Nears
Reauthorization didn’t make the summer cut. Now senators are looking for a pre-conference shortcut

Staff members on both sides of the Capitol are trying to work around obstacles in the Senate by negotiating “pre-conference” versions of Federal Aviation Administration authorization and water infrastructure bills, according to lawmakers.

Despite the stated goals of the bills’ sponsors, the Senate did not consider either the FAA or water infrastructure measure over the summer, preventing a true conference committee from hashing out differences with the House-passed versions of the FAA and water infrastructure bills.

These GOP Lawmakers Gave Money to California Gas Tax Repeal Push
Party leaders open their campaign committee wallets for an issue that could energize Republican voters

A handful of Republican House members are among the largest contributors to a campaign to repeal California’s gas tax boost, one that could draw party voters to the polls in competitive congressional districts.

The seven lawmakers include House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and second-term Rep. Mimi Walters of California. They have contributed or loaned more than $1 million of the $2.2 million received by a group called “Yes on 6, Repeal the Gas Tax,” according to second-quarter state election reports filed July 31.

After High Hopes in Senate, a Pit Stop for Spending Package
A long list of amendments slows progress, pushing potential floor vote till next week

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved Thursday to invoke cloture on the chamber’s four-bill fiscal 2019 spending package, setting up the potential for a floor vote next week.

While House members are already leaving town for August recess, the Senate plans to stick around for part of the month

Burr to Hold Up Water Bill, Slow Others, for Conservation Fund
North Carolina senator: ‘We’re going to vote on it on every vehicle leaving the United States Senate’

Sen. Richard M. Burr will not allow a vote on a key water infrastructure bill unless he receives a commitment for a vote on his legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, senators said.

The North Carolina Republican is also threatening to force senators to vote on his bill as a prelude to action on any other measure that reaches the Senate floor, potentially including the appropriations bill receiving floor consideration this week.