Update (07/24/2014): On July 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) withdrew its GMO disclosure rule, previously proposed in February 2013. The rule would have allowed the USDA to share information with state regulators about the flow of genetically engineered organisms into and out of a state. The USDA obtains information about farmers’ GMO use through registrations and permit applications
On July 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to support S.J. Res. 19, a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore the ability of Congress and the states to regulate money in elections. The amendment was introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) amid growing concerns over the influence of money in politics, particularly following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
On July 7, a fire broke out at a Chevron Phillips chemical plant in Port Arthur, Texas injuring two workers and frightening neighbors in the largely residential neighborhood. While the cause of the fire is still being determined, the incident highlights the danger posed by facilities that store large amounts of chemicals and the importance of providing the public with information on chemical threats in their communities.
Amid growing concerns about untracked spending on elections, two different efforts are underway to try to shed new light on this critical aspect of our democracy. First, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on June 24 reintroduced the DISCLOSE Act, which would require groups trying to influence elections to disclose their funding sources. Second, the July 1 reporting deadline for the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) online political file rule has arrived. The rule requires broadcast television stations to post information online about political advertisements.
The New York State Court of Appeals issued a decision on June 30 that will shape the future of natural gas fracking in the state. In a vote of 5-2, the court ruled that local townships have the right to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders. The decision upheld earlier rulings by the state’s lower courts that recognized the rights of the towns of Dryden and Middlefield to issue moratoriums on fracking.
New York's Child Safe Products Act failed to make it to the state Senate floor prior to the end of the legislative session last Friday, despite being passed by the New York State Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill would have better protected children by tightening standards on toxic chemicals used in kids' products, from car seats to toys to clothes. New York is one of several states seeking to create stronger chemical safeguards than currently exist at the federal level.
Democracy is premised on affording citizens equal say in determining the nature and direction of our government. The impacts of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases threaten to undermine this fundamental principle by maximizing the political power of those with the most economic power. In response, Congress is considering a constitutional amendment aimed at restoring the ability of states and the federal government to develop effective campaign finance policies.