Friday, October 17, 2014
The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) is a non-profit civil rights law and policy organization based in Washington, D.C.. It’s primary mission is to help connect advocates with social scientists working on race and poverty issues, and to develop innovative approaches to structural inequality issues. PPRAC is currently seeking candidates for a Housing Law and Policy Fellow, who will focus on PPRAC’s housing, community development, and environmental justice portfolios. The position is based in Washington, D.C.. If you or one of your students might be a good fit, check out PPRAC’s job description here.
This month, our friends at the Leadership Conference released a report that "seeks to raise awareness among the civil rights and other communities about the need for stronger minimum wage policy to advance equity and fair pay for individuals and families struggling in low-paying jobs." This important report was developed in collaboration with the Georgetown School of Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality. Check it out and comment!
The Legislation Law Prof Blog has previously reported on the recent successes of the Ban the Box movement, which spotlights the problematic relationship between prior convictions and a persistent lack of employment opportunities: the box on employment applications requiring the revelation of a past criminal conviction can be a life-long death knell for employment prospects. Indeed, studies show that three out of every five formerly incarcerated people remain jobless for one year after they are released from prison. You can read some of our Blog's prior coverage here.
Although there's been some progress in advancing public attention and policy advocacy around this problem, there's more that could be done. Our friends at talkpoverty.org recently posted this article, arguing for an "executive order eliminating exclusionary questions on initial job applications." Check the article out here.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Do you have an article on legislation that is looking for an excellent placement? Please see the message below from the Richmond Journal of Law & the Public Interest.
The Richmond Journal of Law & the Public Interest is seeking submissions for the Spring Issue of our 2014-2015 volume. We welcome high quality and well cited submissions from academics, judges, and established practitioners who would like to take part in the conversation of the evolution of law and its impact on citizens.
We currently have four total openings for articles for our Spring Issue. As a Journal that centers in large part on the Public Interest, we are seeking at least one article that touches upon current Legislation issue(s) and the effects that the issue(s) may have on the National Public Interest. For a sense of what we are seeking for our general issues, please feel free to visit our archives here.
If you would like to submit an article for review and possibly publication, or if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact our Lead Articles Editors - Rich Forzani and Hillary Wallace. They can be reached, respectively, at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
The Poverty & Race Research Action Council is a terrific resource for anyone interested in policymaking or legislative issues, especially those that concern the disparate impact of laws and government on marginalized groups.
For instance, in the PRRAC monthly updated issued today, PRRAC reported some progress on HUD's fair housing planning-- especially concerning patterns of segregation and other disparities in HUD programs-- and the Department of Education's assessment of intradistrict resource disparities:
Progress on fair housing planning: HUD took another step forward in the planned release of a new rule clarifying the Fair Housing Act's "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" obligation for state and local government recipients of HUD funding. This latest step is a draft assessment form for jurisdictions to use to analyze local patterns of segregation in HUD programs and disparities in access to opportunity for different racial and ethnic groups, using HUD-supplied data. The improved reporting requirements will force communities to confront these issues, and will give the public more information about how their federal funds are being spent. Improvement is still needed in several key sections of the draft, to promote strong community participation and identify action steps that state and local agencies will take to address identified problems. Here are links to the draft assessment tool and notice and request for comment in the Federal Register. If you have thoughts on these materials, please forward them to PRRAC or share them on the Legislation Law Profs Blog.
Intradistrict resource disparities: The Department of Education has issued a comprehensive Title VI guidance on assessing the racial impacts of disparities in key educational resources (school funding, advanced courses, experienced teachers, school facilities, instructional materials and technology, and extracurricular opportunities) across schools within a school district. In the footnotes, the Department also acknowledges the importance of assessing racial disparities across school districts within a state, and the impact of racial isolation and concentrated poverty on student opportunity.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
As you are likely aware, the academy suffers from a shallow bench of scholars who carefully mine the field of legislative process. I share William Eskridge’s “collective lament” that such a critical area is woefully under-illuminated. The Legislation Law Profs Blog constantly seeks to showcase some of the most interesting and impactful studies and commentary on legislative process, drafting, statutory interpretation, and policymaking.
Recently, I was reminded of an article that just might be my vote for the best read on legislative process last year: Abbe Gluck & Lisa Schultz Bressman, Statutory Interpretation from the Inside—An Empirical Study of Congressional Drafting, Delegation, and the Canons: Part I, 65 STAN. L. REV. 901, 915 (2013). Here's the SSRN link and the abstract of the article is reproduced below. What do you think? Do you have other nominees for most impactful reads published last year? Let us know!
Our findings have implications for virtually every swath of the interpretive debates. We can report, for instance, that there are some canons that our drafters know and use — Chevron and the presumption against preemption, for example, but that there are other canons that our drafters know, but consciously reject in favor of political or other considerations, including the presumption in favor of consistent usage, the rule against superfluities, and dictionary use; and still other canons, like Mead and noscitur a sociis, that our drafters do not know as legal rules but that seem to be accurate judicial reflections of how Congress drafts. Our interviews also elicited a treasure trove of information about key influences on the drafting process that legal doctrine rarely considers, from the variety of audiences for legislative history, to the way in which the personal reputation of particular agency heads affects delegation decisions, to the fact that drafting conventions depend on the type of statute being drafted and its path through Congress.
All of these findings, and many others, allow us to press for a more precise answer to one of the fields’ foundational questions: that is, what should be the purpose of these canons of interpretation? Judges, often using the unhelpful generalization that they are Congress’s “faithful agents,” have legitimized these doctrines using a variety of conflicting justifications, some of which turn on empirical reality, some of which do not, and most of which aim to justify many different types of canons that seem to be doing very different types of work. Do the canons reflect how Congress actually drafts, and so effectuate legislative supremacy? Or do judges use the canons for more dialogical reasons, such as to encourage Congress to draft more precisely — and does Congress listen? Might the canons, despite how "neutral" some appear, instead be understood to effectuate judicial values that are external to the legislative process — such as advancing constitutional norms or imposing coherence on the U.S. Code? Our study illuminates this variety across the normative bases for the canons also reveals that each set of justifications rests on a very different vision of the judicial power and the Court-Congress relationship.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
The Scottish Independence Vote and the American Tea Party: What Do they Suggest for the Future of Government?
At first blush, it seems that the vote for Independence in Scotland is miles away (or very far across the pond) from the Tea Party that has taken root in the United States. However, policy wonks suggest that the Scottish Yes movement has more in common with the right-wing tea partiers than meets the eye.
While voters rejected independence from the UK by a margin of 55% to 45%, the impetus for the vote stemmed from the belief that Westminster bureaucrats are out of touch with the needs of Scots. Similarly, tea partiers believe that Washington elites are incapable of effective governance.
Interestingly though, pro-independence Scots are on the opposite end of the spectrum from American tea partiers. As the New York Times notes, Scotland is far more liberal than the British ruling party (Scots favor increased social welfare spending, are strongly pro-green, and are antinuclear) whereas tea partiers are to the right of America’s executive and half of the legislative branches (though that could be just the executive branch after November if the Senate changes hands in the midterms).
What does this mean for advocates trying to advance policy? How do governments the world over regain the trust and faith of their citizens? There are no quick answers to these questions, but unless the bridge between the federal government and local populations are repaired, we will see more parties capitalize on discontent or event mount full scale independence movements (we’re looking at you, Montreal and Catalan).
Monday, September 22, 2014
Have you ever heard of the Powell memo? If not, take a moment to read on.
The Powell memo refers to an August 23, 1971 “confidential memorandum” written by Lewis F. Powell, Jr., a corporate lawyer in Richmond Virginia, to the Chairman of the Education Committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A few months after writing this memo, Richard Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court. Powell took his seat on the bench on January 7, 1972. The Powell memo significant because it is often regarded as the earliest and clearest playbook for neoliberalism.
Here is a link to the original document.
Here are some additional perspectives on the significance of the Powell memo:
What do you think about the Powell memo? What might have been its initial impact on legislative agenda and policy advocacy? Does it have a continuing impact today?
Sunday saw the largest-ever demonstration on climate change. Dubbed The People’s Climate March, the New York City event drew over 400,000 people. Protestors included politicians (Mayor Bill DeBlasio, former Vice President Al Gore, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Senators Chuck Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Bernie Sanders), environmentalists (Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva), and even actors (Mark Ruffalo, Leonardo DiCaprio).
The march is the first in a series of events held around the world to spotlight global warming ahead of Tuesday’s UN summit. During the summit, President Obama and other world leaders in government, finance, and business, will announce policy initiatives to combat global warming.
For more information, see:
Thursday, September 18, 2014
As a follow-up to our prior post on the Voting Rights Act, here is an interesting article presenting new data regarding restrictive voting laws—“Vulnerability in Numbers: Racial Composition of the Electorate, Voter Suppression, and the Voting Rights Act.”
Here is the abstract:
In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court rendered one of the most potent antidiscrimination provisions of American law a dead letter: the preclearance regime of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). Shelby County held that the formula determining which jurisdictions are required to obtain federal approval for voting law changes was outdated and offensive to states’ rights. The Court ignored ample evidence of discrimination in the covered jurisdictions, focusing instead on improvements in voter turnout and registration. We present new empirical evidence that the proposal and passage of restrictive voting laws, such as photo identification requirements and reductions of early voting opportunities, are associated with racial factors such as larger African American populations and increases in minority voter turnout. These results are consistent with the interpretation that restrictive voting laws have been pursued in order to suppress Democratic-leaning minority voters, and they are suggestive that racial discrimination is a contributing factor to this type of legislation. The increases in registration and turnout that Shelby County hailed as evidence that preclearance is no longer needed are actually risk factors for potentially discriminatory voting laws. We suggest opportunities for countering discrimination after Shelby County. The evidence we present is relevant to litigation under remaining provisions of the VRA, especially the prohibition on voting laws with a discriminatory effect under Section 2. Finally, we suggest that our findings should inform the Congressional response to Shelby County: a new coverage formula should include the racial characteristics we identify as risk factors.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Most readers of this blog are probably painfully aware of the fact that a drafter can compose the most beautiful piece of legislation ever, but it won't mean much if it doesn't have the political support needed to pass and get signed into law. Gauging such support can be difficult to do ahead of time. But one thing we do know is that elected officials and their staffers have been known to look to polling data -- even if they sometimes are reluctant to admit it.
Readers who are interested in innovative legislation that affects cities would do well to check out the "State of the City Poll" that the editors of the CityLab blog have been releasing in dribs and drabs in recent days. Yesterday's drib discussed support for local government, and prior drabs have touched on everything from opinions about local charities to support for renewable energy.
Although the wonkish among us might nit-pick the wording of some questions, and wish the CityLab editors would just drop the raw data all at once, rather than releasing it bit by bit, the series is well worth checking out.
I am a proud mother of two incredible, beautiful children. At times, as in everyone's life, somene (usually another kid) is mean or cruel to one of my kids and it raises my hackles. I want to protect my children from everything, and yet I know that is neither possible, nor truly desirable (if they are to learn to be independent, strong, and street-smart).
And then I hear of some horrible tragedy in the news... when a child has been the victim of a horrible crime. I think to myself: what would I do, as a parent, if such a tragedy hit my family? Frankly, I shudder at the dark places that question sometimes takes me.
Recently, a Texas grand jury refused to indict a father who killed a man he found allegedly sexually abusing his daughter. Learn more here. What would I do, I wondered, if I was in the father's shoes? Would I attack her abuser? What more might I do? What is the role of grief, parenting, and restitution when your child is the victim of violence? Does it matter if perpetrator of such violence against a child is an adult?
Today, an article challenged me to consider whether my instincts would change if another child were the perpetrator of such violence. The article considered one parent's effort to pass a new law that would allow victim's families to pursue criminal charges against the parents of a young perpetrator. Is it be a crime to parent a criminal? Should it be?
Of course, being a parent is not simple- for anyone. It is a complex journey with no bright line rules to follow. What should the laws be when a child (how about your child) is a victim of a violent crime? What should the law be when a child (how about your child) is the perpetrator of a violent crime against another child? What is the role of grief, parenting, restitution, blame, and prevention in all of this?
I, for one, am going to go outside to sit in the sun for a while. I know these dark places will continue to shadow me as long as I am so blessed to be a parent of these two incredible, beautiful children.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Last week, the California legislature passed an affirmative consent sexual assault bill. Called the "Yes Means Yes" bill, the legislation requires "students engaging in sexual activity [to obtain] 'affirmative consent' from both parties — a clear threshold that specifically could not include a person's silence, a lack of resistance or consent given while intoxicated." Further, the bill requires colleges to help victims of sexual assault seek medical care, counseling, legal assistance, and other services.
The Department of Education is currently investigating 55 colleges and universities over their handling of sexual abuse crimes.
For more information, see NPR.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), in 2013 there was a 23.8% increase in number of violent attacks on people experiencing homelessness. Of the 2013 attacks, 16% resulted in the death of the homeless individual.
Attacks against persons experiencing homelessness is not isolated to one area. As the NCH report notes, these attacks occurred in 47 states as well as Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.
Sadly, the frequency – and severity – of these attacks appears to be continuing in 2014. According to a report by Al Jazeera America:
“A 12-year-old accused of shooting a 54-year-old homeless man on July 28 in Jacksonville, Florida.
In Syracuse, New York, two young teenagers accused of throwing rocks at a homeless woman on July 31 after ripping open a tent she shared with others.
In Cape Coral, Florida, a 13-year-old held without bond after a homeless man was stabbed to death Aug. 5.
And in Albuquerque, New Mexico, two homeless Navajo men, unrecognizable and beaten to death on July 19, with three teens being held on $5 million bond each after being charged with murder and a range of other crimes.”
In light of the recent wave of violent attacks against persons experiencing homelessness, many advocates are encouraging states to add homeless to hate crime laws. Most hate crime laws protect race, class, religion, and sexual orientation; if person attacks another because of one of these characteristics, the perpetrator will receive an increased sentence.
Seven states, Alaska, California, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington, have added homeless to their hate crime laws. Given the steady increase in attacks against homeless, lawmakers should create policy that protects an already vulnerable population from violence and abuse.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Advocates often discuss our two-tiered society and nowhere is this more apparent than in New York City. The City recently approved a plan for a luxury building on the Upper West Side. The property will have 219 market-rate units with waterfront views and 55 affordable units that will overlook the street.
Market-rate residents (who will pay up to $25M to purchase in the building) will enjoy other amenities such as a concierge service and entertainment rooms. Residents in the affordable units, which are available to renters making no more than 60% of area median income, will not enjoy these amenities.
Nor will they even use the same entrance to the building.
The developer’s plan for the project includes a “poor door,” or separate entrance for affordable housing residents to enter/exit the building. As New York Magazine notes, the separate entrance will “spare all the residents from the terrible awkwardness of regularly encountering people whose lifestyles differ from theirs, or something.”
Extell Development proposed the property, and separate entrances, as part of an application for the Inclusionary Housing Program. Under this program, developers receive tax credits for creating affordable housing units alongside market-rate development projects. While affordable units must be in the same development, they need not be in the same property. They can be located in the same community district or even another district, if it is no greater than half a mile away.
As public housing becomes a thing of the past, inclusionary zoning tax incentives are a principal manner in which cities develop affordable housing.
Affordable housing advocates are torn. Some argue that developers should not benefit from discriminatory practices. Others argue that the focus should be on building more affordable housing units, not on who is using which door to enter.
Absent from the discussion, though, is mention of the psychological effect of the poor door on residents. One criticism of mid-century public housing was that its failure to conform to local architectural trends, along with the fact that such buildings were generally clustered in low-opportunity areas, stigmatized residents, which contributed to negative psychological outcomes. Recognizing this, affordable units developed by HUD in the 90s and 2000s championed mixed-income (though not with separate doors!), architecturally consistent properties. Like the early days of public housing, a poor door will stigmatize residents, which could result in negative behavioral health outcomes. Perhaps the City should conduct a Health Impact Assessment before breaking ground on the development?
What do you think of the poor door? Is this an acceptable way to develop affordable housing policy or another example of rampant discrimination, an equal protection case waiting to happen ? Let us know in the comments!
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The Legislation Law Prof Blog continues to reflect on Women's Equality Day by sharing a breaking news announcement from our friends at the UC Hasting's Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS): the highest U.S. Immigration Tribunal yesterday recognized domestic violence as a basis for asylum.
On August 26, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) issued a landmark ruling, Matter of A-R-C-G-, with the potential to affect immigrant women across the country. As CGRS has done with so many asylum cases based on domestic violence, it assisted the attorney in this case (Roy Petty) with briefing and strategy, and it filed an amicus brief in support of the client. CGRS has pioneered this area of the law in two internationally known cases – starting with the case of Rody Alvarado, Matter of R-A-, and then in Matter of L-R-. CGRS Director Karen Musalo, working with her colleagues at CGRS, represented both women. In 2004, and again in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) set forth its position that women fleeing intimate partner violence can qualify for asylum and agreed to grants of asylum in R-A- and L-R-, respectively. These were important victories, signaling that these cases are viable, but they did not set precedent. Now, for the first time, there is binding precedent to support domestic violence survivors who seek protection in the United States. In addition to this trailblazing work, CGRS has maintained a steadfast commitment to helping asylum seekers fleeing domestic violence and other forms of gender-based persecution. Yesterday’s decision has been more than a decade in the making. During that time, CGRS has assisted thousands of attorneys, prepared expert declarations, produced practice advisories, researched countless country conditions reports, filed dozens of amicus briefs, and represented asylum seekers as counsel. In this case, the government of Guatemala failed to intervene when Ms. C-G-‘s husband broke her nose, repeatedly beat and raped her and burned her with paint thinner. “Governments have the obligation to protect the human rights and physical integrity of all of their citizens, without discrimination. When a government does not take violence against women seriously, and allows brutal violence to be committed with impunity, asylum is the appropriate remedy. We are glad that the BIA finally acknowledged this principle,” said Professor Musalo. It took 15 years to get here, during which CGRS advocated for the issuance of gender regulations and to recognize the validity of domestic violence claims. Now CGRS and its allies will work to make sure that this decision leads to refuge for more women, including those caught up in this latest surge of migration to our borders.
To learn more, read CGRS's press release.
Women's equality, indeed.
To commemorate the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment - which granted women the right to vote - Congress designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.
Ninety-four years later, women’s equality remains an important policy issue. The recent Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby (previously discussed by law prof blog) curtails women’s access to contraception. Women, on average, earn less than their male counter-parts; according to census bureau data, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Exacerbating these issues, the US ranks last in government-supported time off for new parents.
While women have made strides (for example, women outpace men in college enrollment), there is more policy work to be done to achieve equality between men and women.
Read the White House’s statement on Women’s Equality Day here.
Monday, August 25, 2014
After the Supreme Court effectively eviscerated the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County (allowing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval), many folks who care about protecting the voting rights of racial and language minorities wondered if the VRA still has teeth.
Last Friday, Judge Thomas Rice made it clear that the VRA can still bite-- at least in Yakima, Washington. Forty-one percent of Yakima’s more than 91,000 residents are Hispanic, but the city has never elected a Hispanic member to its at-large City Council. In 2012, the Washington Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued Yakima, arguing that the city’s at-large elections dilute the Latino vote and block representation despite Latinos making up a third of the city’s voting-age population.
Judge Thomas agreed, ordering Yakima to change its elections system to comply with the Voting Rights Act: “In the final analysis, there is only one rational conclusion to be drawn...that the non-Latino majority in Yakima routinely suffocates the voting preferences of the Latino minority.”
The Yakima city council is still deciding whether to appeal.
Friday, August 22, 2014
From the Huffington Post:
“A White House petition that would create a 'Mike Brown Law' requiring police officers to wear cameras has earned over 100,000 signatures in just one week.
The petition, with 131,897 signatures at the time of publication Wednesday, asks the following of the White House:
Create a bill, sign into law, and set aside funds to require all state,county, and local police, to wear a camera. The law shall be made in an effort to not only detour police misconduct(i.e. brutality, profiling, abuse of power), but to ensure that all police are following procedure, and to remove all question, from normally questionable police encounters. As well, as help to hold all parties within a police investigation, accountable for their actions.”
For more, see here.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Today, the Legislation Law Prof Blog is spotlighting a freshly posted SSRN article on the relationship between race/ethnicity and campaign finance in state legislative elections. The article is based on Albright's study of 15 states and 3000 candidates. Here's the general abstract:
In spite of the increasing campaign finance legislation aimed at equalizing barriers in political campaigns, a fundraising gap persists across racial/ethnic lines. In the era of modern campaigning, with the expenses of advertising and polling, among others, ample funds are necessary but not universally accessible to all candidates. This study addresses the relationship between candidate race/ethnicity and campaign fundraising, and the possible moderating impact of three dimensions of the state political context – state legislative professionalism, state Republican party strength, and state culture (South vs. Nonsouth). I evaluate fundraising totals across 15 states for over 3,000 candidates in the 2006 state legislative elections. Ultimately, the findings suggest that after controlling for other candidate characteristics, as well as district and state context, there is a negative, statistically significant relationship between candidate race/ethnicity and fundraising. In addition, the effect of race/ethnicity is moderated by two features of the state context - legislative professionalization and the state culture. This study finds that non-white candidates continue to fundraise less than their white counterparts and state context is important in understanding the race/ethnicity gap in campaign finance.
The SSRN link to Albright's article is here. Albright is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she teaches courses on American government, state and local government, and public administration.
We love to spotlight scholarship on legislative topics that would be of interest to our blog community-- so if you have relevant articles to recommend, please contact us!