What’s in the Senate’s new gun control bill

“Under the legislation, $750 million would be allotted over the next five years to help states implement red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others. (Similar laws already exist in 19 states and the District of Columbia.) The legislation allows for the implementation of these programs through mental health, drug and veterans’ courts.

Republicans involved in the negotiations pushed to make sure no one is flagged without “the right to an in-person hearing, an unbiased adjudicator, the right to know opposing evidence, the right to present evidence, and the right to confront adverse witnesses,” as well as a right to bring counsel to the hearing.

“Under this bill, every state will be able to use significant new federal dollars to be able to expand their programs to try to stop dangerous people, people contemplating mass murder or suicide, from being able to have access to the weapons that allow them to perpetrate that crime,” Murphy said in a floor speech.”

“While spouses, co-parents or cohabitating partners convicted of domestic violence are already banned from purchasing firearms, abusers in relationships between people who are not married and live separately are still able to purchase guns, creating the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” (According to Everytown, a gun safety advocacy group, about 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month.)

Under the new legislation, anyone convicted of domestic violence against a former or current dating partner would be banned from purchasing a weapon.”

“The legislation calls for an expansion of background checks into buyers under 21 years of age, providing three business days for the check into their criminal and mental health history to be completed. If that background check finds something questionable in a potential buyer’s record, the legislation would provide for an additional seven business days to look into the buyer.”

“The bill provides funding for expanding access to mental health services, including making it easier for Americans on Medicaid to use telehealth services and work with “community-based mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers and organizations.” And it would provide additional funding for the national suicide prevention hotline (since guns accounted for a majority of suicide deaths in 2020) while schools would receive funding to increase the number of staff members providing mental health services.”

“The bill also provides $300 million for the STOP School Violence Act for increased security at schools, although some Democrats had expressed concern about this aspect of the bill.”

“The legislation would also require more sellers to register as “Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers,” including anyone who sells guns to “predominantly earn a profit.” These sellers would in turn be required to run background checks on potential buyers and keep records of the sales.

The bill would also impose penalties on “straw” purchasers who buy guns for people who can’t pass a background check.”

Gun safety deal puts Cornyn’s Republican cred on the line

“Cornyn hoped to get as many as 20 Republican votes for his legislation, which would enact new enhanced background checks on people younger than 21, grant states money for red flag laws and crisis intervention and close a loophole on domestic abusers’ firearm access. On Monday the vast majority of the conference voted against advancing the legislation, with 14 Republicans voting to advance the legislation and supportive Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) absent.”

“Faced with a chorus of boos and a rebuke from the Texas GOP over the weekend, Cornyn got a taste of what the reaction could be on the right for Republicans who vote for the Senate’s bill designed to curb mass shootings in America. What’s more, on Monday evening the NRA announced opposition to the package crafted by a quartet of senators that includes Cornyn, whose A+ rating from the gun group is probably about to take a downgrade.”

Gov. Newsom Proposes Eliminating One of California’s Many Marijuana Taxes

“When Californians voted to legalize recreational marijuana cultivation and sales back in 2016, the industry ended up saddled with state and local taxes that make it inordinately costly to attempt to sell or buy cannabis legally. As a result, the black market for marijuana still dominates sales in a state where it’s legal to buy it. Industry analysts estimate about $8 billion in black market marijuana sales annually in California—double the amount of marijuana purchased through licensed dispensaries.

The cultivation tax has been consistently eyed by industry analysts as a problem. This particular tax is unique among agricultural products in California, and due to the legislation passed in 2017 to establish tax authorities, it’s regularly adjusted for inflation. As a result, cultivation tax rates actually increased at the start of 2022 despite this big black market problem.

The high cost of attempting to cultivate marijuana has both given cannabis farmers second thoughts and has fostered a whole new drug war as state and local law enforcement officers raid illegal grow operations out in the rural and uninhabited parts of the state. Legislators even passed a new law adding more potential criminal penalties for those arrested for “aiding and abetting” any unlicensed dealers.”

“It’s good news that Newsom is proposing eliminating the cultivation tax. He may be doing it in the hopes that the state will make more money, but California residents will also benefit from cheaper legal options. And if this makes it easier for people to grow cannabis legally, there will hopefully be fewer raids and enforcement operations in the future.”

AOC Defends Due Process as Colleagues Greenlight Asset Seizure Bill

“The bill does not suggest that those whose assets are seized must be linked to—let alone convicted of—any crime. Rather, it states that the Biden administration shall “determine the constitutional mechanisms through which the President can take steps to seize and confiscate assets under the jurisdiction of the United States” of any foreign person on whom the president has imposed sanctions due to their links to Putin’s regime.

Nor does it require that sanctions and asset seizure be linked to corruption; political “support for” the Putin administration is enough.

Of course, in a country like Russia, where dissidence can be punished gravely, support may be a matter of (economic and sometimes literal) survival. Is it really fair for the U.S. to punish people for this?

Alas, a lot of legislators think so. The Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act passed the House by a vote of 417–8 on Thursday.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) was one of just eight “no” votes on the measure.

“This vote asked President Biden to violate the 4th Amendment, seize private property, and determine where it would go – all without due process,” AOC said in a statement. “This sets a risky new precedent in the event of future Presidents who may seek to abuse that expansion of power, especially with so many of our communities already fighting civil asset forfeiture.”

It’s a very valid concern—and the kind all too rare among lawmakers and among political partisans more broadly.”

Elizabeth Warren’s plan to break up Big Everything

“mergers don’t just affect consumers: “The world has changed for those workers,” Warren said.”

“Studies have shown that as markets become more concentrated, wages stagnate.”

“Under Warren’s new bill, mergers over a certain size or that consolidate the market too much are forbidden. And consummated mergers that have harmed competition, workers, consumers, or competitors can be broken up.”

The time to panic about anti-trans legislation is now

“In recent weeks, as Republican politicians in several states have introduced increasingly draconian measures designed to crack down on the lives and well-being of trans teenagers”

“A bill in Idaho, currently being considered by the state Senate after being passed out of the House, perhaps goes furthest in this regard. That bill would make providing medical care to trans youths a felony, punishable with up to life in prison. It would also effectively trap families of trans children in Idaho by forbidding them to travel elsewhere for treatment.”

” exas Gov. Greg Abbott directed that state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to open child abuse investigations into parents who pursue gender-affirming health care for their trans children. A judge issued an injunction against the directive being carried out, but a tweet from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton suggested that the state will ignore the injunction and continue investigations into families of trans children.”

“There is a reason every major American medical body recommends giving trans children the chance to transition. (Here’s an article from the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics making this argument 11 years ago.) Children first transition socially — with changes to their clothing, haircut, and name. Then, with a physician’s guidance, they can block the onset of puberty in early adolescence, and finally start hormone treatment in later adolescence.
This method works. We have records of trans children receiving hormone treatment as long ago as the 1930s. With this approach, trans kids can largely live lives that are indistinguishable from those of cis kids.”

“It’s worth repeating some other basic facts: Affirming trans children’s genders reduces their risk of attempting suicide; the use of puberty blockers in trans kids is safe; children are having bottom surgery only in exceptionally rare cases; and almost every element of trans health care we have was originally developed for cisgender people. (Cis children with precocious puberty have been using blockers for decades!)”

The Republican Party is still fractured on criminal justice reform

“Recent progress on criminal justice reform indicates that there’s still bipartisan interest in narrower policies.
Republicans’ backing for the Equal Act — a pretty limited bill — is still significant. It’s not yet clear if the legislation will move forward in the Senate, though it now has sufficient Republican support.

In the past, Republicans have similarly been open to very targeted policies.
The First Step Act, for example, enables just a subset of federal inmates to shorten their sentences. Other more ambitious reforms, meanwhile, have floundered.”

Congress could finally pass a Covid bill. They’ll soon have to do it all again.

“The roughly $10 billion in pandemic aid the Senate is preparing to vote on after a weekslong impasse will keep the nation’s testing, treatment and vaccination programs afloat for only a couple months, lawmakers, Biden administration officials and public health experts warn.”

“This round of funding — if it can pass the House and Senate — would help restart key Covid-19 programs that recently ran out of resources, including the development of future variant-specific vaccines and federal government purchases of drugs for people at risk of hospitalization.
But the package was whittled down from more than $30 billion federal officials originally argued was needed to $22.5 billion the White House pitched to Capitol Hill last month to $15.6 billion congressional leaders tried to attach to the 2022 spending bill.

Now, $10 billion is on the table and the money for the global vaccination effort and for testing, treating and vaccinating the uninsured was dropped, all but guaranteeing the Biden administration will shortly need Congress to do this all over again.”

“Public health leaders warn that these short-term bursts of cash are creating gaps in preparedness, leaving millions vulnerable to a new Covid surge.”

“with no global money in the current deal, policymakers fear the disruption to the U.S.’ pandemic work overseas will continue indefinitely.

“Doing nothing to slow the global spread of COVID-19 is foolhardy,” Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) warned Monday. “As the virus continues to mutate and wreak havoc overseas, more Americans will become sick and die.”

For months, officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development have warned lawmakers that they would soon run out of money to help facilitate vaccinations in low- and middle-income countries, and advocated for at least $19 billion for the global Covid fight.”

“On the domestic front, the funding delays have forced the federal government to halt purchases of enough additional booster doses for all Americans and slash the purchase and distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments and antiviral pills for high-risk Covid patients. It has also disrupted research into new treatments and cut off reimbursements to doctors around the country for testing, treating, and — as of Tuesday — vaccinating the uninsured. Even if Congress manages to approve the funding this week, public health experts say, there’s a good chance all of these threats will reemerge in just a few months, damaging the stability and continuity of their fight against the virus.”

Democrats’ voting rights debacle

“Another question is whether, in going for broke trying to pass their dream bill, Democrats will have missed an opportunity to get less sweeping but still significant reforms enacted. Washington is abuzz with news that some Republican senators want to engage in talks about reforming the Electoral Count Act — the law Trump tried to use to get Congress and Vice President Pence to throw out Biden’s wins in key states. Yet leading Democrats like Schumer have so far voiced skepticism of those efforts.

Whether any GOP reform offer is worthwhile depends on the details, and it’s possible no deal will come together. But right now, the alternative appears to be getting no reforms at all.

The unpleasant reality for Democrats is that they’ll only be in a position to pass the agenda they say is necessary if they manage to win more elections. Yet their prospects for doing that in 2022 look bleak, considering Biden’s grim approval numbers. There’s still a chance to make the bipartisan deals they can now, and try to win more elections later. But the time for tilting at windmills is drawing to a close.”