On the Ground in Ohio

cross-posted from Sum of Change

COLUMBUS, OH: I am on the ground in Ohio, here to cover the protests for the couple days that I can afford to be away from DC. Today, despite a persistent rain, demonstrators lined the sidewalk outside of the Capitol Building in Columbus to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 5 which threatens state employees' bargaining rights. Today's protest was a lead up to tomorrow, when thousands are expected to descend on Columbus.

I also want to include the full interview I did with one of the teachers:

Some helpful facts about Ohio and collective bargaining (from the Examiner , not directly quoted)

• Ohio public employees make the same or less than their counterparts in the private sector (although a higher percentage of state workers have college degrees)
• In the last 9 years, state workers have taken 5 years of pay freezes (that's with collective bargaining)
• Budget gaps are higher, on average, in states that do not allow collective bargaining
• State employee payroll in Ohio equals only 9% of the state budget

We'll be here for part of the protest tomorrow too!

Candidate Forum, Special Election for DC's At-Large City Council

cross-posted from Sum of Change

Last week, we attended a candidate forum for candidates in the special election for Washington, DC's At-Large City Council. We were hosted by DC for Democracy, Greater Greater Washington, and the DC Environmental Network. This event was streamed live and you can watch the entire recording of that livefeed here. Below, you will find videos broken out by question. We have posted every question that was asked, in the order it was asked. Enjoy!

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Sen Feingold Accepts 23,000 Thank You Cards From DFA

cross-posted from Sum of Change

I was honored today to join folks from DC for Democracy, the local Democracy for America affiliate, to personally deliver over 23,000 thank you notes to Senator Russ Feingold. Shortly after the the 2010 election, Jim Dean asked DFA members from all across the country to send the Senator messages of appreciation. In an email to all members, he wrote:

We lost a lot of bold leaders on Tuesday, but Senator Russ Feingold is in a class all his own. He is one of the great heroes of the progressive movement -- standing up and fighting for the people of his state and Americans across the country time and again -- often when no one else had the courage to lead. When other Democrats in Washington capitulated to President Bush and supported the war in Iraq, Senator Feingold stood up and voted against war. Two years later, he became the first Senator to call a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. When the Bush administration pushed the Patriot Act on Congress, Senator Feingold was the only person is the Senate to recognize the bill as an attack on American civil liberties and vote "No." And when unlimited and unregulated "soft money" threatened to overwhelm our political system, Senator Feingold authored and passed into law the most powerful campaign finance reform in history. Senator Feingold has always been there for us. Please, join me in writing Senator Feingold a short thank you message for all the work he's done for us over the years.

We met up at Senator Feingold's campaign office, a short walk from Union Station, and waited patiently for the Senator to get back from voting on the START Treaty. The staff asked me not to film the meeting so they could have a casual conversation, but I did get the opportunity to catch the DC4D folks at Senator Feingold's office getting their first look at the tens of thousands of thank messages:

Sumofchange - DFA Thanks Sen Feingold


In our meeting, the Senator told us he is looking forward to the coming fights and while his role will change we should expect him to continue to lead on any number of issues. Thank you, Senator, for your years of service, courage, and integrity. To everyone who wrote a thank you message, I wish you could have seen the look on his face when we presented them to him. Know that he appreciate

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S01E12: The Tester Amendment to S. 510 the Food Safety Bill

cross-posted from Main Street Insider

There are several reasons that we decided upon the Tester Amendment to the Food Safety Bill for episode 12 of 90 Second Summaries. First and foremost, the amendment is a significant one that is essential to understanding this piece of legislation (legislation we summarized in episode 7). Not only is it the most substantial difference between the Senate’s version of the bill and the House’s, but without it the future of the legislation itself would be unclear. Therefore, we think it is important that people understand how this amendment changes the bill.

Another significant influence in our decision was you. When we summarized the Food Safety Bill in episode 7 a number of viewers brought up the issue of protections for small farmers. It was clear to us that this amendment was worthy of a summary.

We expected this bill to get a cloture vote today, but they’re taking the week off and coming to it next Monday. Which makes sense, it’s not like they have a lot on their plate this lame duck session (other than this, DADT repeal, tax cut extensions, the DREAM Act and a new START Treaty, you know, minor stuff).


Tester Amendment to S. 510, the “Food Safety” Bill
Sponsor: Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT); Cosponsor: Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Also called the Tester-Hagan Amendment
Click here to download this summary (pdf)

Status: The Tester Amendment has been included in the Manager’s Amendment to S. 510. A cloture vote is scheduled for November 29th. The Senate bill will then need to be merged with the H.R. 2749, the House version which does not include a similar provision to the Tester Amendment.

Purpose: S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, creates new regulations on the food industry intended to prevent food-borne illnesses. However, many believe it places undue burden on small farmers. Numerous national, state, and local organizations – repre

senting consumers, farmers and ranchers, local food producers and co-ops – quickly expressed their concerns regarding the proposed regulations.

In response, Senator Jon Tester proposed an amendment designed to protect those small and local farmers from burdensome safety regulations.

Summary: The Tester Amendment exempts small businesses from the regulations proposed in S. 510 and establishes some new guidelines for those businesses. Specifically, it:

• Exempts businesses that have annual sales of less than $500,000 and sell the majority of their products to consumers, or to restaurants and retailers within the State or within 275 miles. The Food and Drug Admini stration (FDA) will have the power to revoke an exemption if the facility has been associated with a foodborne illness outbreak.
• Exempts all “very small businesses,” to be defined by FDA.
• Defines farmer’s market sales as “direct-to-consumer” for FDA purposes
• Requires exempted businesses to submit to the FDA documentation that demonstrates that the facilities qualify for the exemption and are in compliance with state and local laws.
• Requires exempted businesses to put their business name and address on all product labels.

These businesses would not be exempt from any other existing or future regulations, only those established by this legislation


CBO Score: None provided.

Supporters: Small and local farm organizations,

• Supporters, argue that small farmers provide an important option for consumers and that the regulations proposed in S. 510 could push many of them out of business. The also point out that the recent, well-publicized incidents involving food-borne illnesses resulted from “industrial food supply chains” and not small farms.

Opposition: American Meat Institute, National Chicken Council, etc., and some food safety advocates

• Most opponents argue that federal food safety frameworks should apply to all segments of the food industry regardless of size, location, or type of operation.

Further links

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[UPDATE x2] Lame Duck Round Up - 90 Second Summaries

With 90 Second Summaries, we aim to cover policy items due to receive close attention in the coming weeks and months that are not being properly explained by most of the press corps. As a result,  over one third of our episodes cover pieces of legislation that are receiving action or are expected to receive action during this lame duck session of Congress. We did not hit every hot topic on the board, but we got to a good number of them. Without further ado, here's a roundup of the bills we covered that you should know about as the lame duck session unfolds:

Unemployment Insurance Extension:

UPDATE: The unemployment insurance extension failed to pass in today's House vote.

The House votes today on a suspension bill to extend unemployment insurance by three months. David Waldman explains:

Now, suspension bills need a 2/3 vote to pass, so that's a pretty high hurdle -- 290 votes, at least 35 of which would have to come from Republicans. So why bring the bill to the floor that way? Suspension bills aren't subject to amendment, nor to the motion to recommit. So although the hurdle is high, it's a straight-up yes-or-no vote on unemployment benefits extension. Click here for more information on the unemployment insurance extension.

The Dream Act:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced he will bring up the DREAM Act as a standalone bill in the lame duck session. In the past, the Senate has attempted to attach the DREAM Act to larger bills.

Click here for information on the DREAM Act.

The Expiring Bush Tax Cuts:

The deals are still being hammered out on this so the specifics of what legislation will pass are still little fuzzy. By all reasonable expectations, an extension of some sort WILL get passed before the end of the year.

Click here for more information about extending the Bush tax cuts.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act:

UPDATE 2: A compromise was reached on the Tester Amendment and it will be included in the Senate bill. It is still unclear whether or not a similar provision will be included when the Senate version is reconciled with the House version.

This bill has been moving its way through the Senate somewhat quicker than most of us expected. Cloture passed yesterday, 74-25, on the motion to proceed to debate (generally a proxy for cloture on the final bill) and the Senate is expected to pass the bill today or tomorrow. The hot topic has been the Tester Amendment, which provides exemptions for small and local farmers from the new regulations. The Tester Amendment will likely pass, but H.R. 2749, the House version of the Food Safety Bill, was passed without a similar provision. The two bills will have to be merged and whether or not the Tester Amendment will survive that step is unclear.

If the Tester Amendment is indeed included in the Senate bill, then it is scheduled to be our next 90 Second Summary (that will be Monday).

Click here for more information about the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.



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