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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

North Dakota Sees Rise in HIV and AIDS

Despite having incredibly low occurrences of HIV and AIDS in the state, North Dakota is seeing an increase in cases than the state has seen in several years.  North Dakota officials have stated there has been an increase in the northwest since an oil boom attracted thousands of non-residents to the area for work. 
The U.S. Department of Education has formally launched an investigation into the Recovery School district’s policy of school closures after a complaint was filed alleging the school closures violated the civil rights of African American students.  Specifically, the closures disproportionately impact African American students as well as do not provide them with alternative schools once their schools are closed.
California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed the nation’s first sexual assault bill that requires affirmative consent language to be a part of sexual assault policies across college campuses.  The “yes means yes” bill, as it is known, requires colleges to implement affirmative, voluntary, and conscious consent as a part of their sexual assault policies.
The Arkansas Supreme Court is poised to hear arguments regarding the voter ID law that took effect earlier this year.  The law requires those without proper identification to cast their vote through a provisional ballot, which will only be counted if a person submits proof of identification or signs an affidavit stating indigence or religious objection to being photographed.  The law was struck down by the lower courts as unconstitutional and the state appealed the rulings.
A federal appeals court recently upheld Ohio’s early voting period by striking a proposed shortened period.  The United States Supreme Court, however, overruled the lower court and granted an emergency order that would shorten the early voting period and allow polls to be closed on the Sunday before Election Day.
Mayor Bill de Blasio will sign an executive order this week that will raise the wages of up to 18,000 workers living in New York City over the next five years.  The order will raise wages for those with benefits, such as health insurance, from $10.30 to $11.50.  The order will also raise wages for those without benefits from $11.90 to $13.13.
The Washington State Supreme Court is holding the legislature in contempt after it failed to rewrite its procedure for school funding.  In 2012, the Supreme Court held the system of funding for education was unconstitutional and ordered the legislature to devise a new plan with a deadline for the 2017-2018 school year.  The court placed the legislature in contempt for failure to demonstrate progress in fixing that plan and is holding off on implementing punishments until the 2015 legislative session.
A federal judge in Oklahoma is the latest judge to rule on the legality of subsidies being provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Judge Ronald White ruled that the subsidies being provided to states that only have a federal exchange marketplace were an “invalid implementation” of the law.  The legality of subsidies is currently being litigated in several states and may find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  It is being reheard en banc by the D.C. Circuit Court after conflicting rulings.

Several states will be reinstating their food stamp work requirements after suspending them during the Great Recession.  Seventeen states will be imposing work requirements for healthy individuals who are 18 to 50 years old and have no children.  Advocates are concerned that work requirements will pose a greater difficulty for those living in areas where jobs and job training are scarce or hard to reach.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Felons Getting Closer to Voting in Kentucky

With three bills in the legislature, former felons may get closer to having their voting rights restored.  Kentucky is one of four states that require a pardon from the governor before voting rights can be reinstated.  These bills in the legislature would provide for automatic restoration after a prison sentence and probation were completed for certain kind of felons.  If the bills pass, Kentucky will join 38 states that automatically return voting rights after a felon has completed their sentence and any probation/parole.