A bipartisan duo on the Jan. 6 committee on Monday rolled out legislation aimed at preventing future attempts to overturn elections, and House leaders are eyeing a vote as early as this week.
The Presidential Election Reform Act, unveiled by Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., centers on overhauling the Electoral Count Act, an archaic law that governs the counting of electoral votes, which former President Donald Trump and his allies sought to exploit to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election.
The 38-page bill would make clear the vice president's role in counting votes is simply ministerial and raise the threshold for objecting to electors from one member of the House and Senate to one-third of each chamber. It would require governors and states to send electors to Congress for candidates who won the election based on state law prior to Election Day, according to an official summary, meaning states couldn’t change their election rules retroactively after an election.
The legislation is expected to be reviewed by the Rules Committee on Tuesday. Last week, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., notified members that the full House might consider the bill this week, which could occur as soon as Wednesday.
“Our proposal is intended to preserve the rule of law for all future presidential elections by ensuring that self-interested politicians cannot steal from the people the guarantee that our government derives its power from the consent of the governed,” Cheney and Lofgren wrote in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the House and the Senate toward this goal.”
The measure takes a different approach than the Senate's version, which is the product of months of bipartisan negotiations and scheduled for a committee markup later this month. For instance, the Senate bill would require one-fifth of each chamber to force a vote to object to electors.
Monday, September 19, 2022
When 14-year-old Michael Carneal opened fire on his fellow students during a before-school prayer meeting in 1997, school shootings were not yet a part of the national consciousness. The carnage that left three students dead and five more injured at Heath High School, near Paducah, Kentucky, ended when Carneal put down his weapon and the principal walked him to the school office — a scene that seems unimaginable today.
Also stretching today’s imagination — Carneal’s life sentence guaranteed an opportunity for parole after 25 years, the maximum sentence permissible at the time given his age.
A quarter century later, Carneal is 39 with a parole hearing next week that comes at a very different time in American life — after Sandy Hook, after Uvalde. Today police officers and metal detectors are an accepted presence in many schools, and even kindergartners are drilled to prepare for active shooters.
“Twenty-five years seemed like so long, so far away,” Missy Jenkins Smith recalls thinking at the time of the sentencing. Jenkins Smith was 15 when she was shot by Carneal, someone she considered a friend. The bullet left her paralyzed, and she uses a wheelchair to get around. Over the years, she has counted down the time until Carneal would be eligible for parole.
“I would think, ‘It’s been 10 years. How many more years?’ At the 20-year anniversary memorial, I thought, ‘It’s coming up.’”
Ron Avi Astor, a professor of social welfare and education at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has studied school violence, said public opinion around school shootings and juvenile punishment has changed a lot over the last 25 years. In the 1980s and 1990s, Astor provided therapy to children who had committed very serious crimes, including murder, but were rehabilitated and not jailed.
“Today all of them would have been locked up,” he said. “But the majority went on to do good things.”
Jenkins Smith knows first-hand that troubled children can be helped. She worked for years as a counselor for at-risk youth, where her wheelchair served as a stark visual reminder of what violence can do, she said.
“Kids who would threaten school shootings, terroristic threatening, were sent to me,” she said. Some are now adults. “It’s great to see what they’ve accomplished and how they’ve changed their lives around. They’ve learned from their bad decisions.”
But that doesn’t mean she thinks Carneal should be set free. For one thing, she worries that he is not equipped to handle life outside of prison and could still harm others. She also doesn’t think it would be right for him to walk free when the people he injured are still suffering.
“For him to have a chance at 39. People get married at 39. They have children,” she said. “It’s not right for him to possibly have a normal life that those three girls he killed will never have.”
Killed in the shooting were 14-year-old Nicole Hadley, 17-year-old Jessica James, and 15-year-old Kayce Steger.
Astor said that when it comes to the worst crimes, like many people, he struggles with the question of what age children should be held strictly accountable for their actions. As a class exercise, he has his students consider the appropriate punishment for a perpetrator at different ages. Should a 16-year-old be treated the same as a 12-year-old? Should a 12-year-old be treated the same as a 40-year-old?
Without any national consensus, you end up with a patchwork of laws and policies that sometimes result in very different punishments for nearly identical crimes, he said.
It's not my call as to whether Carneal gains parole. If the parole board decides that, then he'll have served his time. But three dead and kicking off the modern era of school shootings should come with a price. An entire generation of kids followed him into blood and hell. And an entire generation of Republicans made sure the gates to hell would remain open, and paved with firearms.
We do have a choice in November here in Kentucky.
Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon after knocking out power to all of Puerto Rico, its governor said, as forecasters warned that the storm could bring as much as two feet of rain and cause life-threatening floods and landslides.
Nearly 1.5 million customers were without electricity on Sunday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks power interruptions.
Because of the hurricane, the power grid was out of service, the governor, Pedro Pierluisi, said on Twitter. “Protocols have been activated based on established plans to address this situation,” he said.
The collapse of the electrical grid came five years after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico and knocked out the island’s power. Since then, unreliable electricity has been a mainstay of life on the island, leading to a slow recovery and widespread protests by frustrated residents.
The power company LUMA warned on Sunday that full power restoration could take several days. It said that the storm was “incredibly challenging” and that restoration efforts would begin when it was safe to do so.
“The current weather conditions are extremely dangerous and are hampering our ability to fully assess the situation,” it said on its website.
Hurricane Maria struck the island as a Category 4 storm and produced as much as 40 inches of rainfall and caused the deaths of an estimated 2,975 people. On Sunday morning, Fiona strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane.
Fiona made landfall, meaning the eye of the storm crossed the shoreline, along the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico near Punta Tocon around 3:20 p.m. local time, the National Hurricane Center said.
Significant flooding had already occurred, and it was likely the rain would continue through Monday morning, said Jamie Rhome, the acting director of the National Hurricane Center.
“It’s basically going to park itself over the island tonight and produce very, very, very heavy rainfall,” Mr. Rhome said.
While still a tropical storm, Fiona brought flooding to Guadeloupe, an island southeast of Puerto Rico, and there was at least one storm-related death in the capital, a government official said on Saturday.
In Puerto Rico, rainfall totals could reach 12 to 16 inches, with local maximum totals of 25 inches, particularly across eastern and southern Puerto Rico, forecasters said. The rain threatened to cause not only flash flooding across Puerto Rico and portions of the eastern Dominican Republic but also mudslides and landslides.
Fiona had winds of about 85 miles per hour and prompted hurricane warnings for Puerto Rico and the coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo, the center said.