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Is the Violent Radicalization Bill Dead?

January 21, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

"Much maligned here as a $22 million boondoggle, the idea to create yet another government entity to study an overblown threat already addressed by the $44 billion-a-year U.S. intelligence community, not to mention countless think tanks and authors, was the brainchild of Rep. Jane Harman , D-Calif. A few years ago local police and the FBI broke up a prison-based plot to bomb synagogues in the name of jihad in her district. Sen. Susan Collins , R-Maine, introduced a companion measure, but it was doomed by a lack of specificity on who the commission’s targets were, among other problems."

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The FISA Debate: It's Not Just About Immunity

January 18, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

"The role of the FISA court is also at issue. The Intelligence Committee bill doesn’t give adequate authority to the FISA court to do what it is supposed to do - operate as an independent check on the executive branch. The bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee does give the court authority to assess the government’s compliance with its wiretapping procedures, to place limits on the use of information that was acquired through unlawful procedures, and to enforce its own orders – all of which are critical checks and balances."

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Ashcroft's Sketchy Deal

January 18, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

"It's hard for me to even begin to describe the gut-wrenching, mind-boggling irony of this situation. First off, how can Mr. Ashcroft be expected to monitor a company in an independent manner that is paying him directly? Second, it's not like Zimmer Holdings was accused of union-busting or providing unsafe working conditions for its employees. They were accused of bribing doctors! Wouldn't it be reasonable to believe they could continue to attempt to offer illegal bribes?"

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Showdown Avoided

January 17, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The House passed the revamped bill on Wednesday by a vote of 369-46 and the Senate is expected to easily approve it when they come back into session next week. The bill contains military bonuses and pay raises, veterans' health insurance payments, and military retirement pay, among other thing, so there are a lot of people out there who will be happy that Congress decided to play it safe rather than proudly contest the legality of the pocket veto.

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Watch the Money Race

January 17, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Maplight.org, the amazing site that seeks to illuminate the connection between campaign cash and legislative outcomes, just launched a widget that lets you post fundraising stats to your blog or website. With the widget, you can easily monitor the fundraising activities of incumbents and challengers from your state, or of any candidates that interest you.

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Right Back to Immunity

January 16, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The PROTECT Act that Congress passed in August is set to expire on February 1st, and finding a follow-up fix to FISA is going to be one of the first orders of business when the Senate returns next week. But in order to come to an agreement on the main issues of national security and privacy it entails, the Senate is going to have to first tackle a peripheral one that has kept the debate from moving forward so far: should the companies that agreed to help President Bush bypass the laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant be held liable for their actions?

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"My OpenCongress" in Action (so far...)

January 15, 2008 - by David Moore

Just yesterday OpenCongress launched a set of new features, and already people from a variety of backgrounds are joining the conversation about bills and issues using their "My OpenCongress" accounts. Here's a quick round-up of some of the responses to our launch from around the web, and links to some examples of "My OpenCongress" users engaging with government and sharing info through these new features.

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As Congress returns tomorrow to start a new session, OpenCongress is excited to announce a major update that will put all the bills and votes at your fingertips. It's never been easier to track what's happening with your government. Now you can build a personal profile on OpenCongress of the bills and people you're tracking, network with other users, comment and vote on bills, and much more.

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Farm Bill Offsets

January 10, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress comes back from recess and appoints a conference committee to start working on reconciling the House and Senate's versions of the Farm Bill, one of the main sticking points will be a proposal from the Senate version that seeks to codify a judicial principle known as the economic substance doctrine as a means to raise revenues. The Bush administration and some Republicans in Congress are calling the proposal a tax increase and Bush is threatening not to sign the bill if it is included. Democrats (and some Republicans) insist it closes a loophole that some businesses have been using to skirt their responsibility to pay a fair share of taxes.

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Petition Against the Violent Radicalization Bill

January 8, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Cha Cha Connor writes: >One of the bills lots of people want to stop is the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. > >There's a petition against it - you can sign it here > >Anyone can print out the petition, and send it to their public officials. The Senate version of this bill still has not passed, so sending the petition to Senators is a top priority for people who want to stop this. Here's a link to the Senate version of the bill. This was submitted to Ope...

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Lou Gehrig's Patients Get Their Bill Blocked

January 7, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

"The ALS Registry Act was written and introduced four years ago. Endless hours by ALS Advocates and congressional time taken to approve and make sure it is acceptable has all been lost. The Senator found a way to kill the clock just before the other team won; Senate trickery called a 'Hold.'"

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A Pay Raise for Judges?

January 2, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

A pay raise for federal judges may be in the works when Congress returns in January. For the second year in a row, Chief Justice John Roberts used his year-end report (pdf) on the Federal Judiciary to ask Congress to make approval of a bill to raise judicial salaries "a first order of business." But unlike the report from 2006 (pdf), this year's report contains a glimmer of hope. Just a few weeks earlier, the House Judiciary Committee approved by overwhelming majority a bill that would raise judicial salaries to the same relative level other federal employees for the first time since 1969.

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Is There Room for Little Guy Legislation?

January 1, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Until getting his brief note and checking out the MySpace link he sent us, I had never noticed the pending bill H.R. 4038, entitled "For the relief of Adrian Rodriguez." Intrigued, I did a little research and found out that Rodriguez spent some time in a Tijuana prison in 2003 after he bought a car at a U.S. Customs auction that had 33-pounds or marijuana stashed in it. After some publicity and political pressure, Rodriguez was eventually proven innocent (under Mexican law the accused are considered guilty until proven innocent) and released from prison, but the bill seeks to take one last step in what Rodriguez calls his "quest for justice."

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