Thoughts and Information on the Senate’s and GOP’s tax bill

Thoughts and Information on the Senate’s and GOP’s tax bill

Rather than a post, here are some articles on this bill (in case you haven’t heard enough about its draconian nature):

Some basics of the bill and its passage: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/01/tax-bill-2017-senate-republicans-274453?lo=ap_e1 & https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tax-bill-senate-passes-sweeping-tax-overhaul/ & http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/362891-senate-passes-tax-overhaul-securing-major-victory & https://www.npr.org/2017/12/01/567758536/mcconnell-says-gop-has-enough-votes-to-pass-tax-bill-friday

How the bill will/could impact you: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/02/561639579/chart-how-the-tax-overhaul-would-affect-you

How the bill will/could impact most of us: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-gop-tax-plan-20171202-story.html & http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/opinion/editorials/sd-gop-tax-plans-not-reform-20171130-story.html

How the bill will/could impact CA: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/opinion/editorials/sd-congress-tax-reform-hurt-california-20171117-story.html &http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-na-house-tax-bill-votes-california/

Aspects of the Senate bill that may have a hard time in the House: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/12/01/senate-tax-bill-provisions-house/914598001/

GOP sense that reconciliation will be smooth: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/02/tax-reform-whats-next-201078 & https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/02/us/politics/republicans-tax-cuts.html

Bill’s impact on healthcare: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-tax-bill-healthcare-20171202-story.html

Industries getting a break in this bill: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/02/business/tax-bill-offers-last-minute-breaks-for-developers-banks-and-oil-industry.html

Last minute pet projects added to the bill: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senator-s-pet-projects-added-last-minute-tax-bill-n825846

Last minute bonus for the well-to-do: https://slate.com/business/2017/12/republicans-are-tacking-a-last-minute-gift-for-rich-finance-guys-onto-their-tax-bill.html

Clinton’s thoughts on the bill: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/362957-clinton-horrible-tax-cut-plan-will-benefit-trump-and-the

Fact checking Paul Ryan: https://www.npr.org/2017/12/02/567882076/fact-check-how-does-paul-ryans-case-for-tax-cuts-match-the-facts

Next on the chopping block, government’s social support programs: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/02/us/politics/tax-cuts-republicans-entitlements-medicare-social-security.html

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Speak Up for Net Neutrality – Take II

Speak Up for Net Neutrality – Take II

Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) chairman, announced that he and thus the FCC are moving forward with reversing net neutrality and that the FCC Board will vote on this issue on December 14th, 2017. While it is next to certain that the Board will vote to revoke the net neutrality law, speaking up on this issue is still critically important – giving voice is always wise and in the law suits that are sure to follow, it will be important for the defenders of net neutrality to the point to the millions of Americans who have spoken up to protect net neutrality.

A loss of net neutrality would mean that the internet would morph into a product, the main goal of which is to make money. Internet providers could, and most likely would, create various speeds at which internet content is transmitted to you, the user, and could, probably would, charge customers more to get the faster speed and to access various parts of the internet (https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2017/11/21/16680290/fcc-end-net-neutrality-vote-announced). An example can be seen in Portugal, which does not have net neutrality laws, where an internet service provider has broken up access to the internet into different ‘units’ that you need to buy separately, think of this as an à la carte approach to using the internet: if you want to access Facebook you have to buy the social media package, if you want to engage in messaging then the messaging package is for you and if watching videos is in your future then you need to add that package to your cart, etc…. (http://www.iflscience.com/technology/country-net-neutrality/). The way, in which we use the internet, our very understanding of what the internet is and who it is available to (i.e. everyone) will be fundamentally changed by a revoking of net neutrality. Experts are saying that an increased price tag for one’s internet service is almost guaranteed to occur following the removal of net neutrality ((https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/technology/net-neutrality-repeal-questions.html).

Mr. Pai’s, and the Republican, argument for revoking net neutrality is essentially a version of trickle-down economics; the argument is that if Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the company that provides you your internet access (less than 25% of the country has multiple ISPs to choose from – I know this includes where we live in the VC), is de-regulated and free to charge more for fast access then those companies will make more profits. These companies will then turn around and re-invest those profits into building up America’s internet infrastructure. This increased internet infrastructure will lead to more ISPs and therefore more competition and thus the free market will ensure that prices as well as access stay competitive (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/22/ajit-pai-fcc-defends-net-neutrality-repeal-258161, https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2017/11/21/16680290/fcc-end-net-neutrality-vote-announced). Another argument that Mr. Pai makes is that he is simply returning the internet to what it was before the net neutrality law of 2015, while this may sound great – the truth is that in the US, the internet has always followed net neutrality. Thus the 2014 decision by the FCC codified what was standard practice – see the blog post from July 3rd, 2017 for more on this.

Needless to say countless people, the Democratic Party as well as many internet companies point out that there are numerous problems with this logic and that numerous things can, and probably will go wrong with this free-market approach. In short there are two major fears of opponents to the FCC’s upcoming decision: 1) an end to net neutrality will result in a “pay-to-play technology” with big companies and the well-to-do cruising in the internet fast lane while the rest of us, as well as start-ups and small companies, cruising in the slow lane, 2) the policy Mr. Pai has put forward would allow ISP’s to block content, which has never before been allowed, and thus there is bonafide fear that the intentional slowing of certain content or even censorship will begin to occur (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/technology/net-neutrality-repeal-questions.html, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/technology/fcc-net-neutrality.html).

While the time period has ended to make a formal statement to the FCC, here is the contact information for the FCC, including Chairman Pai – make your opinions on this issue heard: https://www.fcc.gov/about/contact.

 

Silence on the issue of Roy Moore is not an option

Silence on the issue of Roy Moore is not an option

Speaking up about Roy Moore….

On the one hand this is an issue we can hardly weigh in as we, of course, do not live in Alabama and are not Republicans. But on the other hand this is an utterly severe situation and to remain quiet simply gives power to the wrong doers. As Elie Wiesel said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere…” (https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/99574-we-must-take-sides-neutrality-helps-the-oppressor-never-the).

Just a quick review, Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, has been accused of sexually assaulting a teenager when he was in his 30s as well as dating teenagers when he was in his early 30s. The Washington Post broke this story and the original article depicting the assault and dating can be found at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/woman-says-roy-moore-initiated-sexual-encounter-when-she-was-14-he-was-32/2017/11/09/1f495878-c293-11e7-afe9-4f60b5a6c4a0_story.html?utm_term=.20fae428fdac. In the immediate aftermath of this news many Republicans engaged in the standard, ‘if he is guilt then that is not acceptable and he should resign’ response… Roy Moore denied all accusations but then went on to do an interview with Sean Hannity, in which Mr. Moore made his claims of innocence, regarding dating teenagers, seem rather dubious (https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrTccgruQhalJUARZgnnIlQ?p=Sean+Hannity+interview+with+roy+moore&fr=yhs-mozilla-001&fr2=piv-web&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001#id=3&vid=5e463c60678fa92827ebff1cbd34c211&action=view, http://www.businessinsider.com/roy-moore-sean-hannity-alabama-senate-2017-11, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-roy-moore-alabama-senate-race-20171110-story,amp.html).

Yet neither Duncan Hunter nor the Republican National Committee has released statements on this issue. In fact on the RNC website there remains info on how to volunteer for Roy Moore’s campaign (https://www.gop.com/search/?q=Roy+Moore). For any politician, any Republican and most definitely the RNC to be silent on this issue is abhorrent and vile. The safety of a child ought to be sacred and anyone who mistreats a child – and since it seems one needs to spell this out, an adult dating a child is mistreatment – must be repudiated and cast out from politics, from a job that includes the representing of and advocating for children.

Therefore, let us not be silent and let us contact the RNC as well as Duncan Hunter reminding them that children come before party. Each needs to make a statement about their position regarding Roy Moore.

Contact info for the RNC: ecampaign@gop.com

Opposition to the Republican Tax Bill

Opposition to the Republican Tax Bill

Taxes, of course, are complicated and tax cuts as well as tax plans are complicated too. In order to gain an understanding of this tax plan, we are going to look at how this plan impacts various stake holders as well as interest groups. If you would like to read the tax plan, head to: https://waysandmeansforms.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bill_text.pdf

We, the residents of California, (as well as residents of other states with high state income taxes such as CT, MN, NY, NJ and OR) will be negatively impacted by this tax plan. Currently everyone filing federal taxes is allowed to deduct, from their federal taxable income, the monies paid in state income taxes as well as local property taxes; the current Republican tax plan would remove those deductions. Doing this would raise billions of dollars for the federal government and would therefore help offset the debt this plan would create: 1.5 trillion dollars over the course of 10 years, (http://in.mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idINKBN1D31CS).

Governors, Representatives and State officials from to-be impacted states have come out strongly against this tax plan – both due to the impact this plan would have on their state & its residents and due to the political motivations behind the decision to remove this deduction. Connecticut’s Commissioner of Revenue Services stated that he perceived eliminating this deduction as being politically motivated since the states most damaged by this change voted for Hillary Clinton and tend to vote for the Democratic Party. In terms of the monetary impact removing this deduction would have, “For California, the Internal Revenue Service reported that approximately one in three residents took a state or local deduction in 2015, totaling roughly $113 billion, according to H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state’s finance department. ‘Congress is trying to rush consideration of a tax proposal that will have profound and widespread impacts on California,’ Palmer said” and ‘By eliminating or rolling back state and local tax deductibility, Washington is sending a death blow to New York’s middle class families and our economy,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat and one of the most outspoken opponents of the bill, wrote in a letter to Trump this week. “It’s clear this is a hostile political act aimed at the economic heart of New York [,]’ (http://in.mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idINKBN1D31CS).

Another stakeholder who would be negatively impacted by this tax bill is anyone who holds sacred the separation between church and state. Amidst the many pages of text, this bill would repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prevents tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates and from contributing to political campaigns. 100 Democrats sent and signed a letter to the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee (the Committee in charge of this bill) asking that the Johnson Amendment remain law. This letter makes a poignant case for retaining the Johnson Amendment and shares that 4,000 faith leaders as well as 5,000 organizations contacted Congress requesting that Congress retain the Johnson Amendment, (https://johnlewis.house.gov/sites/johnlewis.house.gov/files/10102017PreserveJohnsonAmendmentLetter.pdf). For additional information on the Johnson Amendment and how repealing it would impact America: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2017/11/gop-tax-plan-repeals-johnson-amendment-making-churches-super-pacs/,http://www.businessinsider.com/gop-tax-bill-johnson-amendment-repeal-2017-11?r=UK&IR=T,http://www.npr.org/2017/02/03/513187940/the-johnson-amendment-in-five-questions-and-answers.

In terms of special interest groups…

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a conservative leaning group, has come out against the tax bill stating, This bill leaves too many small businesses behind. We are concerned that the pass-through provision does not help most small businesses”, (http://www.nfib.com/content/press-release/national/nfib-unable-to-support-tax-bill-in-current-form/). The pass-through provision the NFIB is concerned about has to do with how small businesses would be taxed. The opposition from the NFIB is rooted in the fact that while the new tax plan reduces the stated business tax from 39.6% to 25% there are requirements a small business must meet in order to receive the 25% tax rate and most businesses do not/would not meet the requirements. In addition personal service businesses, such as therapists, accountants, lawyers, would not be eligible for the 25% tax rate (http://thehill.com/policy/finance/358444-small-business-lobby-opposed-to-gop-tax-bill).

                The National Association of Realtors (NAR) opposes this tax bill stating, “REALTORS® cannot support a bill that takes homeownership off the table for millions of middle-class families” (https://www.nar.realtor/). The NAR finds fault with the bill noting that, based on analysis of a previously released blueprint of this bill, it “would cause a 10 percent drop in home values and raise taxes on middle-class homeowners by an average of $815” (https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/house-tax-bill-delivers-tax-hike-on-homeowners).

The National Association of Home Builders opposes the tax bill due to changes in the mortgage interest deductions American homeowners can currently claim (https://www.nahb.org/en/news-and-publications/press-releases/2017/10/statement-from-nahb-chairman-granger-macdonald-on-gop-tax-plan.aspx, https://www.wsj.com/articles/home-builders-will-oppose-republican-tax-bill-1509222362, http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/housing-industry-groups-oppose-house-gop-tax-bill/article/2639424)

And in terms of causes:

Supporters of Obamacare will be interested to note that there is discussion of how to use the tax bill to eliminate the mandate for individuals to carry insurance: http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/03/republicans-tweak-proposed-tax-plan/

Electric car subsidies would go away: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-tesla-tax-subsidy-20171102-story.html

Assistance in the redevelopment and revitalization of older building would be threatened: https://chicago.curbed.com/2017/11/3/16602928/tax-reform-historic-preservation-credits

Our state’s (CA) efforts to create affordable housing would be negatively impacted: http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/11/03/gop-tax-proposal-would-gut-affordable-housing-state-officials-say/

Sports teams, including the NFL oppose the tax bill due to the elimination of tax breaks that help cities and states with funding for stadiums: https://www.wsj.com/articles/nfl-lines-up-against-stadium-provision-in-tax-plan-1509660444

For some information on odd elements of the tax bill, such as the fact that the bill redefines the definition of a fetus, the charitable deductions for college sports tickets, impacts art museums, teachers and gambling deductions go to: http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/03/politics/weird-parts-of-the-tax-reform-bill-tax-cuts-jobs-act/index.html.

And finally, per an ABC News/Washington Post poll, from November 3rd, 50% of Americans oppose the tax plan, 60% say it favors the rich and 33% support the plan; while 75% of Republicans support the plan and 65% of Republicans think the plan treats everyone equally…. 79% of Democrats oppose the plan and 9% of Democrats think the plan treats everyone equally (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/60-percent-americans-trump-tax-plan-benefit-wealthy/story?id=50891221).

 

 

H.R. 4072 – Protecting Wilderness in California’s Central Coast

H.R. 4072 – Protecting Wilderness in California’s Central Coast

Because from time to time one needs to hear some good news…. The issue for today is the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act and the good news is teamwork. This bill has been introduced in the Senate by Kamala Harris, co-sponsored by Dianne Feinstein, and introduced into the House by Salud Carabjal (D-CA-24), co-sponsored by Julia Brownley and Jimmy Panetta (both Democrats whose districts include portions of the Los Padres National Forest). The House version of this bill is H.R. 4072 and can be found at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4072?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Central+Coast+Heritage+PRotection+ACt%22%5D%7D&r=1while the Senate version of this bill is S. 1959 and can be found at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1959/text.

This bill, “would designate nearly 250,000 acres of public land in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument as wilderness [‘The wilderness designation is the highest form of protection the government can give to a public land. It prohibits roads, vehicles or permanent structures, as well as logging and mining.’]. The legislation also establishes a 400-mile long Condor National Recreation trail, stretching from Los Angeles to Monterey County… [In addition] The bill will designate four new wilderness areas in the Carrizo Plain National Monument and expands nine existing wilderness areas in Los Padres National Forest. It protects Condor Ridge and Black Mountain as new scenic areas, and designates the Condor Trail as a National Recreation Trail within the Los Padres National Forest” (https://carbajal.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=173).

The sponsors of these bills made the following statements:

Rep. Carabjal stated, “As our federal public lands and national monuments come under increased threat of oil and gas drilling, it is now more important than ever to act to permanently protect our open spaces…. The Central Coast is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in North America and these public lands provide invaluable local water supplies and recreational outdoor activities to our communities. We have a responsibility to protect these special places for future generations and that’s why I’m proud to introduce the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act.” and

                Sen. Harris stated, “Americans of all walks of life deserve access to our public lands, and we have a duty to protect them…. Expanding wilderness protections in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument is about recognizing the economic, recreational, and environmental value of these lands to the Central Coast and to our country. As this Administration continues to prioritize opening public lands to drilling, mining, and logging, I’m proud to introduce legislation that would ensure Americans are able experience the true beauty of our nation for generations to come” (https://carbajal.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=173).

The second good news (and teamwork) aspect of this bill are the California condors. For those of us who grew up learning about the plight of these birds or for those of us who have gone to the Safari Park, visited the birds’ enclosure and read the information wall, we know that these birds (Gymnogyps californianus) once roamed throughout much of the West but were on a steady march towards extinction until the last wild condor was taken into captivity in 1987. A captive breeding program was established and starting in 1992 condors were re-introduced into the wild. In 2013 there were roughly 237 wild condors flying over CA, AZ and Baja CA, Mexico (http://www.defenders.org/california-condor/basic-facts). You may also remember the elation back in April 2007 when a wild condor was spotted flying over San Diego County, the first since 1910 (http://www.10news.com/news/first-condor-spotted-over-san-diego-since-1910). If you are like me and secretly hope that one day we will see condors soaring above Valley Center, a visit to Pinnacles National Park is on the proverbial to do list because Pinnacles is one of the release sites for the breeding program and thus has resident condors (https://www.nps.gov/pinn/learn/nature/condor.htm). Pinnacles National Park is also within Rep. Panetta’s, co-sponsor of the House bill, district. And while it is tempting to launch into all the amazing things that make California condors really incredible animals (like they are the largest birds in North America), I will spare you that litany of fun facts and refer you to these websites: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/birds/california-condor, http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/california-condor, http://www.defenders.org/california-condor/basic-facts.

Finally, protected lands are under attack within this administration, as Trump’s recent decision to reduce the size of two National Monuments in Utah (Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante) shows. These Monuments were reduced in size so that the federal land can be opened up for private drilling and mining (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-monument/trump-to-shrink-utah-national-monuments-in-bid-to-boost-drilling-mining-idUSKBN1CW2PY). Thus it is incumbent upon us to assert that there is value and import in protecting wild lands so wild life can flourish.

HR 4041 – Fighting for the Rights of Americans who Fight for our Country and happen to be Transgendered

HR 4041 – Fighting for the Rights of Americans who Fight for our Country and happen to be Transgendered

Mr. Trump has made it abundantly clear that he intends to revoke the right to serve in the military from Americans who are transgendered. A quick review of his statements and policy pronouncements from this past summer make this abundantly clear.

In July Mr. Trump tweeted: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military”. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” “Thank you,” (http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/25/politics/trump-transgender-military/index.html).

And in late August (8/25/17) Mr. Trump wrote a memorandum for the Secretary of Defense noting that in his judgment President Obama did not have sufficient evidence to overturn the prohibition of openly transgendered individuals serving in the military: “In my judgment, the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year’s policy change would not have those negative effects,” (http://www.the-president.us/date/2017/08/25). This memorandum directed the military to halt movement towards the recruitment of transgendered individuals and notified the Department of Defense that it cannot provide any medical treatment for transgender individuals currently serving in the military. (http://www.the-president.us/date/2017/08/25, http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/25/politics/trump-transgender-military/index.html)

These pronouncements show that Mr. Trump is peeling back the rights of transgendered Americans and wants to return to an era when transgendered individuals could not serve openly in the military – in accordance with the new sentiments of our federal government, the military, as of June 2017, has imposed a six month wait time before it begins to allow openly transgendered individuals from serving, that is unless the President outright bans this (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna776131).

Needless to say, this assault on the rights of Americans is and should be opposed. 45 Senators and 15 Attorney Generals have written (separate) letters urging the Defense Secretary not to implement the ban/stating their opposition to the proposed ban of transgendered Americans serving in the military (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna787661, http://abcnews.go.com/amp/US/wireStory/15-attorneys-general-oppose-trump-transgender-military-ban-50515994). Lamda Legal and OutServe SLDN filed an injunction against the transgender ban and have filed a lawsuit on behalf of six transgendered service members and three organizations. For information on these lawsuits: https://www.lambdalegal.org/news/wa_20170914_lambda-legal-asks-court-to-halt-trans-ban, https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20170914_lambda-legal-asks-court-to-halt-trans-ban, https://www.outserve-sldn.org/. And now it is our turn….

H.R. 4041 has been introduced into the House and is currently being reviewed by the House Committee on Armed Services, on which Rep. Duncan Hunter sits. H.R. 4041 is neither long, complex nor complicated and bursts with common sense. It reads, minus paragraph and subsection titles, as follows, “It is the sense of Congress that individuals who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be eligible to serve…. A currently serving member of the Armed Forces may not be involuntarily separated from the Armed Forces, or denied reenlistment or continuation in service in the Armed Forces, solely on the basis of the member’s gender identity. Nothing in this subsection relieves a member from meeting applicable military and medical standards, including deployability, or requires retention of the member in service if the member fails to meet such standards…. The Secretary of Defense shall complete the review of policy on the accession of transgender individuals into the Armed Forces announced by the Secretary on June 30, 2017, by not later than December 31, 2017….Not later than February 21, 2018, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a comprehensive report on the results of the review of policy described in paragraph (1)” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4041/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+4041%22%5D%7D&r=1).

Finally, there have been multiple studies done on the impact of transgendered individuals in the military and all of the studies have found that there is no/would be no predicted negative impact:

“A 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few in the military’s 1.3 million-member force…. The study put the number of transgender people in the military… between 1,320 and 6,630,” (http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/25/politics/trump-transgender-military/index.html); while a study done in 2014 by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that there are 150,000 transgendered Americans who either were or who had served in the US military (https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Transgender-Military-Service-May-2014.pdf).

The Rand Corp. study goes on to estimate that the military would fund, 30 – 140 new hormone treatments a year and 25 – 130 gender transition-related surgeries among active service members annually. Estimates of the costs for these procedures range from $2.4 million – $8.4 million a year. In dollars and cents this is an “exceedingly small proportion” of the military’s budget as well as the military’s total health care costs and would represent an increase to military spending of about.04 – .13% (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html).

In addition the 2016 Rand Corp. looked at past integration efforts and experiences in other countries and determined that, “Minimal Likely Impact on Force Readiness [would arise]” and specifically that “The limited research on the effects of foreign military policies indicates little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness. Commanders noted that the policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force.” And that “Policy changes to open more roles to women and to allow gay and lesbian personnel to serve openly in the U.S. military have similarly had no significant effect on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.” (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html)

The recommendations made by the Rand Corp. are as follows “DoD [Department of Defense] should ensure strong leadership and identify and communicate the benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce to successfully implement a policy change and successfully integrate openly serving transgender service members into the force. DoD should develop an explicit written policy on all aspects of the gender transition process to minimize any impact on service member or unit readiness. DoD should provide education and training to the rest of the force on transgender personnel policy, and it should integrate this training with other diversity-related training and education. DoD should develop and enforce a clear anti-harassment policy that addresses harassment aimed at transgender personnel alongside other targets of harassment. DoD should make subject-matter experts and gender advisers serving within military units available to commanders seeking guidance or advice on gender transition–related issues,” (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html).

The Palm Center in a 2014 report found, “Our central conclusion is that formulating and implementing inclusive policy is administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome,” and stated “Inclusion of transgender personnel, however, is not primarily about administrative matters, but about core military values and principles: all military personnel should serve with honor and integrity, which means that they should not have to lie about who they are; all members of the military should be treated with respect; all persons capable of serving their country should be allowed to do so; and the military should not needlessly separate personnel who are willing and able to serve” (http://www.palmcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Report-of-Planning-Commission-on-Transgender-Military-Service_0-2-1.pdf).

HR 3947 and HR 4052 Common Sense Gun Reform

HR 3947 and HR 4052 Common Sense Gun Reform

Congressional Democrats, including our very own Senator Feinstein, are introducing legislation that would bring much needed gun control, all be it minor control, to our nation. At present there are two noteworthy bills in the House and as I am sure you can guess no Republicans are co-sponsors to the bills. Neither bill is being reviewed by any of the committees that Rep. Hunter sits on thus let us contact him and ask him to consider becoming a cosponsor, and to vote for the bills if/when they come to the floor for a vote.

Before looking at these bills, a few basics about guns…. Guns, of which there are 371 million in the USA (we have a population of roughly 319 million people), are divided into three different categories: handguns, rifles and shotguns (http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp#_ftn7). As the name implies, handguns (also called pistols) are held in the hand and usually can be held and fired using one hand. In order to fire a rifle or shotgun they are placed against the shoulder or are on a mount, in other words these are not simply held in one’s hand (https://www.nraila.org/about/glossary/). Another basic difference between guns is what happens after the shot is fired. Back when the second amendment was written, an individual had to stop after he (or she) fired the weapon and manually reload before firing again, needless to say this slowed down the pace of firing. As with most things from 1776, technology has created drastic changes (for a history of guns: http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/technique/gun-timeline/, for an interesting look at what the second amendment was actually intended for, was about: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/amendment-don-article-1.1223900).

Most of us are familiar, be it from images or our handling of guns, of a handgun/pistol that has a barrel with the capacity to hold 4 – 6 bullets, meaning that after 4 – 6 shots the person has to stop and reload the weapon; well technology has changed that too. Modern day magazines (the container on a gun where the bullets are stored) allow for a gun to have 10, 20, 50 or even more bullets available to the person without the person ever stopping and re-loading. This is true for both semi-automatic and automatic weapons. The difference between a semi-automatic and an automatic weapon is not how many bullets they can fire before the person has to reload; it is how many bullets they can fire with one pull of the trigger. A semi-automatic weapon fires one shot per trigger pull, so if the magazine holds 50 bullets the person has to pull the trigger 50 times to fire each bullet. An automatic weapon on the other hand allows the gun to fire continuously with one pull of the trigger, so those 50 bullets can be fired with one trigger pull. While automatic weapons are illegal for civilians to own, bump stocks, which are legal and can be bought for $100- $200 turn a semi-automatic weapon essentially into an automatic weapon, meaning that with one pull of the trigger a multitude of bullets are fired (https://www.nraila.org/about/glossary/, http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp#_ftn7, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-04/gun-buyers-bid-up-bump-fire-stocks-used-in-las-vegas-massacre, http://abcnews.go.com/US/bump-stocks-turn-semi-automatic-rifles-automatic-weapons/story?id=50283860).

Senator Feinstein has introduced a bill (S. 1916: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1916/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Feinstein%22%5D%7D&r=2) into the Senate that would ban bump stocks and other devices that essentially turn semi-automatic guns into automatic weapons. The House has a companion version of this bill which is sponsored by David Cicilline, co-sponsored by 173 Democrats and 0 Republicans, and is HR 3947 the “Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act”. Like Feinstein’s bill, HR 3947 would make it illegal to “import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess” any device that “accelerate[s] the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3947/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22cicilline%22%5D%7D&r=1). Needless to say this bill would not apply to any federal or state government agency. And that is the extent of this bill – so to be clear, this bill does not take away anyone’s guns, it does not limit the amount of bullets in a magazine; all it does is ensure that a semi-automatic weapon remains semi-automatic, meaning that one bullet is fired with one pull of the trigger, if you want to fire two bullets you have to pull the trigger twice. It has been reported that Republicans might be open to legislation that limits bump stocks and there are reports that Republican members of the House might be drafting a Republican version of this bill thus asking Rep. Hunter to support this bill is not asking him to break with his party (https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2017-10-05/paul-ryan-house-republicans-open-to-bump-stock-ban-after-las-vegas-shooting).

HR 4052 the, “Keep Americans Safe Act” is sponsored by Elizabeth Esty, co-sponsored by 85 Democrats and 0 Republicans. As with HR 3947 this bill would not apply to law enforcement, federal or state government agencies. This bill goes further than the bump stock legislation and would make it illegal to import, possess or to transfer to someone a magazine (or any other device that contains the bullets for a gun) that is larger than 10 bullets (the bill refers to such magazines as “large capacity” magazines). All large capacity magazines/devices in possession before this bill became law would be grandfathered in. Should someone import, posses or transfer a “large capacity ammunition feeding device” there would be a fine and/or up to 10 years in jail. An exception to this law would be .22 caliber rimfire ammunition, which is a small bullet and vastly popular, due to its size this bullet is often used in close range, such as 10 feet or less (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4052/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+4052%22%5D%7D&r=1,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rimfire_(firearms)). As Nevada Representative Jacky Rosen said, ““High capacity magazines have no practical purpose for hunting or self defense,” and as her fellow Nevada Representative Dina Titus stated, high capacity magazines endanger citizens, “by allowing dangerous shooters to fire more rounds without reloading” (http://www.sierrasun.com/news/nevada-democrats-join-bill-to-ban-high-capacity-gun-magazines/).

Both HR 3947 and HR 4052 are as common sense as common sense gets. So let us contact Rep. Hunter and urge him to support these measures. Now, in case you need a little humor – watch this spoof report on the ‘National Rifle Addiction’ plaguing the US as shown on a Dutch commentary show: https://youtu.be/a-o9pwWUzz0