Politics

How Government Agencies Usurp Our Rights

The federal bureaucracy increasingly acts as prosecutor, judge, and jury

Philip Hamburger | City Journal

As 2016 wound down, the administrative law judges (ALJs) at the Securities and Exchange Commission had issued more than 150 decisions. The year before, they racked up more than 200 decisions before celebrating New Year’s Eve. These individuals work hard, and they are fine exemplars of the devoted people who serve in a judicial capacity within federal agencies.

Exactly what they do, however, deserves more attention. When the SEC charges an individual with securities fraud, it can choose to proceed in the courts—by bringing a civil-enforcement action or by referring the case to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. Either way, the defendant enjoys the full range of the Constitution’s procedural protections. But the commission also has the option to charge defendants administratively, before its administrative law judges. And when it thus pursues a case in-house, rather than in the courts, the defendant doesn’t get a jury, a real judge, or the real due process of law. Continue reading


Senate OKs bill allowing warrantless inspections of farms

The bill doesn’t say when the Department of Agriculture can come onto their (farmers’) property,” Black said. “They’d have rights to come onto their farm daily if they wanted. There’s no due process for the farmers. There’s no protection.”

By Jesse Adcock

Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill approved by the Senate would allow state inspectors to carry out warrantless inspections of hundreds of Virginia produce farms to ensure compliance with federal regulations.

“It’s one of those bills you don’t like, but someone’s got to carry it,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland County. He said that if the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services doesn’t conduct the inspections, “then the federal government will come in and do it for us.”

But some farming representatives argued that the inspections would violate their constitutional rights. “

If the government has free access to your property, that’s in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” Richard Altice of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association told legislators. “You are mandated to kill this bill.”

Continue reading


Bill to defund Planned Parenthood advances

By Megan Corsano and Amelia Heymann

Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Planned Parenthood clinics in Virginia could lose their federal Title X funding under a bill that cleared the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee on Thursday.

HB 2264, introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, was reported by the Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions in an 11-7 vote. It happened during the committee’s final meeting before “crossover day” – Tuesday’s deadline for bills to clear their chamber of origin. Cline’s proposal now goes to the full House of Delegates.

The committee’s swift decision was accompanied by no comments from Cline or members of the audience about the bill.

The bill would “prohibit the Department of Health from spending any funds on an abortion that is not qualified for matching funds under the Medicaid program or providing any grants or other funds to any entity that performs such abortions,” according to a summary by the Legislative Information System.

Title X funding is vital to organizations like Planned Parenthood because it is the only federal program that provides grants for reproductive and family planning services. Republicans on the state and national level have been trying to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving this fund because the organization provides abortions.

Planned Parenthood officials say abortions make up about 3 percent of the group’s services. Most of its services are for testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, contraception and cancer screening and prevention.

During a subcommittee meeting earlier in the week, Cline said his bill would give priority to more than 140 federally qualified and rural health clinics in Virginia. He said the bill would make sure that money is sent to “health clinics that meet the needs of those populations they serve in the most comprehensive manner possible,” instead of to clinics that provide abortions.

While Cline’s bill is moving forward, Democratic-sponsored bills regarding women’s health care have been having a hard time even getting heard, Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-Herndon, said at a press briefing held by the Women’s Equality Coalition on Thursday.

One such bill is HB 2186, called the Whole Woman’s Health Act, which Boysko filed to give women easier access to abortions services.

Boysko’s bill was assigned to the House Courts of Justice Committee, chaired by Del. David Albo, R-Fairfax. The panel has not held a hearing on HB 2186.

Albo wrote a letter to Boysko saying the committee had only one meeting left before crossover. “The Committee historically kills bills associated with liberal politics,” the letter said. “If we did spend effort in hearing these bills, then we would have much less time to review the bills that actually have a chance to become law.”

Many speakers at the news conference were outraged that Albo didn’t let the bill have a hearing.

“Quite frankly, it is ridiculous and it is offensive for Del. Albo or any legislator to claim that they are simply too busy to do the job,” said Anna Scholl, executive director for Progress Virginia.

“Del. Albo wasn’t too busy to spend many hours of this legislature’s time regaling us with his tails of trying to resell his Iron Maiden tickets, and insisting that the legislature find time to fix that particular problem of his,” Scholl said. “If Del. Albo can find time to write laws to make sure he can resell his concert tickets, he can certainly find the time to hold a hearing on issues that impact more than half of the population.”

Margie Del Castillo, associate director of community mobilization for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, also criticized Albo.

“Virginia women are workers. We sometimes hold down multiple jobs, we raise families, we take care of elderly family members, and we’re active members of our society,” Castillo said. “Women already do so much with the 24 hours that we have in a day. Our legislators here in Richmond are here full time … It seems that Del. Albo and the House GOP leadership could take a lesson from the women in Virginia on time management.”


Presidential candidates won’t have to release tax returns

By Amelia Heymann

Capital News Service

 

RICHMOND – A bill to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns to get on the ballot in Virginia died in a legislative subcommittee Thursday.

Democrat Del. Mark Levine of Alexandria submitted HB 2444 after Donald Trump refused to make his tax returns public during the Republican nominee’s successful presidential campaign last fall. It had been a tradition for presidential hopefuls to disclose their tax returns; candidates had done so for 40 years.

“It had been done not as required by law, but because the presidential candidates felt that the voters had a right to know,” Levine said. Continue reading


House panel shelves bill to help ‘suitcase children’

By Amy Lee

Capital News Service

RICHMOND – They call them the “suitcase children” – youngsters who are shuttled back and forth between their parents’ homes amid messy divorce and custody battles. Regardless of which parent finally emerges victorious in court, the child loses time with friends, involvement in school activities and a sense of stability at home.

Two Chesterfield residents, with support from Del. Riley Ingram, R-Hopewell, have been fighting for a new law to protect these “suitcase children.” Roy Mastro and Stella Edwards drafted a bill that would amend the state code and hold guardians ad litem to greater accountability.

Attorneys who are appointed guardian ad litem in child custody cases are responsible for crafting a report on the child’s circumstances, including parent interviews and home and school visits. Sometimes, custody courts are manned by substitute judges – and when this happens, that report is the only information the court consults to decide a child’s fate.

HB 1957 would have required the guardian ad litem to complete a certification checklist and collect signatures of interviewed parties to be submitted alongside the report.

The bill is dead for this legislative session. The House Civil Law Subcommittee, which reviewed the bill, has decided to wait for a Supreme Court of Virginia work group study that will review the policies and procedures for a guardian ad litem.

“They keep bringing that up every year. Every year that we’ve brought this up, here comes that work study group,” said Mastro, who backed a similar bill that also failed to pass last year.

“I worked for Honeywell for 40 years, and my boss, when they had a study group or something, he said they spend too much time studying and not enough time with action. And that’s what you find, and Riley [Ingram] feels the same way.”

Mastro and Edwards don’t plan to stop fighting for children caught in parental court battles.

Edwards chairs the legislative committee of the National Parent Teacher Association. Besides being a PTA leader, she is a radio host on WVST-FM, where she speaks about civic engagement. Edwards says the evidence of trauma on “suitcase children” is becoming more and more evident.

“Folks see things, but they don’t say anything till someone else brings it to light, and then they jump on the bandwagon and say, “Yes, I can attest that this is happening.’ Teachers are broken-hearted seeing it every day in their classrooms and not being able to really do anything,” Edwards said.

“In many cases, even when a guardian ad litem is supposed to talk to a teacher or a guidance counselor, they don’t do that.”

It’s a sore subject for many parents, Mastro says, but not an uncommon story. He’s seen friends spend upward of $200,000 to challenge custody rulings that have placed their child with an unfit parent. Such money and time could be saved and children would be safer, he says, if guardians ad litem did their jobs right.

For now, Mastro, Edwards and fellow advocates are waiting for the Supreme Court of Virginia study, which is expected to be completed this May. Their priority is making sure a guardian ad litem certification checklist is included in the study. If it’s not, they’re ready to return to the General Assembly session next year with a fresh bill in hand.

“We’ll have to keep following this issue and putting it in the paper, and make sure people are aware of what’s happening,” Edwards said. “Otherwise, these are the kind of things that will very easily fall through the cracks. Whatever we can, we will continue to do.”


 
 

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