It's Time to Restore Our Democracy, and Put a Stop to Partisan Gerrymandering of Congressional Districts
Our Restore Democracy legislation calls for an end to partisan gerrymandering because all 435 congressional districts must be competitive for democracy to be real and survive.
The simple fact is that partisan gerrymandering has contributed to a rigged political and economic system that works for the benefit of a powerful few at the expense of the many. Out of 435 congressional districts, only 25 to 35 are ever truly competitive at election time – because state legislatures use partisan gerrymandering to draw boundaries that almost always ensure victory for the same party.
Quite frankly, change won’t come easily. Members of Congress who are almost certain to be reelected aren’t naturally inclined to help reform the system and make their “safe” districts competitive. But the future of our democracy depends on the honesty and integrity of our elections; so we are determined to keep building support one member of Congress at a time.
Meanwhile, the courts are taking a strong interest in partisan gerrymandering and its constitutionality. Last week, a panel of three federal judges ruled that Republicans have unconstitutionally gerrymandered North Carolina’s congressional districts to help ensure election victories against Democrats. It’s still unclear what the decision could mean for the fall elections.
Explaining the decision, Judge James H. Wagner Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit wrote:
“A common thread runs through the restrictions on state election regulations imposed by Article I, the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause: the Constitution does not allow elected officials to enact laws that distort the marketplace of political ideas so as to intentionally favor certain political beliefs, parties, or candidates and disfavor others.”
The Restore Democracy Revolution in a Nutshell
The foundation lies in overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which has allowed wealthy special interests to spend unlimited amounts of secret “dark” money to influence our elections and public policy making process. Our legislation would also put Congress on record supporting small donor-public campaign financing and limiting the campaign season. Moreover, we are calling for full disclosure of all campaign contributions, establishment of national online voter registration and a halt to all voter suppression.
We also call for a return to Congress’s traditional process of Regular Order. Under Regular Order, we compromise and find bipartisan solutions by fully considering every idea and amendment under an open rule – and affording each one an up or down vote. That’s how Congress fixed things, solved problems and got things done for more than 250 years. It’s time to get back to that tried and true method of serving the American people.
We will keep you posted as events proceed. Meanwhile, I want to hear your thoughts. Feel free to contact any of our offices listed below or send me an email.
The Administration's Auto Emissions Plan Marks Another Gift to Fossil Fuel Industry and Climate Change Deniers
Our old friend, Minneapolis Star Tribune cartoonist Steve Sack, nails the President’s attitude toward climate change.
Right along with its plan to allow power plants to return to the days of dirty coal, the Republican Administration has handed the fossil fuel industry and climate change deniers yet another outrageous gift – a proposed new rule to overturn Obama era auto emissions standards put in place to help address climate change.
Specifically, the Administration’s plan would roll back the rule, set in 2012, requiring the auto industry to double fuel economy on passenger vehicles to about 54 miles per gallon by 2025. In practical terms, that means you could drive from Duluth to the Twin Cities on about three gallons of gas.
According to the Obama Administration, its vehicle standards would have cut greenhouse gas emissions by six billion metric tons over the lifetime of the cars they affected – or about as much carbon dioxide as the U.S. emits in a year.
In addition, the new Republican rule would revoke the right of states to set their own auto pollution standards – a stipulation Ronald Reagan successfully championed while he was Governor of California. And automakers would no longer be required to produce more fuel-efficient cars, including hybrids and electric vehicles.
The only good news here is that 19 states, including Minnesota, have filed suit to stop the rule from going into effect. If the suit should fail, it will be up to Congress to step in and overturn the rule – as well it should.
Federal Student Loan Mismanagement Hits Crisis Proportion
Here in Minnesota, Globe University was forced to close in 2016 after a court ruling that the institution had made fraudulent claims to students.
The Administration’s mismanagement of the $1.5 trillion federal student loan program reached new heights last week. Seth Frotman, student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, resigned in protest over the Administration’s refusal to protect student borrowers from predatory lending and fraud. Mr. Frotman was the government’s top official in charge of overseeing student loan issues.
In his letter of resignation to the Bureau’s acting director, Mike Mulvaney, Frotman said, in part: "The Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting. Instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America."
Meanwhile, I have registered strong opposition with Department of Education Secretary DeVos to a new rule that would reduce loan relief for defrauded students by $12.7 billion over 10 years and make it nearly impossible for students to have their loans discharged. The fact is, students who have been misled by their institution of higher education have a legal right to relief from their federal student loans. Here in Minnesota, there are still 1,775 outstanding applications for relief from fraudulent student loans.
My detailed letter registers five specific objections to the proposed rule. You can read the letter here. But in summary, the Secretary’s proposed plan:
• Makes it substantially harder for defrauded borrowers to assert a claim.
• Seeks to deter defrauded borrowers from asserting a claim.
• Undermines the legal rights of students to assert a claim.
• Limits options for students enrolled in a school that is forced to close.
• Allows the most financially unstable institutions to benefit from federal student aid.
My letter concludes: In sum, the Department’s proposed rule will have significant, negative implications for both defrauded borrowers and taxpayers. I urge the Department to address theses concerns and move quickly to provide all students the relief to which they are entitled, as intended by Congress.
Almost a Year After Hurricane Maria's Devastation, Puerto Rico Still Struggles
In the wake of Hurricane Maria, this woman and her dog stand on the foundation of their devastated home in Corozal, Puerto Rico. A full year later, thousands of American Citizens on that island are still struggling to rebuild and move on with their lives.
It’s time for Congress to conduct thorough oversight hearings and get to the bottom of the Administration’s inadequate, haphazard, poorly run response to the hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico almost a year ago. Last week, the Puerto Rican government updated the official death count for Hurricane Maria from 64 to nearly 3,000 people. And to this day, survivors continue to struggle as they attempt to rebuild.
In the immediate wake of the disaster, I urged the President to order the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to airdrop urgently needed supplies to remote areas of the island. The United Nations has executed many such missions in Africa and around the world, and there is no reason why our own U.S. military could not have done the same in coming to the aid of some three million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.
The excuses, accusations and blame flying between the White House, FEMA and the government of Puerto Rico are no substitute for lifesaving help that should have been immediately forthcoming – just as it was after hurricanes Maria and Harvey hit Florida and Texas last fall.
GRANT WATCH: Minnesota's 8th District Gets Two Big Wins for the Environment and Education
Under our watch, Minnesota’s 8th District has received more than $1.2 billion in federal grants for projects that create good paying jobs and make life better for people.
We were pleased to announce two important grants for Minnesota's 8th district last week.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), via the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, recently committed $75 million in GLRI funding for a cleanup and restoration project at the former Duluth Works site on the St. Louis River at Spirit Lake in Duluth.
The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College will be the recipient of a $319,843 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to educate and engage youth, battle opioid addiction, and preserve culture.
To help keep you updated, we will be using the Monday Report to highlight important federal grants for the 8th District.
Our Week in Duluth
Human trafficking continues to be a serious issue in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District and across the nation. Last week in Duluth, leaders from St. Louis County, local law enforcement and representatives from PAVSA (Program to Aid Victims of Sexual Assault), Men As Peacemakers and others gathered to discuss trafficking and to get an update on the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign, which was authorized by Congress earlier this year. The campaign is meant to facilitate communications among various agencies, departments and stakeholders at the federal, state and local levels of government and advocacy organizations to help stop trafficking. My District Director, Jeff Anderson, along with representatives from Senator Klobuchar and Senator Smith’s office participated in the discussion.
Our Week in Emily
The City of Emily celebrated completion of the Minnesota Department of Transportation State Highway 6 Reconstruction project, the Crow Wing County Road 1 project, and the City of Emily’s public parking lot. The projects were completed simultaneously to minimize disruptions and make the most efficient use of resources. Pictured here: Mayor Roger Lund--backed by State Senator Carrie Ruud, State Representative Dale Lueck, the City Council, City employees, and contractors--cuts the ribbon, officially opening the downtown projects. Nolan Congressional Field Representative, Tiffany Stenglein, attended the event on my behalf.
Our Week in Baxter
Central Minnesota Housing Partnership (CMHP) held a local housing discussion to better determine the needs in the community. CMHP is a nonprofit that uses private contributions and public funding, like the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit, to help alleviate the unmet housing needs in central Minnesota. Here, you can see Deanna Hemmesch leading a discussion on the results of a local housing study. Nolan Congressional Field Representative, Tiffany Stenglein, attended the meeting
on my behalf.
Our Week in Emily
Sanford Health held an open house and grand opening for the new Sanford Joe Lueken Cancer Center. The 20,500 square-foot facility will help physicians provide state of the art care in northern Minnesota. In this photo, members of the Sanford Singers welcome the guests with “Amazing” by Pinkzebra. Nolan Congressional Field Representative, Tiffany Stenglein, attended the celebration.
Our Week in Mora
Kanabec County community health workers invited community leaders and congressional staff to meet with them last week. The meeting provided attendees with an overview of Kanabec County community health program initiatives. A tour of the Recovering Hope Treatment Center in Mora was also provided. Nolan Congressional Field Representative, Rick Olseen (second from left), attended the meeting.
Our Week in Chisago
The Minnesota Public Transit Association (MPTS) held their Executive Board Meeting last week, and provided attendees with an update on transit related issues, including the federal charitable reimbursement rate. The charitable rate is significantly lower than the standard reimbursement rate at just 14 cents compared to 54.5 cents for the standard rate. In response, I have introduced legislation, the Volunteer Driver Tax Appreciation Act of 2018, which simply changes the federal charitable reimbursement rate from 14 cents a mile to 54.5 cents a mile to match the federal reimbursement rate. Nolan Congressional Field Representative. Rick Olseen, took this photo at the meeting.
Our Week in Virginia
Hundreds of United Steelworkers from ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel gathered for a rally at the Miners Memorial Building in Virginia last Thursday afternoon. Nearly 1,800 Steelworkers await a final determination on a contract negotiation between U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal. Nolan Congressional Field Representative Tom Whiteside took this photo of hundreds of steelworkers gathering to listen to speakers.
Our Week in Keewatin
United Steelworkers (USW) from the Keetac Local 6860 also held a rally in Keewatin calling for a fair contract for their members. Hundreds of USW members, their families, and local residents participated in the rally. Nolan Congressional Field Representative Tom Whiteside snapped this photo of the action on the main street in Keewatin.
Pictured here are several Steelworks standing in solidarity calling for a fair contract as they hold up 'Steel Strong' signs at their rally in Keewatin. Nolan Congressional Field Representative Tom Whiteside captured this photo of Steelworkers at last Thursday's rally.
Coming Up in Washington
- Congress is back in session this week with a number of important hearings, including our Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which will be examining Innovation in Surface Transportation and Airspace Integration of New Aircraft.
A Good Start to Labor Day Weekend, Fishing Lake Superior!
My dad always told me,'"if you don’t think you have time for fishing you’re just wrong, because every day you spend fishing adds an extra day to your life." So with that in mind, I kicked off the Labor Day weekend fishing with two good friends, Wayne Wandersee and Cale Lavoie, on Lake Superior. Lake Superior is a fantastic and unique fishery where you can catch a Lake Trout, Walleye, and King Salmon in the same spot. Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.