Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S 1410, the Smarter Sentencing Act, by a surprising 13-5 vote late last week; the bill still needs to get through the full Senate and the full House, but that 13-5 is encouraging, as is the bill's list of sponsors (4 of 10, including Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul, are Republicans). S 1410 would halve most mandatory sentences and widen "safety valve" exceptions for federal drug offenders, and would apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactively for federal crack offenders -- but it would also establish new mandatory minimums for federal cases involving terrorism, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. I see why they've added the new mandatories -- domestic violence offenders, in particular, rarely get the jail time other offenders do -- but I still think we ought to let judges judge. The House bill is HR 3382, introduced by Rep. Scott (D-VA) and Labrador (R-ID); it's more a start than an end product, but Families Against Mandatory Minimums helps you tell your Congressfolk to support it.
Meanwhile, the FCC issued regulations in mid-October mandating that telemarketers should only call you if you agreed in advance, in writing, that you'd like to hear from them -- they still have to get your written consent even if they claim an "established business relationship" with you. Sounds common-sensical, right? But apparently corporations are still placing robocalls without so much as a text message from their targets indicating consent. And that's something the FCC ought to know about, regardless of whether corporations are pressuring them to be lax in enforcing this regulation. So Consumers Union helps you tell the FCC to better enforce its rules preventing robocallers from pestering you, if in fact robocallers are pestering you. What could be more inviolable in America, after all, than a contract between two parties? And why do our elites always seem to argue that the larger individual parties need to be "free" to run roughshod over the rights of other parties to be left the hell alone?
Finally, President Obama did bring up paycheck fairness in his State of the Union address -- even dropped in a Mad Men reference. Women still make about 77 cents for every dollar a man earns; if you adjust strictly for similar qualifications and experience, that figure would rise a bit, but it still wouldn't be a dollar for every dollar a man earns, and you'd hesitate, I'd think, to adjust for similar qualifications and experience when you consider that women face pressures men don't face that result in dissimilar qualifications and experience to begin with. S 84/HR 377, the Paycheck Fairness Act, still sits out there waiting for Congressional action; the bill would bolster the Equal Pay Act by (among other things) preventing employers from retaliating against workers who talk about their wages with their co-workers, since that's often the only way women find out their employers are discriminating against them. The National Women's Law Center helps you tell your Congressfolk to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act already.