California residents, take note: SB 178, the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, would prevent the state government from forcing internet service providers to provide customer data, and would require police officers to get a warrant before searching your digital data, including your emails, texts, and location data. Sounds common-sensical, no? Not in our post-"war on terror" America, where only our politicians are bold enough to ignore the checks against state power that have always promoted freedom! If a police officer has to get a warrant to search your house, searching your cell phone should be no different -- even the U.S. Supreme Court has said so. The bill lately passed the state Senate unanimously, and the Assembly is considering it now. So the Electronic Frontier Foundation helps you tell your California Assembly member to support SB 178, and thus support freedom and privacy for all Californians. If you're not a California resident, you can't use the EFF's action tool -- though nothing prevents you from getting your friends in California to call their Assemblyfolk.
Meanwhile, Penn Environment helps you tell Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to mandate a one-mile "setback zone" separating schools and fracking sites. Currently frackers can operate within 500 feet of a school, and thus pollute the nearby air that children breathe and the water they drink and wash with, and given what we know about the dangers of fracking (which rather exceed the dangers listed in the EPA's recent report), we need much more of a buffer. Of course, demanding this of Gov. Wolf doesn't mean we stop fighting the ill effects of fracking in other spheres -- it means we fight everywhere and take victories wherever we can. With even Philly-area Republican state Senators slipping a Delaware Water Basin fracking moratorium into the 2012 budget, we know we can win -- and we know that our legislators know we can win. As one Pittsburgh-area mother said: "If you can contain your water contamination, to your property, I’m fine with that. Make as much money as you want. But when my kids breathe it — I think that’s where my rights begin and yours stop." Pretty much.
Finally, time's running out on the commenting period for the Obama Administration Labor Department's new overtime rules (the commenting period ends Friday), so if you still want to comment on them, the Economic Policy Institute helps you do that. Current federal overtime rules mandate that employees making less than $23,660 annually must be paid time-and-a-half for every hour worked over 40 in a week; the Labor Department's new rule would raise that threshold to $50,440, which will affect over 13 million workers. Word on the street is that big corporate lobbyists' strategy isn't so much to argue against the new overtime rules as to delay their implementation as long as humanly possible -- hopefully until a new Republican President can scuttle them for good. And I can see their problem, because arguing that more overtime would "kill jobs" is a fool's game. Having to pay workers time-and-a-half means businesses will eventually hire more workers that they can pay at their standard rate. Like most of what we did during the New Deal era -- tax the rich, tax corporations, spend on infrastructure -- the overtime rule means job creation.