Our nation’s court system depends on trust and impartiality. Judges are supposed to recuse themselves from cases in which they have a conflict of interest. But because of outdated disclosure standards in our nation’s court system, the public too often lacks the information necessary to make sure that potential conflicts are appropriately dealt with. As a result, confidence in our court system is less than it could or should be.
In the final days of the 113th Congress, the Senate successfully passed bipartisan legislation to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The measure prevailed after several senators placed holds on the bill, temporarily blocking a vote. The last hold, by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), was lifted Monday afternoon, and the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent. The House, which already passed a version of the legislation, now has a handful of days to approve the Senate bill and send it to President Obama for his signature.
UPDATE (June 2, 2015): A Maryland bill establishing a two-and-a-half year moratorium on fracking became law on May 30. Both the state House and Senate passed the bill by veto-proof margins. Republican Governor Larry Hogan declined to either sign or veto the bill, allowing it to go into effect. Along with temporarily banning fracking, the bill also requires the state to create fracking regulations that will go into effect when the ban is lifted.
On Saturday, Nov. 15, a toxic chemical leak at a DuPont manufacturing plant outside of Houston killed four workers and hospitalized another, serving as another troubling example of the need for stronger chemical safety standards. The chemical involved in the leak, methyl mercaptan, can cause eye and lung irritation and can be fatal at high levels. Numerous other U.S. facilities use and store this chemical, including those featured in a new interactive map by the Center for Effective Government.
One in three U.S. schoolchildren attends school within the danger zone of a high-risk chemical facility, according to a report and interactive map released today by the Center for Effective Government. These children face the risk of chemical leaks and explosions simply by going to school. Safer chemicals and technologies would reduce the danger to our children, and they should be required whenever feasible.
Impeded by a lack of resources, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has been slow to publicly release recent campaign finance disclosures. The FEC is the independent agency charged with enforcing federal election laws and making campaign finance information available to the American people. This information is vital, particularly in the wake of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that gutted our campaign finance laws, and significant delays in releasing such data are of serious concern to the health of our democracy.
One year ago today, President Obama issued Executive Order 13650, which directs federal agencies to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities. The order came in response to a string of chemical disasters, including the April 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas that killed 15 people and injured more than 200.