Vermont is eighth state to enact National Popular Vote bill

first_imgThe National Popular Vote bill, which passed the Vermont House of Representatives last week, was signed into law by Governor Peter Shumlin today. The National Popular Vote plan seeks to guarantee the presidency to the winner of the National Popular Vote in all 50 states.Last year, the National Popular Vote passed the New York Senate with 22 of 27 Republicans and 30 of 32 Democrats voting in favor of the bill. In 2008, candidates spent 98% of their money and campaign visits on just 15 states. Vermont has long been considered a ‘safe’ state, largely ignored by presidential candidates of both parties.’In enacting this bill, Vermont is taking back its voice in the national election’ said Tom Golisano, national spokesperson for National Popular Vote. ‘12 of the 13 smallest states in the union received essentially no attention from either candidate in 2008.’‘We congratulate Governor Shumlin and Vermont’s legislators for making the right decision for the people of Vermont,’ said John Koza, Chairman of National Popular Vote. ‘Today, Vermont becomes the eighth state to send the signal that the winner-take-all system is broken, and that every vote should count equally.’Hawaii, Washington, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have already enacted the bill, which would award a state’s electoral votes to the winner of the overall popular vote in all 50 states. When states totaling 270 electoral votes pass the legislation, National Popular Vote will award a majority of electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most popular votes in all fifty states, guaranteeing the presidency. Vermont represents the 77th electoral vote, 29% of the total needed for the bill to go into effect.‘We encourage other states to join Vermont in saying that there should not be battleground states and safe states. Only voters and votes,’ added Golisano ‘After all, we’re electing the President of the United States, not the President of the Battleground States.’  Source: MONTPELIER, Vt.–(BUSINESS WIRE)-last_img read more

The Environment as a Moral Class and Human Rights Issue

first_imgShare57Tweet32Share5Email94 SharesPixabay. Public domain.July 13, 2017; The ConversationAt West Virginia University’s College of Law, there is a new program called the Appalachian Justice Initiative promoting the idea that humans are entitled to clean air, clean water, and clean soil beneath their feet. The University is in the northern section of the state where there are underground coal mines. The initiative calls this “environmental human rights.”In a column in The Conversation, Nicholas Stump, a member of the initiative, wrote that the link between human and environmental rights in the United States is not yet as fully formed as it is elsewhere. He believes that this missing link is the reason why many do not yet understand it as a “moral issue.”The idea of environmental human rights dates back to the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s. It follows other, more established conceptions of human rights, such as civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, and often is classified as part of a so-called third generation of “newer” human rights.Over 100 countries have some type of environmental rights in their constitutions. In 2015, the UN created its Sustainable Development Goals, but various governments backed away from a clean environment as a human right.The U.S. has worked to protect human rights through the Constitution and its amendments, states’ laws, and international treaties. However, the U.S. Constitution has no ecological references, therefore any environmental protection is done by statute. A few states, such as Pennsylvania and Hawaii, mention the environment in their constitutions, but they lack consistency in wording and enforcement.There are two categories of rights: substantive—things we are entitled to have—and procedural—things we are entitled to do. The core idea of environmental human rights is that people are entitled to live in a healthy, clean and safe environment. Typically, societies honor these rights by passing laws that protect air, water, soil and food. We also expect, particularly in democracies, that people should be able to obtain information, participate in decision-making, and seek legal remedies for environmental harms such as toxic waste spills.Appalachia could be the center for the nation’s discussion of environmental rights; it is an example of ecology damaged by an economic driver that did not benefit the general population. Surface mining and mountaintop removal mining have permanently scarred sections of the Appalachian Mountains and produced poisons that include arsenic, selenium, and airborne polluting ash and dust.Appalachia, wrote Nicholas Stump, is a classic example of the “natural resource curse,” a social science theory that explains how regions with prime natural resources get exploited; those who work in such areas suffer from reduced lower education opportunities and are seldom able to share in the wealth of the resource. Whether gas, gold or coal, corporations or wealthy individuals control the resource to the detriment of individual workers. Accordingly, the marginalized worker suffers more when the environment suffers. Housing is more affordable in areas that have environmental damage, so the poor live where the air, water, and soil is the worst.Further,Much media coverage of Appalachia is classist and one-dimensional. For example, during the 2016 presidential campaign the region was portrayed as a unified bloc of “Trump country,” although it actually is much more socially and politically complex.In fact, a dense network of grassroots activists and ordinary Appalachian citizens has long contested environmental injustices, exemplified by the long and bitter fight against Big Coal. But these efforts seldom are acknowledged in the national media or leveraged into real and lasting legal reform.The preamble to the U.S. Constitution observes that the document was established to “promote the general welfare” of the people. However, the Founding Fathers could not foresee the threats to pure water and air and clean soil that would endanger every citizen’s general welfare. The rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” enumerated in the Declaration of Independence are not so far removed from a right to an environment and landscape that can sustain them.—Marian ConwayShare57Tweet32Share5Email94 Shareslast_img read more