Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SOPA & PIPA Strike and Protest

SOPA & PIPA Strike and Protest

On Wednesday, January 18, 2012, the Internet (well, a majority of websites, including Wikipedia, WordPress, and many thousands) are blacking out in protest of the SOPA and PIPA legislation currently before Congress.

Comment from SOPAstike.com: (from this link you can also write your Representatives in Congress)
On Jan 24th, Congress will vote to pass internet censorship in the Senate, even though the vast majority of Americans are opposed. We need to kill the bill - PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House - to protect our rights to free speech, privacy, and prosperity. We need internet companies to follow Reddit's lead and stand up for the web, as we internet users are doing every day.
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), two pieces of legislation that the Internet industry says will halt innovation and undermine free expression.  With so many big Internet sites participating tomorrow, be prepared and support the protest.  Mozilla, the maker of the popular Internet browser Firefox, is another of the big names joing the day of protest and Google, although not blacking out, will be posting opposition to these two pieces of legislation on their sites.

Statement from Wikipedia about their decision to black out the English language Wikipedia pages, a first since its launch in 2001:
It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web. The decision to shut down the English Wikipedia wasn’t made by me; it was made by editors, through a consensus decision-making process. But I support it.

From an article in the Washington Post:
Google said Tuesday that it will post a statement on its Web site voicing its opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act, joining a drive that will see Reddit, Wikipedia, and Boing Boing take their Web sites dark for a period of time on Jan. 18. Google’s actions will not be as dramatic as others — Reddit and Boing Boing will take their sites down for 12 hours starting at 8 a.m., while Wikipedia will black out its English content for 24 hours on Wednesday — but the company’s decision to use its U.S. home page means that its arguments regarding SOPA will reach a huge audience. 
In a statement, Google’s news team said, “Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet. So tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our US home page.”
For a complete list of websites currently protesting via a Black Out, click here.

UPDATE (1/20/12):  Congressional supporters of SOPA and PIPA have backed out of supporting these bills.  Learn more about who and why by clicking here. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Establishing ReCall Elections in the State of Texas

Establishing Recall Elections
in the State of Texas

Texas is one of many states that do not allow Recall Elections, except in "Home Rule" or "Charter Cities" and then only limited by the constraints of the city's Charter.  With the increase of career politicians who do not effectively represent their constituents and the overwhelming dissatisfaction with the performances of our elected officials, it is time that Texas had a State Recall mandate and law.  It is to that end that this article is being written.  You are hereby encouraged to work together with me to begin the process that will hold elected officials accountable to the people, not corporations or big donors.  Please respond with comments and suggestions that will assist in achieving our intention and I'll gather everything together and send the comments to Donna Howard, State Representative, District 48, Austin, Texas.

Late last year, in 2011, I sent a letter to my State Representative, Donna Howard, District 48, in Austin, Texas, inquiring about how to proceed to alter the Texas Constitution to allow for ReCall Elections of State Elected officials.

Here is the response I received from the Honorable Donna Howard, State Representative, District 48, Austin, Texas:

Dear Mr. St.Troy;
Thank you for contacting me with your question about how to change Texas law to allow for recall elections for state and federal officials.  You are among the nearly 162,000 people I represent, and I apologize for my delayed response. 
You may be aware that the Texas Legislature meets for 140 days at the beginning of each odd-numbered year.  Outside that period, we may only convene at the request of the Governor to consider issues that he places on the agenda.  So, the Legislature will not meet again until January 2013 unless Governor Perry calls a special session.  That means you have plenty of time to plan and think about the type of legislation you would like to see since legislators may not begin filing bills until after the next general election in November 2012. 
I usually begin to research my legislative agenda during this interim period between sessions, but I do not finalize my legislative package until after I know whether or not I have won re-election.  In the mean-time, I have attached a list of questions that I would consider when deciding what to include in a bill authorizing recall elections.  You can also contact my Chief of Staff, Elanor D'Ambrosio, with any other specific questions about the legislative process. 
I would also encourage you to contact your Congressman, the Honorable Michael McCaul, with your inquiry, I do not believe that an individual state may pass a law allowing for the recall of a federal official, and his office will be better equipped to explain the steps necessary to enact this type of policy at the federal level.  I have included Congressman McCaul's contact information below. 
Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.,  If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesistate to contact my office 512-463-0631. 
Donna Howard 
Austin District Office:
5929 Balcones Dr., Ste. 305
Austin, TX  78731
Washington DC Office:
131 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC  20515

This is the attachment she included with her letter asking questions about creating a recall election for the State of Texas (My comments are included in Red and have been emailed to the Honorable Donna Howard) :

1. Can the recall election be initiated only on specific grounds - for example, conviction of certain felony offenses - or should the law include some sort of statement indicating that grounds for a recall can be political rather than judicial in nature?  A Recall election can be initiated on grounds of suspicion of illegal acts, constituent disapproval, or any grounds that are reasonable and customary in accordance with state laws.

2. Which elected officials will the recall provision apply to?  The recall provision should apply to ANY elected OR appointed official within City, County or State government, including judiciary representatives.

3. Who should be elgible to sign the recall petition?  Should this right be limited only to those who live in the district of the official being recalled?  (This would not apply to statewide officials.)  Any Registered Voter within the selected City or County OR any Registered Voter in the State of Texas for State officials.

4. How many signatures should be required on a petition for a recall?  Should the number have some relationship to the number of people who actually voted in the last election for the office being recalled, should it relate to the number of people who are registered and elgible to vote for that office, etc.?  A minimum of 20% of Registered Voters should be required to initiate a recall election.

5. How long should the petitioner have to gather signatures and when can a petition be submitted?  (This could vary since the house members run every two years and state senators run every four years.)  A petitioner should be granted 3 months to obtain the required number of signatures to be submitted.  The recall petition should be allowed to be presented at any time regardless of election year or the time of session.

6. Who will pay for the recall election?  The counties in which the recall election is being held or the state?  For City recalls, that city shall be responsible.  For County recalls, that County shall be responsible.  For State recalls, then the State of Texas shall be responsible.  For any recall that affects a City, County and/or State together, then the costs should be allocated proportionately.

7. How will the recall election be conducted?  Should the recall election be held simultaneously with the election for a successor?  Should the election for a successor be separate?  Should the successor be appointed instead of elected?  After the recall has been initiated and the appropriate signatures obtain and the petition submitted to the governing authority, then the successor should be voted for at the same time of the recall election in order to save costs for further elections.  A successor should never be appointed.

For a List of Contacts for Home Rule Cities, please click on the link.

For more information on Home Rule Charters, please click on the link.

In 1994, the Texas Municipal League published a comprehensive book (authored by Terrell Blodgett) on Texas home rule charters.  The recently updated book provides a comprehensive review of the origin, evolution, current status, and analyses regarding the now 351 home rule charters in the state. In addition to tracing the historical development of charters, the book offers a current overview of the application and impact of state and federal laws on writing and amending charters.  You can order the book in various formats online by clicking here.


For a List of Texas State Senators, click on the link.

Be an informed Voter, Project Vote Smart

Who is Your Representative?

Know what is happening in Congress - OpenCongress

What is happening in the Texas State Legislature?  Texas Legislature Online