How Government Works

While Americans have debated for many years about the continued need for the Electoral College, the conflict reached new heights after the 2016 election when Donald Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular election by almost 3 million votes.  The large discrepancy between the popular vote and the Electoral College vote has caused some people to question why we still rely on the Electoral College in the 21st Century.  Others believe it remains an important part of the process but question the right of the states to control how Electors vote.

Disposable plastic bags are both a convenience and a blight.  Across the nation, political battles are being waged over whether single-use, plastic bags should be banned.  Environmentally concerned citizens and local governments point to the plastic bag littler in streets, bags caught on trees and bushes, and bags blowing across highways.  They talk about the glut of plastic bags in landfills, plastic litter in oceans and waterways, and injury to wildlife.  On the other side of the battle are retailers and the plastic industry.  They claim single-use bags are more sanitary than reusable bags.  They also argue that customers want the convenience of bags provided by the store. 

If we can pick one complaint most Americans have in common, it is this.  We are all sick and tired of having our day interrupted by unwanted robocalls.  They call on land lines.  They call on cell phones.  They never stop.  Members of Congress are also frustrated.  They are inundated with phone calls from constituents complaining about robocalls.  This universal frustration explains why, on May 23, 2019, Senate Bill 151, which is designed to curb the annoying calls, passed with a vote of 97 to 1.

One of the most important principles of American constitutional law is the idea that individuals in the United States have a reasonable expectation of privacy – that is, a right to be free from invasion in their own private space (for example, the home that they own or the apartment that they rent), whether that invasion is physical or electronic, and whether the invader is a stranger or a government actor (such as the police). This principle became a part of the United States Constitution – which is the supreme law of the United States – through what is known as the Fourth Amendment.

Most Americans know the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants us freedom of speech.  It states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, . . . .”  The intent of the drafters is clear.  They believed that in a free society, people must be permitted to criticize government and lobby for change.  But how far do free speech protections go?  What are the limits of free speech, and who has the authority to restrict speech?  These questions have repeatedly been addressed by the United States Supreme Court, and over the past 200 years, the definition of freedom of speech has evolved and been refined by the courts.

One of the most important principles of American constitutional law is the idea that the United States has no official religion and that anyone may practice whatever religion they choose (or no religion at all). This principle became a part of the United States Constitution – which is the supreme law of the United States – through what is known as the First Amendment.

Everyone who has ever watched a crime show on TV has heard and probably memorized the Miranda warnings: “You have the right to remain silent.  If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to an attorney.  If you cannot afford an attorney . . .”   Reading an accused his rights is now an ingrained part of law enforcement procedure and considered integral to protecting everyone’s Fifth Amendment rights, but it wasn’t always that way. History is loaded with examples of coerced confessions, dating back to the Spanish Inquisition and even earlier to the Roman Empire.  Today, we often take the protections afforded by our Bill of Rights for granted, including our Fourteenth Amendment due process rights and our Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

In January of 2011, President Obama signed the FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) into law.  The Act is designed to shift government focus away from merely responding to outbreaks of food borne illness.  The Act proposes a more proactive approach by enacting preventative measures designed to protect America’s food supply.  The FSMA contains seven regulations intended to have far reaching effects on food production, supply and distribution systems.  One of the seven regulations under the FSMA is the Produce Safety Rule. 

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