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Black Georgia lawmakers to push for state hate crimes law in wake of church attack plot

Black lawmakers in Georgia said Thursday that they will push for a state hate crimes law after a white 16-year-old girl was accused of plotting to attack black churchgoers.

In a statement, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus said it will push for a state hate crimes law “that protects the civil rights of all and further penalizes those who commit hate crimes.”

“We will not allow such actions to define us, but rather push us to do better and be better,” the caucus representing more than 60 Georgia state lawmakers said.

Georgia is one of only four states without a hate crimes law, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The others are South Carolina, Arkansas and Wyoming.

At the federal level, the Department of Justice prosecutes laws covering hate crimes committed on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.

But the Georgia teenager is being prosecuted under state law, outside the federal system. She has been charged with criminal attempt to commit murder.

Gainesville police said the teen had collected several kitchen knives and scouted out the predominantly black Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The plot came to light last week, when Gainesville High School students told administrators the girl had a notebook with detailed plans to ambush churchgoers as they worshipped.

States have been passing hate crimes laws since the 1980s, though civil rights advocates say some of those laws are not comprehensive enough.

In 2004, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down the state’s hate crimes law, saying it was “unconstitutionally vague” and so broad that it would apply even to a rabid sports fan picking on somebody wearing a rival team’s cap. Since that court ruling, multiple efforts in Georgia to pass new hate crimes laws have stalled in the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, a bishop in a historically black denomination is urging hundreds of churches to lock their doors during services after the incident came to light.

Bethel is in the same denomination as Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a 2015 mass shooting left nine black church members dead. That denominational link played a role in the Georgia investigation, Gainesville police Cpl. Jessica Van said Wednesday.

A prominent church leader also took note of it.

“I do have a concern that AME churches are being targeted,” said Bishop Reginald Jackson, whose district includes the Gainesville church.

Jackson on Wednesday was preparing to send memos to the more than 500 AME congregations in Georgia with one recommendation that reflects the heightened threats of the times: “When they start the service, they need to make sure that all the doors are locked,” he said.

He said he plans to send similar messages to other AME bishops across the country, urging them to enhance security.

AME churches may draw the ire of white supremacists not only because of their demographics, but also because their leaders have traditionally been outspoken on social justice issues, Jackson said. Those strong stands can put them at odds with extremists.

At St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Erie, Pennsylvania, the doors are locked after worship starts on Sunday mornings, the Rev. Dale Snyder Sr. told The Erie Times-News earlier this year.

“We just can’t afford to have people come here and shoot us all up,” he said.

The South has a long history of black church bombings, arsons, shootings.

In South Carolina, white supremacist Dylann Roof was convicted of killing the nine black church members during their Bible study lesson at the Charleston church. Roof later told FBI agents he had hoped the killings would start a race war. He has been sentenced to death.

In Louisiana, the white son of a sheriff’s deputy was arrested in April and accused of a setting fires that destroyed three black churches in rural Louisiana. Holden Matthews is awaiting trial on arson and hate crimes charges in the Louisiana church burnings.

When the Louisiana churches burned, it prompted security changes halfway across the country at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The side entrance of the Iowa church is kept locked on Sunday, and volunteers monitor the front entrance, The Gazette reported this year. When the service starts, they remain on “high alert,” the Rev. Leoma Leigh-Williams told the newspaper.

The north Georgia teen, whose name hasn’t been released, had done a significant amount of internet research while planning the attack, Parrish said. He told WSB-TV he believes she might have been “radicalized” on the Internet.

“Our investigation indicated the church was targeted by the juvenile based on the racial demographic of the church members,” Parrish said Tuesday.

The girl is charged with criminal attempt to commit murder and is being held in a youth detention center in Gainesville, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Atlanta.

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Law & Order

NYPD kept database of juveniles’ fingerprints, violating law

Until recently, New York City police secretly kept fingerprints of children arrested as juveniles on file permanently in a department database — an illegal practice that has raised alarms about the lengths the nation’s largest police force has taken to keep tabs on the city’s youth.

The public defender organization that uncovered the yearslong practice pressured the New York Police Department to acknowledge it and then threatened legal action to make it stop, citing a state law barring local police from stockpiling juveniles’ fingerprints.

Now, after years of discussions, the NYPD said Wednesday it has purged all juvenile fingerprints records from the database and will no longer keep them indefinitely. It has also issued bulletins to its 36,000 officers advising them of procedural changes meant to ensure compliance with the law.

The Legal Aid Society said the database contained the fingerprints of tens of thousands of youth.

“This illegal database has existed for years, infringing on young New Yorkers’ rights, in clear violation of the law,” said Dawne Mitchell, the attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society’s juvenile rights practice.

The organization called on city lawmakers to hold an immediate hearing on the police department’s use of surveillance and data collection technology. It also wants a law passed to give the public more oversight over such tools.

Beside the fingerprint database, the Legal Aid Society’s lawyer representing juvenile and adult defendants say they’re also concerned about police use of facial recognition and DNA collection, as well as its database of suspected gang members.

In recent years, the state has broadened the definition of who qualifies as a juvenile, taking most charged 16-and-17-year-olds out of the adult criminal justice system.

Under what’s known as Raise the Age legislation, people under 18 charged with misdemeanors will have their cases tried in family court, while nonviolent felonies start in a new criminal court section for youths before moving to family court in most cases.

As for fingerprints, state law requires that local police destroy its records of a juvenile’s fingerprints after sending them to a statewide repository at the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services.

“The NYPD can confirm that the department destroys juvenile delinquent fingerprints after the prints have been transmitted to DCJS,” department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said.

The aid society said it discovered the NYPD’s was hoarding juvenile fingerprint records in 2014 after a prosecutor admitted that a child’s arrest was based on fingerprints kept in the police department’s database. Yet, about a year later, the NYPD denied it was retaining juvenile fingerprints.

In 2016, criminal justice services intervened and instructed the police department that it was required to destroy arrest-related documents for a number of juveniles. In response, the NYPD acknowledged that it had retained not only arrest-related records for juveniles, but fingerprints as well.

Nevertheless, the practice continued. Last year, the Legal Aid Society sent a letter to the police department, threatening a lawsuit “to enforce the statutory rights of individuals arrested and fingerprinted as juvenile delinquents.”

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Law & Order

Xerox Lines Up Citi Financing for Potential HP Bid

Xerox Holdings Corporation has taken the decision of lining up Citigroup financing as it considers possible offer for HP, as per a person familiar with the matter.

Xerox is thinking of making one cash-&-stock bid for HP, said the informer who asked his identity to remain concealed. John Visentin, the CEO of Xerox would operate the merged firm under the deal being discussed, said the person.

Xerox sees space for around $2bn of yearly cost savings by merging the two firms, said the person. A final decision is yet to be made and it isn’t sure if the deliberations would really result into an offer, as per the person.

After Wall Street Journal informed about Xerox considering an offer for HP, the stock price of the Palo-Alto-based firm rose to 18 percent on Wednesday. The stocks were high by 12 percent to $20.67 on Wednesday morning in NY trading, giving around $30.6bn of market value. Meanwhile, Xerox, based in Connecticut, rose by 2.8 percent to $37.40, giving around $8.3bn market value.

Acquiring HP will strengthen Xerox’s stock of copying and printing market that has been suffering with a global downturn to cloud computing.

Xerox is yet to comment on the matter.

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Law & Order

Local law enforcement officers recognized for DUI arrests

The 18th annual Impaired Driving Law Enforcement Awards ceremonial recognized three local law enforcement officers for their attempt to enforce impaired driving laws of the state, as per a press release from Maryland Department of Transportation.

The award ceremony, which was held on Sunday at Ocean City, recognized Brock Marquis, Maryland State Police Trooper First Class and William Talbert, Master Trooper of Hagerstown barrack as well as Luis Alvarez-Rivera, Deputy Firs Class of Washington County. The three received the Driving Under the Influence (DUI) awards, as per the press release.

It was the first ever time that Alvarez-Rivera received such a recognition while the 3rd and the 9th time for Marquis and Talbert respectively.

The trio were among the 131 law enforcement officers from thirty county, state as well as local law enforcement organisations that were recognized at the award ceremony, said the press release.

The awards are offered as a joint venture between Highway Safety office of Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration and Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

Basically, officers who make most DUI arrests previous year are recognized for the DUI awards, based upon their agency’s size.

Notably, over the last 5 years, over 34,600 accidents resulting in around 800 deaths and 16,000 injuries have been recorded in Maryland due to drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, said the release.

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Law & Order

Santa Cruz enacts emergency renter eviction protection law ahead of state action

SANTA CRUZ — Aiming to bridge a gap to pending state rent control and other tenant protections taking effect Jan. 1, city leaders approved an emergency stopgap measure Tuesday preventing baseless evictions locally.

Once it goes into effect Jan. 1, the state’s Assembly Bill 1482 or Tenant Protection Act of 2019 will set a 5% plus cost-of-living cap on rental increases that will be retroactive to March. While the new state law, scheduled to sunset in 2030, will prohibit landlords from terminating a tenancy without state-defined just-cause after the near year, that protection is not retroactive, which is where Santa Cruz’s new temporary law comes in to play.

Effective immediately and retroactive back to Sept. 1, Santa Cruz landlords will not be able to evict their tenants without those same state-defined just causes. The protections apply to tenants of 12 months or more and allow landlords to evict tenants who, generally, break conditions of their lease or if the landlord plans to move in, take the unit off the market or demolish the unit. The interim ordinance is a simplified version of a temporary city ordinance enacted in February 2018 in the midst of a highly contentious and unsuccessful political battle over a November ballot measure proposing a permanent city charter amendment with just-cause eviction and rent control provisions.

Local impacts

During this week’s special Santa Cruz City Council meeting, Vice Mayor Justin Cummings, who proposed the ordinance along with Council members Sandy Brown and Chris Krohn, said the interim proposal was borne out of concerns about city tenants facing eviction ahead of the state law’s enactment, adding that numerous other California cities were doing the same.

Krohn said it was a “very difficult situation” for those residents fearing or facing eviction.

“What are we talking about, maybe two months here, to give some folks some security and I think that’s what we’re trying to give some tenants, security that they’ll still have a place before Jan. 1,” Krohn said.

The council stopped short of enacting protections above and beyond the pending state law. The emergency ordinance vote was unanimous with direction to further analyze additional protections. Several council members, however, said they also immediately would have carved out extended no-cause eviction relocation compensation for low-income Section 8 subsidized housing voucher residents and first-right opportunities for former tenants to move back into their former units after remodeling.

Subsidized units

While Assembly Bill 1482 itself excludes the Section 8 program from its protections, existing law requires a landlord to give their Section 8 tenants a 60-day notice of a pending rent increase and must have that increase pre-approved by the Housing Authority of Santa Cruz County. Also, without having a “just cause,” landlords may opt not to renew a lease with their Section 8 tenants only after giving 90 days’ notice.

Several council members said they worried that increasing relocation assistance for Section 8 landlords could drive away additional landlords in a city already struggling to recruit the same. City Planning and Community Development Director Lee Butler noted that a new state law forbids landlords from discriminating against a potential tenant based on their use of a Section 8 voucher, but acknowledged that there was no enforcement mechanism for the law.

Brown, recognizing concerns from at least three council members about the unintended consequences of the Section 8 provisions, offered to defer a decision on that part of the proposal. Urgency ordinances require a “supermajority” or a vote of support from at least five of seven council members to pass. Cummings, too, offered to withdraw his earlier motion to immediately pass the stronger provisions in order to “help a majority of the people,” immediately earning loud and continuous “chicken noises” from community activist and council gadfly Robert Norse.

Later, the council also voted unanimously in response to a court settlement agreement to roll back an October 2018 update to its so-called Inclusionary Ordinance. The city law sets minimum requirements for housing developers to include a percentage of their market-rate units at affordable rates determined by state and federal formulas. The rollback reset the city law to earlier stricter developer requirements.

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Law & Order

Senate Democrats force vote on health law waivers

Senate Democrats will force a vote Wednesday to roll back Trump administration guidance they say is a referendum on Republican support for pre-existing conditions protections.

The Senate will vote on a resolution that would reverse a 2018 guidance expanding changes states could make to their insurance markets through waivers under the 2010 health care law. Democrats are forcing the vote through the Congressional Review Act even though no states have sought to make the types of changes the administration is encouraging.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called it a “horrible rule that threatens the care of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

“Senate Democrats will force one of the most significant policy votes of the year,” he told reporters on a press call Tuesday. “We will finally see where Republicans stand on the Trump administration’s plans to sabotage Americans’ health care.”

Democrats need a simple majority to pass the disapproval resolution. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said Tuesday that Democrats did not have a vote count.

Waivers were included in the Democrats’ health care law as a way for states to put their own marks on their individual insurance markets. To be granted approval, states had to show their proposals would not decrease the number of people with insurance coverage and that their coverage would be as comprehensive and as affordable.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued the revised guidance, which said states would be required to show an equivalent number of residents would have access to some form of coverage under the waiver, including plans that don’t meet the health law’s requirements.

The agency also released a list of policy ideas for states to consider, such as allowing people to use federal subsidies to buy short-term plans that do not have to guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions or cover essential benefits required under the law.

The White House said in a statement of administrative policy released Monday that President Donald Trump’s advisers would recommend he veto the resolution if it reached his desk.

Democrats previously forced a vote on the administration’s rule expanding the duration of short-term plans. Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins was the only Republican to disapprove of the rule at that time.

The Government Accountability Office said earlier this year the guidance could be considered a rule, allowing Democrats to hold Wednesday’s vote.

Democrats criticized the guidance as cutting off care for people with pre-existing conditions, an issue they have sought to leverage against Republicans on the campaign trail.

Democrats say it is important to vote to rescind the policy although no state has pursued these changes.

“If Trump is successful in continuing to push forward these rules, he’s going to also start to put pressure on Republican governors to join him,” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy said. “It’s just a matter of time before he starts tweeting at Republican governors to move forward with their own plans to undermine the Affordable Care Act.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in comments Tuesday on the Senate floor that the Trump administration has said a waiver could not undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

“Apparently our Democratic colleagues are not terribly fond of letting states shake off the unhelpful structures of Obamacare,” McConnell said. “Perhaps it makes their signature law look bad that governors of both parties are eager to escape from it.”

McConnell noted that a dozen states have used the waivers to set up reinsurance programs to receive government funds to cover the highest-cost patients. Those waivers were not affected by the Trump administration’s changes in the guidance memo. Both Republican and Democratic governors have set up such programs, which have led to lower premiums in those states.

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Electric scooter regulations a step closer to becoming law

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – With state lawmakers a step closer to enacting new regulations for electric scooters, several people in Dayton say they’re hopeful they will help riders stay safe.

A bill recently passed in the Ohio House of Representatives with almost unanimous support would institute a speed limit, minimum age for riders and safety requirements at night, among other regulations.

Dayton rolled out its electric scooter program two months ago. In other cities, some people riding electric scooters have gotten into accidents.

Several people in Dayton told 2 NEWS Sunday that they’ve seen people using the new electric scooters appropriately. But others said they have seen some riders being less cautious.

“Tricks,” said Emma Speyer, a University of Dayton student. “Like people were trying to do one foot or something like that just a couple of times.”

Speyer said she supports additional regulations for electric scooters, including those listed in House Bill 295.

If the bill becomes law, the minimum age for all electric scooter riders would become 16.

It would also create a speed limit of 15 miles per hour and require headlights and rear reflectors on electric scooters running at night.

According to the RTA’s website, Dayton already has a speed limit of 14 miles per hour on electric scooters.

The city’s scooters, which come from the company Spin, are equipped with lights.

Sarah, a fourth grader, told 2 NEWS she has ridden the electric scooters with her dad’s supervision but still supports raising the minimum age to ride.

“I think it’s good because kids can get hurt if they don’t know how to use them,” Sarah said.

Others told 2 NEWS they don’t believe an age minimum is necessary.

“As long as you’re taught well and you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, I don’t think there should be an age limit, but I think it’s a good idea for liability issues,” said Michaelangelo Storniolo, who lives in Dayton.

But some argue the minimum age should be higher.

“You could cause a a collision, and then it’s all on your parents, so I think it should be 18 to be honest,” said Gabriel Jones, another Dayton resident.

The bill still needs to be passed by the Ohio Senate before it heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.