Monday, November 03, 2014

We Are Looking at Senator Rand Paul: We Mostly Like What We See

By Norris McDonald
Rand Paul, the junior Republican senator from Kentucky, has held numerous informal discussions with voters in mostly African-American communities throughout the year.  This has gotten our attention and we are giving Senator Paul a real good look.  We like many of the things he is saying, although we disagree with some of his environmental proposals.
I like Senator Paul's Economic Freedom Zone (EFZ) [S. 1852] concept.  But we disagree with his proposal in the EFZ roll back environmental protections.  Specifically Senator Paul wants to repeal the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act protections:
Title IV
Federal regulatory reductions
Suspension of certain laws and regulations
Environmental Protection Agency
For each area designated as an Economic Freedom Zone under this Act, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall not enforce, with respect to that Economic Freedom Zone, and the Economic Freedom Zone shall be exempt from compliance with—
part D of the Clean Air Act ( 42 U.S.C. 7501 et seq.) (including any regulations promulgated under that part);
section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act ( 33 U.S.C. 1342 );
Department of the Interior
Wild and scenic rivers
For each area designated as an Economic Freedom Zone under this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall not enforce, with respect to that Economic Freedom Zone, and the Economic Freedom Zone shall be exempt from compliance with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.).
National heritage areas
For the period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act and ending on the date on which an area is removed from designation as an Economic Freedom Zone, any National Heritage Area located within that Economic Freedom Zone shall not be considered to be a National Heritage Area and any applicable Federal law (including regulations) relating to that National Heritage Area shall not apply.
Again, we oppose Title IV of Senator Paul's proposed Economic Freedom Zone.  These communities usually have the highest exposures to pollution and such disproportionate impacts represent environmental injustice.  Although I understand Senator Paul's theory that exempting certain areas from strict environmental requirement might spur economic development, the health trade-offs are just too high.  Asthma rates and other negative health effects in these communities are already higher than the national and surrounding area averages.  We recommend that Senator Paul delete this Section IV from the bill.
I particularly admire the way Senator Paul went to Ferguson, Missouri to address the issue of a white police officer shooting an unarmed black teenager.   Senator Paul had similar meetings in Atlanta, Chicago and the west end of Louisville, where Cassisus Clay was raised. He held another one in Detroit in December, when he also spoke to the Detroit Economic Club
Paul emphasizes criminal justice reform as well as conservative approaches to fighting poverty and improving education.  Although senator is usually a harsh critic of President Obama, who remains popular among many African Americans, he praises Obama on the subject of criminal justice reform. 
Paul also wants to make it easier for non-violent adult and juvenile criminal offenders to seal their records; to restore voting rights to non-violent ex-felons; and to restore Fifth Amendment protections against police seizure assets without due process.
He is sharply critical of his own party for neglecting the interests of African Americans but argues Democrats have taken black voters for granted.  According to Paul:
“Remember Domino’s Pizza? They admitted, ‘Hey, our pizza crust sucks.’ The Republican Party brand sucks and so people don’t want to be a Republican and for 80 years, African-Americans have had nothing to do with Republicans.”
Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who represents Ferguson in the House and plans to work with Paul on the Redeem Act, which would make it easier to expunge criminal records, agrees that his party has taken black votes for granted.  (The Hill, 11/2/2014)

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