TIME LGBT

Meet the Republican Who Lost His Election Fighting for LGBT Rights

Michigan House of Representatives Photographer Mike Quillinan Michigan Rep. Frank Foster (R) speaks on the floor in the Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing.

A young star in Michigan is spending his final days as a lawmaker working to expand the state's civil rights protections

In Michigan, a 28-year-old Republican state lawmaker is using his lame-duck session to fight for a bill that cost him his reelection in a primary this summer. Rep. Frank Foster is trying to extend the state’s civil rights act—which protects people from discrimination on the basis of age, race, religion, sex and weight—to also include sexual orientation. Even though he puts his bill at a 10% chance of passing, he says he has no regrets. “This is important, and if it’s not law in 2014, we’re still having the conversation,” Foster tells TIME. “Until it’s equal, it’s not equal.”

On Dec. 3, the commerce committee, of which Foster is the chair, was the site of a heated debate about tolerance and persecution. The public was invited to give testimony on Foster’s bill and another bill to amend the civil rights act to include both sexual orientation and gender identity. Supporters of the bills made arguments that passing them wasn’t just about protecting another class of citizens but about Michigan’s reputation and making the state feel welcoming to the broadest possible array of workers and companies.

One of those testifying in support was Allan Gilmour, a former second-in-command at Ford who made headlines when he came out as gay after his first retirement from the company in 1995. Updating the law, he said, “is necessary if Michigan is to attract and retain talent. And on an individual basis, no one should live in fear that they will lose their job or injure their careers should they live openly.”

Those opposing the bills, largely representatives from Christian groups, argued that the measures threaten to jeopardize religious freedoms, like those of Christian small-business owners who would prefer not to bake a cake or take photographs for a same-sex wedding—and might lose their business license for such a refusal under an amended civil rights law. “Why should that baker or photographer be forced against their religious beliefs and conscience to participate in that? And if they refuse to because of their religious conscience, to be put out of business?” said David Kallman, speaking on behalf of Michigan Family Forum, a conservative Christian organization. Multiple speakers also argued that there was no hard data showing that LGBT discrimination was a problem that needing solving. (There are reports on the issue and more research is being done on the topic.)

After giving his own testimony, Foster oversaw the meeting stoically, with one exception. Stacy Swimp, President of the National Christian Leadership Council, gave a speech about how he was “rather offended” that anyone would equate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to black Americans when it came to fights for civil rights. “They have never had to drink out of a LGBT water fountain,” he said, recounting that black Americans had been lynched and denied many basic rights in the past. He called any comparison “intellectually empty, dishonest” and accused the LGBT community of exploiting the struggles of black Americans.

Once he finished, Foster pulled his own microphone toward him. “Sir, I will agree with you on the fact that African Americans in this country’s short history have been discriminated against,” he said. “But if you don’t think the LGBT community has been discriminated against, been drug behind cars, been hung up by their necks til they’re dead, been denied housing, been denied commerce opportunities, then you’re just not looking very far.”

It was an impassioned speech from a native Michigander who never met a homosexual person until going to college at Grand Valley State University. Foster grew up in the tiny town of Pellston (pop. 831) in the midst of his current district, which spans the water where the state’s upper and lower peninsulas nearly meet. It’s an area known for fishing and hunting and tourism on islands like Mackinac, whose residents are also among his constituents. It’s also socially conservative.

By the time he finished his degree at Grand Valley State, Foster had been elected student body president, twice. He had organized rallies and marches against an amendment to ban affirmative action (which eventually passed by a nearly 20-point margin in 2006). He had accompanied administrators to Washington, D.C., to argue for better higher education funding. And he had worked to get gender identity added to non-discrimination policies in the student and faculty handbooks. “That was really the first time I socialized with people of different ethnic backgrounds and different races,” he says. “College was the way it was supposed to be for me.” He won his first race for a seat in the state House of Representatives in 2010, with 63% of the vote, and became one of only two freshmen to be appointed committee chairs.

After Foster was reelected in 2012, a Democratic colleague approached him about helping to support a non-discrimination bill. Like many people—one poll put the number at 87%—Foster assumed it was already illegal to fire someone for their sexual orientation, though there is no federal protection and only 21 states have passed such a law (18 of those, and D.C.’s, also include gender identity). Eventually, Foster and his colleague decided it would be more powerful if the Republican didn’t just co-sponsor the bill but introduced it. “I had no idea we did not have those folks included in Michigan’s civil rights act. When I found that out, it became a passion of mine,” he says, adding that he thought “as a young Republican, I could communicate to my colleagues and the party where we needed to go.”

Before Foster got around to actually introducing a bill, word got out that he planned to and he did interviews that confirmed people’s suspicions. In late 2013, Foster also called for the resignation of his Republican colleague Dave Agema, who caused an uproar after posting an article on Facebook that decried the “filthy” homosexual lifestyle. Agema was among those who encouraged a teacher at a Christian academy—who was considering running for Foster’s seat when he hit his term limit in 2016—to run against Foster in 2014 instead. Foster says his opponent, Lee Chatfield, gave him a deadline to publicly come out against legislation that would amend the civil rights act. “I wasn’t able to make that deadline, didn’t want to make that deadline,” says Foster. “So he filed in January and made this the center point of the campaign.” Foster lost by less than 1,000 votes in the primary against Chatfield, who had support from the Tea Party.

That loss not only cost Foster his job, but hurt his chances of getting the bill passed. The prospects had been looking good. He and other supporters of the bill had been rallying support among his fellow Republicans and gained the backing of the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition, a group with big-name members like Chrysler, Delta Airlines, Google and Kellogg that formed to support the legislation. “After my election, they slowly faded away,” Foster says of his GOP colleagues. “It was a pretty successful, religious-mounted campaign that beat me, and if that can happen in my community, that can happen anywhere.”

Foster says he’d like to see a bill pass that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity but had limited his to the former thinking that it would have a better chance of passing. When Michigan’s civil rights act was proposed in the 1970s—named Elliott-Larsen for the lawmakers who championed it—the inclusion of sexual orientation threatened to kill the bill, so it was removed. “Forty years later, here we are still trying to add sexual orientation, and it’s the transgender piece that was slowing the bill down,” Foster says. He also knows that by compromising, he may lose the support of Democrats. “Democrats are not going to vote for anything less than fully inclusive, and Republicans will not vote for fully inclusive,” he says. “So, in my mind, we’re sort of stuck.”

After winning his reelection, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, sat down with the Detroit Free Press and its editorial board reported that “he will encourage the Legislature to take up an expansion of the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to also include the LGBT community, prohibiting discrimination in hiring and housing decisions.” Foster is somewhat hanging his hopes on that report. “He can add some muscle to the argument and help me get this thing across the line,” Foster says. For now, both bills remain in the commerce committee. After potentially being voted out, a bill still has to win a floor vote in the House before repeating the process in the Senate.

Regardless of what happens, Foster is going home at the end of the session. He’ll work full time at Rehabitat Systems, a company which provides long-term care to people with traumatic brain and spinal-cord injuries, where he’s currently an executive officer. Right now, he’s frustrated with where the two-party system has gotten him. “I don’t want to necessarily be in the box anymore, where if I’m Republican it means I’m x, y and z,” he says. “The rest of my demographic, the 20-somethings, don’t think that way.”

But he says he’d like to have another go at being a Republican politician down the line, especially because their fiscal policies resonate so strongly with him. “There needs to be some more time,” Foster says. “My party has to change some of its social stances. And if that can happen, I think I’ll become more appealing to the party and vice versa.”

TIME Courts

Judge Overturns One of 9 Convictions Against Former Virginia First Lady

Former Virginia Gov. McDonnell And Wife Appear In Court For Federal Corruption Case
Mark Wilson—Getty Images Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen leave the court in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 24, 2014

However, eight other convictions stand

A federal judge on Monday overturned one conviction against Maureen McDonnell, the wife of the former Virginia governor, but allowed all other convictions against the couple to stand.

McDonnell and her husband, Bob McDonnell were found guilty in September of collecting more than $165,000 in gifts from a dietary supplement producer, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., in exchange for boosting the product’s reputation, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. A federal jury convicted the former governor on 11 of 13 counts and his wife on nine of 13.

The pair had sought to have the charges overturned or to win a new trial.

The former first lady is now guilty of eight charges. The tossed out charge, for obstruction, relates to allegations that she sought to cover up the corruption in a note to Williams.

The couple are expected to be sentenced on Jan 6.

[Richmond Times-Dispatch]

TIME Crime

National Guard Presence to ‘Significantly’ Ramp Up Around Ferguson

Barrett Emke for TIME Police officers in riot gear stand guard in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014

Gov. Jay Nixon said deployment in and around Ferguson to rise from 700 to more than 2,200

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon pledged Tuesday to “significantly” ramp up the National Guard’s presence in and around Ferguson after a night of violent riots, fires and looting followed the announcement that a white police officer would not be indicted in the August shooting death of an unarmed black teen.

“No one should have to live like this, no one deserves this. We must do better and we will,” he said. “The violence we saw last night cannot be repeated.”

More than 2,200 Guardsmen would be deployed in the region, up from 700 in 100 locations on Monday night, in an effort to avoid repeating the events that played out in the area. Looters damaged or destroyed at least a dozen buildings, while others set several cars aflame, as law enforcement officers fired smoke bombs in a bid to restrain crowds of angry protesters.

Television networks, photographers and ordinary citizens wielding smartphones latched onto scenes of unrest, disseminating them widely as the night went on. In the morning, some showed scenes of the smoldering buildings and cars while others focused on immediate clean-up efforts.

Nixon was joined by several state officials who used similarly grim language. “Last night was a disaster,” said Col. Ronald Replogle, head of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. And Daniel Isom, director of Missouri’s Department of Public Safety, called Monday night “a disappointment in so many ways.”

“Our community not only needs to be safe,” added St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. “They need to feel safe.”

The announcement of the security boost came soon after Ferguson Mayor James Knowles criticized the lack of National Guard presence amid the tumult, saying he was “deeply concerned” that Nixon chose not to deploy additional Guardsmen as violence increased in the area. “It was my understanding that they would be deployed, if needed, to maintain order and protect businesses,” Knowles said. “They were not.”

VOTE: Should the Ferguson protestors be TIME’s Person of the Year?

Knowles also revealed that Wilson remains on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Prior to the grand jury announcement Monday, Ferguson’s police chief had said the officer may be able to return to his job should he not be indicted.

TIME States

Thrift Store Accused of Pocketing $1 Million Meant for Charities

The Minnesota attorney general faulted both the chain of thrift stores and the numerous linked charities for the alleged impropriety

A Seattle-area based chain of thrift stores may have pocketed more than $1 million designated for charities.

Minnesota’s attorney general, Lori Swanson, has accused Savers Thrift Stores of putting almost all the donations it collected from customers into its own coffers, rather than forwarding the sums to the charities with which it had contracts, including Vietnam Veterans of America, The New York Times reports.

Swanson also blamed the charities for failing to properly oversee their relationship with Savers, citing the organizations’ responsibility to be vigilant and catch such alleged duplicitousness.

Savers, which operates more than 300 stores in more than two dozen states, said in an email to the New York Times that the company “remains dedicated to working openly, honestly and transparently with all of our nonprofit partners.”

One of the charities that have contracts with Savers also reiterated its commitment to integrity and told the Times that its relationship with the thrift store was under review.

Minnesota has given Savers and the charities 45 days to propose a solution, after which time Swanson could bring civil suits against them. The matter has also been referred to attorneys general in other states.

Read more at the New York Times

TIME Education

What California’s College Tuition Hike Says About the Future of Higher Education

CA: UC Berkeley Students Rally Against Tuition Fee Hikes
Alex Milan Tracy—Sipa USA Students rallied to demonstrate against the university's plan to increase tuition fees over the next five years at the University of California, Berkeley campus on Nov. 18, 2014, in Berkeley, Calif.

As state funding dwindles, students at public universities are being asked to pick up more of the tab

When does a public university system become one in name only? That’s the question facing California as officials in charge of the state’s prestigious, but financially-struggling university system clash over how to keep it afloat.

On Nov. 20, the regents that control the University of California system will vote on a proposal to increase tuition at its 10 campuses by as much as 5% a year for the next five years. This year’s tuition and fees for in-state students is $12,192, which could rise to $15,564 by the 2019-20 school year under the proposal. The plan was conceived and put forward by Janet Napolitano, who took over the UC system in 2013.

The fight over the tuition increase pits Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona and federal homeland security chief, against Governor Jerry Brown, a popular figure in the state who was just re-elected with a sizable mandate. Brown has said he opposes increasing tuition, and would restore some state funding cut during the recession only if it stays flat. Brown is a regent and is among a handful of those on the board who have already indicated they will reject Napolitano’s proposal.

“There is a game of chicken,” says Hans Johnson, a higher education expert at the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California. “It’s not clear to me at all how it’s going to turn out.”

Underlying the clash of big personalities is a philosophical debate about the changing funding models for public universities. In 1960, California created a lofty master plan that said higher education should be free or very low-cost for residents. “We’ve moved away from that pretty dramatically,” says Johnson. “It’s almost traumatic for California to think about it.” In recent decades, the state has decreased the share of overall public higher education costs it pays for and the system has become increasingly dependent on student contributions, among other sources, for the difference. In the 2001-02 academic year, in-state tuition and fees for UC campuses was $3,429, about one-third of the cost today. Similar trends have played out in state university systems elsewhere as well.

The recession accelerated public schools’ reliance on private money. At UC, the system receives some $460 million less per year in state funds than it did in the 2007-08 school year.

“As a political matter, state officials have made the judgment they don’t want to pay for higher education for our citizens,” says David Plank, an economist at Policy Analysis for California Education, a non-partisan research center. “What were once public universities are now private universities that receive some subsidy from the states.”

Napolitano says that if UC is to remain a world-class educational and research institution, it needs more money, no matter the source. And she says students and families will need to fill the gap left by the state. The proposed tuition increase would affect only around half of the student body. Thanks to income-based federal and state grants, about 55% of UC students pay no tuition.

Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor, has said he and Brown were blind-sided by the tuition increase proposal. The governor’s office has said Napolitano’s plan could void a plan Brown has endorsed to increase state funding 4 percent per year if tuition stays flat. Napolitano has said she never made a deal and if was one was struck before she took charge, she hasn’t found any record of it. “It was unilateral. It wasn’t anything we agreed to,” says Steve Montiel, a spokesman for Napolitano.

On the eve of today’s meeting of the regents planning board, the speaker of the California state assembly reportedly proposed directing $50 million in additional state general funds to UC to stave off increased costs for students. The proposal followed student protests at at least two UC campuses this week.

TIME States

No One Really Wants to Run the Republican Governors Association

2016 dynamics at play

Republican governors gathered at an opulent Florida resort this week to celebrate their victories in the midterm elections are finding the party tempered by an unusual challenge: no one really wants to run their campaign arm.

Usually a hotly-contested position for governors seeking to boost their national appeal and profile, the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) has proven hard to fill this year, according to multiple governors and staffers familiar with the deliberations.

“No one wants it,” one Republican governor said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive subject.

“It’s a mystery. None of the big shots are aiming for it,” added one gubernatorial aide.

Members of the group’s executive committee, long a training ground for new leaders, have proven largely uninterested. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the current chairman, is gearing up to announce a run for the White House, while the current vice chair and 2013 chair, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, is preparing to do the same. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the 2013 vice chair, is contemplating a presidential bid, while Florida Gov. Rick Scott appears unlikely to seek the post, according to those familiar with his plans. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, talked about as a possible 2016 contender, has ruled out taking the slot, as has South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has been talked about as a potential Republican vice presidential selection. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is leaving office at the end of the year—and is looking at a White House run nonetheless—while Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett lost his reelection bid earlier this month. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a rising party star who has said she doesn’t have interest in national politics, is seen as uninterested in the slot.

RGA insiders say it would be a faux pas for a governor with eyes on the White House to seek the post, which allows governors to travel the country on the RGA’s dime to raise money for their colleagues. In 2011, Perry, then the RGA chair, did just that, and was forced to resign his post when he launched an ill-fated bid for the Republican presidential nomination. His departure upended a long-planned transition and pitted Christie against Jindal in a bitter succession battle.

Besides White House ambitions, the low-key nature of next year’s races is limiting the talent pool for the one-year gig. The 2015 RGA chair will be responsible for handling open elections in Kentucky and Louisiana, and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s re-election. Eleven seats will be up for contention in 2016, making this year’s vice-chairmanship more appealing, some aides said.

“We have multiple governors interested in being the next RGA Chairman and leading a pragmatic group of 31 GOP Governors, the most for either party in 16 years,” RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said. “We’re fortunate to have many governors who have the potential of leading in multiple facets of the GOP, which attests to their incredible leadership and records of results.”

The most important qualification for the RGA chair is his or her ability to raise money. Under Christie’s leadership, the group raised $106 million and spent $130 million, defending a number of purple-state seats and winning several blue-state governorships.

According to multiple individuals familiar with the gubernatorial discussions, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who was reelected this month, is the inside favorite for the post, though one governor described the situation as “very fluid” before governors meet to elect the new RGA leadership on Thursday afternoon.

TIME States

Colorado Still Can’t Figure Out Final Rules for Edible Marijuana

Pot-infused cookies, called the Rookie Cookie sit on the packaging table at The Growing Kitchen, in Boulder Colo. on Sept. 26, 2014.
Brennan Linsley—AP Pot-infused cookies, called the Rookie Cookie sit on the packaging table at The Growing Kitchen, in Boulder Colo. on Sept. 26, 2014.

A state group adjourned without agreeing on solutions for keeping THC-laced food away from kids

A working group convened to help Colorado regulate edible marijuana products failed to come up with consensus recommendations at its final meeting Monday, punting the issue to the state legislature.

Officials have long been worried that edible products, which can take the form of sweets like lollipops and treats like brownies, will lead children to experiment with marijuana or accidentally ingest it. In May, the largest children’s hospital in Colorado reported that nine children had been brought in after accidentally eating such products, double the amount the institution had seen in the previous year. Despite fears that Halloween would see a spike of such incidents, the hospital didn’t report any cases of accidental ingestion.

The working group was formed to develop ideas for keeping edibles safe and out of children’s hands. The ideas ranged from making all marijuana edibles a certain color to banning most forms of edibles, limiting production to only lozenges and tinctures. A variety of suggestions will be presented to the state legislature when it reconvenes in January.

Makers of edible products don’t want to see their section of the market shrunk and point out that every “preparation of the plant” was given the green light when state voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012.

Washington, which opened its recreational market after Colorado, instituted emergency rules about edibles in June that require state approval of every edible product, including its packaging and labeling. Colorado’s working group rejected a proposal from the state health department to create a similar review commission.

TIME States

Arkansas Governor to Pardon Son for 2003 Crime

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe speaks to reporters at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Nov. 5, 2014.
Danny Johnston—AP Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe speaks to reporters at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Nov. 5, 2014.

The prodigal son returns, and he is sorry, Mr. Governor

This is a tale of a son asking a father for forgiveness — in a very public, very formal way.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) plans to pardon his own son for a drug crime committed more than decade ago, after he received a letter pleading to “Mr. Governor” for “a second chance at life,” reports KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“At the time of my arrest I was living in a fantasy world, not reality,” wrote Kyle Beebe, 34, in his application seeking a pardon for his 2003 arrest for possession of marijuana. He received three years supervised probation, plus fines, for the felony conviction.

“I was young and dumb,” he continued in his letter. “I am asking for a second chance to be the man that I know that I can be.”

The Arkansas Parole Board recommended the Gov.’s son for pardon on Oct. 20. These notices are then posted for 30 days, during which time the Governor decides whether to accept or deny the requests.

Gov. Beebe, who says he has granted some 700 pardons since taking office in 2006, tells KATV that he “would have done it [granted the pardon] a long time ago” had his son just asked for one.

“But he took his sweet time about asking,” Gov. Beebe says. “He was embarrassed. He’s still embarrassed, and frankly, I was embarrassed and his mother was embarrassed.”

A spokesperson for the Arkansas parole board tells KATV that Kyle Beebe received no special treatment and that it recommended nine other people with similar drug crime records in the latest batch of pardon applications.

[KATV]

TIME 2014 Election

Republican Wave Floods States

Republicans hold a record number of seats in state legislature as a result of 2014 election

To say it was a good night for Republicans on the state level would be an understatement. Republicans now control 23 state governments outright and are on track to hold more state seats than they have since the late 1920s, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

After Tuesday, the GOP has the upper hand in 69 of the 99 country’s legislative chambers. In Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and West Virginia at least one chamber flipped from Democratic to Republican majorities. Results have yet to come down in Colorado, where Gov. John Hickenlooper was barely able to stave off a Republican challenge to his reelection. In many states Republicans are not simply the majority, they’ve secured a veto-proof supermajority, including in Florida and Missouri.

“Voters overwhelmingly voted for a new, open, innovative future for their families by electing state level Republicans in record numbers across the nation, including in traditionally blue states,” said Matt Walter, the president of the Republican State Leadership Committee in a statement. Walters said Republicans were successful largely thanks to their recruitment of a diverse set of candidates, including the youngest lawmaker in the U.S.

The payoffs for the GOP victories the state-level could be substantial. In states where the Republicans have single-party control they have shown willingness to advance aggressive party agendas: think North Carolina during the 2013 session. Come 2020, when state lawmakers will again be tasked with redrawing electoral maps, party control will be crucial.

Democrats haven’t lost hope.“Republicans had a great night,” director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) Michael Sargeant says. “But our operations were able to make sure we limited the damage in some places. ”

Democrats raised a reported $17 million and made about 2 million voter contacts this cycle. Sargeant says that work resulted in Democrats holding on to majorities in key states including the Maine House, the Iowa Senate, and the Kentucky House, which he says will ensure Republican agendas don’t sail through in those states.

“Those victories along with some others were critical to make sure they’re still balances,” Sargeant says.

TIME Election 2014

California Voters Back $7.5 Billion Water Bond

Governor Jerry Brown backed the measure to help prevent future water shortages

In addition to re-electing Governor Jerry Brown by a wide margin, California voters also endorsed his top priority, approving a $7.5 billion water bond. The measure, which looked certain to be passed 66.8% to 33.2% after 99.9% of precincts reported, is meant to shore up the state’s ability to cope with drought conditions and will increase its water storage capacity and protect drinking water.

Ahead of the vote, critics pointed out that the water bond wouldn’t have much immediate effect on the ongoing drought nor would it decrease the state’s overall water usage. But Brown poured more than $3 million of his own campaign funds into the water bond promotional campaign, which was also bolstered by large donations from wealthy Californians, including tech entrepreneur Sean Parker and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

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