TIME States

Oregon First Lady Bought Land To Farm Pot

Cylvia Hayes
Cylvia Hayes, fiancee of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, speaks at a news conference in Portland, Ore. on Oct. 9, 2014. Bruce Ely—AP

“I was never financially involved with it"

Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes said late Monday that she bought land in a remote part of Washington state in 1997 to grow marijuana, just a few months after she illegally married an Ethiopian immigrant who paid her $5,000 in exchange for receiving his U.S. citizenship.

Patrick Siemion, a retired real estate broker, told the Oregonian that Hayes bought a 60-acre plot of land in Okanogan to grow pot with another, unidentified man. Hayes later released a statement saying that she was “involved in an abusive relationship with a dangerous man” and had little money.

“We lived together for several months on the property in Okanogan that was intended to be the site of a marijuana grow operation that never materialized,” she told the Oregonian. “I was never financially involved with it. I did not pay any part of the down payment or mortgage payments. I had no money. … In the spring of 1998 I began to make plans to get away. In July 1998 I moved to Central Oregon and began building a life and career that I am very proud of.”

Hayes told the public about her marriage to Abraham B. Abraham, her third husband, last week. Hayes, standing alone behind a podium, said that at the age of 29 she illegally married Abraham, then 18 years old, so he could get his American citizenship. Hayes’ fiancé, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, said Friday that he had only learned about her third marriage that week and had “some processing to do.”

TIME Accident

2 Children Injured, 1 Critically, in Bouncy House Accident

Bounce House Bouncy House
Getty Images

One of the toddlers was in critical condition as a result of the accident

Two toddlers were injured on Sunday, one critically, when a bouncy house they were playing in was carried away by the wind, according to local reports. The bouncy house at a farm in New Hampshire traveled between 50 and 60 feet.

The bouncy house was not properly tethered to the ground at the time of the accident, WDHD reports. A two-year-old was critically injured during the accident and was airlifted to Tufts Medical Center in Boston, WCVB reports. His three-year-old companion was treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Nashua, N.H.

The incident is the latest in a string of bouncy house accidents, which child safety advocates have said is partially due to the fact that they can be purchased by anyone and most states lack safety guidelines.

TIME States

California Becomes First State to Ban Plastic Bags

Grocers Lobby To Make California First State To Ban Plastic Bags
A single-use plastic bag floats along the Los Angeles River in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. California grocers, who could realize $1 billion in new revenue from selling paper bags for a dime each, teamed up with environmentalists on a new push to make California the first state to ban plastic shopping bags. The retail and environmental lobbies, which backed many of 13 failed California bills since 2007 to curb or ban single-use plastic shopping bags, lost the face off against manufacturers of both plastic and paper bags who oppose restrictions on the sacks. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The ban will go into effect in 2015 for some businesses and 2016 for others

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday that makes the state the first in the country to ban single-use plastic bags.

The ban will go into effect in July 2015, prohibiting large grocery stores from using the material that often ends up as litter in the state’s waterways. Smaller businesses, like liquor and convenience stores, will need to follow suit in 2016. More than 100 municipalities in the state already have similar laws, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. The new law will allow the stores nixing plastic bags to charge 10 cents for a paper or reusable bag instead. The law also provides funds to plastic-bag manufacturers, an attempt to soften the blow as lawmakers push the shift toward producing reusable bags.

San Francisco became the first major American city to ban plastic bags in 2007, but the statewide ban may be a more powerful precedent as advocates in other states look to follow suit. The law’s enactment Tuesday marked an end to a long battle between lobbyists for the plastic bag industry and those worried about the bags’ effect on the environment.

California State Senator Kevin de Leόn, a co-author of the bill, called the new law “a win-win for the environment and for California workers.”

“We are doing away with the scourge of single-use plastic bags and closing the loop on the plastic waste stream, all while maintaining—and growing—California jobs,” he said.

TIME 2014 Election

The Marijuana Legalization Votes That Will Matter in 2014

First Legal Marijuana Sales in Colorado
Strains of marijuana at Denver Kush Club in Denver on Jan. 1, 2014. Seth McConnell—Denver Post/Getty Images

Referendums across the country set the stage for an even bigger fight in 2016

Election Day this year will be big on pot.

The battle over legalizing recreational marijuana in California—the big enchilada that may tilt legalization not only in the U.S. but other countries—is already being set for 2016. But while many reformers’ eyes are focused on the next presidential election, this year’s votes on marijuana initiatives have the power to shape that fight.

Here are the races to watch in November.

Alaska: Legalization with tax and regulation

A 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling found that the right to privacy in the state included the right to grow and possess a small amount of marijuana at home. Though opponents have still fought over whether possessing marijuana is legal—sometimes in court—reformers are hoping that a long history of quasi-legalization and a noted libertarian streak will lead Alaskans to vote yes on Ballot Measure 2: It would concretely legalize retail pot, giving the the state the power to tax and regulate like in Colorado and Washington state.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the pro-marijuana reform group NORML, called this measure a “wobbler,” with support long hovering around 50%. That sentiment is echoed by Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, which spearheaded legalization in Colorado and has contributed heavily to the campaign in Alaska. “A lot of it will depend on the campaign getting its message out,” Tvert said. The message got a boost this month when a local on-anchor quit her job live on TV to support the legalization effort.

Oregon: Legalization with tax and regulation

Oregon almost went along with Colorado and Washington on their experimental journey in 2012, when residents narrowly rejected a pot legalization measure 56% to 44%. This year, more activists—and more organized ones at that—have been on the scene, working with groups like the deep-pocketed Drug Policy Alliance. Still, the prospects for Measure 91 are far from a lock; a recent poll found that while 44% of likely voters support legalization, 40% oppose it.

Like Alaska, the Beaver State has a long history when it comes to marijuana, having become the first state to decriminalize it in 1973. St. Pierre said Oregon’s proximity to Washington state, where creating a legal market has so far gone pretty smoothly, will help push people to vote “yes.” He said Oregon is the “most viable in terms of moving the national needle,” keeping up the momentum for drug-law reform that Washington and Colorado started. “Oregon will likely help lead the way for more states to follow,” said Anthony Johnson, who launched the campaign for Measure 91.

Washington, D.C.: “Soft legalization”

Those are the words of St. Pierre, describing a measure that falls short of creating a full-on regulated, taxable pot market. Initiative 71 would, however, allow people to possess up to 2 oz. of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants at home without fear of criminal or civil penalty—at least in theory. If the initiative does pass, there remains a hazy line between the reaches of the local and federal governments in the District, and Congress could choose to intervene, passing laws that supersede the actions of D.C. officials.

The initiative will very likely pass: Locals support it by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. The big question is whether Congress will continue to stand down, as it did while D.C. legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized marijuana. Allowing pot plants to flourish in backyard gardens down the road from the White House could force a more serious conversation about the conflict between federal drug laws that still view marijuana as an illegal substance and newer laws that do not.

Florida: Medical marijuana

At a time when states are legalizing pot for recreational purposes, it might not seem that significant whether Florida joins the growing list of about two-dozen states that allow medical marijuana. But St. Pierre said that nothing marijuana-related is taken lightly when it comes to political bellwether states like this one. So far, polling on support for Amendment 2 has been all over the place. And the political frenzy over the initiative has drawn huge spenders like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who shelled out at least $98 million in the 2012 elections.

Amendment 2 has a steep hill to climb, requiring a 60% supermajority to pass; neither Colorado nor Washington got past the 55% range. “Florida is a national battleground,” St. Pierre said, noting how uncommon it is for people to be dropping $2.5 million checks to oppose such measures or $3.7 million checks to support them. “We’ve never seen a green rush like we’re seeing in Florida.”

Looking ahead to 2016

There are also a handful of municipalities that are going to vote on “soft legalization” measures of sorts, including the Maine towns of Lewiston and South Portland. Portland, Maine’s biggest city, passed a similar measure in 2013, giving authorities the ability not to punish pot-possessors with civil or criminal penalties.

Maine is one of the states the Marijuana Policy Project will be working hard to push the way of Colorado and Washington come 2016, and even symbolic local wins could boost that effort. “Ultimately our plan is to bring a tax-and-regulate initiative statewide in 2016, so these campaigns are a way to get the message out,” said David Boyer, MPP’s Maine political director.

In addition to California, Tvert said his group is already hard at work in Nevada, collecting petition signatures. And he said campaigns will be ramping up in Arizona and Massachusetts soon. Generally, marijuana initiatives do better when there is larger voter turnout, and voter turnout is typically bigger in presidential election years.

“This is the penultimate year for marijuana law reform,” St. Pierre said of 2014. “California is totally on reformers’ menu. … No one else moves if they don’t move.”

TIME States

NY Gov. Cuomo Makes Surprise Afghanistan Visit

Governor Cuomo Attends A Get Out The Vote Rally In Times Square Ahead Of State's Primary
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to hotel workers at the Hotel Trade Council during a reelection campaign event on September 8, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The New York governor will be meeting senior officials for counterterrorism briefings

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo arrived in Afghanistan Saturday on a surprise trip with other governors and Defense Department officials. While in the country, Cuomo will receive briefings on counterterrorism and meet with American troops in the country.

Cuomo, who is traveling with Gov. William E. Haslam (Tennessee), Gov. Jeremiah W. Nixon (Missouri) and Gov. Brian E. Sandoval (Nevada), will be briefed by senior U.S. Department of Defense officials on counterterrorism issues that affect New York’s security, Cuomo’s office said. He’ll also be visiting some of the 270 members of the New York National Guard who are currently deployed in Afghanistan.

“During a period of heightened security concerns, we are working closely with our federal partners to increase preparedness at home in New York and protect our citizens from the threat of global terrorism,” said Governor Cuomo. “At the same time, we must never forget the continuing courage and sacrifice of the members of our military serving overseas, who have dedicated their lives to defending our country.”

This is Cuomo’s second trip abroad in recent months, coming after his August visit to Israel.

 

TIME States

These Governors Return Their Salary To The State

Every state appropriates its governor a salary, but not every governor accepts it. Some return a percentage to the state, while others forgo any compensation whatsoever.

Not all governors take full pay for the job.

Some take a small salary cut for symbolic reasons. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for example, took a 5 percent salary reduction in 2011. “Change starts at the top and we will lead by example,” he said in a press conference announcing the cut. “Families and business owners in every corner of the state have learned to do more with less in order to live within their means and government must do the same.”

Others, like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder with a net worth of about $200 million, simply don’t need the money.

Curious to see every other governor who forgoes all or part of their salary? See the list compiled by research engine FindTheBest with data from the National Governors Association below.

First on the list is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who takes a salary reduction for neither symbolic or wealth reasons, but has simply refused several cost-of-living adjustments during his time in office, keeping the $175,000 salary he had when he started in 2011. If Gov. Corbett took his full $187,256 salary, he’d be the highest-paid governor in the nation. Instead, he’s tied for second with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Next up are Governors Steve Beshear and Peter Shumlin. Like Gov. Cuomo, they initially took salary reductions to represent solidarity with constituents during tough times. Gov. Beshear, for example, took his reduction in 2009 to share the burden of Kentucky state budget cuts, and Gov. Shumlin took his in light of a $150 million deficit in Vermont in 2010.

Then there’s Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who—like Gov. Snyder—refuses his salary because he’s amassed so much wealth elsewhere, reporting a net worth of $132 million last year. And while it’s unclear what kind of wealth Gov. Bill Haslam has, his brother Jimmy Haslam—CEO of Pilot Flying J and owner of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns—is worth about $1.45 billion.

In fact, the only governor to sacrifice his entire salary who does not fit the uber wealthy mold is Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama. Bentley reported a high, but not extremely high, income of $372,687 in 2013, none of which came from his $119,950 governor’s salary. $119,950 would be a noticeable contribution to his bottom line, but Gov. Bentley refuses to collect a dime until Alabama reaches a full employment rate, meaning the unemployment rate drops to 5.2 percent.

FindTheBest is a research website that’s collected all the data on governors and Congress members, and put it all in one place so you don’t have to go searching for it. Join FindTheBest to get all the information on governors, Congress members, and thousands of other topics.

TIME States

Kansas Will Be Prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse

FRANCE-CINEMA-FANTASTIC-ZOMBIE
People dressed as zombies take part in the Zombie Walk event on Sept. 13, 2014, in the eastern French city of Strasbourg Frederick Florin—AFP/Getty

Or any other disaster, for that matter

If the zombie apocalypse arrives, one U.S. state will be ahead of the game.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a “proclamation” naming October the state’s “Zombie Preparedness Month.”

The announcement, to be signed Sept. 26 in the governor’s ceremonial office in the Kansas statehouse, urges state residents to prepare an emergency plan and survival supplies that can last at least three days.

Of course, gathering up water, nonperishables and batteries to wait out a zombie siege sounds an awful lot like how a Kansas resident might prepare for a range of natural disasters — which, officials say, is exactly the point.

“We came up with the idea of Zombie Preparedness Month because it is an engaging way to get people on board with emergency preparedness,” the governor’s office says. “If you’re equipped to handle the zombie apocalypse then you’re prepared for tornadoes, severe storms, fire and any other natural disaster Kansas usually faces.”

It added: “If you’re prepared for zombies, you’re prepared for anything.”

TIME Guns

Texas’ Plan to Allow Alcohol Sales at Gun Shows Gets Shot Down

US-POLITICS-GUNS-NRA
Convention goers check out handguns equipped with Crimson Trace laser sights at the143rd NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 25, 2014. Karen Bleier —AFP/Getty Images

Gun show operators felt the combination of booze and bullets was unsafe

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) withdrew Tuesday a proposal to allow sales of alcohol at some gun shows after receiving a barrage of public comments against the plan.

The plan would have enforced strict conditions, including a ban on live ammunition and requiring the show’s venue to have a liquor license, the Associated Press reports. Still, many critics, including gun show operators, felt that mixing guns and alcohol was dangerous.

“I am a licensed gun dealer. I think the sale of alcohol at gun shows is unwise,” wrote one person commenting on the plan. “As an industry, we are already under a microscope. From a safety view point, the sale of alcohol at gun shows is pure folly. I am against this.”

Under current laws, a liquor-licensed venue hosting a gun show is forbidden to sell alcohol during the show as well as during the set up and take down processes, according to the TABC website.

[AP]

 

TIME Drugs

Chicago Mayor Pushes Illinois To Decriminalize Pot

Cites law enforcement time and money spent on low-level drug arrests

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked the Illinois state legislature Tuesday to decriminalize marijuana possession and to make all arrests for those caught with one gram or less of any drug a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

“It’s time, in my view, to free up our criminal justice system to address our real public safety challenges and build on the progress that has been made,” Emmanuel told lawmakers, the Chicago Tribune reports. Emanuel is looking to expand upon a Chicago law passed in 2012 that made possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana a ticketable offense.

Emanuel, who’s up for reelection next year, said the plan will save taxpayer money. Emanuel’s office estimates that Chicago police officers spent almost 275,000 hours on low-level narcotics arrests, even though less than 10% resulted in guilty verdicts. Emanuel’s office says about 7,000 people are arrested every year in Chicago for possession of one gram or less of drugs.

[Chicago Tribune]

TIME States

A Quarter of Americans Want to Secede From the U.S.

Pins in a United States map show where students have come from to take classes at Oaksterdam University, the nation's first marijuana trade school, on Sept. 23, 2010 in Oakland.
Pins in a United States map show where students have come from to take classes at Oaksterdam University, the nation's first marijuana trade school, on Sept. 23, 2010 in Oakland. Tony Avelar—The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

Which is extremely unlikely

The Scottish referendum on secession from the United Kingdom may have failed to pass, but it succeeded in stirring secessionist sentiment in that country and beyond—specifically, in the United States.

Nearly a quarter of Americans, 23.9%, said they strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state leaving the United States and forming its own country, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken between August 23 and September 16 released Friday.

Support for secession was weakest in the northeast and strongest in the southwest. It cut across party lines, though Republicans (29.7%) are somewhat more keen on the idea than Democrats (21%). A majority, 53.3%, said they strongly opposed or tended to oppose the idea.

Even in states with the with the highest level of support for seceding from the Union, the possibility that it could actually be done is extremely farfetched. In modern American history even attempts at simply seceding from a state have proven impossible—seceding from the country entirely is a different matter altogether. No state since the Civil War has come anywhere close enough to force the courts to issue a final word on the legality of secession, but any such argument would, at the very least, face a very steep climb.

[Reuters]

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