TIME governors

Governors in D.C.: Beset By Lobbyists, Riven By Partisanship

U.S. President Barack Obama toasts attendees from the National Governors Association at a dinner in the White House
Mike Theiler—Reuters U.S. President Barack Obama, center, raises his glass to toast attendees from the National Governors Association (NGA) at a dinner in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22, 2015

As gubernatorial staff grumble, influence-brokers descend

For three days last week, the nation’s Governors from both parties scurried with their security details down swanky hotel hallways in Washington, D.C., with legions of well-dressed men and women wearing orange lanyards in hot pursuit. The marked followers, who wore name tags identifying their employers on the orange cords, were ubiquitous at the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA). They could also be found huddled over restaurant tables with the state leaders, or cozied up next to officials on lobby sofas. More would tug on gubernatorial sleeves at the private receptions and in the hallways of the conference center.

The interlopers were officially called “corporate fellows” in the lingo of the event, but most Americans would probably just recognize them better as lobbyists—well-paid ear-benders working to place their clients’ interests before the state’s most powerful elected leader. They form the backbone of the policy arm of the NGA, which has played a role in crafting some of the most significant bipartisan policy solutions in the nation’s history, like the now-fraught Common Core education standards. And their constant presence was one of the few unifying presences at an organization increasingly riven by partisan divisions.

But in recent years, governors and staff say, even the constant presence of influence peddlers has begun to wear on the members of the NGA, as the organization has lost influence, driven by concerns about a slow-moving organization and growing polarization among the governors, who increasingly favor party-specific Governor gatherings.

“It’s a lobbyist-fest,” said the chief of staff to one governor of the NGA. “And worse yet, the organization isn’t accountable to anyone.”

In recent years, both the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations, known by the acronyms DGA and RGA, have built out their policy teams, as both parties’ governors have become more ideologically polarized. They view the NGA as a bloated bureaucracy—it still uses triplicate copy paper for on-site registrations—that produces few results, or worse, policies they don’t support. Republican governors have been saddled by the organization’s role in framing Common Core, while Democratic governors have bristled at the organization’s more GOP-friendly positions on immigration and healthcare.

“The most valuable commodity any governor has is their time,” said former RGA Executive Director Phil Cox. “They have to ask the question, ‘What are we getting out of this?’ At RGA and DGA, it is pretty clear. Their time and engagement results in substantial and effective political and policy support. At NGA, it is less clear. In recent years, it is difficult to point to substantive bipartisan accomplishments.”

Since Common Core, the group’s policy initiatives have faded in ambition and significance. This year’s chair’s initiative, called “Delivering Results,” focused on boosting government efficiency, while one of the group’s key legislative priorities is passing the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to charge sale tax on Internet purchases.

“We’re not competitors with RGA and DGA,” said NGA Deputy Director David Quam, who said the group has “a very active agenda this year.” “Their job is to get governors elected. Our job is to help bring them together and come to policy positions that can really solve issues at the state level and the federal level. We’re probably more relevant now than ever because all the action’s in the states.”

According to a spokesperson, last year, the organization held more than 80 meetings in states with nearly 3,100 state officials on issues such as economic development, education, health care and governance.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry pulled his state out of the organization more than a decade ago, and has been followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and others. Democrats, like former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, have considered quitting the organization, but have yet to take the leap. Dues-paying New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has never attended a session, according to fellow governors, while California’s Gov. Jerry Brown has frequently skipped the meetings. Quam called the trend “old news.”

“The biggest thing keeping governors engaged in NGA is a sense that they want to support their colleagues who are in leadership,” said a person close to Democratic governors.

The NGA considers all governors members in their organization by virtue of their election, even if they’ve decided against paying dues. Governors are charged membership in the organization based on the population size of their states, with the largest states paying more than $175,000 before travel costs are added. The money is usually paid out of a governor’s budget, funds they could use to hire additional staff or use for other initiatives.

The annual Washington conference is the more business heavy of the two meetings a year. The summer gathering, which rotates around the country, includes leisure activities. In 2013 in Milwaukee, governors were offered the chance to ride to the Harley Davidson museum on motorcycles as part of a motorcade with veterans, and were treated to a fireworks display over Lake Michigan after a fancy dinner reception. The 2014 meeting in Nashville featured a performance by country music star Carrie Underwood and a private reception at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

One former senior DGA official called the group “the spleen of political organizations.”

“They’re infuriated when a Governor pops their mouth off about something ‘political,’ but then turn around and do politically insane things like sell access to Governors to Chinese government officials,” the operative said, referencing the 2011 meeting which brought together Chinese governors at an event at the Chinese embassy in Washington. The 2015 meeting included a reception at the Canadian embassy.

According to the event program, 122 companies were represented as corporate fellows at this meeting, including Bank of America, IBM, McKinsey & Company, and UPS.

The ostensible reason for the meetings—convening governors to share ideas and best practices—is often fleeting. In the corner of the main meeting room, a large case contains name cards for the 55 governors from the states and U.S. territories. But most never leave the box. Few governors attend the public sessions, where issues like healthcare, education, and cyber-security are discussed, instead taking meetings with reporters, donors, or the orange-lanyards interest group representatives. Some registered attendees, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, didn’t attend a single open committee session this weekend.

“There’s no venue quite like this,” boasted one corporate government affairs executive. “I have meetings with governors stacked up all day.”

Quam said he’s not surprised by the corporate interest in NGA, saying it’s a sign that the states are actually getting things done. “They complain that we don’t give them enough access all the time,” he said of the fellows. The NGA maintains that committee session attendance has been “excellent,” noting that only 8-10 governors serve on each committee.

Alongside the conferences are gatherings of the RGA and DGA, much of whose unlimited fundraising comes from the same corporate fellows who fill the coffers of the NGA. On Saturday night, the DGA threw its annual Taste of the America gala at the Mayflower hotel for its donors. The RGA’s Executive Roundtable huddled Friday with the governors, with an address by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

But the NGA organizers try hard to keep try to keep the partisanship out of the main conference center, sometimes to no avail. Closed-door luncheons of governors in recent years have frequented partisan spats over the Affordable Care Act or immigration policy.

Last year’s press conference following a private meeting with President Barack Obama devolved into a partisan smack-down between Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy. The capstone of the weekend, the annual governor’s dinner at the White House, isn’t even an official NGA event. Hosted by the President and First Lady, all governors are invited to the black tie dinner, as well as to the business meeting with the president set for Monday morning.

MONEY IRAs

This Innovative Idea Could Improve Your Retirement

State governments are starting to step in to help workers save. Here's why that's a good thing.

A rare innovation in retirement saving is taking shape right now in, of all places, Illinois. In January the state became the first to okay an automatic IRA for workers at certain small businesses that don’t offer retirement plans. Those companies will be required to funnel 3% of their employees’ paychecks into a state-run Roth IRA, though workers can opt out.

It may seem surprising that Illinois is breaking ground in this area—after all, the state’s pension plans are among the worst funded in the nation. But Illinois is actually part of a broad movement. Some 30 states, including California and Connecticut, are developing similar savings programs. Says Sarah Mysiewicz Gill, senior legislative representative at AARP: “We’re reaching a critical mass of states.”

A Local Approach

Why are states taking on retirement planning? Half of private-sector employees don’t have an employer plan—a crucial tool for building a nest egg. In fact, just having access to a retirement plan through work makes a huge difference in whether you save. While 90% of those with a workplace plan have put aside money for retirement, only 20% of those without one have, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

So states will face a huge drain on their budgets as workers with no savings reach retirement and need services such as Medicaid and food assistance. “If Washington were moving faster on this, the states wouldn’t have to,” says Illinois state senator Daniel Biss, who sponsored the new IRA.

No question, Congress has long dodged addressing the looming retirement crisis; it has failed to fix Social Security or create a federal automatic IRA, which President Obama proposed again in his most recent State of the Union address. Obama did introduce the myRA last year, which will allow savers without employer plans to put away as much as $15,000 in Treasury securities. But without auto-enrollment, the myRA’s effectiveness will be limited.

The Illinois program may prove to be an appealing prototype. (First it will need approval by the Department of Labor and IRS.) Still, each state is crafting its own version. In Connecticut, the automatic IRA may be paid out as a lifetime annuity or in a lump sum. Indiana is looking at setting up a voluntary plan with a tax credit. “States are a great laboratory for experimentation,” says Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, founder of Georgetown University’s Center for Retirement Initiatives.

Reason to Hope

Of course, it’s far from certain that state savings plans will make much headway: at 3%, Illinois’s minimum contribution is far below the 10% to 15% of pay that retirement experts generally recommend. And a hodgepodge of state IRAs would be less efficient and more costly than a national plan.

That said, states can sometimes get it right. State-run 529 college savings plans have helped countless families with tuition bills. The Massachusetts health care plan was a model for the national plan that has meant coverage for millions. Perhaps the states’ efforts will push retirement savings higher up the federal government’s priority list. If Illinois can lead the way on retirement, anything’s possible.

 

TIME States

Six ‘Portlandia’ Sketches that Explain Oregon’s Big Political Scandal

Gov. John Kitzhaber speaks to the media as he presents his two-year state budget proposal from his ceremonial office at the State Capitol in Salem, Ore., on Dec. 1, 2014.
Thomas Patterson—AP Gov. John Kitzhaber speaks to the media as he presents his two-year state budget proposal from his ceremonial office at the State Capitol in Salem, Ore., on Dec. 1, 2014.

Anyone who’s ever lived in Oregon can tell you that the TV series “Portlandia,” which makes fun of the state’s culture of earnest, quirky liberaldom, feels closer to a documentary than a comedy.

The state’s recent political scandal, which ended this week when a new governor was sworn in, has proven that even more true. The months-long debacle played out essentially like one big sketch from the IFC show starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.

In a nutshell: John Kitzhaber, Oregon’s denim-wearing governor, resigned after a series of revelations involving his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, a clean energy activist with a dodgy past.

For those of you just tuning into the Beaver State’s quirky politics, here are six sketches that explain the big scandal.

“The Dream of the ‘90s”

The sketch: A man explains to his friend (in song!) that the 1990s never ended in Portland: “Do you remember the ‘90s? … There’s a place where that idea still exists as a reality.”

The scandal: Kitzhaber was governor during much of the 1990s, then returned to run for two more terms in the 2010s.

“No Grocery Bag”

The sketch: A man forgets his reusable bag while grocery shopping at Zupan’s Markets and the checkout clerks literally don’t know what to do.

The scandal: Kitzhaber and Hayes bonded over their love of sustainable energy. She drew controversy for playing a role in his clean energy policy while running a firm that promotes it.

“Late in Life Drug Use”

The sketch: An older couple decide that it’s never too late to try drugs for the first time, but they do so earnestly: “I want to approach this like we would buy a car.”

The scandal: Hayes and her then-boyfriend bought 60 acres of remote farmland in 1997 that she admits was intended to be a pot farm.

“Cool Wedding”

The sketch: Two hipsters meeting with a wedding planner say they want a cool wedding: “I don’t even really believe in marriage that much.”

The scandal: Hayes confessed to entering into an illegal marriage with an Ethiopian immigrant for $5,000 so that he could become a U.S. citizen.

“A Song for Portland”

The sketch: The earnest, absent-minded mayor of Portland commissions two people to write a theme song for the city in an awkward interview.

The scandal: Kitzhaber summoned Secretary of State Kate Brown to return to Oregon, then asked her why she’d come in what she called a “bizarre and unprecedented situation.”

“Disappointing Gay Man”

The sketch: A woman is disappointed when her gay brother turns out to be a total bro who met his boyfriend at an ESPN Zone: “I got totally ripped off on the ‘gay relative’ thing.”

The scandal: Brown, Kitzhaber’s successor, is the first openly bisexual governor. She said her parents once told her “it would be much easier for us if you were a lesbian.”

TIME States

Ithaca, New York’s Tourism Board Gives Up, Invites Visitors to Head to Florida Instead

South Pointe Beach, Miami, Fla.
Westend61/Getty Images USA, Florida, Miami Beach, South Pointe Beach

"Please come back when things thaw out"

At least one organization has a sense of humor about the wave of cold, snowy weather ravaging New York: The Ithaca, New York, tourism board.

Visitors to VisitIthaca.com this week were greeted with a pop-up on the site that encouraged them to flee to warmer climates.

“Due to this ridiculously stupid winter, Ithaca invites you to visit the Florida Keys this week,” it read. “Please come back when things thaw out. Really, it’s for the birds here now.” (Ithaca’s tourism info desk confirmed to PEOPLE the pop-up was not a hoax.)

This may be less of a cheeky joke and more of a public service: It’s expected to reach -4 degrees in Ithaca on Friday. At those temperatures, we’re not even sure a place can be considered for the birds.

Florida’s tourism board even got in on the action:

This article first appeared on People.com

TIME Economy

These Are the States Where the Middle Class Is Disappearing

two-story-house
Getty Images

The average income among middle class families shrank by 4.3% between 2009 and 2013

This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247WallSt.com.

The American economy is by many measures well on the road to full recovery. The national unemployment rate was 6.2% in 2013, down from 9.3% in 2009; U.S. gross domestic product grew 5% in the third quarter of 2014; and the S&P 500 recently reached its all time high. And yet the middle class, which historically was the driver of economic growth, is falling behind. The average income among middle class families shrank by 4.3% between 2009 and 2013, while incomes among the wealthiest 20% of American households grew by 0.4%.

Based on average pre-tax income earned by the third quintile, or the middle 20% of earners in each state, middle class incomes in California declined the most in the country. Incomes among middle class Californian households fell by nearly 7% between 2009 and 2013, while income among the state’s fifth quintile, or the top 20% of state earners, grew by 1.3%. Based on an analysis of household incomes among America’s middle class, these are the states where the middle class is suffering the most.

According to Joe Valenti, director of asset building at the Center for American Progress, the American middle class is essential for economic growth because middle income families are spending relatively large shares of their incomes on goods and services. “An additional dollar in the hands of a middle income earner is going to drive a lot more spending than an additional dollar in the hands of someone in that top quintile,” Valenti said. While households in the top quintile are able to spend enormous sums of money, “at some point there’s only so much that an individual can spend, even on all different kinds of luxury goods.”

While the middle class is the most important cohort in terms of spending and has in the past been essential for economic growth, middle income families have been the victims of wage stagnation. Valenti argued that as early as the 1970s, American companies started becoming much more productive. However, because of “a decoupling of productivity and wages,” wages among many workers have remained stagnant, and many in the middle class “have not been able to reap the benefits of higher productivity,” Valenti explained. Instead, returns from higher productivity have gone to owners and investors and not to the workers, he said. Many of the beneficiaries of these returns are likely part of the wealthiest 20% of households, whose incomes have grown in recent years.

Much of the income growth among the highest earning households is likely due to stock market gains. As Thomas Piketty argues in his book, “Capital in the 21st Century,” income inequality results from a higher return on capital — money used to make more money in the stock market or other revenue-generating assets — than wage and GDP growth. With the rich holding a disproportionate share of money in the stock market, their incomes have recovered much faster than those of middle class workers.

In all 10 of the states on this list, the share of total income earned by the bottom 80% of households fell between 2009 and 2013 and was redistributed to the highest quintile. The top 20% of U.S. households held more than 51% of total income in 2013, up 1.14 percentage points from 2009. Even among top earners, income was not evenly distributed. Over that five-year period, the top 5% of households accounted for nearly 75% of income gains in the top 20% of earners.

Income from capital gains may partly explain why the income distribution has skewed towards the rich in recent years. “We have seen the stock market recover quite well for many Americans who do have access to the market and who are investors,” Valenti said. Meanwhile, average workers do not.

According to data collected by Piketty, the average capital gain income of households in the bottom 90% was $558 in 2012. The average capital gains of the top 10% of households was nearly $30,000. And the comparable figure for the top 1% of U.S. households was a whopping $242,000 in 2012.

Several other factors, such as union membership rates and a particular state’s tax climate, such as no income tax or higher sales taxes, can also affect the redistribution of wealth across the nation. “Traditionally, union organizing has stepped in when policy makers have been unwilling to,” Valenti said. For example, depending on the union’s size and its sway, “policy makers may not feel the same pressure to pass or increase a minimum wage” if unions can negotiate a wage increase on their own.

While union organizing was a major component of the middle class’ formation in America after World War II, the level of labor force participation in unions fell from 12.4% in 2009 to 11.3% in 2013. In some states the decline was even more pronounced. Oregon’s union membership, for example, fell by 3.3%, the second largest decrease nationwide.

To determine the states where the middle class is suffering the most, 24/7 Wall St. used data on the average pre-tax income earned by each income quintile from the U.S. Census Bureau. We defined middle class as the third quintile, or the middle 20% of earners. We examined the growth in average incomes in the third and fifth quintiles between 2009 and 2013 to identify income trends in the middle and upper class. The final list was composed of states where middle class incomes fell by more than 4.3% and fifth quintile incomes rose by more than 0.4%, the national aver. Both benchmark figures reflect the national change of their respective quintiles. Because Census income data reflect pre-tax levels, they may overstate the degree of income inequality in the poorer quintiles. However, it is unlikely that the tax burden of the third quintile is significant enough to skew the data.

We also looked at data on the share of aggregate income by quintile from the Census Bureau, and how that share changed between 2009 and 2013. Also from the Census Bureau, we reviewed poverty rates, the share of households making less than $10,000 a year, as well as the share of households making more than $200,000 a year. All data are from 2009 to 2013. Additionally, we considered the Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient indicates the degree to which an area’s incomes deviate from a perfectly equal income distribution. Scaled between 0 and 1, a coefficient of 0 represents perfectly equal incomes among all people. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we looked at annual unemployment rates from 2009 and 2013. The percentage of non-agricultural employees who identify as members of a union came from Unionstats.org. Tax data come from the Tax Foundation’s 2014 State Business Tax Climate Index.

These are the states where the middle class is dying.

10. Massachusetts
> Middle income growth 2009-2013: -4.4%
> Fifth quintile income growth 2009-2013: 1.3%
> Fifth quintile share of income: 51.2%
> Middle class household income: $66,974 (6th highest)

Although the average income of a middle class household in Massachusetts was $14,000 above the national level in 2013, it had nevertheless declined by more than 4% since 2009. By contrast, incomes of the wealthiest 20% of households in the state grew by 1.3% between 2009 and 2013 to $235,246. Nationally, income of the top quintile grew by only 0.4% over the same period. The top quintile of Massachusetts households accounted for more than 51% of the state’s total income in 2013, a substantial increase from 2009. The declining share of middle class income may be related to the loss of worker bargaining power. The percentage of employees who were union members fell from 16.7% in 2009 to 13.6% in 2013, the fourth largest decline in the country.

9. Indiana

> Middle income growth 2009-2013: -4.4%
> Fifth quintile income growth 2009-2013: 2.6%
> Fifth quintile share of income: 49.0%
> Middle class household income: $47,680 (17th lowest)

Middle class households in Indiana had an average income of $47,680 in 2013, down 4.4% from 2009. As in most of the nation, even as the income of middle class households declined, the income among Indiana’s highest earners grew. Yet, just 2.6% of households earned more than $200,000 in 2013, roughly half the comparable national figure. While wealthy Indiana residents had among the lower incomes compared to their nationwide peers, average incomes in the highest quintile grew by more than 2.5% between 2009 and 2013, one of the faster growth rates. As a result, the state’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, worsened at a faster pace than in most states over that time, moving to the fourth highest nationwide in 2013.

8. Oregon
> Middle income growth 2009-2013: -4.6%
> Fifth quintile income growth 2009-2013: 1.1%
> Fifth quintile share of income: 49.4%
> Middle class household income: $50,425 (23rd lowest)

Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped by 3.4 percentage points to 7.7% in 2013, only slightly higher than the national unemployment rate and a better improvement than in most states. Despite the job market gains, however, income inequality has been getting worse in the state. The highest earning 20% of Oregon households had an average income of nearly $167,000 in 2013, up 1.1% from 2009. Meanwhile, the income of a typical middle class Oregon household fell by 4.6% between 2009 and 2013, more than the comparable national decline of 4.3%. Union membership, which is often associated with middle class health, fell by 3.3% over that time, three times the nationwide decline and the second-highest figure among all states. At the beginning of this year, Oregon raised its minimum wage to $9.25 an hour, one of the highest minimum wages nationwide. Many have argued that raising the minimum wage is essential to addressing income inequality.

For the rest of the list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com.

TIME States

Kentucky Mulls Statewide Smoking Ban

146242512
Shui Ta Shan—Flickr RF/Getty Images

But measure unlikely to become law

Kentucky lawmakers voted Friday to ban smoking in all public buildings and workplaces, but the measure faces a steep uphill battle to become law.

The vote was seen as a landmark move in Kentucky, which ranks among the states with highest tobacco yield. The sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Susan Westrom, said secondhand smoke kills about 950 Kentuckians each year.

The bill passed 51-46 in the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives, WLWT reports, but will face harsher odds in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

[WLWT]

TIME States

Alaska Forced to Reroute Iditarod Sled-Dog Race Over Lack of Snow

Iditarod
Anchorage Daily News—MCT via Getty Images Mitch Seavey's dogs look back at the musher after they arrived at the White Mountain checkpoint during Alaska's Iditarod sled-dog race on March 10, 2014

Temperatures in Alaska are quickly increasing

The famous Iditarod sled-dog race will alter its route this year because of low snowfall.

This is only the second time in the race’s 42-year history that the climate has forced a course change, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.

Temperatures in Alaska have been rising twice as fast as the national average, increasing an average of 6.3 degrees over 50 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Rocks and boulders that have been hidden for decades now block the dogs’ path to their finish line. This year, the race will start in Fairbanks rather than Willow and stretch over 1,000 miles.

[Fairbanks Daily News-Miner]

TIME States

Oregon Governor Says He Won’t Resign

President Obama Hosts Insourcing American Jobs Forum At The White House
Bloomberg via Getty Images Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber at a roundtable meeting titled "Insourcing American Jobs" in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 11, 2012

Governor John Kitzhaber is the target of an ethics investigation

Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon, who is the target of an ethics investigation, announced Wednesday afternoon that he has “no intention of resigning.”

Rumors had swirled that Kitzhaber might step down Wednesday after his would-be replacement, Oregon secretary of state Kate Brown, abruptly left a conference in Washington, D.C., to return to Oregon.

Kitzhaber has come under fire over allegations that his fiancée Cylvia Hayes used his office to land contracts for her clean-energy consulting business. The governor has denied any wrongdoing.

The state attorney general launched an investigation into the matter, and newspaper editorial boards have called for his resignation. But the Democrat stood firm on his decision to stay in office.

“Let me be as clear as I was last week, that I have no intention of resigning as governor of the state of Oregon,” he said in a statement. “I was elected to do a job for the people of this great state and I intend to continue to do so.”

Read more at the Oregonian.

TIME Laws

Alabama’s ‘Ten Commandments Judge’ Defies the Feds Over Gay Marriage

Roy Moore
Rogelio V. Solis—AP Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court addresses a Pro-Life Mississippi and a Pastors for Life pastors luncheon in Jackson, Miss., Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Moore told the attendees that he cannot separate his faith from his job as chief justice and continues to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage.

Roy Moore has a history of defying federal orders

On Sunday, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore told the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, an order defying a ruling last month by a federal judge that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

A state judge refusing to follow federal orders is rare. But for Moore, it would’ve been more unusual if he went along with the decision quietly.

Judge Moore is often known as the “Ten Commandments Judge.” When Moore, a devout Christian who often relies on Biblical scripture in his rulings, began his judicial career as an Alabama circuit court judge in the 1990s, he placed a Ten Commandments tablet he had carved himself behind his courtroom bench and began instituting prayer before jury selection.

Soon enough, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Moore for violating the Constitution’s Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. In 1996, a Montgomery County circuit judge ruled that prayer in the courtroom was unconstitutional and later ordered that the Ten Commandments display either be removed or placed alongside secular documents like the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. To that, Moore responded: “I will not surround the Ten Commandments with other items to secularize them. That’s putting man above God.”

But Moore eventually won out. In 1998, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuits, and the commandments stayed. And Moore’s popularity, thanks to his conservative defiance, skyrocketed. Two years later, he was elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

In 2001, Moore again made national news when he issued an opinion in the case D.H. vs. H.H., a custody battle between a lesbian and her ex-husband who she said was abusive. In his concurring opinion, Judge Moore ruled for the ex-husband, saying that the woman’s sexual orientation was grounds enough to prevent her from taking custody of the children.

A year later, Moore resurrected the Ten Commandments debate when he had a 5,200-lb. granite Ten Commandments monument commissioned and placed inside the Alabama State Judicial Building. Two lawsuits were filed, and by August 2003, a federal judge ordered the monument removed. Again, Moore refused, forcing his fellow justices to remove it instead and sparking thousands of protesters to rally in support of Moore outside the state judicial building. But they weren’t able to save his job. Later that year, a state judicial panel removed Moore from his post as chief justice.

In the years following, Moore unsuccessfully ran for Alabama governor twice and in 2012 was re-elected chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. “I have no doubt this is a vindication,” Moore said after his election. “Go home with the knowledge that we are going to stand for the acknowledgment of God.”

Moore’s latest tenure has been relatively quiet until this week. His latest attempts to ignore federal orders and block the state from handing out marriage licenses to gay couples, while extraordinary for other justices, is natural for a judge with a history of judicial defiance. But this time, Moore appears to be experiencing the kind of resistance he’s sown for years.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would allow same-sex marriages to move forward, and most judges appeared to be following suit — defying a state judge who has made judicial disobedience his defining characteristic.

 

TIME nature

Grand Canyon Development Plan Sparks Dispute

grand canyon
Don Smith—Getty Images

Plans for the canyon's rim include a multimedia complex with an IMAX facility, retail shops, hotels, an RV park and a gondola tram

As morning light painted the far-reaching buttes of the Grand Canyon gold, Renae Yellowhorse stood at the edge of the canyon’s rim, looked out toward where the rivers met below her, and smiled.

“It is my church, it is where I say my prayers. It is where I give my offerings. It’s where I commune with the holy ones, the gods that walk along the canyon,” said Yellowhorse, a member of the Navajo Nation.

This place, called “the confluence,” is where the Colorado River meets the Little Colorado River on the canyon’s east side. According to the Navajo creation story, the confluence is where their people first emerged.

And now this Navajo-owned land is at the center of an ugly land-use dispute…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

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