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By Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. — Republicans who control Michigan’s Legislature voted Wednesday to advance a measure that strips campaign-finance oversight power from the Democratic secretary of state-elect, and they were poised to give lawmakers authority to stand up for GOP-backed laws if they think the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general are not adequately defending the state’s interests.

The lame-duck moves followed within hours of similar efforts in Wisconsin, where lawmakers voted earlier Wednesday to shift clout to the Republican-controlled Legislature and weaken the Democrat replacing the GOP governor.

Michigan Democrats in January will jointly hold the governor, attorney general and secretary offices for the first time in 28 years, but the Legislature will continue to be controlled by Republicans.

A day after GOP lawmakers finalized an unprecedented maneuver to gut minimum wage and paid sick leave laws, a Senate panel passed legislation that would create the Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the campaign-finance law rather than Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson, who ran in part on a pledge to advocate for election transparency.

Democrats called the bill a blatant power grab that would fly in the face of voters.

“At no point did voters say they wanted the rules manipulated. At no point did they say they wanted bills rushed through a hasty lame-duck session,” said Patrick Schuh, state director for the liberal group America Votes. He questioned the timing, saying such a commission was not proposed until a Democrat is on the verge of leading the secretary of state office for the first time in two-dozen years.

Republicans defended the legislation, saying the six-member panel of three Democrats and three Republicans would initially be appointed by Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer. Eric Doster, a former long-time lawyer for the state GOP, testified that the commission would operate similarly to those in other states and said “now the time is right.”

Other critics of the bill, however, contended that the commission would be ineffectual, saying its members would deadlock and be accountable to political parties that would submit a list of possible appointees to the governor.

Also Wednesday, the House planned to approve legislation that would empower the Legislature, House or Senate to intervene in any suit at any stage, a right already granted to the attorney general. It is seen as a maneuver to ensure that Republicans could support laws if Whitmer and Democratic Attorney General-elect Nessel are lukewarm about GOP-passed measures and drop appeals in cases the state loses.

Nessel, for example, has said she probably will not defend a law allowing faith-based groups to refuse to serve same-sex couples who want to adopt children.

Republicans disputed criticism that the legislation would undermine the role of the attorney general. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said the bill is needed because “we’ve been shut out” in recent cases.

“We believe we have standing, and we want to make sure by law that we do because if somebody wants to ignore a law, we need to intervene because we made the law. It’s passed and signed by the governor and it needs to be enforced,” Meekhof said.

Democrats said the legislation would lead to increased legislative spending on lawyers.

“When we have roads to fix and schools to fund and health care plans to fund, how can you possibly justify setting up this parallel organization when we already have an attorney general and a process in place to take care of these issues?” said Rep. Christine Greig of Farmington Hills.

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David Cameron takes THINLY VEILED SWIPE at Brexiteers after rebels quit party

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DAVID Cameron has waded into the Tory party crisis with a thinly veiled swipe at Brexiteers.

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Limiting excessive fines, Supreme Court rules against seizing a drug seller’s luxury SUV

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By Pete Williams

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines applies to punishments imposed by the states as well as by the federal government.

The decision, announced in court and written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was a victory for an Indiana man, Tyson Timbs, whose expensive Land Rover sport utility vehicle was confiscated after he pleaded guilty to selling heroin to undercover police officers.

Although the Eighth Amendment bans excessive fines, the Supreme Court had never before explicitly said that it applies to the states. The Indiana Supreme Court, ruling against Timbs, held that it did not.

Wednesday’s ruling removed any lingering doubt.

“The protection against excessive fines guards against abuses of government’s punitive or criminal law enforcement authority,” Ginsburg wrote, finding that the safeguard “is fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty.”

The Eighth Amendment’s other two restrictions, forbidding cruel and unusual punishment and banning excessive bail, were previously declared to restrict state as well as federal authority.

When the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, it imposed limits only on the federal government. The Supreme Court has gradually ruled that most of its provisions also apply to the states.

Timbs became addicted to an opioid prescription for persistent foot pain. When that supply ran out, he turned to drug dealers and eventually to heroin. To pay for his addiction, he began dealing heroin and was arrested after twice selling to undercover police officers.

Because the police said he used his vehicle to facilitate the drug deals — a $42,000 Land Rover bought with money he received from his father’s life insurance policy — the state instituted a forfeiture lawsuit to take it away.

The trial judge said the punishment of losing his car would be “grossly disproportionate” to the seriousness of his offense given that the value of the Land Rover was more than four times the maximum fine for the drug conviction. But the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the ruling.

Indiana argued that even if the ban on excessive fines applied to the states, the restriction should apply only to fines that a person has to pay, not to the seizure of property used to commit a crime.

“We disagree,” the Supreme Court said Wednesday, finding that the right is fundamental and deeply rooted in the justice system.

Ginsburg’s opinion traced the guarantee back to as early as 1215. England’s Magna Carta required that financial penalties “be proportioned to the wrong.” Harsh economic sanctions, she said, can undermine other fundamental rights. “Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies.”

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas called the right to be free of excessive fines “a privilege of American citizenship.”



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Juncker SAVAGES latest Brexit meeting with May before it even begins – 'We'll get NOWHERE’

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EUROPEAN Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has dampened Theresa May’s hopes of a deal with the EU after he let slip he doubts “that we will get anywhere” at a meeting in Germany.

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