06 26 2016
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  • ST. LOUIS (AP) — A draft of the Democratic Party's policy positions reflects the influence of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign: endorsing steps to break up large Wall Street banks, advocating a $15 hourly wage, urging an end to the death penalty. Hillary Clinton's supporters turned back efforts by Sanders' allies to promote a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system and a carbon tax to address climate change, and freeze hydraulic fracking. While the platform does not bind the Democratic nominee to the stated positions, it serves as a guidepost for the party moving forward. Party officials approved the draft early Saturday. The Democratic National Convention's full Platform Committee will discuss the draft at a meeting next month in Orlando, Florida, with a vote at the convention in Philadelphia in late July. Sanders said Friday he would vote for Clinton, the presumptive nominee, in the fall election, but so far has stopped short of fully endorsing the former secretary of state or encouraging his millions of voters to back her candidacy. The Vermont senator has said he wants the platform to reflect his goals — and those representing him at a St. Louis hotel said they had made progress. "We lost some but we won some," said James Zogby, a Sanders supporter on the committee. "We got some great stuff in the platform that has never been in there before." Added Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Sanders ally: "We've made some substantial moves forward." Deliberating late into Friday, the group considered language on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, an issue that has divided Democrats. The committee defeated an amendment led by Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with "an end to occupation and illegal settlements" and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza. The draft reflects Clinton's views and advocates working toward a "two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict" that guarantees Israel's security with recognized borders "and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity." In many cases, Clinton's side gave ground to Sanders. The document calls for the expansion of Social Security and says Americans should earn at least $15 an hour, referring to the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as a "starvation wage," a term often used by Sanders. Sanders has pushed for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Clinton has supported efforts to raise the minimum wage to that level but has said states and cities should raise the bar as high as possible. Sanders' allies wanted the draft to specify calls for a $15 per hour minimum wage indexed with inflation. Clinton's side struck down a direct link, noting the document elsewhere included a call to "raise and index the minimum wage." The committee also adopted language that said it supports ways to prevent banks from gambling with taxpayers' bank deposits, "including an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall." Sanders wants to reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities. Clinton does not, but says her proposed financial changes would cast a wider net by regulating the banking system. Also in the draft is a call for the abolition of the death penalty. Clinton said during a debate this year that capital punishment should only be used in limited cases involving "heinous crimes." Sanders said the government should not use it. Sanders, a vociferous opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was unable to get language into the document opposing the trade deal. As a result, the party avoided an awkward scenario that would have put the platform at odds with President Barack Obama. Clinton and Sanders have opposed the deal. Committee members backed a measure that said "there are a diversity of views in the party" on the pact and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal "must protect workers and the environment." In a setback for Sanders, the panel narrowly rejected amendments that would have imposed a tax on carbon and imposed a national freeze on fracking. The panel deliberated for about nine hours following several late nights and long hours of policy exchanges between the two campaigns and the Democratic National Committee. Sanders, in a statement, said he was "disappointed and dismayed" that the group voted down the measure opposing the TPP. But he was pleased with the proposals on Glass-Steagall and the death penalty — and vowed to fight on. "Our job is to pass the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party," he said.
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Susan Walters

Last Wednesday, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners proclaimed the week of April 19 – 25 to be National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The declaration is as an opportunity to promote awareness of crime victims’ experiences and to push for greater protections.

The national theme for this years’ victims’ rights week is “engaging communities and empowering victims.”

District Attorney Rod Underhill testified before the county board about the hardships of crime victims who are often overlooked and neglected.

“Each year, thousands of residents of Multnomah County experience the trauma, pain, humiliation and personal and financial losses of being a victim of crime,” he said.

Susan Walters spoke to the council about that after her estranged husband, Michael Kuhnhausen, hired a hit man to kill her. She survived the 15-minute deadly force encounter and ultimately killed her attacker, Edward Haffey.

"Fifteen minutes in the hallway was a lot easier than everything that came after, the pain of betrayal, the fear of a second attack by someone on his behalf,” she said.

Walters said this fear defined her life. Victims’ rights advocates helped her get control again by suing Kuhnhausen in a civil case to prevent him from using the money to hire another hit man. She found peace only when he was convicted and incarcerated.

Once her ex-husband’s parole began to near, Walters needed the help of her advocates again. She had many questions about his release, and she felt like she wasn’t getting any answers. Only when she contacted the Oregon Crime Victim's Law Center did she feel like she was being heard.

While she was glad to have a parole plan that brought in her needs, Walters expressed frustration to the council about the confusing and disjointed process that still needs improvement.

Underhill said there are many bills in the Oregon legislature that would strengthen and protect victims’ rights. A number of the bills pertain to protecting parties who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. These decrees include:

  • HB 3476: Prohibits disclosure of communications between persons seeking services related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking and their advocates.
  • HB 2317: Extends statute of limitations of certain sex crimes from six to 12 years after commission of crime or, if victim was under 18 years of age, anytime before victim becomes 30 years of age.
  • SB 525: Prohibits possession of firearm or ammunition by a person who is subject to a restraining order or who has been convicted of domestic violence crimes.

Underhill also mentioned legislation that would make it easier to receive testimony from people who are either victims of sex crimes, child witnesses or special witnesses who are unable to testify in person.

  • HB 3040: Provides that certain hearsay statements related to specific sex crimes are admissible in evidence even if the victim is available as witness.
  • SB 822-1: This bill that authorizes word-for-word recordings of grand jury proceedings. An amendment to the bill has been made so that child witnesses or special witnesses can have recorded statements entered into the record instead of testifying in person.
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