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Much has been justifiably made about the damage the Roberts Supreme Court has done to voting rights in their recent decision, Shelby County v. Holder.  However, a potentially more insidious plot denying the precious right to vote is occurring in my own state of Michigan, where Republican Governor Rick Snyder has appointed an Emergency Manager to run Detroit in place of the duly elected Mayor and City Council.  Even more troubling, the Governor did so after Michigan voters had rejected the Emergency Manager law at the ballot box, when late last year he signed a lame duck replacement law.

In addition to undermining our voting rights, Governor Snyder and the Emergency Manager he appointed, are seeking to slash the pensions of police officers, fire fighters and other city workers who have sacrificed long and hard for Detroit.

Because of these concerns, I held a forum in Detroit last week. As I wrote in my Detroit News op-ed, Governor “Snyder needs to know that ignoring the will of the voters by signing a lame-duck law allowing him to appoint an unelected manager insults those of us who have fought so long and sacrificed so to protect and expand the right to vote.”

Will you join me in signing this open letter to Governor Snyder that we oppose his efforts to deny Detroit citizens their right to vote and take away the hard earned pensions from city workers?  

We need as many voices as possible to send Governor Snyder a powerful message that this assault on our democracy cannot stand. Read the open letter, sign on, and have your voice heard.

Discuss

On July 4th our thoughts turn towards our Nation’s proud history, and the hard fought rights and freedoms that we all enjoy. This Independence Day we honor those traditions, yet in the wake of the reported twin controversies surrounding the National Security Agency’s mass Internet and telecommunications surveillance, we must take a step back to question whether our security programs have gone too far. In combating the seemingly endless “War on Terror,” have we traded away too many of our fundamental rights – to privacy and due process amongst others – to enable a sprawling surveillance state?

Regrettably, my Republican colleague Justin Amash and I believe that we have reached this tipping point. And without Congressional action, it may be too late to turn the tide against the federal government’s encroachment on our civil liberties.

It is for these reasons that we have introduced H.R. 2399, the “Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act,” or the LIBERT-E Act for short.

The intent of this legislation is twofold: to shine needed light on the secretive processes by which the federal government is able to snoop on American citizens, and to raise the standard for any federal agency engaging in surveillance activities to prevent the mass collection of private information. These two main components of the LIBERT-E Act reform both the PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments (FISA) Act.

The first reform, in Section 2 of the LIBERT-E Act, modifies access to certain records for foreign intelligence and terrorism investigations. Specifically, Section 2 would amend Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to prevent the mass collection of records that are not explicitly relevant to an authorized foreign intelligence investigation, terrorism investigation, or covert intelligence activities.

Presently, to obtain a court order under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, the government only needs to show that the records are “relevant” to an investigation. News reports suggest, however, that the government’s view of what is “relevant” includes the records of every telephone call. Section 2 of the LIBERT-E Act would raise the relevancy standard for the government to one requiring “specific and articulable” facts on a given investigation. In addition, Section 2 mandates that for any records to be collected they must be material to the investigation and pertain only to the individual under investigation.

Simply put, the government should be required to show that the records it seeks are in fact material to a particular concern.

The second set of reforms that the LIBERT-E Act puts into place deals with transparency. For too long, a secretive FISA court has essentially rubber-stamped all of the NSA’s surveillance requests. Section 3 of the LIBERT-E Act requires the Attorney General to make available to the public unclassified summaries of significant decisions by the FISA court, within 180 days of Congress receiving them. At the Congressional level, Section 3 also mandates that the Attorney General makes all information provided to the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees available to every Member of Congress. Both of these measures will take the entirety of the decision-making process out of the backroom and provide needed public, as well as Congressional, oversight.

But for these reforms to see the light of day, we need your support. As thousands of activists across the country rally online today to protest against the NSA’s dragnet surveillance, we ask you for your support. In just 9 pages of commonsense provisions, the LIBERT-E Act would begin to meaningfully scale back overreaching intelligence programs. With powerful interests supporting the status quo, it will take a grassroots movement to make legislative change possible.

With our civil liberties and right to privacy on the line, will you sign on to become a citizen co-sponsor?

Discuss

Last week, I joined my progressive colleagues in the House – Alan Grayson, Keith Ellison, and Sheila Jackson – in delivering more than 300,000 signatures to Speaker Boehner, demanding that he bring my legislation, the “Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013” to the House Floor for a vote.

This bill is only a single line, but with it Congress can prevent the damaging, draconian budget cuts that are set to fully kick in at the end of this month.

This so-called “sequester” targets low-income, under-served communities that have already been the hardest hit by the Great Recession. That is why I have introduced the "Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013" (H.R. 900).

So far, more than 300,000 individuals have lent their support to this effort, and signed on to a petition calling for a vote in Congress on repealing the sequester. Now that we have Speaker Boehner’s attention, we have to keep the pressure on him to let the voice of the people be heard. Because, at the end of the day, it is real, honest and hard-working people who will be hurt the most by the budgetary sequester.

By signing on as a citizen co-sponsor, you can become a part of the movement to stop this self-induced blow that will damage our economy and tear apart our safety net.

I hope that you will support me in this important effort.

Please become a citizen co-sponsor today.

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