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FAMM Is Camping Out On Capital Hill July 28, 2009

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Julie Stewart, President of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, gives us another update:

Time is running out.  Congress is just a few days away from leaving for its month-long summer break.  We’re camping out on Capitol Hill to win some major victories before they go – including a history-making step toward reforming all mandatory minimums!

Help us set up our tent with a quick donation here to cover the remarkable work we’re going to do over the next 72 hours.  FAMM is:

You can’t believe the sheer number of moving parts we’re monitoring to keep each reform going forward!  But that’s what we do at FAMM.  And we do it well and we can’t do it without you.

Please help us do it better than ever this busy week!  A contribution from you today will help us keep the pressure on Congress until the last Member leaves town this Friday. There’s so much at stake this week – let’s capitalize on it!

Click here to make your donation now!


When Are They Letting People Out Of Prison?

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With all the budget problems in Oregon, many people have been wondering when the state will be letting some people out of prison.  Right now it’s unclear.  The Oregon Legislature is not in session now.  They adjourned on June 29.


FAMM Based in Washington DC

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There’s been some questions about FAMM, Families Against Mandatory Minimums.  This is a national organization based in Washington DC.  It’s an excellent group that is working hard to advocate state and federal sentencing reform towards fair and proportionate sentencing laws.

Please learn more about FAMM at their website:  http://www.famm.org/


Kulongoski Signs Three New Tax Bills July 24, 2009

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By signing three new bills, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski may have ensured that Oregon voters will face a January ballot measure that pits businesses against unions and higher-end consumers.

Kulongoski signed measures that will raise the state’s corporate minimum tax, raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest individuals and raise income taxes on businesses.

One of the bills will steer the extra money raised through corporations into Oregon’s rainy day fund.

“Because of the national recession, Oregon is facing an economic crisis that is threatening education, public safety and health care, all critical services that Oregonians rely upon every day,” Kulongoski said in a statement. “These modest and targeted tax increases are a major step toward a more fair tax system for middle-class and working families in Oregon and will help meet the needs of families in crisis, stabilize local communities and preserve jobs.”

One bill increases the minimum tax businesses will pay annually from $10 to $150. About two-thirds of Oregon corporations currently pay the $10 minimum tax.

It raises tax rates on businesses making more than $250,000, from 6.6 percent to 7.9 percent. The rate will last for two years, drop to 7.6 percent, then return to 6.6 percent for most corporations. All money collected above the 6.6 percent rate will help fill Oregon’s reserves beginning in 2013.

The third bill raises personal income tax rates on Oregon’s wealthiest individuals and joint tax-return filers for the next three years. The current 9 percent tax rate will jump to 10.8 percent for individuals earning more than $125,000 and joint filers earning between $250,000 and $500,000. Those earning more than $500,000 will pay 11 percent.

“We are asking corporations and the wealthiest Oregonians to pay their fair share to help protect the vital services we all depend on: education, health care and public safety,” Kulongoski said.

A group calling itself Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes has hired a signature-gathering firm led by former Oregon Republican Party Chairman Kevin Mannix and tax activists Russ Walker and Ross Day. The group wants to refer the measures to voters in January. The deadline for 57,000 valid signatures is Sept. 25.


Congressional Hearing On Mandatory Minimum Sentences Update July 18, 2009

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Julie Stewart, president of FAMM, gives us an update on the recent Congressional hearings:

This week’s congressional hearing on mandatory minimum sentences was very encouraging!

Of the five witnesses who testified, four asked the committee to reform mandatory sentencing laws. I was one of them, of course, calling mandatory minimum sentences a “failure” and “un-American”. One of the other witnesses, Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, said “The benefits, if any, of mandatory minimum sentences do not justify this burden to taxpayers.” Even the witness who didn’t endorse sentencing reform, Michael Sullivan, a former U.S. Attorney, did admit that some people are serving bizarre sentences as a result of mandatory minimums.

The members of Congress from both parties seemed genuinely interested in what the witnesses had to say, with the exception of Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) who stayed at the hearing just long enough to offer a statement in support of mandatory minimums and predict a spike in crime if they are reformed. But Rep. Ted Poe, also a Republican from Texas (and a former judge) made clear that he believes judges need enough discretion to fit the punishment to the individual. Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) asked key questions of U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes that helped the committee understand how judges view mandatory sentencing laws. The fifth witness, T.J. Bonner, president of the Border Patrol Council, expressed his concern about gun mandatory minimums, in particular as they apply to border agents. Visit FAMM’s website for a summary of the hearing, www.famm.org.

Overall, it was an encouraging hearing and an important step toward serious sentencing reform. Of course, that won’t happen overnight. When I testified before this same subcommittee about mandatory minimums in 1993, it took time for change to happen but it did – the safety-valve for drug offenders was passed.

I am confident change is coming and with your help, it will come sooner. You are a critical part of our strategy for change and you’ll be hearing from us soon about contacting key members of Congress to help us raise the volume and keep the pressure on them to move sentencing reform forward now!

And, of course, we always need your financial support so we can keep sending our federal legislative director, Jennifer Seltzer Stitt, to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress, forge partnerships, devise strategies, and build the support we need to succeed. She is so good at what she does – you would be proud of her if you could see her in action! Click here to lend support to Jennifer’s work and all of our efforts to end one-size-fits-all sentencing laws.


Julie Stewart To Testify In Congress About Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws July 9, 2009

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We have exciting news! Next Tuesday, FAMM’s president, Julie Stewart, will testify in Congress about mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Julie will tell Congress that it’s time to demonstrate the courage of their convictions and repeal mandatory minimums!

The hearing is important because it puts on the table once more – hopefully for the last time – why mandatory minimum sentencing laws don’t work and need to be repealed.  We have 20 years of evidence to back us up, and each of the three bills being considered at the hearing would improve the situation.  Of course, the hearing is just the first step in getting these bills passed – change moves slowly in Washington, D.C.

The bills are: H.R. 2934, the “Common Sense in Sentencing Act of 2009”; H.R. 834, the “Ramos and Compean Justice Act of 2009”; and H.R. 1466, the “Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009.”

The hearing, held by the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security will take place on July 14th, at 10:30 a.m. in 2141 Rayburn House Office Building and is open to the public. If you are unable to attend the hearing, it will be webcast on the House Judiciary website: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/calendar.html


U.S. Attorney General Against Mandatory Minimum Sentences July 7, 2009

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Julie Stewart, with Families Against Mandatory Minimums, writes:

I’ve waited for this day for a long time. The day the Attorney General of the United States would say he favors individualized sentencing and is against one-size-fits-all approaches. And following him to the podium would be a current justice of the U.S. Supreme Court saying that he believes repealing mandatory minimums, though very difficult to explain to people, is the right thing to do.

That day finally came – yesterday.

I was invited to join Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Attorney General Eric Holder, several federal judges and a host of other distinguished speakers at a symposium on sentencing reform.

During their remarks, both Justice Breyer and Attorney General Holder criticized “mechanical” sentencing that does not allow for consideration of the factors involved in each case. Both stated that they thought it was time for reforming our sentencing laws. The Attorney General said he believed “we have a moment of time that must be seized.” And Justice Breyer said, “It is a new day and we must think in new ways,” to fix our sentencing problems.

I wish you could have been there yesterday to hear all of the encouraging words of support for sentencing reform. We’re taking the Attorney General’s words to heart: It is time to seize the moment and make sentencing reform a reality – finally!

Follow this link to learn more about the event and to read the Attorney General’s and my statements.