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IL Signs $15 Minimum Wage

Illinois workers celebrate 'Life-Changing' $15 minimum wage. Common Dreams:NJ Signs Paid Family Leave
Big changes coming for paid family leave in N.J. as Murphy signs law. "Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Tuesday an extensive expansion of New Jersey’s 10-year-old paid family leave program, allowing workers in the state to take off more time to care for a newborn or sick relative and to collect a larger piece of their pay while on leave. The program’s overhaul was sought after by progressive advocates who said its payouts were too low and many low- and middle-income families still could not afford to take time away from their jobs. Murphy said the 'temporary loss of a paycheck because of the need to care for a loved one can be a daunting and stress-inducing hurdle' for those families. 'But paid family leave can be vital in allowing them to focus their attention on where it is most needed: on their family,' the Democratic governor said before signing the law at JFK Library in Piscataway."

Lobbyists Run Amok At Interior Dept.

Ethics complaint shows ex-lobbyists cozy up with former employers. The Intercept: "short weeks after President Donald Trump nominated David Bernhardt, a former oil and agriculture industry lobbyist, to run the Interior Department, the agency is facing a slew of new allegations that top officials violated federal ethics rules by keeping cozy ties to their former employers. A lengthy ethics complaint filed Wednesday by the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group, outlines “a disturbing pattern of misconduct” at the scandal-plagued Interior Department, including meetings that violate the White House’s own ethical pledge and good governance standards. The Campaign Legal Center used public records, some of which were first obtained by The Intercept, to lodge the complaint against six top Interior Department officials, including Benjamin Cassidy, a top official at the department’s external affairs office and former National Rifle Association lobbyist; Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Douglas Domenech; White House liaison Lori Mashburn, a former Heritage Foundation staffer; and others. The officials are among a little-known but powerful group of Department of Interior political appointees — many of whom joined the agency after careers with fossil fuel groups or conservative lobbying organizations. Amid an environment of persistent ethics issues at the Interior Department, these officials are responsible for the Trump administration’s ongoing campaign to roll back environmental protections and open public lands to extractive industry interests. Among other allegations, the Campaign Legal Center contends that some of these officials have apparently used their government positions to provide their former private employers with access and insight into the Interior Department’s activities. Under the White House’s own ethics pledge, executive branch officials are explicitly prohibited for a period of two years from the date of their appointment from meeting or communicating with previous employers to discuss specific policy matters."

Trump Tries To Sabotage Investigations

Intimidation, pressure and humiliation: inside Trump’s two-wear war on the investigations encircling him. NYT: "As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call. Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to 'jump on a grenade' for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away. Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.

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