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Dozens of people were shot and several victims are dead in the wake of a violent weekend in the Windy City.

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said on Monday that a lot of the city’s violence “is driven by a gang culture of retaliation and revenge.”

CNN reported that according to Chicago Police Department spokesperson Kellie Bartoli, 55 individuals had been shot across 41 incidents during the period spanning from 6 p.m. Friday evening to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. 

In the five separate fatal shooting episodes there have been no individuals brought into custody, according to the police department.

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Federal Agency

Top Justice official resigns after revelations about agency having subpoenaed email data

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The Justice Department’s top national security official is resigning from his post after revelations the agency subpoenaed from Apple email data from the media, members of Congress and others during the Trump administration in an attempt to learn who was leaking information on the Russia collusion investigation.

John Demers will leave his position by the end of next week, a Justice Department official told the Associated Press on Monday. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the the wire service on the condition of anonymity.

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Court & Law

Judge dismisses suit challenging Houston Methodist requirement for workers to get COVID vaccination

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Afederal judge dismissed the lawsuit waged by more than 100 Houston Methodist hospital system workers seeking to challenge the organization’s requirement that workers get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for continued employment.

“Bridges says that she is being forced to be injected with a vaccine or be fired. This is not coercion,” U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes wrote. “Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer. Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else.

“If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office, earlier start time, or other directive, he may be properly fired. Every employment includes limits on the worker’s behavior in exchange for his remuneration. That is all part of the bargain,” Hughes wrote.

Houston Methodist allowed workers until June 7 to get vaccinated or face being ousted from employment. The hospital has said that almost 100% of its staff has followed the requirement, but those who did not have been suspended for 14 days. If they do not get vaccinated prior to the conclusion of the suspension, the hospital will “immediately initiate the employee termination process.”

Attorney Jared Woodfill told The Hill that the plaintiffs plan to appeal.

“This is just one battle in a larger war to protect the rights of employees to be free from being forced to participate in a vaccine trial as a condition for employment,” Woodfill said. “Ultimately, I believe Methodist Hospital will be held accountable for their conduct.”

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Government

Pennsylvania’s ‘do or die’ election reform teed up for legislative action

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It’s “do or die” time for an extensive election reform bill pending in the Pennsylvania Legislature, the proposal’s chief architect said Monday.

Without action this month, House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove, R-York, said the momentum for reform – and the appropriate time to implement the changes – may dissolve.

“It’s really do or die right now,” he said during a briefing with reporters. “There’s a lot going on right now. The best thing that can happen is for the governor to actually engage in election code changes so we can actually get this done. If he’s not willing to do it, that’s on him.”

Grove’s House Bill 1300, dubbed the Voting Rights Protection Act, features a handful of reforms with bipartisan support, including provisions that allow early in-person voting beginning in 2025, monitored drop boxes, standardized ballot curing rules, curbside voting and pre-canvassing for poll workers up to five days before an election.

But the bill biggest change – expanding the state’s voter identification law – could be its undoing and, so far, it’s unclear if Grove is willing to drop the controversial provision to preserve the rest of the bill.

“If Gov. Wolf’s administration wants to come to a compromise … we are more than willing to discuss things with them, but they need to actually pick up the phone and call,” he said.

Grove maintains he hasn’t heard from the Department of State or Wolf’s staff since the end of April about collaborating on a reform bill.

“We need a comprehensive approach to the fix in Pennsylvania’s election system,” Grove said. “We have a great proposal that addresses all of those concerns in a reasonable and rational way … and we are more than happy to engage with the Wolf administration [about the proposal].”

Ellen Lyon, a state department spokesperson, told The Center Square on Monday the agency is “happy to work with the administration and the legislature to enact common sense election reforms that will further expand voter participation, allow counties to begin canvassing mail ballots before Election Day and improve election administration with the use of electronic poll books.”

“We believe that voters and our dedicated election officials would welcome these changes,” she said. “We hope the legislative priorities will focus on these common sense changes and not on creating barriers to voting for eligible Pennsylvanians.”

Wolf said last week he’s against voter I.D. expansion and will block any policy that increases barriers to access. Under current law, first time voters at a polling place must provide identification. HB 1300 would implement the ID requirement each and every time a resident casts a ballot in-person.

Lyndsay Kensinger, a Wolf spokesperson, said the governor has been engaged in election reform with the General Assembly for the last year and wants to continue the conversation about expanding convenient voting options.

“At the same time, the governor has been clear, both privately and publicly, that he is always willing to have a conversation on election reform, but a proposal aimed at disenfranchising voters – by implementing unconstitutional voter ID, and restricting existing voting options – is a complete nonstarter,” she said.

Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Williamsport, sponsored a constitutional amendment last week that pivots the voter I.D. question to voters instead. Grove said “it’s an interesting concept,” but prefers getting the policy into statute.

“We think it won’t disenfranchise any individual the way we have it [written],” he said. “We are trying our best to meet my colleagues halfway on a really good proposal. We’ll see. Hopefully the governor has actually read the bill, reviewed the bill, sees all the great stuff we are trying to do to help citizens vote and rebuild trust in the election process.”

The administration, however, believes the proposal has nothing to do with protecting voters rights or increasing access.

“It is an extremist proposal fueled by disproven conspiracy theories which will undermine confidence in our election system by doubling down on misinformation,” Kensinger said. “They don’t like the outcome of the November election and now they are retaliating against the voters, as their counterparts in other states have done, by pushing a proposal disguised as ‘election integrity.’”

“The governor will always defend our democracy and the right to vote for every Pennsylvanian regardless of political party,” she added.

Grove said if a compromise can’t be reached by the end of the month – the same time frame during which the General Assembly will approve the state’s annual spending plan – the effort will move to the back burner as lawmakers address other priorities, like congressional redistricting.

“We may have to move off election issues if this doesn’t get signed now,” he said. “The fall is too close to the fall elections for counties to get these changes in.”

He added that lawmakers remain wary of implementing sweeping election code changes during the 2022 campaign cycle, which will feature open races for the U.S. Senate and the governor. It’s a hard lesson learned from the decision to approve expanded mail-in voting in late 2019, just six months before the 2020 presidential primary election, Grove said.

“I’m not sure that we are going to put Pennsylvania in a position of changing major laws and the ensuing chaos that was seen with the 2020 election,” he said.

Grove’s committee scheduled a voting meeting for HB 1300 on Tuesday morning. He anticipates a floor vote on the House next week.

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