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November 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Court tears into Michigan wolf hunting law 

The State of Michigan Court of Appeals this week sided with wolf protection advocates, and declared unconstitutional the Michigan legislature’s attempt to force a trophy-hunting and trapping season on the state’s small population of wolves. The ruling is the latest blow to the blatant and outrageous power grab by politicians to subvert the will of the people of Michigan and their decision-making authority. It also restores the people’s decision in two statewide votes that occurred in November 2014. Those votes overwhelmingly rejected killing wolves solely for their heads and fur.

iStock Photo

In 2014, in the first-ever statewide votes related to wolf hunting in any state, Michigan voters sent a loud and clear message against a wolf-hunting season and against the Natural Resources Commission having unilateral authority to transfer any “protected” species to the “game species” list. Voters repealed Proposal 1 (moving the wolf to the game species list) with a 55 percent “no” vote, and they defeated Proposal 2 (giving the NRC the authority to decide which species can be hunted), with a 64 percent “no” vote. Proposal 2 was rejected in 69 of 83 counties, in a landslide verdict that said the NRC should not be able to open seasons on species. Michigan voters cast more than 1.8 million votes against Proposal 2—more votes than any other candidate for statewide office received in that same election.

It’s a story that had many twists and turns – perhaps more than any in my 20-year history of organized animal advocacy. State legislators, in their haste to circumvent a citizen’s referendum on wolf hunting, tried to cut voters out of the decision-making process by handing over power to the NRC’s seven, partisan political appointees. In their arrogance, they tried to ram this through, believing they knew better than the voters. The ringleader of this fiasco – state Senator Tom Casperson -- was defeated in a Republican primary this year, partly because he was called out for intentionally misleading voters and fabricating stories to stir up a fear of wolves.

What the legislature tried to do was an abuse of power.  It was their right to pass a bill to open up a trophy-hunting season for wolves. But there’s a constitutional process that allows voters to try to nullify that. The HSUS, HSLF, and our coalition partners through Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, including the Detroit Zoo, Detroit Audubon Society, and Native American tribes, led the fight to try to overturn their action, and that was Proposal 1.  After we got hundreds of thousands of signatures, but before there was a statewide vote of the people, lawmakers passed a second wolf trophy-hunting measure – this time, by giving the NRC the authority to set a wolf season.

We were appalled by this abuse of power.  But we rallied and launched a second petition drive, which became Proposal 2.

As we were gathering signatures for that measure, lawmakers worked with trophy-hunting groups to pass a third wolf-hunting measure – the convoluted measure that the Court of Appeals struck down today. That third measure included a clause that attempted to make that legislation immune from a referendum. Only our action in court cut down their attempt to disregard the interests of voters.

The Michigan Court of Appeals found that the legislature unconstitutionally bundled together multiple subjects in the bill, combining desirable provisions for waiving fees for hunting licenses, “while surreptitiously slipping inside” a legislative override of prior referenda votes and putting wolves on the game species list.

This case was just one of two major pending legal actions concerning the protection of wolves. In 2013, The HSUS filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that removed federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In December 2014, in a 111-page ruling, a federal court overturned that rule, holding that the agency misapplied the requirement in the ESA and failed to explain how the “virtually unregulated” killing of wolves by states in the Great Lakes region does not constitute a continued threat to the species. The federal government appealed that case and a decision is expected in the next several months.

We and our partners have been fighting in the courts, in state legislatures, and in Congress, to prevent the trophy hunting and commercial trapping of hundreds of wolves. As Aaron Payment, chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and newly elected president of the United Tribes of Michigan, said, “The Three Fires people ~ the Anishinabek are hunters, gatherers and fishers. However, an enduring value is that you ‘take what you need and leave the rest’. We don't hunt our Brother Mae-ungun (wolf) because to do so is only for sport.”

The people of Michigan understood it’s unnecessary to hunt wolves because people don’t eat the animals and because it’s already legal to kill problem wolves. The people of Michigan don’t want trophy hunting, trapping, or hounding of wolves; they don’t want more legislative tricks; and they don’t want to cede authority to an unelected group of political appointees. This week’s state ruling restores the will of the people in Michigan, and combined with the federal court ruling draws a line in the sand against the persecution of wolves.

It should also be a wake-up call to lawmakers in other states and in Congress. This was the first statewide vote on wolf hunting in any state since wolves were stripped of their federal protections in six states. Decision makers across the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies should pay attention to this vote in Michigan and see how regular citizens feel about the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves.

In the meantime, we can today be thankful that both state and federal courts have sided with us in making sure federal protection remains in place for wolves in the Great Lakes, and that Michigan’s democratic process is not subverted in favor of cruel wolf hunting and trapping that the voters have twice rejected at the ballot box. It’s time to respect the will of the people.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The looming fight on states’ rights and animal welfare

We knew before the election that Donald Trump’s agricultural advisory committee included a long list of extraordinarily strident voices against animal welfare. Now, according to a leaked memo of talking points prepared for that group, we have a window into the possible agriculture policies of the incoming Trump administration. And we know that our movement must rally once again to defeat one of the most sweeping attacks on animal protection and food safety laws we’ve ever faced.

Photo courtesy of Greg Latza/For The HSUS

As the memo indicates, “The Trump administration will work with Congress to ensure that the Interstate Commerce Clause is enforced to keep individual states from dictating policy for food growers in the United States.”

That’s a thinly veiled reference to a discredited proposal from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that seeks to negate most state and local laws regarding the production or manufacture of agriculture products. It’s a radical federal overreach that would undermine the longstanding constitutional rights of states to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens and local businesses.

The King amendment takes aim at state laws such as California’s Proposition 2—approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008—to ban extreme confinement of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves in small crates and cages, as well as a law passed subsequently by a landslide margin in the state legislature, with the support of the egg industry, to require any shell eggs sold in California to comply with the requirements of Prop 2. Its effect would extend to the recently approved Question 3 in Massachusetts, banning the confinement of farm animals and the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from crates and cages, which passed two weeks ago with an astonishing 78 percent of the vote.

In short, the King amendment could nullify dozens of state laws dealing with intensive confinement of farm animals, bans on horse slaughter and the sale of horsemeat, bans on the sale of foie gras produced by force-feeding ducks and geese, bans on tail docking of dairy cows and processing downer livestock, bans on possession and commerce of shark fins and rhino horn, and potentially even bans on the sale of dog and cat meat. It could also preempt a wide range of state laws covering everything from child labor to dangerous pesticides to labeling of farm-raised fish.

Since then, the world has changed, and the idea of extreme confinement is on its way out, with more than 200 food retail companies pledging to cleanse their supply chains of products that come from these sorts of inhumane confinement systems. On the same day that Donald Trump was elected president, the landslide vote on Question 3—which passed in 362 of 365 cities and towns in the Commonwealth—put a closing argument and exclamation point on the changes we’ve seen in society.

But opposition to the King amendment is nothing new. As a Washington Post editorial noted when it slammed King’s loser of a proposal, “Mr. King’s reactionary amendment would precipitate a disaster. Not only would laws regarding animal cruelty be upended, but so would laws protecting the environment, workers’ rights and public health.” Newspapers ranging from the Des Moines Register to USA Today also criticized the effort.

During consideration of the Farm Bill in 2013, the King amendment was added by voice vote by the House Agriculture Committee and passed the full House. When the House and Senate negotiated the final package, we succeeded in nixing the language from the Farm Bill. A broad and diverse coalition of bipartisan lawmakers, public officials, law professors, and organizations—such as the County Executives of America, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Fraternal Order of Police, and National Sheriffs’ Association—weighed in and helped to stave off this destructive provision.

It’s ironic that politicians like King often say they are for states’ rights when they agree with what the states are doing, but when they don’t like the result, they are perfectly fine with federal mandates telling states what they can and cannot do.

We heard so much talk during this recent election season about reducing the role of big government and keeping Washington off the backs of local communities—yet the King amendment would impose the will of Washington on our states as a legislative fiat and eviscerate local decision making on animal issues and other issues as well.

It’s unclear, of course, whether the King-type proposal that’s referenced in the campaign memo would get a real push from the Trump administration, or whether it’s just a fringe suggestion by some radical element of the transition team that will be rejected by the president-elect and his advisors. But if this threat does emerge when the new Congress convenes in January, or in the run-up to the consideration of next Farm Bill in 2018, it’ll be necessary for our movement to again marshal our forces and fight such a devastatingly harmful policy. We did it before, and we must gear up to defeat a similar measure again.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Election 2016 wrap-up: What does this mean for animals?

Upending the predictions of pollsters and pundits and scoring a major upset, Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States. This news of course dominates the election headlines now, and it’s left his followers euphoric and his critics crestfallen. It was not, however, the only race that will have an impact on animal protection. Many animal protection supporters were elected or reelected to Congress and state legislatures, and animal advocates had big wins with lopsided margins on key ballot measures in red states and blue states. Here’s what we know so far on how the 2016 election results will affect animals.

iStock Photo

Presidential Race

HSLF endorsed Hillary Clinton based on her record of supporting animal protection policies, and expressed concern about Donald Trump’s campaign surrounding itself with supporters of trophy hunting and factory farming who may have significant influence in a Trump administration. The rulemaking and enforcement actions by the Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, and other federal agencies will have an enormous impact on a wide range of animal issues, and we’ll be watching closely during the transition to see how these issues develop. We’ll also be redoubling our efforts across the board, and asking for your help in protecting existing rules and blocking hostile actions that could adversely affect animals.

We also know that  the nation is deeply divided and very skeptical, perhaps even more so than in previous presidential elections, with the bitterness of the campaign and the candidates evenly splitting the popular vote. What’s clear from recent elections is that the pendulum swings back and forth between Democrats and Republicans running for national office. The party that wins today is likely to come out on the losing side in upcoming elections, if past patterns hold. Animal issues have made progress, and have had setbacks, during both Democratic and Republican administrations, and we will look for opportunities to work with the new administration on issues of concern.


With Republicans maintaining narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, we are fortunate to have many Republican lawmakers championing our cause in Congress, and will continue to maintain our bipartisan approach to animal protection. Overall, HSLF-endorsed candidates won twelve races and lost five in the U.S. Senate, for a 71 percent win rate so far, with two additional races still not determined. In the House, HSLF-backed contenders won 210 races and lost thirteen, for a 94 percent win rate, with a few remaining races still too close to call.

In the more competitive races, HSLF helped to reelect Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the lead sponsor of the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act to establish a federal anti-cruelty law, and he won by a 1.7 percent margin in a swing state. We welcome some new animal protection supporters to the U.S. Senate, including Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and look forward to working with them. We are awaiting the outcome of the New Hampshire race, where Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), the lead sponsor of both the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act to protect pets in domestic violence and the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to crack down on the abuse of show horses, is currently trailing by 716 votes, or 0.1 percent out of more than 700,000 cast. We are sorry to know that Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) will not be in the 115th Congress, and we thank them for their strong support of animal protection over their years of public service.

On the House side, a number of strong animal protection supporters facing competitive races were reelected. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), the lead sponsor of the Humane Cosmetics Act to phase out animal testing for cosmetics, won with 56.7 percent of the vote; Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who helped defeat the overreaching King amendment and pass legislation to allow pets on trains, won with 52.4 percent; Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), a strong supporter of animal protection, won with 53.0 percent. We welcome a number of new animal protection supporters to the House, including Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who earned 54.5 percent of the vote and succeeds his brother Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, the outgoing co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus; Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), who defeated incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), an opponent of modest animal welfare policies such as cracking down on animal fighting and protecting pets in disasters, by 3.3 percent; and Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.), who defeated incumbent Rep. Cresent Hardy, a near-zero on animal issues, by 4 percent. HSLF was actively involved in all these races, and these are great outcomes for animal protection.

State Races

A number of elections for state houses and legislative seats across the country were important for animal advocates. The one that HSLF was most invested in was Missouri’s gubernatorial race, where we strongly urged voters to oppose Democratic candidate Chris Koster, one of the nation’s most anti-animal politicians. Koster worked to undermine Prop B, the landmark ballot measure to protect dogs in cruel puppy mills, and to repeal its core provisions before they even took effect. He stumped in favor of a “right to farm” amendment to the constitution that forbids the enacting of state rules to regulate agriculture and hands big agribusiness the opportunity to operate with no oversight. Koster’s biggest play against animals, however, was his attack on a California law that restricts the sale of eggs into the state that come from laying hens jammed in cages. HSLF ran radio ads on this career politician crusading against animals to curry favor with Big Ag, and Koster lost the race to Republican candidate and ex-Navy SEAL Eric Greitens who earned 51.3 percent of the vote.

Ballot Measures

The biggest successes for animal advocates last night came in a clean sweep of ballot measure campaigns in which HSLF, The HSUS, and our coalition partners had invested most heavily this election cycle. Massachusetts voters passed Question 3 in a landslide vote of 78 to 22 percent, banning the extreme confinement of farm animals in small cages where the animals are virtually immobilized for their entire lives and banning the sale of products that are not cage-free or crate-free. This is the fourth consecutive win on farm animal confinement issues since 2002, by larger margins each time, with voters approving anti-confinement measures in Florida (55 percent), Arizona (62 percent), California (63.5 percent), and now Massachusetts (78 percent). This sets the trajectory for more pressure upon the pork and egg industries to continue accelerating the transition to cage-free and crate-free housing systems, and complements the policies adopted by so many major food retailers. Massachusetts voters saw through the false claims and rhetoric of the factory farming industry about food costs, and sided with commonsense standards to protect farm animals and food safety.

In Oklahoma, animal advocates and family farmers are celebrating the defeat of State Question 777, with more than 60 percent of voters opposing the measure. Despite a multi-million dollar campaign by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and other corporate factory farming interests, Oklahoma voters across rural, urban, and suburban areas of the state saw through the measure and rejected this power grab. State Question 777 was referred to the ballot by politicians seeking to amend the state constitution with a so-called “right to farm.” It would have protected corporate interests and foreign-owned big agribusiness at the expense of Oklahoma’s family farmers, land, and animals, and prevented local communities from passing laws to protect clean water and public health. The measure was so broadly worded that it could have prevented future restrictions on any “agricultural” practice, including puppy mills, horse slaughter, and raising gamefowl for cockfighting. The crushing defeat sends a strong signal to corporate agriculture that no industry is above the law or should have special rights.

By another overwhelming majority of 70 to 30, Oregon voters issued a powerful statement for the protection of the world’s endangered animals by passing Measure 100, to stop endangered wildlife trafficking in Oregon. The measure shuts down the local market for products like elephant ivory, rhino horn, and sea turtle shells, and follows similar action taken by voters in Washington and California lawmakers to ensure that the states don’t provide safe harbor to traffickers and profiteers. The new law will ban the trafficking of 12 types of animals most targeted by wildlife traffickers: whales, sea turtles, elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, sharks, rays, and pangolins, and impose felony-level fines on anyone caught buying or selling the parts or products from those creatures.

While HSLF and The HSUS were most actively involved in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Oregon, there were other measures we supported or were watching closely. California voters approved Proposition 67, by a vote of 52 to 48 percent, to protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into our rivers, lakes, streams, and ocean, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish, and birds. We supported the measure, as did SeaWorld and others, because sea birds and marine animals often mistake bags for food, fill their stomachs with plastics, and die of starvation. Unfortunately, Coloradans approved Amendment 71, which will make it more difficult to pass future constitutional amendments, including those on animal issues, and Montanans rejected I-177, a grassroots effort to restrict trapping on public lands.

Our strong success on ballot measure campaigns illustrates that no matter what the challenges are with representative government, when we bring animal issues directly to the people, most of the time they side with animal protection and voters strongly support common-sense animal welfare reforms. We must take the long-term view as a movement. Our nation is in the business of democracy, and it's endured for 240 years. Our resiliency is part of what makes our nation great. Thank you for doing your part to contribute to democratic decision-making and getting out the vote for animals. Now it’s time for governing, driving reforms, and working to make our world a truly humane society.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Election Day preview: Get out the vote for animals

It’s been a wild and unprecedented election season, and all votes will be cast by late tomorrow. So much is at stake for the future direction of our country, and that includes the fate of animals.

The nation’s eyes are mostly focused on the presidential race, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund is backing Hillary Clinton as the best candidate for animal protection. She built a strong and consistent record on animal welfare as a U.S. Senator and as Secretary of State, and she has pledged to take on wildlife trafficking, puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and other animal issues as President. Her positions on animal protection have animal advocates spreading the word that #ImWithPurr.

Donald Trump, in contrast, represents perhaps the greatest threat ever to animal protection policymaking at the federal level. His campaign surrogates and the names being floated as possible Trump cabinet picks for the very agencies that oversee such policies include the most ardent anti-animal voices in the country. Advocates for puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and trophy hunting of rare species such as leopards and elephants would be at the steering wheel of a Trump administration. The choice is clear, and that’s why HSLF has been running TV ads in swing states informing voters that Donald Trump is a threat to mainstream humane values.


In Congress, 34 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election, and dozens of those races are competitive. In Wisconsin’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race, incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson has opposed animal protection reforms and worked to weaken the Endangered Species Act; he is the sponsor of a bill to delist wolves in the Great Lakes region, seeking to reverse a federal court ruling and to subvert further judicial review of that case. HSLF is supporting Russ Feingold, who has a strong record of advocating for wildlife conservation and the protection of pets, and is airing TV ads to support his candidacy.


There are a number of important state races around the country. In Missouri, HSLF is urging voters to oppose Attorney General Chris Koster in his bid for Governor against ex-Navy SEAL Eric Greitens. Koster worked to undermine Prop B, the landmark ballot measure to protect dogs in cruel puppy mills, and to repeal its core provisions before they even took effect. He stumped in favor of a “right to farm” amendment to the constitution that forbids the enacting of state rules to regulate agriculture and hands big agribusiness the opportunity to operate with no oversight. Koster’s biggest play against animals, however, was his attack on a California law that restricts the sale of eggs into the state that come from laying hens jammed in cages. Listen to HSLF’s radio ad on this career politician crusading against animals to curry favor with Big Ag.  We are also working in favor of Russ Carnahan and against Mike Parson in the Lt. Governor’s race. Carnahan is as good on animal issues as Parson is bad; Parson led the effort to repeal Prop B and to pass the “right to farm” measure, and he’s in the pocket of Indiana millionaire Forrest Lucas, who has donated lavishly to keep Parson’s political career afloat.

HSLF is involved in dozens of races at the federal and state level, and we urge you to consult our roster of endorsements and our Humane Scorecard to guide your voting. 

In a number of states, voters will decide not only on candidates to represent them but also on critical animal protection ballot measures:

  • In Massachusetts, a “Yes” vote on Question 3 would phase out the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens in small crates and cages where they are virtually immobilized for their entire lives, and will ban the sale of products that come from these confinement systems.
  • In Oregon, a “Yes” on Measure 100 will help save endangered sea turtles, elephants, rhinos, and other wild animals threatened with cruel poaching and extinction, by shutting down the destructive wildlife trade.
  • In Oklahoma, animal advocates are urging a “No” on State Question 777, a measure to protect corporate factory farms and big agribusiness at the expense of Oklahoma’s family farmers, land, and animals, which could prevent future restrictions on extreme factory farming practices, and even puppy mills, horse slaughter, and cockfighting.
  • In California, a “Yes” on Proposition 67 will protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into rivers, lakes, streams, and the Pacific ocean, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish, and birds.
  • In Montana, a “Yes” vote on I-177 would restrict the use of cruel traps and snares on public lands.
  • In Colorado, Amendment 71 would make it more difficult for citizens to have a say on future constitutional ballot measures, including those dealing with animal protection. A measure to ban cruel steel-jawed leghold traps passed in Colorado in 1996, but would have failed under the onerous new standards imposed by Amendment 71. We are urging Coloradans to vote “No.”

No matter where you live, please visit our election site to find candidates HSLF has chosen to endorse for federal and state races based on their records or positions on animal welfare issues. Animals only win when humane candidates and issues do. Tomorrow is the day to get out the vote for animals.

Election crucial to fate of animals

Mark Bacon/Alamy

As HSLF executive vice president Wayne Pacelle writes in the Tallahassee Democrat, tomorrow’s election is about the values we hold dear in society. That includes the value of humane treatment toward all creatures, and protecting animals from cruelty, suffering, neglect, and abuse. If you haven’t voted early, or mailed in your ballot, please make your voice heard tomorrow on Election Day. 

We are fortunate that so many officials across the political spectrum share our basic concern for the welfare of animals, but we should not take it for granted, either. Visit HSLF’s election site for more information.

Election crucial to fate of animals

In the maelstrom that is the election, let’s remember that the 2016 election is ultimately about the values we hold dear in our society. Important things, treasured things, life and death things. The future of our children. The health of our environment. The safety of our communities. The security of our nation. Even the interests of the largest non-voting constituency in the nation.

Nothing less than the fate of untold billions of animals—endangered species, pets, farm animals and others—hangs in the balance this time around.

Decades of incremental, bipartisan, consensus progress around the humane consideration of animals are up for grabs. Do we continue our forward motion toward a more compassionate world? Or do we retreat into a darker past where animals can be exploited in any fashion thought to bring short-term profit or even wicked pleasure?

Globe-trotting trophy hunters, factory farming titans, puppy mill apologists, advocates for horse slaughter, those seeking to eliminate the protective space of our nation’s parks and refuges—these are just some of the backward-looking people aligned with the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. That cast includes Trump’s own sons—who prowl the world with that 19th-century eye to slay big and majestic creatures who they line up in their gunsights for trophies and bragging rights.

As a leader within the animal protection movement, I bring a non-partisan approach to elections, wanting all people of good intention to embrace the universal value that cruelty to animals is wrong.

Among its many harms, staying home sends a message that one does not care about making the lives of animals bearable, never mind great.

So together we have a choice this election. Candidate Hillary Clinton has a long and unmistakable record of defending animals against cruelty. She was a leader for animals as a U.S. senator. In this campaign, she framed the issue as plainly as can be: The way our society treats animals is a reflection of our humanity.

Indeed. America is great because of its humanity, its heart. America is great because of its enduring faith in itself and in better tomorrows.

Animals have a magic place in our journey. For the blind, the elderly, the war wounded, the ill, the bedridden, the lonely, animals aren’t just companions, they are sometimes the only warm presence to hold on to, and we are grateful. Millions and millions of us rejoice at the sight of animals in the wild. Consumers have been heard in the marketplace, and food purveyors are reducing the cruelties of intensive confinement agriculture. Entrepreneurs are in hot pursuit of innovations that will reduce animal suffering and strengthen our economy at the same time.

America is great not because of what divides us, but because of what holds us together across the divides. Our compassion for the least among us is one of those undergirding values. We owe them an hour and our wise vote on Tuesday.

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