Hawkeyes with Mai Tais: Iowa makes to-go cocktails permanent

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As COVID-19 continues to shut down major parts of the American economy, legislators and industry groups are scrambling to create innovative ways to safely incentivize job retention and spending. One idea, which has caught on in 30 states plus the District of Columbia, is to allow restaurants and bars to sell cocktails and bottled spirits to-go.

On Tuesday, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed into legislation HF 2540, which makes cocktails-to-go permanently legal for both takeout and delivery. Iowa is the first state to make the temporary relief measure permanent, but legislatures in Texas, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia are also considering it. 

“Iowa’s hospitality businesses have suffered greatly due to the harsh financial impacts of COVID-19,” said Dale Szyndrowski, vice president of state government relations at the The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. “Making cocktails to-go permanent provides a much-needed source of stability and revenue for local bars, restaurants and distilleries as they begin to recover…Iowa is leading the way and serving as a model for other states looking for innovative ways to boost struggling hospitality businesses.”

Restaurants have lost nearly three times as many jobs as any other industry due to the pandemic. Eating and drinking establishments in the United States registered sales of $38.6 billion on a seasonally-adjusted basis in May, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that’s down about $27 billion from sales in January and February, before COVID-19. 

New York was the first state to launch drinks-to-go as a temporary economic relief measure in March and Governor Cuomo recently extended the order for at least another 30 days.

“We understand the positive impact this has had for businesses during this trying time and we intend to renew this option in an upcoming executive order,” Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s senior advisor said in a statement. A New York State Senator has created legislation to extend the act for two years, but it has not been acted on yet. 

Sean Kennedy, the National Restaurant Association’s executive vice president of public affairs said in a statement that take-out drinks comprise about 10% of the restaurant industry’s current revenue.

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As pandemic persists, courts could see permanent changes some consider positive

When coronavirus first started spreading in Canada earlier this year, everyone — especially those who did not catch the virus — immediately felt the impacts as travel ceased, offices closed and childcare paused, to name just a few effects.

One of the most dramatic impacts may be happening in courthouses, where hearings that have always occurred in person, are instead being adjudicated through online video or even over the telephone.

The shift has caused the number of cases adjudicated across Canada to plummet and the backlog of cases to grow — at a time when societal disputes, such as domestic violence, are surging. But the pandemic is also forcing lawyers and judges into a debate about the merits of technology and access to justice.

In Corner Brook, N.L., Provincial Court Judge Wayne Gorman has been urging prosecutors to embrace the fact that more cases have to be adjudicated online or over the phone during the pandemic.

“Victims of intimate violence are often very vulnerable and the pandemic has increased their vulnerability,” Gorman wrote in a ruling on May 12. “Cases involving intimate violence should not be placed on hold when the court has the technology and has expressed a willingness to hear additional matters.”

Victims of intimate violence are often very vulnerable and the pandemic has increased their vulnerability

In that case, Gorman held an online video hearing before deciding to sentence Sheldon Mitchell to 180 days in prison and 12 months of probation for a physical altercation with his former “intimate partner,” who he was legally not supposed to contact.

The judge wrote that the videoconferencing system he used allowed all the participants to see each other, and one member of the press even witnessed the proceeding.

It “mirrored what would have occurred if the sentence hearing had been held in a courtroom with the participants present,” Gorman wrote.

Last week, in a separate case, after holding a telephonic conference he imposed a $1,000 fine on a defendant, Karen Gillingham, for driving while impaired.

In his ruling, Gorman called it “unfortunate” that the Crown has not embraced his willingness to hear more cases, “particularly trials.”

“Perhaps the court is going to have to take a more proactive approach,” he wrote. “It may have to consider hearing any matter scheduled, unless satisfied by one of the parties that it would be unsafe or unfair to do so.”

Eric Gillespie, a lawyer in Toronto, said in the past month he has participated in virtual hearings for two separate cases in Ontario’s Divisional Court, which he characterized as an unusually high number in the current setting.

In one case, he represented a community group that is challenging the permits for the construction of a multimillion-dollar wind turbine project located outside Ottawa.

Gillespie said that over 200 people tuned in online to observe the hearing, more than could fit in a courtroom under normal circumstances.

“You had people from literally one end of Ontario to the other that were able to be part of the process,” said Gillespie. ”It’s clearly much more accessible because travel is not required.”

He added about virtual hearings, “It’s something that one would hope the courts would consider even when we get back to in-person hearings because it clearly improved access to justice.”

Murray Klippenstein, a Toronto-based lawyer and Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario, said moving cases online creates a lot of changes.

The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa.

The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa.

Chris Helgren/Reuters files

On the one hand, he said, streaming cases online could open up access to courts because it would save some people the time and cost of travelling to a hearing.

But there could also be some subtle parts of communications that would be lost when people are not physically together in the same room, and it could prevent a lot of “frank discussions in the hallways,” he noted.

There are also many important questions that need to be sorted out, including whether hearings can be recorded, edited and reproduced; and what are the implications of having an audience of unknown size and unknown participants, he said.

Even as social distancing policies ease, many courts remain committed to virtual proceedings for the foreseeable future, according to a recent update in the Canadian Lawyer magazine.

“Some in the legal sector think that the forced virus shutdown of the court system will lead to significant long-term changes in how courts operate because lawyers, judges and administrators have been compelled to try new approaches, some of which might stick,” Klippenstein wrote in an email. “But others are not so sure.”

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Trump immigration ban to last 60 days, target those seeking permanent residency

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he answers a question during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

April 21, 2020

By Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday his new U.S. immigration ban would last for 60 days and apply to those seeking “green cards” for permanent residency in an effort to protect Americans seeking to regain jobs lost because of the coronavirus.

Trump plans to institute the ban through an executive order, which he said he was likely to sign on Wednesday. He said it would not apply to individuals entering the United States on a temporary basis and would be re-evaluated once the 60-day period had passed.

“It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American worker,” Trump told reporters at the White House. He said there would be some exemptions in the order and he could renew it for another 60 days or even longer.

The president won the White House in 2016 in part on a promise to crack down on immigration. Critics saw his announcement as a move to take advantage of a crisis to implement a long-sought policy goal.

The order could spark legal action.

A senior administration official said the administration was looking at a separate action to cover others affected by U.S. immigration policy, including those on so-called H-1B visas.

The order would include exemptions for people involved in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, including farm workers and those helping to secure U.S. food supplies, he said.

The official said as the country begins to open up its economy, immigration flows were expected to increase, and the administration wanted to ensure that employers hire back fired workers rather than giving jobs to immigrants at lower wages.

Trump confirmed that a secondary order was under consideration for a separate time.

The U.S. Department of State issued roughly 462,000 immigrant visas in fiscal year 2019, which began on Oct. 1, 2018. The visas allow an immigrant to obtain lawful permanent resident status, informally known as a green card. The status allows a person to live and work in the United States and apply for citizenship after a five-year period.

Critics viewed Trump’s new policy as an effort to distract from his response to the pandemic.

“I think this is a malevolent distraction,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning policy institute in Washington.

Giovanni Peri, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis, said researchers generally agree that immigration into the United States has stimulated economic growth, increased the size of the economy and created jobs.

“The idea that immigration threatens American jobs is just not there in any data,” he said.


Under the separate immigration action, technology industry workers with H-1B visas may need to provide updated certifications to the government that they are not displacing American workers. That was one of a handful of proposals being looked at.

Early in his presidency Trump issued an executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to tighten its policies on H-1B visas, which are used heavily by the tech industry to bring over skilled workers.

Critics of the visas say they have been monopolized by staffing firms that bring over workers that displace Americans, often in back-office technical jobs. But the visas are also used by the healthcare and education sectors and other businesses recruiting workers who generally have bachelor’s or higher degrees.

The United States has more coronavirus cases than any other country by far. Immigration advocates scoffed at the contention that cutting off immigration was being done to protect Americans’ health.

Immigration is effectively cut off anyway at the moment through border restrictions and flight bans put in place to stop the virus’s spread.

Andrea Flores, a deputy policy director with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued over a number of Trump immigration policies, said Trump appeared “more interested in fanning anti-immigrant flames than in saving lives” with his latest proposal.

The Trump campaign plans to highlight immigration again in the 2020 election battle. The coronavirus outbreak has dramatically altered priorities among many Americans over the past few months, especially within President Trump’s Republican Party, according to the Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll. Its latest survey, conducted April 15-21, found that the economy has replaced immigration as the most-cited concern for Republicans.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Ted Hesson; additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg, Chris Kahn, Timothy Ahmann and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Tom Brown)

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