Cities Can Help Close the Meal Gap on Weekends and Holidays

Holiday meals - blogCity agencies can serve meals and reach more children by utilizing existing resources. (Getty Images)

During the weekends and holidays, many of us look forward to spending quality time with our family and friends, and much of that time is spent around the dinner table. It is important to remember, though, that many children and families will go hungry this holiday season – just as many children do on the weekends when they don’t have access to federal Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs. For many families across the country, the Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs provide healthy meals that parents and caretakers rely on to help ensure their kids are fed during out-of-school time hours. Providing meals on weekends and holidays is a great opportunity for these programs to reach even more kids. Local leaders and city agencies that sponsor meal programs can help fill a critical need by building off of their existing programs to serve weekend and holiday meals. Under the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), public agencies such as public housing authorities and parks and recreation departments, as well as schools, nonprofits (e.g., Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs) and faith-based organizations are eligible to serve meals and snacks on weekends and holidays. Many meal program sponsors find it challenging to fully staff their meal sites on weekends and holidays, but they can work with vendors and other partnering organizations to develop a plan to gradually phase in weekend and holiday meals based on existing enrichment programs. A gradual, phased approach could provide sponsors with needed flexibility to respond to staffing and funding needs. Below are a few strategies for cities that are thinking about serving meals on weekends and holidays:

  • Utilize existing staff and staff from volunteer programs: In Minneapolis, the Nite Owlz late night teen program is held primarily in inner city parks on Friday and Saturday nights. They are currently expanding their meal service program, and the involvement of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board would allow this program to extend healthy food choices to over 350 teens each weekend night throughout the year.
  • Develop creative partnerships between city agencies and community partners: In Washington, D.C., a strong partnership between the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), and Metroball, a local nonprofit summer basketball league, has helped to reach over 300 teenagers on Saturdays during the summer. DPR acts as the meal program sponsor and serves the meals at the basketball league sites, and the local police department helps spread the word about the program. Summer meals sites are open in D.C. on Saturdays at select Department of Parks and Recreation Centers, D.C. Public Library locations and community-based organizations.
  • Start by serving one meal on Saturdays during the school year. There are approximately 40 Saturdays during the school year, and these days provide a great opportunity for sponsors that implement the Afterschool Meal Program during the school year to serve meals one additional day per week.

For more information on serving weekend and holiday meals, check out the Food Research and Action Center’s resources, including this Afterschool Meal Matters recorded call.

Jamie Nash bio photo
About the Author:
Jamie Nash is Senior Associate of Benefit Outreach in the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. To learn more about how local government leaders can support out-of-school time meal programs, contact Jamie at nash@nlc.org.

Heien v. North Carolina—A Win, But Not a Free Pass

traffic stop 2If you were arrested for a crime as the result of a traffic stop, the Supreme Court has ruled that your subsequent court decision can be upheld even if a police offer made a reasonable mistake in pulling you over. (Getty Images)

In Heien v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court held that a reasonable mistake of law can provide reasonable suspicion to uphold a traffic stop under the Fourth Amendment.

The ruling stems from an incident in which a police officer pulled over a car that had only one working brake light because he believed that North Carolina law required both brake lights to work. The North Carolina Court of Appeals, interpreting a statute over a half a century old, concluded only one working brake light is required.

When the vehicle’s occupants behaved suspiciously, the officer asked to search the car. The occupants consented, and the officer found cocaine. The owner of the car subsequently argued that the stop violated the Fourth Amendment because driving with one working brake light doesn’t violate North Carolina law.

The Supreme Court has long held that reasonable mistakes of fact do not undermine Fourth Amendment searches and seizures. Justice Roberts reasoned in this 8-1 decision: “Whether the facts turn out to be not what was thought, or the law turns out to be not what was thought, the result is the same: the facts are outside the scope of the law. There is no reason, under the text of the Fourth Amendment or our precedents, why this same result should be acceptable when reached by way of a reasonable mistake of fact, but not when reached by way of a similarly reasonable mistake of law.”

The Court emphasized that mistakes of law (and fact) must be objectively reasonable, and that this inquiry is not as forgiving to the officers as the qualified immunity inquiry (qualified immunity protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law”). The Court concluded that the officer’s mistaken understanding of North Carolina law in this case was objectively reasonable. As Justice Kagan pointed out in her concurring opinion, the officer’s mistaken interpretation “had much to recommend it.”

Justice Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion predicts that lower courts will have difficulty determining which mistakes of law are objectively reasonable. If the ruling is indeed followed by lower courts, Justice Kagan’s opinion, which was joined by Justice Ginsburg, should assuage some of Justice Sotomayor’s concern as well as indicate that this decision isn’t a free pass for law enforcement to fail to learn the law. Justice Kagan opines that relying on incorrect memos or training programs isn’t objectively reasonable, and that only mistakes made based on “very hard questions of statutory interpretation” should be considered as such.

Lisa Soronen bio photoAbout the Author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

Supreme Court Accepts Affordable Care Act Case

Last month, the Supreme Court’s docket went from boring to big with the grant of just one case: King v. Burwell. The issue in this case is whether tax credits for low and middle income health insurance purchasers are available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if insurance is purchased on a federal exchange rather than a state exchange. Only 16 states and the District of Columbia have established exchanges.

SC-Blog(Getty Images)

The ACA makes tax credits available to those who buy health insurance on exchanges “established by the State.” The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) interpreted that language to include insurance purchased on federal exchanges as well.

The Fourth Circuit upheld the IRS’s interpretation of King v. Burwell, concluding that the phrase “established by the State” is ambiguous when read in combination with other sections of the ACA, and could include federal exchanges. The “board policy goals of the Act,” persuaded the court that the IRS’s interpretation was permissible.

The implications of the Supreme Court ruling that health insurance purchased on federal exchanges is not eligible for subsidies is huge. Many people who want to buy insurance on the exchange would no longer be able to afford it without the subsidy. And depending on their income, many who don’t want to buy insurance would no longer be subject to the individual mandate that penalizes people for not buying insurance. Similarly, large employers that don’t offer health insurance to fulltime employees would no longer have to pay a penalty.

More significantly, the Fourth Circuit (and many others) predict the ACA would “crumble” if tax credits are unavailable on federal exchanges. The ACA bars insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on a person’s health. The tax credit combined with the individual mandate was intended to create “an influx of enrollees with below-average spending for health care,” which would counteract adverse selection, where individuals disproportionately likely to use health care drive up the cost. Such an influx is unlikely without the subsidy.

The Supreme Court generally hears cases when there is a circuit split, meaning two federal courts of appeals have decided the same issue differently. Many were surprised when the Court agreed to hear this case given there is currently no circuit split, especially considering that last month the Court refused to hear a series of cases challenging the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans. However, the Court also accepts cases involving “important question[s] of federal law,” which this case seems to raise.

On the same day in July, a three-judge D.C. Circuit panel ruled opposite to the Fourth Circuit Court on this issue. The entire D.C. Circuit was going to re-hear the case, but it has been asked not to rule prior to Supreme Court resolution of King v. Burwell.

Wondering how the Supreme Court may rule? SCOTUSblog offers an excellent symposium on this topic.

Lisa Soronen bio photoAbout the Author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

This Case Isn’t (Only) About a Confederate Flag License Plate

confederate flag license plate
If it were displayed on a specialty license plate, would you consider the image of a Confederate flag to be an expression of government speech or private speech? (Texas Department of Motor Vehicles)

In Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board rejected the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ (Texas SCV) application for a specialty license plate featuring images of the Confederate Flag. The Supreme Court will decide whether this violates the First Amendment.

This case may have implications beyond the specialty license plate context. Lower courts have struggled to determine whether government websites, advertisements on city buses, memorial bricks and tiles at public schools, etc. are government speech or private speech.

Texas allows nonprofits to propose license plate designs for state approval. Texas SCV applied for a specialty plate featuring its logo, a Confederate flag framed on all four sides with the words “Sons of Confederate Veterans 1896,” and a faint Confederate flag in the background. The Board voted unanimously against the plate because it received numerous public comments objecting to it.

The Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Texas SCV. It held that specialty license plates are private speech, not government speech. It also held that rejecting Texas SCV’s plate was impermissible viewpoint discrimination and not a permissible content-based regulation.

The majority of the court concluded the speech in this case was private, applying the “reasonable observer test” test from Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, 555 U.S. 467 (2009), where the Court held that monuments in a public park are government speech. While governments have historically used monuments “to speak to the public” in parks, a reasonable observer would understand that specialty plates are private speech because “states have not traditionally used license plates to convey a particular message to the public.” A dissenting judge argued that Summum did not adopt a “reasonable observer test” for government speech and that, for purposes of First Amendment analysis, monuments at public parks are very analogous to specialty license plates.

The entire court agreed that the Board engaged in impermissible viewpoint discrimination because it “discriminated against Texas SCV’s view that the Confederate flag is a symbol of sacrifice, independence, and Southern heritage.” Rejecting the plate was not a permissible content-based regulation, even under the assumption that Texas bans all viewpoints on the Confederate flag. “Silencing both the view of Texas SCV and the view of those members of the public who find the flag offensive would similarly skew public debate and offend the First Amendment.”

Interestingly, the Court did not grant review in Berger v. ACLU of North Carolina. The issue in that case is whether North Carolina may offer a “Choose Life” specialty license plate without offering a pro-choice plate.

Lisa Sorenen bio photoAbout the Author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

State of the Reengagement Network in 2014 and Beyond

Opening the 2014 Reengagement Plus convening in Portland, Oregon last week, I observed that the Reengagement Network deserves a moment of quiet celebration. Quiet because of recent tragic events in several communities directly affecting youth; celebratory because collectively, we have had a tremendous impact this year.

Diploma - blog(Getty Images)

In my opening remarks, I outlined how NLC’s Reengagement Network has grown in size and scope since its inception, identified key opportunities for the Network in 2015 and proposed priorities to deepen and broaden our impact. Here are a few highlights:

NLC’s Andrew O. Moore delivers the opening remarks at the 2014 Reengagement Plus conveningin Portland, Oregon.

NLC’s Andrew O. Moore delivers the opening remarks at the 2014 Reengagement Plus convening in Portland, Oregon.

  • Over 250 people from 38 cities in 22 states attended the 2014 Reengagement Plus convening. It doubled in size from last year!
  • This year’s reengagement census showed nearly 24,000 young people making initial contact with reengagement programs in the network, 11,500 students placed and 70 percent of those placed in programs completing or persisting for the full school year.
  • The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act now includes a requirement to spend 75 percent of youth training funds on out-of-school youth, and for the first time names reengagement as an allowable activity.
  • Next steps include adopting and pursuing a goal of spreading reengagement programs to every city and town in the nation – particularly pushing reengagement ahead in the Southwest and Southeast, where activity is currently limited. Supporting and strengthening statewide reengagement networks, such as those forming in Washington and Massachusetts is also a priority.

Read the Opening Remarks in their entirety…

Andrew Moore
About the Author:
Andrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families.  Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore. Learn more about 2014 Reengagement Plus on Twitter by searching the hashtag #ReengagePDX14.

Supreme Court Rules No Pay for Passing Through Security Screenings

The Supreme Court has ruled that these employees are not required to be compensated for their time spent submitting to security screenings at work. (Getty Images)

Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro worked at warehouses filling Amazon.com orders. Their employer, Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., required its hourly workers to undergo a security screening before leaving the warehouse each day. Busk and Castro claimed that they were entitled to compensation for this time, and subsequently took their argument to court.

In the case of Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require hourly employees to be paid for the time they spend undergoing security screenings. The ruling has significant impact on employers as well as employees working in courthouses, correctional institutions and other environments where security screenings are prevalent.

Under the FLSA, employers only have to pay “non-exempt” employees for preliminary and postliminary activities that are “integral and indispensable” to a principal activity. According to the Court, an activity is “integral and indispensable” to a principal activity “if it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities.” The Court concluded that security screenings were not intrinsic to retrieving and packing products, and that Integrity Staffing Solutions could have eliminated the screenings altogether without impairing employees’ ability to complete their work.

The SLLC’s amicus brief made similar arguments to those the Court adopted. This case is a significant victory for local governments who will now not be faced with higher payroll costs for employee security screenings or a mandate to reduce screenings to a de minimis amount.

James Ho, Ashley Johnson and Andrew LeGrand, of the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Dallas, TX, wrote the SLLC’s brief, which was joined by the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Government Finance Officers Association, the National Public Employer Labor Relations Association and the International Public Management Association for Human Resources.

Lisa Soronen bio photoAbout the Author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

First (Only?) Environmental Case of the Supreme Court’s Term is a Big One

power plantThis coal-fired power plant is excited to receive its 15 minutes of fame when the Supreme Court rules on a complex environmental case later this term. (Getty Images)

The consolidated cases of Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency and National Mining Association v. Environmental Protection Agency challenge a 2012 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation intended to limit mercury and other emissions from mostly coal-fired power plants.

Before regulating emissions from electric utilities, the Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the EPA Administrator to find that regulation is “appropriate and necessary” based on a public health hazards study. The simple legal question in this complicated case is whether the EPA unreasonably refused to consider costs in making its determination that regulation was “appropriate.”

In 1990 Congress required the EPA to identify stationary sources for 189 hazardous air pollutants and adopt maximum achievable control technology standards (MACT) for limiting their emissions. But the CAA regulates emissions from electric utilities differently than from other stationary sources. Before the EPA may regulate electric utilities under the MACT program, it must perform a health hazards study and determine whether regulation of them is appropriate and necessary.

In 2000, the EPA determined it would regulate mercury and other emissions from electric utilities, but it reversed course in 2005. Then in 2012, the agency issued the final rule challenged in this case which concluded that regulating electric utilities was appropriate and necessary. The EPA “rejected the 2005 interpretation that authorizes the Agency to consider other factors (e.g., cost).”

The D.C. Circuit agreed with the EPA that it was not required to consider costs. “Appropriate” isn’t defined in the relevant section of the CAA and dictionary definitions of the term don’t mention costs.  Throughout the CAA “Congress mentioned costs explicitly where it intended the EPA to consider them.”

A dissenting judge pointed that the cost of regulation in this case is nearly $10 billion dollars annually and opined that the cost of complying will “likely knock a bunch of coal-fired electric utilities out of business and require enormous expenditures by other coal- and oil-fired electric utilities.”

States are involved in this case on both sides. During its last term, the Supreme Court ruled on two significant Clean Air Act cases: EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, involving the CAA’s Good Neighbor Provision, and Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, involving greenhouse gases and stationary sources.

Lisa Sorenen bio photoAbout the Author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.