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California’s Controversial Prop 22 Could Have Nationwide Impact

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  • If passed, California’s Prop. 22 would classify gig workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers, as independent contractors instead of employees, meaning they might have more flexibility in their schedules but are not given standard full benefits like healthcare and sick leave.
  • Uber, Lyft, and other apps have shelled out a whopping $200 million into a ‘Yes on 22’ campaign. Meanwhile, its opponents have spent about $20 million, with prominent figures like presidential candidate Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris speaking out against it.
  • Currently, California voters are split. A UC Berkeley poll found that 46% of voters said they were voting yes, 42% were voting no, and 12% were undecided
  • Experts think that no matter which way the vote goes, this could be the start of a national debate about gig workers in America, how companies treat them, and how that work is regulated.

What is Prop. 22?

While California’s divisive Proposition 22 might only be on the ballot in one state, the impacts of it could be felt nationwide. 

Prop. 22 exempts app-based rideshare and delivery companies from providing certain workers with benefits by classifying drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. It comes one year after a law known as AB5 was passed in the state requiring gig workers to be treated as employees, and aims to carve an exception for major rideshare and similar companies. 

Supporters of Prop. 22 include those companies, like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. They say that the measure gives drivers flexibility in their schedules, as well as minimum earnings benefits, even though it does not provide the full standard benefits employees would receive. They also say it protects jobs and that prices could increase if Prop. 22 fails. 

However, opponents argue that these companies should not be allowed to skirt around rules to avoid giving their workers full benefits. Those who have come out against the proposition include the California Labor Federation and Sen. Kamala Harris. The prop has even made national headlines, with presidential candidate Joe Biden and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also coming out against it. 

National Implications for Prop. 22

It’s a split issue among California voters. According to a late October poll from UC Berkeley, 46% said they were voting yes, 42% were voting no, and 12% were undecided. But the decision is large, as experts think its implications will reach beyond the borders of the state. 

For example, if Prop. 22 passes, other companies could be prompted to follow Uber and Lyft’s independent contracting model. 

“I think you’ll see platform-based companies in other service industries either try to fit themselves into the exception [to AB5], or, if Proposition 22 is successful, try to do the same thing,” attorney Jason Morris told CBS News

He is not alone in thinking this. New York Times reporter Kate Conger, who has covered Prop. 22, thinks this is the first page of a national dialogue around gig workers. 

“No matter the outcome of Proposition 22, it’s just the beginning of what I think will become a national debate over regulating gig work. Companies like Uber and Lyft are already beginning to lobby for similar changes at the federal level,” she said. 

“It also raises questions about how traditional employers will manage their workforces in the future,” Conger continued. “Will we see employers shift their employees to a gig work model in order to take advantage of the reduction in costs that Uber and Lyft have long enjoyed?”

High-Budget Campaign from ‘Yes on 22’

The ‘Yes on 22’ campaign has spared no expense when it comes to rallying support for the proposition. Politico reported that the campaign has spent over $200 million on the effort, with virtually all of that money coming from five companies: Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Instacart and DoorDash. Their opponents have raised just around $20 million in comparison. 

‘Yes on 22’ ads are plastered all over the state and aired constantly on television. One of their biggest claims is that drivers support the proposition by a 4-1 margin, but that statistic has been called into question. According to a fact check from the Sacramento Bee, that claim is true but only in part. 

The campaign cites a poll from a blog called The Rideshare Guy, as well as other polls commissioned by Uber. While those do show that 70-80% of drivers support Prop. 22, the Bee writes that these polls are not “scientific.” The survey was not done by a random sampling of drivers, just by those who were signed up for the site’s digital newsletter. Uber’s poll also had slanted questions that may have pushed the results. 

“They have highly biased and problematic surveys from which they are getting this data from,” UC Hastings law professor Veena Dubal told the Bee

Uber and other companies have also faced criticism for pressuring their employees into supporting the measure. Drivers ended up suing Uber for bombarding them with messages about Prop. 22 in the app while they were driving, asking them to pledge their support. A judge ended up siding with Uber over the matter. 

On October 30, Uber engineer Eddy Hernandez wrote a piece explaining his decision to leave the company over the pressure they were putting on employees when it came to Prop. 22, which he disagrees with. 

“Inside the company, pushing back against Prop 22 was like trying to stop a bullet. Leadership made it a company-wide initiative, which meant that Prop 22 was part of employees’ performance and promotion reviews,” Hernandez wrote.  

“On top of that, internal messaging communicated an expectation of loyalty toward Uber above all else,” he continued. “Unlike drivers, I did not have to deal with constant in-app pop-ups asking me to commit myself to voting Yes on Prop 22. But if I as an engineer with considerable power, influence, and access to Uber leadership felt coerced into silence about Prop 22, how did drivers feel?”

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Business Insider) (San Francisco Gate)

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North Carolina County May Be Without Power for Days After Substation Attacks

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Tens of thousands have been left without power as temperatures drop.


Power Outage Prompts State of Emergency

Two power substations in Moore County, North Carolina were attacked on Saturday and sustained heavy damage from gunfire. The damage has left about 40,000 people without power as the temperatures fall. 

Response to the crisis has been swift. A state of emergency was declared Sunday afternoon, an emergency shelter powered by a generator has been opened, and local schools have canceled classes for Monday. 

Local authorities have partnered with state and federal agencies in an effort to find those responsible for the attack. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation as well as the FBI have joined the investigation

The Sheriff of Moore county, Ronnie Fields, said the attack was “targeted” while speaking at a news conference Sunday night.

It wasn’t random,” he told reporters. “The person, or persons, who did this knew exactly what they were doing.”

A representative from Duke Energy, the owner of the substations, informed the public that the damages are significant and will require complete replacement of key parts. Unfortunately, the company will not be able to reroute power as they have during storms. The representative said that, because of this, people in Moore County may be without power until Thursday. 

Investigation Into Perpetrators

As of now, authorities don’t know who is responsible. Sheriff Fields told the press that no group has taken credit for the attack. The investigation is ongoing.

“An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious, intentional crime and I expect state and federal authorities to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice,” Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said in a tweet Sunday night.

On social media, many have speculated that the attack was an effort to stop a local drag show from being performed. The show had reportedly garnered a significant number of protesters and a police presence. The power cut out Saturday evening shortly after the show had started. 

Sheriff Fields reported Sunday night that, so far, no connection has been found between the attack and the drag show. 

See what others are saying: (AP News) (CNN) (Axios)

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Adderall Shortage Sparks Fears of Opioid-Like Crisis

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Experts specifically have expressed concerns that the lack of legal Adderall will force people to turn to black markets as they did when the supply of opioids was cut off.


Ongoing Shortage

Public health experts watching the ongoing Adderall shortage in the U.S. have raised concerns about the possibility that it could cause a major health crisis.

In mid-October, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that there was a nationwide shortage of immediate-release Adderall. The agency specifically noted that Teva Pharmaceuticals, which is the biggest manufacturer of the drug, was “experiencing ongoing intermittent manufacturing delays.”

Since then, the FDA has also reported that there are other manufacturers experiencing similar problems as well. In statements to the media, Teva has explained that the supply disruptions were triggered by a combination of a since-resolved labor shortage on its packing line this summer, as well as increased demand for the drug.

Adderall prescriptions have skyrocketed over the last two decades. From 2006 to 2016, the prescription of stimulants more than doubled in the U.S., and those numbers have grown since the pandemic. According to figures from the data analytics firm IQVIA, from 2019 to 2021, Adderall prescriptions alone rose by about 16%, surging from 35.5 million to 41.2 million.

Experts say the big spike over the last few years has been driven by the fact that more people are seeking these drugs to help cope with stress and distraction. Telehealth regulations that were relaxed during the pandemic also made it much easier for people to get diagnosed and prescribed in shorter periods of time.

A growing number of new start-ups have been taking advantage of lax rules, flooding social media — and specifically TikTok — with advertisements telling people to get ADHD meds if they feel distracted or tired. Many professionals say these apps pose issues because they are designed for such quick diagnosis so it can be hard to tell if ADHD is actually the problem people who present those symptoms are dealing with.

The resulting effect has been renewed speculation that stimulants are being overprescribed — a factor some believe could also be driving this shortage.

Additionally, Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, so it is highly regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), meaning there are caps on how much each company can produce so they can’t just ramp up production to make up for the backlog. It is also difficult for pharmacies to just pivot and start carrying new brands because of the regulations on this drug.

Potential Crisis

Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University and faculty director of the Health in Justice Action Lab, worries all these elements could create the perfect storm for a full-blown crisis.

In an interview with Rogue Rocket, he outlined two overarching concerns.

 “One is that you have lots of people who had access, sort of regular access to medication that they may not now have access to, and there are individual-level risks that sort of cascade from that,” he said. “Insomnia, depression, in some instances, you could even see suicidal ideation. So all of these are kind of, you know, health risks that result from rapid tapering or discontinuation, discontinuation of taking Adderall.”

“What is an even bigger concern or, an equally important concern, is that lots of people without access to the pharmaceutical supply will turn to the illicit market and counterfeit Adderall is readily available on the illicit market and other forms of unfettered means. Specifically, methamphetamine is available, widely available on the illicit market 24/7. You know, there’s no shortage in that market,” he continued.

Beletsky explained that there are a number of harms that can come as a result of people turning to the black market — and there is first-hand evidence of this from the opioid crisis. As he noted, opioids were also widely criticized as being overprescribed, and so when access was cut for prescription opioids, people turned to illegal markets and there was a massive spike in the use of heroin, counterfeit opioids, and fentanyl contamination.

“The public health, sort of population-level concern is that we might see similar patterns here where lots of folks are being pushed into the market and they’re, you know, it’s the Wild West. Counterfeit Adderall oftentimes does have methamphetamine,” he stated. Counterfeit Adderall can also be cross-contaminated with other dangerous drugs like fentanyl.

“Methamphetamine is even cheaper than counterfeit Adderall pills, and so the concern is that folks might start smoking meth and even injecting meth, which is, you know, increasingly common,” Beletsky continued. “It would be a huge public health disaster if thousands or even millions of people started taking methamphetamine in or trying to replace this pharmaceutical supply.”

Prevention Options

Beletsky pointed out a number of tools the FDA has at its disposal to address the possible crisis and clear up the shortage, including encouraging other competitors to create new sources of production, as well as encouraging the importation of Adderall from abroad.

However, while the agency would have the power to fast-track these actions to skirt regulatory hurdles, so far, they have not taken any of these steps. In response to questions as to whether the FDA will intervene and speed up the process, a spokesperson told Rogue Rocket  that the agency “evaluates all its tools and determines how best to address each shortage situation based on its cause and the public health risk associated with the shortage.”

When asked when the FDA thinks the shortage will be resolved, the spokesperson said it is “expecting the supply issues to resolve in the next 30-60 days.”

But Beletsky said he does not buy that timeline.

“I’m afraid that they may be over overly optimistic given the scale of the problem,” he told Rogue Rocket. “My guess is it’s going to take months to resolve. And I hope that, you know, most folks are able to kind of make do and not start kind of purchasing alternatives from the illicit market.” 

The professor emphasized that the current shortage is a symptom of broader problems with America’s overall system for drug regulation that goes beyond the FDA and centers on the powers granted to the DEA. 

Unlike the FDA, the DEA is a law enforcement agency, and Beletsky notes it has a long history of focusing on controlling the supply of these kinds of drugs rather than ensuring there is adequate access for the people who need them.

As a result, the DEA has very little control over both the legal and illegal markets for controlled substances. Because of this, people lack proper access to the prescriptions they need while the massive, unregulated black market is thriving.

Beletsky argued it is imperative that we use this latest shortage as yet another wake-up call to highlight the need for rethinking how drug access is structured in America.

“I think that it’s really important to highlight the failures of the DEA in this context, because the DEA, much more than the FDA, is responsible for finding that balance between access and control,” he said. “I think that we really need to reevaluate the role of the DEA in our drug regulatory system. And the FDA, on the other hand, probably could use additional authority.” 

“When it comes to essential medicines, we really need much more authority for governmental regulation to step in and sort of help to stabilize access to these particular medications, as well as many others.” 

How to Seek Help

Beletsky noted that there are several steps people who need Adderall can take until the shortage clears up.

“I think it’s important to note that there are other alternatives in the pharmaceutical supply that are not in shortage,” he explained. “And so talk to your provider about what additional tools may be available, you know, other stimulants that you can […] try to kind of bridge the gap.” 

“I think it’s also important to note that if you do turn to, you know, folks are turning to buying Adderall or other alternatives on the illicit market, it’s really important to test that supply, especially for fentanyl.”

For more information on obtaining test strips and other harm reduction tools, Beletsky recommended visiting Next Distro or finding your local harm reduction agency, which can be done on the National Harm Reduction Coalition website.

For those suffering the impact of the Adderall shortage, The Washington Post has a guide with helpful tips and ideas from professionals.

See what others are saying: (WIRED) (The New York Times) (Axios)

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Senate Approves Respect for Marriage Act, Clearing Path for Finalization

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The bill was passed 61-36 with bipartisan support from 12 Republicans and is expected to be approved by the House next week.


Respect for Marriage Act

The Senate passed a landmark bill Tuesday that will codify the right to same-sex and interracial marriage into federal law.

The legislation, called the Respect for Marriage Act, was passed in a bipartisan vote of 61-36 with 12 Republicans bucking pressure from many of their colleagues and powerful conservative groups.

The bill would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. While it will not require all states to allow for same-sex marriage, it does mandate that they recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages performed legally in states that do allow them.

Furthermore, the proposal contains a provision that Republican supporters insisted on, which clarifies that religious nonprofit organizations do not have to provide goods or services for same-sex marriages and that the federal government is not authorized to recognize polygamous marriages, among other measures.

Lawmakers introduced the bill after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, stirring concerns that the high court could come after other basic rights. In his decision to overturn Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas said he believes the court should reconsider Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that established gay marriage.

Many Republicans initially opposed the Respect for Marriage Act, claiming it was not necessary because Obergefell was still in place, and accused Democrats of trying to pull off a political stunt ahead of the midterms.

The accusations prompted the bipartisan group of Senators driving the push to postpone a vote on the matter until after the elections. 

“I feel like we were told in pretty clear terms that we would have some people support only if the vote came after the midterms,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wi.), who led the effort, told Rogue Rocket after the decision in October.

An earlier version of the bill passed the House this summer, though the changes to the language of the policy require the lower chamber to vote on it again.

That passage is all but assured as Democrats still hold the House and the last version was approved with a broad bipartisan majority that included 47 Republicans. President Joe Biden, for his part, applauded the Senate vote and said he looks forward to signing the bill.

Shift in Opinion

Other proponents of the bill also cheered its passage in the Senate, which just two decades ago would have been unimaginable, and not just because of Republican opposition.

Democrats, too, have only more recently shifted to support same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights more broadly. President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, signed DOMA into law, and President Barack Obama first voiced his support for same-sex marriage while running for his second term in 2012. 

The transformation in public opinion has happened relatively fast, especially when compared to other civil rights movements. When Clinton signed DOMA in 1996, gay marriage had the support of just 27% of the public. Now, polling shows seven in ten Americans support legal recognition.

Still, the Republican party appears to lag behind the times, with 70% of senate Republicans having opposed the Respect for Marriage Act. 

“This is a great example of politicians following public opinion rather than leading it,” Sasha Issenberg, author of “The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle over Same-Sex Marriage,” told Axios

“Now it’s Republicans who are torn between placating some of their loudest activists and taking a position that aligns with where general-election voters are.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)

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