Sunday, March 6, 2011

Legislation in the News Contest -- Week Six

Continuing an earlier theme, this week's winner is Erin Mayer for a story on an anti-union bill in the Ohio legislature. As reports:

While much of the nation's attention remains focused on a stalled proposal in Wisconsin to restrict collective bargaining rights for public workers, an Ohio measure that in some ways is tougher and broader is speeding toward reality.

A Senate panel and then the full chamber approved the Ohio measure Wednesday amid jeers from onlookers. The bill would restrict the collective bargaining rights of roughly 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees, while Wisconsin's would affect about 175,000 workers and exempt police and firefighters.

"For as far-reaching this thing is and how many lives it will affect, I can't believe how fast it moved," said Columbus Police Sgt. Shaun Laird, who wanted lawmakers to spend more time debating the changes.

Wisconsin's bill remains in limbo after Democrats hightailed it for the Illinois border on the day the Senate was to adopt the bill. Their absence left the chamber one member short of the quorum needed for a vote.

In contrast, the Ohio bill could go as early as next week to House committee hearings. Republicans hold a 59-40 majority in the House, where the measure is likely to receive strong support.

Members of the class also submitted stories about two recent Supreme Court decisions: Michigan v. Bryant, which allowed a murder victim's dying words to be admitted into evidence at trial, and Snyder v. Phelps, which held that the First Amendment protects the right of members of the Westboro Baptist Church to picket near the funeral of a soldier who was killed in Iraq. These are both extremely interesting cases, but they largely fall outside the scope of the contest because they do not involve statutes: Bryant is a Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause case, and Snyder holds that the First Amendment preempts a common law tort action for intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

Entries for this week's contest are due on Friday, March 11, at 9 a.m.

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