Friday, March 11, 2011

Legislation in the News Contest -- Week Seven

One of the biggest legislation stories this week was the decision of Gov. Pat Quinn to sign a bill abolishing the death penalty in Illinois. As the New York Times reported:

Illinois became the 16th state to ban capital punishment as Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday signed an abolition bill that the state legislature passed in January.

“Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it,” Mr. Quinn said in a statement.

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Illinois joins a wave of states that have reconsidered capital punishment. New Jersey abolished the practice in 2007. The New Mexico Legislature ended the death penalty in 2009. New Mexico’s newly elected governor, Susana Martinez, a Republican, has asked the Legislature to reinstate it, though bills to do so have stalled. The Connecticut legislature voted to abolish the penalty last year, but the governor at the time, M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, vetoed the measure.

Congratulations to Max Barack for submitting the winning story.

With spring break coming up next week, the next deadline for contest submissions will be 9 am on the Friday after we get back: Friday, March 25. Any story that is published before that date is eligible.

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.