The October 2014 Supreme Court term has officially ended, and what a way to end. There is a term in bridge for when a player runs the table, whether they have the best cards or not; it is called a "finesse." That is what it was like watching the decisions come down in the last days of the term: a total finesse game, with civil liberties coming out the winner.
As we blogged about last week, the U.S. Senate has spent several years hemming and hawing over whether to protect LGBT students from discrimination at school. It's been an embarassing parade of inaction, with the original legislation, known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act, not even being given a chance for an up-or-down vote. Finally, yesterday, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota brought up the effort as an amendment to a separate bill as a way of forcing senators to vote on the issue.
Gov. LePage has set both the single-session and all-time record for vetoes by a Maine governor, and he still has three years left to go. For a number of months this session, he vetoed every bill that was sponsored by a legislator from the Democratic Party, even though each of the bills that reached him had both Democratic and Republican support. Then, suddenly, the vetoes stopped.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on marriage, it’s easy to feel like the law is finally on the side of LGBT rights. But for all the progress we’ve made, there is still much work to be done – especially when it comes to protecting young LGBT students.
Gov. LePage’s claim that he has used the “pocket veto” to keep nearly 20 bills from becoming law is invalid under the Maine Constitution. Under the Constitution, the governor has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to veto bills after they have been passed by the legislature and presented to him, unless the legislature adjourns during that time. In this case, several bills have been waiting for action from the governor for more than 10 days, and the legislature has not adjourned the session.
The last two weeks have been phenomenal weeks for all of the reproductive justice and abortion rights bills making their way through the state legislature. After a long wait, we finally saw movement on four bills addressing women's reproductive health. Two anti-abortion bills were soundly defeated and two bills supporting women’s reproductive rights were passed in both chambers of the legislature.
On Sunday, the Portland Press Herald published this story on the number of people incarcerated for failing to pay a criminal fine in Maine and the enormous cost to taxpayers. According to research by the ACLU of Maine, every year thousands of Mainers are booked into county jails for no other reason than failing to pay a criminal fine. In some counties, almost 20 percent of total jail bookings were just for unpaid fines.
A couple weeks ago, MPBN aired this sad story: for the third year in a row the number of drug related deaths in Maine increased. In 2014, 208 Mainers died, up from 176 in 2013. These statistics are a sad and tragic reminder of the failures of our current drug policy. Many of these deaths could have been prevented. Many of these families could have been spared the intense pain of the loss of a loved one.
Earlier today, President Obama announced a ban on the federal government’s transfer of certain military vehicles and weaponry to local and state police departments in the United States. This is extremely welcome news, and given that it is effective today, it will immediately begin to show dividends by increasing the trust between police and the public they serve.