In the legislature: looking forward to 2006?

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has just released its Legislative Report for 2005. The report provides a round up of all the issues we’ve worked on for the past year, many of which will be cropping up as Congress and the PA legislature come back into session. A few things that will be coming up in the days ahead:

Death Penalty and Mental Retardation
: Last week, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision called on the legislature to take action on the 2002 United States Supreme Court’s Atkins decision that declared that it is unconstitutional to execute individuals with mental retardation. We will be mobilizing support for a Pennsylvania ban that contains a mechanism for determining mental retardation before trial (something that the Atkins decision does not address). We are already working on this issue, in cooperation with the ARC of Pennsylvania and other allies.

“Anti-Voting Rights” Act: HB 1318, which would require photo ID of all voters and was originally written such that it disenfranchised people serving probation or parole, was passed in the PA Senate in December. It has been recommitted to the Rules Committee of the PA House, which could reinstate the language about felon disenfranchisement. Activists around the state are organizing to defeat this bill. This past week, letters to the editor have been published in the Delaware County Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

PATRIOT Act: The Bush Administration has launched its pro-PATRIOT Act campaign backed by a phalanx of U.S. attorneys. Read Bush’s statement here; it speaks for itself.

“Members from both parties came together and said we will give those on the front line of protecting America the tools necessary to protect American citizens, and at the same time, guard the civil liberties of our citizens. For four years, that’s what’s happened. These good folks have used the Patriot Act to protect America. There’s oversight on this important program.”