Thankful for victories

Last week the 2005-06 legislative session wrapped up in Harrisburg, and we are hyped to report two victories. These were not the “we beat back a horrible bill” type victories. In fact, bills supported by the ACLU of PA passed the legislature.

First, in legislation championed by Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), the Assembly passed SB 669. Court interpreters will now be in all Commonwealth courtrooms across the state, a recommendation made in the 2003 report by the PA Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System. Here are some words of wisdom on the issue from ACLU-PA lobbyist Larry Frankel, courtesy of WITF-FM.

This bill now awaits the signature of Governor Rendell.

Second, as discussed previously at SF, the Innocence Commission of Pennsylvania has been established. The commission will take the nine DNA exonerations in Pennsylvania, examine them, and determine remedies for assuring that innocent people are not convicted of crimes. Senate Bill 1069, The Innocence Commission Act, passed the Senate unanimously in April but hit a roadblock in the House Judiciary Committee. On the second-to-last day of the session last week, Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) introduced Senate Resolution 381 to establish the commission under the Joint State Government Commission, and it passed unanimously. Because it went the resolution route, approval from the House and Governor is not required.

It sure is nice to win, rather than not lose.

Andy in the HBG