While we’re at it, one final plug: there’s still plenty of time to make a tax-deductible year-end contribution to the ACLU and ACLU-PA!
- The jury will rule on the claim
- The jury will hear the claim after it has convicted the person of first degree murder
- The burden is on the defendant to prove that he has ID
- The jury’s ruling in favor of the defendant must be unanimous
And this is why we need your support. Please consider making a year-end, tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Pennsylvania because freedom can’t protect itself.
|The Mort family, with Isabella|
As I reflect on the past year as an ACLU-PA staff attorney, foremost in my mind are the clients I represented. Sometimes, we focus more on the civil liberties we defend than the individuals who are affected – and while we say “the Constitution is our client,” it’s the people we represent who illustrate why the Constitution is so important. It takes courage and perseverance to stand up for your rights. Their will and determination protect those rights for all of us.
The ACLU works on many important issues, and I would never want to rank any of them by importance. They all matter to someone or everyone. But there are few rights more fundamental to the health of our democracy than the right to vote. It must be vigorously protected. Your support gives us the ability to organize and lobby against this voter suppression tactic. Please consider making a year-end donation to the ACLU of Pennsylvania today because freedom can’t protect itself.
Many Pennsylvanians, including some parole and probation officers, are not aware that ex-offenders retain their right to vote. Thanks to an ACLU-PA court victory, Pittsburgh buses will soon carry advertisements informing people of the truth.
And that’s why your support of the ACLU of Pennsylvania is so critical. Without you, there might be one less lobbyist, one less lawyer, one less community organizer to push back when our government tries to erode our rights. I’m at the capitol every session day, and I can tell you that the threat is real. Please donate today – because freedom can’t protect itself.
SB 732 has been called the worst thing to happen for women’s health in the Commonwealth since the Abortion Control Act passed in 1982. It requires clinics that provide abortion care to comply with hugely expensive and medically unnecessary new regulations. No medical organization supports it, and professional associations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, actively oppose the regulations. Undeterred, SB 732’s advocates insisted it somehow protects women and voted it through the House and Senate. It now awaits a signature or a veto from Governor Corbett.
Juveniles: Yesterday the governor signed Senate Bill 1183, implementing the federal Adam Walsh Act in Pennsylvania. This is a bill that, among other things, requires lifetime registration for juvenile sex offenders. The recidivism rate for juvenile sex offenders is only around 1%, and the collateral consequences of registration (problems finding employment, housing, etc.) can be devastating. At least two states, Texas and New York, have informed the federal government that they will not implement AWA. In Ohio, the first state to implement the law, legal costs to fight off lawsuits alone have cost the state $10 million. If Ohio had not complied with the law, it would have lost $935,000 in federal grant funding.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania General Assembly did not hold a single public hearing on the legislation.
Capital punishment: The Senate adopted Senate Resolution 6, which calls for a study of capital punishment in the Commonwealth. The resolution creates a task force to study issues including the cost effectiveness of capital punishment, whether there is bias in the selection of defendants for capital trials, and a number of other important issues. We hope that the study will shine more sunlight on how the death penalty functions in Pennsylvania, which is badly.
The … Ambiguous
Immigration: The bad news is that Senate Bill 9, which makes it a felony for an unauthorized alien to possess a public benefits card, passed the House State Government Committee on Dec. 6. We oppose SB 9 because of the risk that it will cause public agencies to deny benefits to people who are entitled to them, because either they lack ID or because the administrative burden of complying with SB 9 would slow down public agencies. The good news is that other, even more radical anti-immigration legislation hasn’t been moving forward lately. Hopefully the legislators have realized how devastating anti-immigration legislation has been in Alabama, Arizona, and Georgia, and will refrain from doing anything so detrimental to our economic recovery.
Voting Rights: House Bill 934, which requires photo ID to vote, is another solution in search of a problem. The Senate State Government Committee passed it on Dec. 12 by one vote, and the bill is now in the Senate Appropriations Committee. There’s no evidence that in-person voter fraud is a problem in Pennsylvania, and legislators may realize that spending state money to implement this unnecessary law isn’t a good idea. We’ll see what happens.
So here’s our New Year’s toast to Harrisburg: “2011 wasn’t as bad as it could have been, though it was plenty bad. Thanks for being done for the year. Also, feel free to take it easy in 2012. In fact, if you’d like to just stay home, we wouldn’t hold it against you.”
Nathan Vogel, Frankel Legislative Fellow, Philadelphia
It’s been a very mixed year for we civil libertarians, with major victories and stunning defeats. On one hand, we’re all happy to be out of Iraq – on the other, Gitmo is fast approaching its tenth year in business, and Congress has given the President nearly unchecked authority to detain or execute suspected terrorists. Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell died in 2011, and New York State doubled the number of LGBT Americans with full marriage rights, but Pennsylvania is once again considering a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. We’ve dramatically increased the number of Americans with access to decent health care, but Pennsylvanians may soon have to leave the state to get a safe and legal abortion. Through it all, we’ve been encouraged to see record numbers of Americans take to the streets to make their voices heard – and sickened to see them arrested, beaten, and pepper-sprayed for speaking out in a public forum.
See what I mean? Mixed year.
As we always are, the ACLU has been in the middle of most of these issues, as busy as ever in the courthouse and busier perhaps than ever before in Congress and state legislatures across the country. We’ve been so busy, in fact, that it’s going to take us the rest of the year to tell you about it.
Over the next ten days, we’ll review some of the highs and lows of 2011, to let you know what the ACLU has been doing for you – both in Pennsylvania and across the country – and to remind you why we need your support. In return, we hope you will consider becoming a card-carrying member (if you’re not already), making a tax-deductible year-end contribution, or both – because if there’s one thing we want you to know about our work, it’s that we can’t do it without you.
The news on civil liberties out of the state capitol isn’t all bad. Learn more about three positive developments this week at the General Assembly.