In today's On the News segment: the New York towns of Dryden and Middlefield can say "no" to toxic-fuels; North Carolina's Republican senate committee chairman "passed" legislation to end a green energy program before he even counted the votes; both state houses in Colorado just passed a major election law to make it easier to vote, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. This may come as news to some Red state lawmakers, but there's more to the Constitution than the Second and the Tenth Amendments. Even though the universal background check bill failed the Senate, it didn't stop several Republican states from passing bills to exempt themselves from federal gun laws. Earlier this week, the Alabama state senate passed legislation to nullify all federal laws they deem "a violation of the Second Amendment." They weren't even the first, since Mississippi attempted to nullify federal laws back in January, and Kansas passed similar legislation last month. But, the nullification measures in these states are meaningless, as they violate the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which states that federal laws, "shall be the supreme law of the land." Apparently, these states think they can violate one part of the Constitution to uphold another. Thankfully, Attorney General Eric Holder is helpfully reminding these states that our Union doesn't operate that way. In a letter to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Holder wrote, "In purporting to override federal law and to criminalize the official acts of federal officers, [the law] directly conflicts with federal law and is therefore unconstitutional." These Red states can't pick and choose the parts of the Constitution they want to follow. They can't decide they like the Second and Tenth Amendments and act as if the rest doesn't apply to them. And the Supremacy Clause is one of the Constitution's most important tenants. James Madison himself warned that nullification of federal law would, "speedily put an end to the Union itself." Republicans constantly tout the importance of our founding fathers, and the Constitution they drafted to form our Union. So, it's about time that those on the Right start respecting all of it.
In screwed news... North Carolina Republicans just trashed our democratic process. And – they managed to gut renewable energy requirements in their state while they were at it. Over vocal objections from State Senators on both sides of the isle, North Carolina's Republican senate committee chairman "passed" legislation to end a green energy program before he even counted the votes. At least six Republicans sided with Democrats against the controversial bill, but Chairman Bill Rabon refused to allow a "show-of-hands" vote, and unilaterally passed it out of committee. If the legislation is approved by the full North Carolina Senate, it would strike down a mandate that utility companies get a portion of their energy from renewable sources. So, in addition to stomping all over the democratic process, Chairman Rabon single-handily trashed the green energy production in that state. This law, and the manner in which is was approved, are completely backwards. We should be encouraging green energy production in every state, and standing against anyone who thinks they can act like a dictator. Perhaps someone should remind Bill Rabon that we live in a democracy.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Colorado has embraced good government syndrome – they want everybody to vote. Both state houses just passed a major election law, which includes same-day registration, mandates mail-in ballots be automatically sent to every voter, and creates a statewide voter database to prevent fraud. Already, Colorado is one of three states that uses a universal vote-by-mail system, and voter turnout in those states typically exceeds the national average by more than five percentage points. Because same-day registration laws have been shown to boost turnout by as much as 14 points, Colorado could soon lead our nation in voter participation. Since the 2012 election, 31 states have introduced legislation to make it harder for people to vote, but not Colorado. They're streamlining the process, and making sure every voter in their state has a voice. Colorado lawmakers know that as voter participation goes up, the influence of the special interests goes down. Great Work - Now, let's make this a national policy.
It's official – the New York towns of Dryden and Middlefield can say "no" to toxic-fuels. The towns have been in a legal battle since 2011, after banning oil and gas development activities. But, New York State's highest court upheld the towns' right to keep toxic energy production out of their communities. Dryden Town Supervisor, Mary Ann Sumner, said, "We stood up for what we knew was right. And we won. The people who live here and know the town best should be the ones deciding how our land is used, not some executive in a corporate office park thousands of miles away." This is how organized people defeat organized money. Dryden and Middlefield are shining examples for other cities and towns that want to fight the oil and fracking industries. We don't have to accept toxic chemicals in our communities. If the federal government won't stand up for our right to say "no," then it's time to work town-by-town to put an end to these toxic fuels.
And finally... Who says you can't mess with Texas? One U.S. District Judge did just that in his ruling over a San Antonio city ordinance that bars exotic dancers from "entertaining" without bikini tops. Judge Fred Biery's 29-page ruling was so full of hilarious double-entendres that its hard to believe it includes a real legal outcome. He didn't waste any time getting into the jokes, starting his decision with the sentence, "an ordinance dealing with semi-nude dancers has once again fallen into the city's lap." And, while addressing the issue in the case, Judge Biery wrote, "to bare, or not to bare, that is the question." The judge denied the injunction, meaning San Antonio dancers must continue wearing their itsy-bitsy bikini tops, but he didn't let the humor stop there. His final sentence stated that if the parties choose to take the case to trial, "the Court encourages reasonable discovery intercourse as they navigate the peaks and valleys of litigation, perhaps to reach a happy ending." We'll just leave it there...
And that's the way it is today – Friday, May 3, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.