Stateline | Brighter Side of Legislative News



States Ban Wild Animal Shows

The pressure brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups succeeded in getting the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to retire its performing elephants in 2016. But state and local restrictions on the use of wild animals in performances continued to increase, and Ringling shut down its circus for good in 2017, citing high costs and falling attendance. New Jersey was the first, in 2018, to enact a statewide ban the use of wild animals in circuses; Hawaii quickly followed suit. Advocates hope Congress will be the next to act. Bills in both chambers would prohibit the use of wild animals in traveling circuses across the U.S. More than 40 countries have similar bans.

Glib Forward, With Regrettable Aftertaste

A clever beer name—Smooth Hoperator and Baby Got Bock are classics—can make a good brew even more appealing. But it can also lead to trouble, if unintentionally. A Texas brewer offended Marshall Islanders by naming one of its beers Bikini Atoll, after the site of extensive U.S. nuclear testing from 1946 to 1958. Bikini remains uninhabitable because of high levels of radiation, and islanders are still dealing with health problems decades later. North Carolina is preventing a Utah brewer from selling its Polygamy Porter in the state because it says the beer’s name and its label art promote an unlawful act.  The Texas brewery has stated it did not intend “to mock or trivialize the nuclear testing” but also said it take would “no further action in this matter.” The Utah brewery has said it would consider legal action to appeal North Carolina’s decision.

Seeing Green at the Capitol

A sharp-eyed visitor spotted what appeared to be marijuana plants in the flower beds in front of the Vermont Statehouse. After some inspection, Capitol Police found 34 immature plants they said were either hemp or marijuana. They weren’t sure because the plants were too young to differentiate. Testing would answer the question, but the department has no plans to do that because it doesn’t have a criminal case. Possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use is legal in the state. Vermont was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the legislature rather than by ballot in 2018; it legalized medicinal marijuana in 2004.

Keep Calm and Play Fetch

Tough day at the capitol? If you were in the Colorado Statehouse last session, you could drop by the Senate Leadership Office—the one with the “Office Dogs at Play” sign on the door. Gary, Sven, Annabelle, Lulu and Queso all are excellent listeners and require only a friendly scratch or belly rub in return. The office is the shared workspace of Senators Lois Court, Faith Winter and Kerry Donovan, and the pups are theirs or those of various aides. The cuddlesome canines are companionable with lobbyists, lawmakers and assistants alike. “You look at that little guy and it’s very difficult to stay angry and unhappy,” one lobbyist said.

Enough With the Offensive Outfits

Native communities and activists for indigenous women scored a victory this summer when an Arizona lingerie company removed Native American-themed costumes from its website. Activists had worked for years to get the company, Yandy, to stop selling outfits that include leather fringe, beaded headbands and headdresses. They consider the use of such elements to be not only culturally insensitive, but also a potential danger to Native women. Some researchers and scholars have linked the hypersexualizing of indigenous women to their much higher than average risk of sexual assault.

New Law Is Cat’s Meow

New York is the first state to ban the declawing of cats, a procedure that has saved many a cat owner’s furniture but that advocates say can be cruel and painful. The measure was opposed by a veterinarians’ group, which views declawing as “a medical decision, not a legislative decision.” Vets who perform the procedure for nonmedical purposes now face a $1,000 fine. “It’s a wonderful day for the cats of the state and the people who love them,” Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D), the bill’s sponsor, said. At least three dozen countries and several U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver, already ban cat declawing. Other states are considering similar prohibitions.

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