Stateline: December 2009
The Montana Department of Livestock has a new website for lost and found livestock. It lists the animals in their possession and when they will be sold if not claimed. For example, on Oct. 14, three lost animals were listed—a miniature burro, a Shetland Pony and a black bull. A new law changed the rules, and officials are hoping to save around $6,000 annually in boarding and advertising costs, according to the Associated Press. Previously, animals had to be held for 30 to 60 days, and notices had to be published at least once a week for four consecutive weeks. The new rules call for animals to be held for only 10 to 30 days.
Three of the four 94-year-old concrete lions that once guarded the entrances to the Utah Capitol have been sold to a local amusement park for $16,000 through an eBay auction for surplus state property, according to the Deseret News. The fourth lion was sold to an anonymous Salt Lake resident for $8,100. State officials were elated the bedraggled lions fetched that much. The proceeds will be used to maintain the renovated Capitol, including the building’s new sentries, four marble lions.
Blowing in the Wind
Lawmakers in Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Utah and Vermont have recently passed laws protecting citizens’ rights to hang laundry outdoors to dry, overriding homeowner association rules that prohibit the practice. And legislators in Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia are looking at similar protections. Proponents of these laws cite environmental concerns that clothes dryers account for at least 6 percent of household electricity consumption. Opponents argue the laws erode private property rights. It doesn’t look like the debate will dry up any time soon.
Eat It Anyway
Researchers recently looked at whether New York City’s law requiring restaurant chains to post calories was making any difference in what people choose to order. Not much, they discovered. They found that people had, after noticing the calorie counts, ordered slightly more calories than the typical customer had before the labeling law went into effect in July 2008. Professors from New York University and Yale studied customers in parts of the city with a high proportion of obesity and diabetes among poor minority populations. They tracked customers at four fast-food chains.
The Missouri Capitol recently hosted delegates for the annual, two-day Silver-Haired Legislature. The delegates—three senators and 12 representatives from each of the state’s 10 Area Agencies on Aging—are elected each May by those who attend nutrition or senior centers. They determine the needs of seniors in their districts and then prepare bills for the Silver-Haired session. During the two-day session, they vote on the top five priorities they want the General Assembly to consider next session. All delegates are over 60 and serve without pay.
State for Sale
Arizona is planning to sell many state properties to help cover its huge budget deficit. Officials are hoping to get between $350 million and $700 million for properties such as the House and Senate buildings, the state hospital, and Kartchner Caverns State Park. They would then lease back the properties over several years, eventually resuming ownership. Investors, Arizona House Majority Leader John McComish told the Christian Science Monitor, “are looking for solid places to invest, and the state of Arizona is still a pretty good investment.” California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania are unloading state holdings as well.
Guilty of Nursing
Florida lawmakers are looking at a bill to exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty. If adopted, the state would join 12 other states that allow these new mothers to opt out. According to health professionals and public health officials, breastfeeding improves the health of both infants and mothers. Breast milk contains antibodies that protect infants from bacteria and viruses, resulting in fewer health care visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations and thus lower medical care costs compared to bottle-fed infants. Breastfeeding also helps mothers return to pre-pregnancy weight sooner and reduces their risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer and osteoporosis. Forty-three states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location.
An Eye for Tattooing
Warning: this Stateline is not for the squeamish. Oklahoma has passed a law prohibiting scleral tattooing. That’s the practice of scarring or inserting a pigment on, in or under the white part of the human eye. Apparently, the issue was brought to lawmakers’ attention by the Oklahoma Academy of Opthamology. Supporters cite warnings by doctors that eye tattoos could lead to blindness. “It is completely patently disgusting and crazy to do it,” Oklahoma Senator Cliff Branan told KSBI-TV. “This is simply too great a risk to public health. We want to make sure our laws are up-to-date and can address this practice before someone loses their vision over this fad,” he said. Tattoo artists in the state have called the law a “waste of time,” noting that the practice is far from common.
Drugs and Crashes
In 16 states, drugs now kill more people than do auto crashes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the drug-related death rate doubled from the late 1990s to 2006. Cocaine and heroin continue to be big killers, but most of the increase in deaths is attributed to prescription painkillers such as methadone, Oxycontin and Vicodin. About 90 percent of the drug fatalities are from overdoses, while the other 10 percent are from organ damage caused by long-term drug use. Nationally, the death rate from traffic accidents fell by about 6.5 percent from 1999 to 2006, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Mississippi is now requiring all public schools to teach civil rights as part of their U.S. history curriculum, a first in the nation, according to The Christian Science Monitor. “How can you have a strong education program when you have high-achieving grads who have such little understanding of their own history?” asks Chauncey Spears, a local curriculum specialist. The bill, passed in 2006, requires that by fall 2010 all students—kindergartners to seniors—be exposed to (and tested on) civil rights education. While some worry that the curriculum will do nothing but open old wounds, proponents say the goal is to make Mississippi’s future better.
The Pat Effect
Women lawyers with masculine-sounding names in South Carolina have a better chance of becoming judges than those with very feminine names, according to a study reported in the ABA Journal. Researchers from Clemson University found that changing a feminine name to a more masculine name (Sue to Cameron, for example) tripled the odds of that woman becoming a judge. They looked at websites and interviewed law clerks to determine which South Carolina judges are female. Female judges in the state with male-sounding first names included Bruce, Kelly, Cameron, Barney, Dale and Rudell.