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Stateline June 2009


Spokane, Wash., has adopted a near total ban on the sales of dishwasher detergents containing phosphates—a first in the nation, ac-cording to the Los Angeles Times. The concern is over the Spokane River. Phosphates act as a fertilizer in the water, promoting the growth of algae that nurture bacteria that consume much of the oxygen in the water, leaving little for plants and fish. But the detergent industry hasn’t had enough time to come up with acceptable alternatives, causing many residents to drive 20 miles to Idaho and smug-gle the bad stuff home. “With the ‘green’ stuff, the dishes come out with a real slippery texture, like somebody poured a cup of grease in some dishwater, and a white film. Just really gross,” mom Patti Marcotte told the Times. The industry has promised to make every automatic dishwashing soap sold in the United States and Canada nearly phosphate-free by mid-2010. At least 12 states are phasing in low-phosphate laws by the end of next year.


The bad economy is causing boat owners to abandon ship, literally. Like overstretched homeowners, boat owners who can no longer afford payments, cannot sell their used boat or simply can’t afford to maintain it are scratching off the names and registry numbers and ditching their vessels. It costs thousands of dollars to properly dispose of a boat. “Our waters have become dumping grounds,” Major Paul R. Ouellette of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told The New York Times. In January, South Carolina passed a law to make it illegal to abandon a boat on a public waterway. And California lawmakers are looking at a boater bailout plan that encourages owners to surrender unwanted boats to the state.


A bill in the Oregon House calls for honesty at the bar. It would allow the Liquor Control Commission to issue decals to establish-ments that meet the “honest pint” standard—by monitoring how much beer a serving contains. “If someone advertises a pint, don’t you think you should get a pint?” says Representative Mike Schaufler, a co-sponsor of the bill. Apparently this is a concern around the world. According to The Oregonian, England and Germany measure the amount of beer served with a line on the glass that al-lows everyone to see just how much liquid, and how much head, one is getting.


Some cash-strapped communities—about a dozen so far—are printing their own money, according to USA Today, to help consum-ers make ends meet while supporting struggling local businesses. Customers benefit since they buy the currency at a discount, and businesses benefit since the money can be spent only at local participating stores. It’s an idea from the Great Depression. By law, local money cannot resemble or be promoted as real bills.


A federal appeals court has upheld a Texas law that requires public school students to observe a moment of silence every day. Stu-dents can pray silently, reflect or do nothing during the minute. The appeals court ruled it is constitutional because it expressly allows any silent use of that minute, whether religious or not.


Utah school districts now have permission from the State Board of Education to cancel up to five school days in the 2010 school year to save money. The board requires school districts cutting days, however, to have local school board approval and include input from parents. “This motion horrifies me,” said Board Member Carol Murphy, who voted against the measure.


The Illinois Library Association sold Obama license plates this winter to raise money for its 2010 summer reading program. The plates, which read “Illinois Salutes President Barack Obama” made $50,000 for the program that encourages kids to grab a book during the summer. The plates, valid in the state through April 17, now can be purchased nationwide as collectors’ items.


California fifth-grader Tori Smith chose to research Arizona for her state report, and she found out a lot about the state. Its official neckwear is the bola tie, the official tree is the paloverde, and the official butterfly is the two-tailed swallowtail. But she couldn’t find when Arizona got its nickname, the Grand Canyon State. Turns out the name had never been made official. That inspired Represen-tative Sam Crump to sponsor a bill to make it so. “It’s the feel-good bill of the session,” Crump told The Arizona Republic.


The United States has asked the International Maritime Organization to create an emission control area around the nation’s coast-line to force domestic and foreign ships to curb harmful emissions they spew into the air. The restrictions would require tankers, cruise and cargo ships to emit less sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and soot while within 200 nautical miles of the shoreline. “This is an important—and long overdue—step in our efforts to protect the air and water along our shores, and the health of the people in our coastal communities,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.


Several states are considering banning the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers in animal shelters as a means of euthanasia. Animal rights supporters say the process is inhumane. “During the process, which can take 30 minutes, panicked animals may gasp for breath, try to claw out of the chamber, and even attack each other,” says Daphna Nachminovitch, of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told USA Today. Some veterinary groups counter that, while injection is the preferred method, it is not always safe to use with aggressive feral animals. According to the Humane Society, 12
states al-ready ban these gas chambers.


The Supreme Court ruled recently that even though Congress apologized for the “illegal overthrow” of the Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1893, that did not strip the state of its authority to sell or transfer about 1.2 million acres of land (29 percent of the islands). The court’s 9-0 decision overturns a ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court that blocked the sale of land passed on to Hawai’i when it became the 50th state. The Supreme Court rejected the state court’s opinion that federal lawmakers had recognized the “inherent sovereignty of the native Hawai’ian people” through its official apology. Many Native Hawai’ians remain frustrated about how their islands were taken and divvied up by outsiders, according to the Associated Press.


New York passed Rachel’s Law last year to protect writers and publishers from libel judgments in countries where laws are inconsis-tent with the freedom of speech granted in the United States. Author Rachel Ehrenfeld was sued for libel by a man discussed in her book about funding terrorism. That lawsuit was brought in England—where libel judgments are much easier to obtain than in the United States. The law—authored by Assemblymen Rory Lancman and Tom Alfano and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos—bars New York courts from enforcing such foreign libel judgments, and expands a person’s ability to have a court declare a foreign judgment invalid. Illinois followed suit shortly after New York, and California and Congress are also looking at the issue.