May 14, 2020
Hill Highlights is an NCSL electronic newsletter for Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee members and interested staff. This newsletter provides updates and links to the latest research and news highlights related to law, criminal justice and public safety.
On May 6, House and Senate Democrats introduced the Invest in Child Safety Act, a bill that seeks to combat internet child pornography and sexual exploitation while protecting strong encryption. The bill seeks to balance efforts to protect encryptions with the needs of law enforcement to access online communications with a warrant. The bill also provides funding for additional staff at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The NCSL criminal justice program is hosting a series of virtual meetings on the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on policy and criminal justice and public safety systems. They will feature NCSL staff and other experts on these topics, as well as allow time for discussion. The full list of past and upcoming meetings and registration links are below. These events are open to all legislators and their staff, and NCSL partner organizations. The meeting series webpage will be periodically updated with speakers, recordings and resources for each meeting.
The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) denied the request by a number of Pennsylvania business owners to stay (stop) the enforcement of Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order “compelling the closure of the physical operations of all businesses and entities that he deemed to be non-life-sustaining” due to COVID-19. The business owners alleged the executive order amounted to an unconstitutional taking and that it violates several other constitutional rights, including equal protection and free speech. The business owners noted this case has national implications because the Pennsylvania executive order is similar to other executive orders issued across the country.
On April 13, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled against the business owners on all their claims and held “a temporary loss of the use of the applicants’ business premises to protect the lives and health of millions of Pennsylvania citizens does not violate the Constitution.” SCOTUS’ denial of the stay means the ruling of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stands.
In a two-page per curiam (unauthored) opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, SCOTUS held that a challenge to New York City’s rule disallowing residents to transport firearms to a second home or shooting range outside of the city is moot. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing the rule was constitutional. NCSL did not join this brief.
SCOTUS concluded the case was moot because after the court agreed to hear it, “the State of New York amended its firearm licensing statute, and the city amended the rule so that [residents] may now transport firearms to a second home or shooting range outside of the city, which is the precise relief … requested.”
The SLLC amicus brief argued New York City’s former rule is constitutional because it only imposes a modest burden on those who wish to “bear” arms in public places. It also agreed new complaints with the revised rule should be heard by the lower courts instead of SCOTUS.
NCSL is committed to providing our members with timely responses to state research requests and the essential knowledge needed to guide state action. This webpage reflects new resources in policy areas ranging from education to health care costs and access. Check back often—resources will be updated as they become available.