Laws and Legislation

The May 5 State Ballot Proposal: What Is It? What Would It Do?

Tuesday April 7, 2015: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event will be recorded

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area (LWV-AAA) hosts this discussion of the May 5 Ballot Proposal, “A proposal to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6% to 7% to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposes by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.”

Susan Smith, President, League of Women Voters of Michigan, will lead the discussion, which will provide information on the proposal to amend the Michigan Constitution and on new laws that will be triggered if the amendment is approved by the voters. The presentation includes information on how state revenue would be increased and how it would be spent. Pros and cons of passing the legislation will also be discussed.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization and this event's cosponsor, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

New Adult Nonfiction: A Deadly Wandering

In the brand new book A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention by Pulitzer Prize winning author Matt Richtel, humans’ relationship with technology is explored through the lens of a deadly car accident. Utah college student Reggie Shaw killed two scientists while weaving in and out of his lane on the highway, texting a friend. Richtel describes the accident and follows Shaw through the aftermath, including the investigation, Shaw’s prosecution and his ultimate redemption. This tragedy offers a unique backdrop for the larger issues that Richtel explores in this fascinating book. He uses recent scientific findings on human attention, evolution, and the impact of technology on our brains to explain how it embeds itself into “all aspects of our lives, plays to our deepest social instincts, and preys on parts of the brain that crave stimulation, creating loops of compulsion and even addiction” (from book jacket). Richtel also uses all this information as a jumping-off point for actionable solutions to help manage our personal and societal distractions.

Matt Richtel is a reporter for the New York Times who focuses on the impact of technology on our lives. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for a series of articles that exposed the risks of distracted driving and its root causes. His work has prompted widespread reform in promoting awareness of and creating policies against distracted driving. He is also the author of Hooked: A Thriller About Love and Other Addictions, and Devil’s Plaything: a Mystery for Idle Minds.

New LGBTQ Books

Want to learn more about history, issues, and personal stories relating to the LGBTQ community? You’re in luck, because AADL just got in a bundle of new (and new to us) books on these topics!

For amazing vintage photographs of LGBTQ folks, check out the beautiful new book The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride. Each photograph, which range in date from 1900 to 1960, tells a beautiful and intriguing story. Taken as a whole, these lovely portraits illuminate a part of history that is frequently glossed over. If the photographs make you wish you knew more about early American gay couples, take a look at Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America, which details the lives of two women who built a life together in the early 1800s.

If you’re interested in a primer on LGBTQ issues and facts, you will want to check out both "You Can Tell Just By Looking": And 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People and Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue. For a more indepth look at these topics, try Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion and Gender Outlaws : The Next Generation.

The titles above are just a sample of the books we’ve gotten in! For a complete list, look here: New LGBTQ Books

LBJ and the Great Society Speech

The University of Michigan Commencement of May 22, 1964, set a precedent that may come as a surprise to many Ann Arborites. It was the first time a sitting President spoke on campus. Despite the fact that he would be in town only a short time, the preparations on the campus and in the city to welcome President Lyndon B. Johnson were extensive. Public and private schools were scheduled to close on Commencement Day. Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies planned a coordinated security effort to accommodate what was expected to be President Johnson's largest audience.

President Johnson used the opportunity to promote his Great Society initiative, aimed at addressing poverty and racial inequality in the United States. The Ann Arbor News ran the entire text of the speech and University President Harlan H. Hatcher praised a " serious and significant" speech. The election-year speech brought politicians in droves to the commencement and Ann Arbor News reporter Bud Vestal provided insightful commentary on the political interplay throughout the day, especially between LBJ and Governor Romney.

C-SPAN was in town recently filming for an upcoming program on Ann Arbor that includes interviews with local authors, community and cultural leaders. Local historian Grace Shackman, whose Then & Now columns in the Observer have chronicled much of Ann Arbor's past, was interviewed about LBJ's time in Ann Arbor. Coverage of C-SPAN's Ann Arbor visit will be aired on November 16 & 17 on C-SPAN's Book TV and American History TV.

Read all the Ann Arbor News articles on President Johnson's visit to Ann Arbor.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) from New Jersey, has died

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey, who was the last living World War II veteran serving in the U.S.Senate as well as its oldest member (he turned 89 in January), died early this morning at a New York Hospital.

Sen. Lautenberg was a first-generation American (his parents were Polish and Russian). He and two childhood friends founded the first automated payroll system in the U.S. (ADP -- Automated Data Processing) which became a worldwide company.

In 1982, Sen. Lautenberg won his first term in the U.S. Senate and retired at the end of 2000. Just two years later, he was drafted by NJ Democrats to save the 2002 Senate race from sinking due to the multi-scandal-ridden career of Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli. He won that election and the election of 2008 with wide margins.

Sen. Lautenberg was one of the most liberal members of the Senate and proud of it. He won successful legislative battles to ban smoking on airplanes and to prevent domestic abusers from owning guns. He tightened the drunk driving laws and was instrumental in getting the drinking age raised to 21. He was one of the most active Senators -- he cast his 9000th vote in in December of 2011.

As his health failed earlier this year, he announced that he would serve out this term and not seek re-election in 2014.

Sen. Lautenberg died of complications stemming from viral pneumonia.

On This Day in History--January 31st: Congress passed the 13th Amendment in 1865, for the abolition of slavery

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude, was finally passed through Congress on January 31, 1865. Throughout the 1860’s the number of proposals for legislation that abolished slavery began to grow, until finally the Senate Judiciary Committee combined three proposals made by Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri, Representative James Mitchell Ashley of Ohio, and Representative James F. Wilson of Iowa, and introduced the resulting amendment proposal to the Senate.

The Senate passed the amendment on April 8, 1864, by a vote of 38 to 6, but the House of Representatives took much longer to make a decision. Its passage was due in large part to President Lincoln, who made it part of his campaign platform for the 1864 presidential election. It was finally passed by the House on January 31, 1865, and then sent to the state legislatures to be ratified. On December 6th, when Georgia became the 27th of the then 36 states to ratify it, it was finally adopted into the constitution.

The 13th Amendment was the first of the three Reconstruction Amendments to be adopted after the end of the American Civil War. The 14th Amendment gave African-Americans citizenship, equal rights, and equal protection, and the 15th Amendment gave them the right to vote. Follow the links to AADL’s collection for more about the Civil War and the 13th Amendment!

RELATED POSTS:
Civil War - Comrades in Arms

Robert Bork, controversial legal scholar, Supreme Court nominee, and judge, has died

Robert Bork, an influential conservative legal presence in American history for many decades, has died.

Bork, a former Marine, segued from an attorney in private practice to a professor at Yale Law School. Some of his notable students were Bill and Hillary Clinton, Robert Reich, Anita Hill, and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Bork made first headlines on October, 20, 1973. Richard Nixon, embroiled in the Watergate scandal, demanded that Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox be fired, triggering the Saturday Night Massacre. Both U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than carry out this order. Bork then immediately became Acting Attorney General and complied with Nixon's order, which was found to be illegal in a lawsuit filed in November by Ralph Nader.

Fourteen years later, President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork (who by then was a Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.) for a seat on the Supreme Court. The pushback from Senate Democrats was fierce in light of Bork's support for the South's wish to impose poll taxes and for rolling back key aspects of civil rights. His nomination was rejected and Judge Anthony Kennedy won unanimous approval.

Bork then resigned from the Court of Appeals, accepting a position as senior fellow at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

He was back in the news for endorsing Governor Mitt Romney for President on August 2, 2011 for the second time (he had also endorsed Romney on December 15, 2007).

Mr. Bork, who was 85, died of heart complications.

Arlen Specter, longtime U.S. Senator, has died

Arlen Specter, a tough-as-nails Senator from Pennsylvania for almost 30 years, died yesterday at his home in Philadelphia.

Specter was a sandwich Republican (he began and ended his long political career as a Democrat) from 1965 to 2009 who was known for being a moderate in an increasingly hard right Party. He thrived on using his Yale law degree as a member and Chair of the Judiciary Committee where he infuriated the GOP by sinking the nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork and by enraging the Democrats with his unbridled interrogation of Anita Hill during the successful confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas.

In 2009, Specter returned to his Democratic roots in his run in the primary for his Senate seat which he lost to Joe Sestak who, in turn, lost the Senate race to Republican Pat Toomey.

Earlier this year, Sen. Specter published a book with Charles Robbins about the struggle within the GOP for its future direction. Life among the Cannibals: A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing as We Know It. He describes his role in creating the Tea Party and his two deciding votes which helped pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 a.k.a. the stimulus, and the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare.

Senator Specter, who had battled several bouts of cancer and heart trouble, died from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 82.

Michigan Legal Help Website Online Now!

A new legal self-help website, www.michiganlegalhelp.org offers information and many resources for Michigan residents who need to represent themselves in simple civil legal matters. The Michigan Legal Help website is part of a pilot project overseen by the Solutions on Self-Help Task Force. The website was created to make legal information easier to understand and to show people how to navigate the court system properly and efficiently. The website can also help users look for a lawyer or legal self-help center in their area if they need more assistance. Visit www.michiganlegalhelp.org to view the website and learn more about it's tools for civil legal self-help in Michigan.

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