Sunday, June 05, 2011

This week at the state capitol: Voter ID, Abortion, HIV, Oh, my!

Another week of session at the state capitol is upon us. And the attempts to erode your rights continue.

We expect House Bill 934, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe's voter ID bill, to get a vote in the state House this week. The bill would require all voters at every election to show unexpired, government-issued photo ID, effectively disenfranchising a large swath of U.S. citizens who do not have such ID. Supporters are chasing the ghosts of voter fraud while providing no credible evidence of fraud. And my personal favorite, they equate voting with driving a car, getting a library card, and renting a movie at your local Blockbuster store (if you still have one). So the cornerstone of our democratic experiment, the vote, is equal to your ability to go down the street and pick up a copy of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Gnarly.

The New York Times published a story on this vast right wing conspiracy last week.

On the Senate calendar, two abortion bills, SB 732 and SB 3, continue to linger menacingly, and there's a good chance that the Senate takes up one or both of these bills this week. SB 732 beefs up the inspection process for abortion clinics. While there are some minor problems with that bill, the real issue is with an amendment by Senator Mensch of Easton that alters the legal requirements for clinics in such a way that the clinics would have to spends hundreds of thousands and maybe more than a million dollars in building renovations and staff increases.

SB 3, meanwhile, prohibits insurance companies from offering coverage of abortion care when they participate in the insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, created by federal healthcare reform. That includes policies that are purchased with private money. Sounds like a government takeover of healthcare....

Finally, on Tuesday, the House Human Services Committee is scheduled to consider Senate Bill 260. This bill erodes the privacy protections currently in state law on HIV testing. It replaces a requirement of written informed consent with "documented" informed consent, meaning the doctor could sign off on the test instead of the patient; allows doctors to force patients to opt out of an HIV test, rather signing into the test; and eliminates the requirement in law for pre-test counseling. The ACLU of PA opposes this bill for privacy reasons. Unfortunately, HIV still carries a stigma that can lead to discrimination, and it is important that patients not feel forced into a test. I'm also not clear on why withholding information from patients is a good thing, and the supporters of this bill have yet to respond to that point.

As always, you can find more details about our positions on these and other bills at our legislative webpage.

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Anonymous Keanus said...

Cannot voter ID bills, that require a voter to produce a government issued photo ID, be challenged as the legal equivalent of the poll tax? In 1960 when I first registered to vote, in Texas, my birth state, of all places, I had to pay a poll tax of around $2.00 (I also had to make a trip to the county courthouse). The burden of obtaining a state issued photo ID for many people today would be even more onerous than a $2.00 poll tax. Could not the photo ID requirement be challenged on the same or similar grounds—an unnecessary impediment in the way of exercising a fundamental right? It seems to me that Anthony Kennedy could buy into that argument.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

Keanus, the bill requires the state to give IDs for free, thus avoiding the poll tax problem. But the Indiana case did the leave the door open to future challenges, if the plaintiffs can show an adverse impact on specific groups of people.

4:26 PM  
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