Category : State Government

(AP) ‘In God We Trust’ going up at South Dakota public schools

When students return to public schools across South Dakota this fall, they should expect to see a new message on display: “In God We Trust.”

A new state law that took effect this month requires all public schools in the state’s 149 districts to paint, stencil or otherwise prominently display the national motto.

The South Dakota lawmakers who proposed the law said the requirement was meant to inspire patriotism in the state’s public schools. Displays must be at least 12-by-12 inches and must be approved by the school’s principal, according to the law.

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Posted in Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government

(NYT) Tennessee Says Internet-Ordained Ministers and Marriage Don’t Mix

State Representative Ron Travis, a Republican, said it was impossible to determine online whether a person had the “care of souls,” as the law states.

“Just because you pay $50 and get a certificate doesn’t mean you’re an ordained minister,” Mr. Travis said, according to WATE-TV.

The opposition in Tennessee reflects a clash with a growing trend in the United States to privatize marriage and personalize weddings by distancing them from the state or established religions.

Ministers ordained online can officiate at weddings in 48 states, with the exception of Virginia and some parts of Pennsylvania, according to the Universal Life Church Monastery, which says it has ordained more than 20 million ministers nationwide. But rules can vary by county, as in New York State.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, State Government

(AP) Maine Becomes 8th State to Legalize Assisted Suicide

Maine legalized medically assisted suicide on Wednesday, becoming the eighth state to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with prescribed medication.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who had previously said she was unsure about the bill, signed it in her office.

Oregon was the first state to legalize such assistance, in 1997, and it took over a decade for the next state, Washington, to follow suit. While still controversial, assisted suicide legislation is winning increasing acceptance in the United States, and this year at least 18 states considered such measures.

Maine’s bill would allow doctors to prescribe terminally ill people a fatal dose of medication. The bill declares that obtaining or administering life-ending medication is not suicide under state law, thereby legalizing the practice often called medically assisted suicide.

The proposal had failed once in a statewide vote and at least seven previous times in the Legislature. The current bill

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Science & Technology, State Government, Theology

(WSJ) As Sharing Health-Care Costs Takes Off, States Warn: It Isn’t Insurance

Religious organizations where members help pay each other’s medical bills have grown from niche insurance alternatives to operations bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars, an increase that is also driving more consumer complaints and state scrutiny.

More than a million people have joined the groups, known as health-care sharing ministries, up from an estimated 200,000 before the Affordable Care Act, which granted members an exemption from the law’s penalty for not having health insurance. The organizations generally provide a health-care cost-sharing arrangement among people with similar religious beliefs, and their cost is often far lower than full health insurance.

Consumers typically pay a set monthly amount that goes into a general account or directly to others who have an eligible medical bill. They also submit their own eligible bills to be shared by other members.

As membership swells, more people have complained that their medical bills weren’t paid or were paid months late. Some states said they have seen an increase in complaints filed with regulators. More negative reviews have also appeared online.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, State Government

(RNS) New law requires professors in Washington State to accommodate religious holidays

A new state law makes it easier for college students to take time off for religious holidays.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5166 into law on Monday (April 29), making Washington the first state requiring that institutions of higher education provide academic accommodations to students who need them for religious observances. This includes rescheduling exams and permitting absences, as long as the student notifies the professor of the needed accommodation within the first two weeks of class.

College professors will also be required to add information about religious accommodations to their syllabuses.

The law requires colleges “to reasonably accommodate students who, due to the observance of religious holidays, expect to be absent or endure a significant hardship during certain days of the course or program,” according to the state Legislature’s website.

“Passing this bill sends a powerful message to all students that students of faith, and especially those in minority faith traditions, matter and are welcome in our educational system,” said Rabbi Allison Flash, assistant director of education at Temple Beth Am of Seattle.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government

(Local Paper) Thousands of South Carolina teachers prepare to march on the Statehouse

An estimated 4,000 teachers and supporters will assemble on a school day today in Columbia to protest, march and speak for improved working conditions.

The teachers, organized by the teacher advocacy group SC for Ed, have been asking state lawmakers for higher wages, smaller classroom sizes, more mental health counselors in schools and full funding of the state’s promises to students.

Teachers are using personal leave days to go to Columbia for a single day, unlike at the weeks-long teacher strikes and walkouts that took place in other states like West Virginia and Oklahoma in 2018.

Seven school districts and a charter school have announced closures due to the mass exodus of teachers and a shortage of substitutes Wednesday. The affected schools serve a combined 123,000 students.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Children, Economy, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, State Government

(NPR) In Florida, Doctors See Climate Change Hurting Their Most Vulnerable Patients

To survive, Jorge, who requested that his last name not be used for this story to protect his health information, sells fruit on the side of the road. “Rain or shine, cold or heat, I still have to work,” he says.

Most days, it’s the heat he struggles with the most, and in recent years, the city has felt hotter than ever.

“When you work in the streets,” Jorge says, “you really feel the change.”

And it may only be getting worse. The 2018 National Climate Assessment noted that the southeastern United States is already experiencing “more and longer summer heat waves.” By 2050, experts say, rising global temperatures are expected to mean that nearly half the days in the year in Florida will be dangerously hot, when the combination of heat and humidity will make it feel like it’s 105 degrees or more.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Climate Change, Weather, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Poverty, State Government

(Local Paper Front Page) Progress made, but South Carolina must do more to combat deadly domestic violence toll

More must be done to curb domestic violence in a state that ranks among the nation’s deadliest for women, despite signs of progress in the nearly four years since South Carolina enacted sweeping reforms to combat abuse, according to a report issued Wednesday.

Since reforms passed in 2015, South Carolina has lost its ignominious distinction as the nation’s deadliest state for women. But it stubbornly remains among the top-10 offenders, currently holding onto a spot as sixth-worst in the country, the S.C. Domestic Violence Advisory Committee noted in its report to the governor and General Assembly.

The 16-member panel, which includes lawmakers, prosecutors, advocates, police officers and others, noted progress across several fronts, with dozens of initiatives either completed or in the works to combat domestic violence. But more needs to be done, particularly in regard to research and education, so South Carolina can better understand and confront the problem in a systematic fashion, panel members said.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, State Government, Violence

(VC Star) California pot taxes lag as illegal market flourishes

Deep in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new budget is a figure that says a lot about California’s shaky legal marijuana market: The state is expecting a lot less cash from cannabis taxes.

The Democrat’s proposed spending plan, released Thursday, projects the state will bank $355 million in marijuana excise taxes by the end of June. That’s roughly half of what was once expected after broad legal sales kicked off last year.

Industry experts say the diminished tax income reflects a somber reality: Most consumers are continuing to purchase pot in the illegal marketplace, where they avoid taxes that can near 50 percent in some communities.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, State Government

(WSJ) Elya Brudny and Yisroel Reisman–New York State Targets Jewish Schools

Together the two of us have 70 years of experience in Jewish education. Yet nothing could have prepared us for what the New York State Education Department did last month. On Nov. 20, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia issued guidance empowering local school boards to evaluate private schools and to vote on our right to continue educating our students.

The state government now requires private schools to offer a specific set of classes more comprehensive than what students in public schools must learn. Our schools must offer 11 courses to students in grades 5 through 8, for a total of seven hours of daily instruction. Public schools have less than six hours a day of prescribed instruction. Private-school teachers will also be required to submit to evaluation by school districts.

At a press conference announcing the new guidelines, a reporter asked Ms. Elia what would happen if a yeshiva didn’t alter its Jewish-studies emphasis to conform to her mandate. She responded that parents “would be notified they need to transfer students” in as little as six weeks. And if they didn’t? “They’d be considered truant, and that’s another whole process that gets triggered.”

Government may have an interest in ensuring that every child receives a sound basic education, but it has no right to commandeer our schools’ curricula.

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Posted in Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government

(IIHS) Crashes rise in first states to begin legalized retail sales of recreational marijuana

Crashes are up by as much as 6 percent in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared with neighboring states that haven’t legalized marijuana for recreational use, new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) shows. The findings come as campaigns to decriminalize marijuana gain traction with voters and legislators in the U.S., and Canada begins allowing recreational use of marijuana this month.

The two new studies will be presented today at the Combating Alcohol- and Drug-Impaired Driving summit, hosted by IIHS and HLDI at the Vehicle Research Center. The summit brings together highway safety and law enforcement experts to discuss the prevalence and associated risk of alcohol- and drug-impaired driving, as well as strategies to combat impaired driving.

Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older with voter approval in November 2012. Retail sales began in January 2014 in Colorado and in July 2014 in Washington. Oregon voters approved legalized recreational marijuana in November 2014, and sales started in October 2015. Nevada voters approved recreational marijuana in November 2016, and retail sales began in July 2017.

HLDI analysts estimate that the frequency of collision claims per insured vehicle year rose a combined 6 percent following the start of retail sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared with the control states of Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. The combined-state analysis is based on collision loss data from January 2012 through October 2017.

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Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, State Government, Theology, Travel

(Bloomberg) The Poorest Americans Risk the Most in Hopes of Striking it Rich

Americans spend tens of billions of dollars on government-run lotteries each year. But as income inequality widens, low-earning households spend a disproportionate amount of money on lottery tickets, according to a new study.

The lowest-income households in the U.S. on average spend $412 annually on lottery tickets, which is nearly four times the $105 a year spent by the highest-earning households, according to a study released on Wednesday by Bankrate.com. And almost 3 in 10 Americans in the lowest income bracket play the lottery once a week, compared with nearly 2 in 10 who earn more than that.

The Bankrate.com study was conducted by research firm GfK, which surveyed a national sample of 1,000 American adults on Aug. 17-19.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Poverty, State Government, Theology

(NBC) Montana had the highest suicide rate in the country. Then budget cuts hit.

Libby is in Lincoln County, which has a population of nearly 20,000 but just one behavioral health employee, Amy Fantozzi, a graduate student who oversees the county’s contracts with medical providers who do mental health assessments.

The town had a clinic run by the nonprofit Western Montana Mental Health Center, the largest service provider in the region, which had 12 clinics serving 15,000 clients across 15 counties. But after the cuts were announced last year, the center laid off more than 60 case managers and shut down three clinics, including the one in Libby. That left hundreds of patients without access to therapy, medication and a case manager to check on them.

Now, when those patients are in crisis, their only option is the emergency room at Lincoln County’s lone hospital. Once they check in, Fantozzi gets a call, and she must decide whether to spend $100 of her $18,500 annual budget on a mental health assessment. Depending on the results, she could then spend an additional $300 to have the patient evaluated and involuntarily committed at the nearest mental institution 90 miles away.

There have yet to be any publicly reported deaths by suicide as a result of the local clinic’s closure, but county officials fear the current system of mental health triage won’t hold up…

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, State Government, Suicide, Theology

AS Haley on the Ongoing South Carolina Episcopal Church litigation mess–“O, What a Tangled Web We Weave . . .”

Thus two of the Justices viewed this case as one in which the civil courts should “defer” to the “ecclesiastical authorities” — even though South Carolina is a “neutral principles” State, in which “deference” has no role! — while the third reaches his result based “strictly applying neutral principles of law.” Two of them simply “reverse” the decision below (and one only in part), while only Justice Hearn declares the whole kit and caboodle to belong to her own denomination.

The first two Justices would thus have overruled the leading South Carolina neutral principles case, All Saints Parish Waccamaw v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, but two votes do not suffice for that. They would have required a third vote to overrule that decision, and they never obtained that third vote. So the neutral principles doctrine of All Saints Waccamaw stands unchanged.

Nor did Justice Hearn get any other Justice to buy into her “constructive trust” rationale (unless Justice Pleicones may be said to have done so by “joining” in her opinion). But that was not a ground urged on appeal by ECUSA or its rump diocese — so Justice Hearn gratuitously inserted her views on an issue that was not properly before the Court.

Finally, only two of the Justices (Hearn and Beatty) mentioned Camp Christopher — the retreat property that belongs not to any one parish, but to the Diocese itself. The Dennis Canon does not apply to the property of a diocese, and so it cannot be used to transfer ownership. For Justice Hearn, “deference” requires that result, while for Chief Justice Beatty, the result follows from the fact that he cannot see how Bishop Lawrence’s Diocese is the “successor” to the diocese that owned the property before the lawsuit began. (But the Diocese did not go anywhere — it is still the same South Carolina religious corporation it always was. So how can there be any question of whether a Diocese can “succeed” itself? The Chief Justice went out on a limb, and no one joined him.)

An even bigger problem for Judge Goodstein on remand, however, is how she should regard the opinion of Justice Hearn, who belatedly recused herself due to a (presumed) perception of a conflict of interest. (You think?) Which is to say, she never should have participated in the case to begin with.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, Corporations/Corporate Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government

(1st Things) Hadles Arkes on the Supreme Court Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision–Conservative Jurisprudence Resorts To Relativism

For Kennedy, this diatribe against the religious was reprehensible in the same measure: “To describe a man’s faith as ‘one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use’ is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere.”

Yes, but so what? Kennedy did not challenge the law itself as a violation of Phillips’s religious freedom. Why should it matter that commissioners, enforcing the law, allowed their conviction of its rightness to express itself in some gratuitous sneering at a man Justice Kennedy and the Court were still willing to treat as a wrongdoer? What this situation seemed to violate, for Kennedy, was the “State’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint.” For years it was understood that the law need not be at all “neutral” between religion and irreligion, that there were compelling reasons, for the public good, to encourage the religious life. But now the claim is reduced simply to an obligation not to be indecorously nasty while the law refuses to respect religious convictions.

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Posted in Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, State Government, Supreme Court

(LA Times) California attorney general appeals judge’s decision to overturn physician-assisted suicide law

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra on Monday filed an appeal against a judge’s recent ruling overturning the state’s physician-assisted suicide law.

The controversial law, which allows terminally ill patients to request lethal medications from their doctors, has been the subject of litigation since it was enacted two years ago.

Last week, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia ruled that the law’s passage was unconstitutional and the law should be overturned.

Becerra’s action Monday moves the case to an appeals court, which will decide the future of the law. He also asked that the law stay in place while the matter is further litigated, a request that will most likely be granted, said Kathryn Tucker, an attorney who heads the End of Life Liberty Project at UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy.

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, State Government, Theology

(Local Paper front page) South Carolina unlikely to legalize sports betting, despite U.S. Supreme Court ruling

A short stack of South Carolina legislators is pushing to allow sports betting in the Palmetto State following a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday that overturned a federal ban.

But the odds are long.

The ruling by the nation’s high court leaves states to decide whether people can legally bet on football, basketball and other sports. Under the 1992 federal law it struck, Nevada was the only place where people could bet on results of a single game.

About three dozen states could offer sports betting within five years — from California to Iowa to Delaware. At least five states including New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia have passed laws awaiting the high court’s ruling.

But don’t bet on those including South Carolina, where even church raffles weren’t legal until 2015.

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Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Law & Legal Issues, Sports, State Government, Supreme Court

In the Diocese of SC Supreme Court Case–The Diocese has now filed its response to TEC and the new TEC Diocese

You can find the full 17 page pdf here–read it carefully and read it all. Please do continue to note that you can follow all the documents as they become available there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, State Government

(NPR) Supreme Court Rules States Are Free To Legalize Sports Betting

The Supreme Court’s court decision reversing that outcome will make it easier to open the door to sports betting.

But the status quo struck down by the Supreme Court looks almost quaint in light of increased pressure to legalize sports betting across the board.

The American Gaming Association estimates that illegal sports betting has grown to $150-billion-a-year market. And cash-starved states are salivating at the thought of raising billions from legalizing and licensing that activity, not to mention taxing the proceeds.

New Jersey, home to at least a half dozen shuttered Atlantic City casinos, is a state where Republicans and Democrats since 2011 have been trying to overturn the federal ban or somehow get around it.

After oral arguments in December, then-Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., said on the Supreme Court steps, “If we’re successful here, we can have bets being taken in New Jersey within two weeks of a decision by the court. We’re like boy scouts; we’re prepared.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Law & Legal Issues, Sports, State Government, Supreme Court, Theology

(KC Star) Elizabeth Kirk–Kansas adoption bill would protect religious liberty, not discrimination

When the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision affirmed Americans’ constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy assured the country that the religious freedom safeguards enshrined in the First Amendment would protect those who continue to oppose those marriages. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito was not so sanguine, warning, “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools.”

Not quite three years later, Alito’s concerns have already come to pass.

In a Star guest commentary earlier this month, Lori Ross, CEO of FosterAdopt Connect, claimed that a bill currently proposed in Kansas would enshrine “taxpayer-funded discrimination,” calling it “negligent” and “harmful.” By referencing the truly tragic story of a young boy’s suicide, she implied that the bill could lead to the deaths of children in the state foster care system. Or take Republican state Sen. Barbara Bollier’s statement on the Senate floor during a debate on the bill, where she called Catholic teachings on marriage “sick discrimination.” What sort of legislation would draw such vehement denunciation?

The proposed legislation is the Adoption Protection Act. All it does is ensure that faith-based adoption providers will be allowed to continue to operate in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs. In other words, the proposed legislation merely preserves the status quo and makes it clear that faith-based providers will not be penalized for serving in accordance with their beliefs.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, State Government, Theology, Uncategorized

(AP) Medical marijuana push spreads to Utah, Oklahoma

Nathan Frodsham, a 45-year-old married Mormon father of three, is hoping the measure passes so he can get off opioids and back to using the vaporized form of marijuana that he used when he lived in Seattle after his doctor recommended trying for his painful osteoarthritis in his neck.

Frodsham wasn’t discouraged by the Mormon church statement, which he notes doesn’t go as far in opposition as when the church explicitly asked members to vote against full marijuana legalization in Arizona and Nevada. He said marijuana is a natural plant and that the religion’s health code doesn’t single out cannabis as being prohibited.

“I think there’s some room for interpretation on this,” said Frodsham.

The 4,500-member Utah Medical Association isn’t against the idea of legalized medical marijuana but has numerous concerns with an initiative it thinks is too broad and doesn’t include necessary regulatory measures, said Michelle McOmber, the group’s CEO.

“We want to be very careful about what we bring into our state,” McOmber said. “This is an addictive drug.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Mormons, Religion & Culture, State Government, Theology

(NC Register) Hawaii becomes the seventh state to legalize physician-assisted suicide

“Nana, how is suicide okay for some people, but not for people like me?”

Eva Andrade’s teenage grandson, who had previously been hospitalized for suicidal ideation, had asked his grandmother that question recently: Hawaii became the seventh state to legalize physician-assisted suicide April 5, a year after a previous legislative attempt.

Proponents claimed the law would give people with terminal illnesses (and a diagnosis of less than six months to live) the personal autonomy to make that decision. The teenager did not see why the circumstances made a big difference for one group having the legal right to end life on their own terms, while others did not.

“This is a 15-year-old child making this connection on his own, just based on the conversations he was hearing,” Andrade said.

Andrade, spokeswoman for the Hawaii Catholic Conference, told the Register that the “Our Care, Our Choices Act,” which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019, threatens negative social repercussions and will have a “very detrimental effect on our community.”

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, State Government, Theology

(NYT) A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash

A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner.

Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension.

It is $76,111.

Per month.

That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.

Oregon — like many other states and cities, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut — is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. I

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Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pensions, State Government, Taxes

(Mercury News) Legal Marijuana on pace to match U.S. soda sales by 2030

Pot may be on its way to beating pop. (Editor’s note: Yes, we know it’s called “soda” out here on the West Coast, but we didn’t want to mess with this writer’s lead.)

The U.S. legal cannabis industry is expected to reach $75 billion in sales by 2030, according to research firm Cowen & Co. That’s almost as large as the North American carbonated soft drink market in 2017.

With the industries’ diverging trajectories, weed may be poised to take the mantle as the larger industry. Cannabis is growing rapidly as more states legalize the plant. Nine states and Washington, D.C. now allow for recreational pot use. That means more than one in five American adults can smoke, vape, eat or drink it however they please. Cowen previously predicted that the market, assuming federal legalization, would reach $50 billion by 2026. That seems small now, according to analyst Vivien Azer.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, State Government, Theology

(Patheos) Chris Gehrz–The Stevens Point Pathway: How the Liberal Arts Will Die at Christian Colleges

In my experience, most college professors pay little attention to what’s happening in higher education beyond their own discipline or institution. So last week it was remarkable how many colleagues came up and asked me, “What happened at UW-Stevens Point?”

They were referring to one of the 26 campuses in the University of Wisconsin system, which announced last Monday that it was planning to address a $4.5 budget deficit by a combination of two strategies: “adding or expanding 16 programs in areas with high-demand career paths as a way to maintain and increase enrollment” and “shifting resources from programs where fewer students are enrolled,” to the point of cutting several majors.

What will grow? Business programs like marketing, management, and finance, and STEM programs like chemical engineering, computer information systems, and aquaculture/aquaponics.

What will go away? Virtually every art, humanity, and social science major that isn’t directly connected to a professional “pathway.” Not just the languages (French, German, and Spanish at UWSP) and fine arts (art and music literature) programs that have been the first to go when smaller schools make such cuts. Stevens Point students would no longer be able to major in English, philosophy, political science, sociology, or history….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Religion & Culture, State Government, Theology, Young Adults

(AP) Florida passes a bill to ban the marriage of anyone under 17

A woman who was 11 when she was forced to marry her rapist has worked for six years to ban child marriages in Florida. On Friday, she was hailed as a hero after the Legislature passed a bill prohibiting marriage for anyone under 17.

State lawmakers have repeatedly cited Sherry Johnson as an inspiration to change the law. She watched in the House gallery as the bill passed the House on a 109-1 vote, then stood as representatives turned to face her and applauded.

“My heart is happy,” she said afterward. “My goal was to protect our children and I feel like my mission has been accomplished. This is not about me. I survived.”

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, State Government

(NPR) Same-Sex-Marriage Flashpoint: Alabama Considers Quitting The Marriage Business

[Republican state Sen. Greg] Albritton says he’s a traditionalist who believes marriage should be between one man and one woman. But he says since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, Alabama’s system hasn’t worked.

“I disagree with that opinion. However, they make the law,” says Albritton. “I’m trying to accommodate that and trying to find a way that we can accommodate as many people and hurt no one.”

But not everyone agrees that the legislation does no harm.

“I just think it cheapens the value of the most sacred relationship in the world,” says Republican Phil Williams, the lone senator to vote against the bill.

“When you take marriage and you reduce it to a mere contract, it’s almost like you’re just doing nothing more than recording the deed to your property at the courthouse,” he says. “You’re just taking the contract down there and the probate judge is just the clerk.”

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, State Government, Theology

(The State) Cindi Ross Scopp–South Carolina Needs Thoughtful Overall Tax Reform not Simplistic Tax Cuts

Like a good stock portfolio, a good tax system relies on a balance, with different types of taxes behaving differently throughout the economic cycle, and affecting different types of people in different ways. For both stability and fairness, economists agree that the best state tax system relies about equally on the income tax, the sales tax and the property tax. South Carolina already relies less on income taxes than the sales or property tax. Cutting income taxes by more than 15 percent would further unbalance our tax system.

Our sales tax, by contrast, is the 16th highest in the nation. The main reason it’s so high is that it’s all about mollifying special interests by giving them special tax breaks. We exempt more than we tax: We have around 120 exemptions written into law, and on top of that we tax far fewer services than most states. House members say they can cut the state sales tax from 6 percent to 3 percent if they address both of those problems, and technically that’s true. The problem is that they’re not going to tax all goods and services, and they probably shouldn’t, because some prevent taxing the same thing twice, and some of the biggest exemptions (think electricity and groceries) serve primarily to make the sales tax a little less regressive than it otherwise would be.

Still, any effort to eliminate some exemptions and tax more services — and use the additional revenue to cut the tax rate — would be a smart step toward a lower, flatter tax system, one that is less volatile and more fair. Which is the opposite of where cutting the income tax rates — and creating yet another large tax exemption — would take us.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, State Government, Taxes

(Yesterday’s Local paper Front Page) South Carolina lawmakers consider electrocuting death row inmates if lethal injection drugs unavailable

South Carolina lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow the state to execute death row inmates using the electric chair — something that hasn’t been done since 2008 — if lethal injection drugs are not available.

Under current law, criminals sentenced to the death penalty in South Carolina can choose to die by lethal injection or electrocution.

Like other states, South Carolina has not had access to the necessary drugs to attempt a lethal injection since the last of its stock expired in 2013. That has left the state unable to carry out the ultimate punishment.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Capital Punishment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, State Government

(NPR) Down Syndrome Families Divided Over Abortion Ban

Kelly Kuhns, 36, lives with her husband and their three children outside Columbus. The youngest, 2-year-old Oliver, was born with Down syndrome.

Kuhns, who works as a labor and delivery nurse, says a prenatal test during her pregnancy with Oliver revealed a mutation called Trisomy 21.

“When my provider called me and told me that the test came back positive for Down syndrome, I was definitely shocked. It was not what I was expecting at all,” Kuhns says. “I grieved — deeply.”

But Kuhns says she never considered ending the pregnancy.

“He’s still a baby. He’s still worthy of a life just like everybody else,” she says.

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Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, State Government