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The Political Notes

July 21, 2005 By:
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'The More Lives We Will Save'
As Congress takes up the question of whether to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, state legislators in Harrisburg have moved on their own to better protect women.

The state House of Representatives recently approved legislation that would expand Pennsylvania courts' power to seize firearms from those accused of domestic abuse. State Rep. Kathy Manderino (D-District 194), the Philadelphia and Montgomery County lawmaker who co-sponsored the bill along with state Rep. Katie True (R-District 41), said that she hopes the state Senate moves quickly on the bill and sends it to Gov. Ed Rendell's desk for his signature.

"The sooner this legislation is enacted, the more lives we will save, and the more peace and security victims of domestic violence will have," she said.

The bill's June 22 passage in the House occurred against the backdrop of federal action on the issue in Washington.

Sens. Joe Biden (D-Del.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a bill on June 8 that would make permanent many of the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act, which expires in September. A House bill would simply extend the law, which funds shelters and anti-violence initiatives.

'An Irretrievably Flawed System'
The Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan Philadelphia watchdog group, ratcheted up its campaign to change the way the state's judges get their spots on the bench.

At a June 24 press conference at City Hall, Zack Stalberg, the former editor of the Philadelphia Daily News who now heads the organization, called for a state constitutional amendment to make judges appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.

Flanked by state Sens. Anthony Williams (D-District 8) and Vincent Fumo (D-District 1), who introduced the amendment, Stalberg called the current system of electing justices "an irretrievably flawed system, where judicial candidates are forced to spend enormous sums of money to buy political support and where ballot position and name recognition are often more significant than qualifications."

To become law, a constitutional amendment must pass two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly by supermajorities and be ratified in a statewide election.

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