Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jan 13, 2017 in Current Events

Another Bathroom Bill?

Last Thursday, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced the filing of a new bill that would require people in government buildings and public schools to use the bathroom that corresponds to the biological sex assigned to them on their birth certificates, rather than to their gender identity.

Low-angle view of a sign on a wall for 'All Gender Toilets with symbols for men, trans and women. LGBT issue. Credit: mrtom-uk/Getty Images

A sign for 'All Gender Toilets. Credit: mrtom-uk/Getty Images

The proposed “bathroom bill” is known as Senate Bill 6, or the Texas Privacy Act. It is similar to North Carolina’s H.B.2, which caused widespread national backlash and boycotts from Democrats, entertainers, gay rights groups, and even the NBA and NCAA, both of which moved games out of the state. This resulted in an estimated revenue loss of more than $600 million in the six months after Governor Pat McCrory signed it into law (McCrory then lost his bid for re-election in November to Democrat Roy Cooper, who has made revoking the bathroom bill a priority). For this reason, many Texas Republicans–as well as the politically powerful Texas business community–are against the bill, which they estimate could cost the state up to 185,000 jobs and $8 billion in lost revenue. While both chambers of the Texas Legislature are Republican-controlled, the Texas House is not strongly in favor of the bill.

Patrick, on the other hand, has downplayed the potential economic costs and insists that the bill is necessary for the safety and protection of women. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, also a Republican, has been reluctant to take a stand one way or the other until an actual bill is introduced.

What Do You Think? Based on this article and others that you have read, do you think that the so-called “Bathroom Bill” was good for the state of North Carolina? Why or why not? Imagine that you are a Texas legislator. Write a short statement explaining your position on the newly-proposed bill. Support your opinion with as much factual evidence as possible.

California’s Distracted Driving Law Takes Effect

A California law that went into effect last Sunday will prohibit drivers from holding phones while driving. While 46 states already have laws in place that ban texting while driving, this new law goes further, by prohibiting any use of hands-on mobile devices for any reason while operating a vehicle, including using apps like Facebook and Twitter.

Nationwide traffic deaths continue to climb at the highest rate in fifty years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people died in 2015 due to auto crashes involving a distracted driver. Legislators hope that stricter “distracted driver” laws will help reduce these numbers.

However, others argue that these types of laws alone are not effective at reducing crashes. A spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety argues that similar laws have had mixed results in the past. Rather, a more effective way to reduce injuries and fatalities from crashes would to encourage automobile companies to install new anti-crash technologies, such as automatic emergency brakes and forward collision warning.

What Do You Think? Do you believe that legislators have the right to control whether or not you use your cell phone while driving? Why or why not? Do you think that the new California law will be effective at reducing the number of automobile crashes in the future? Be sure to explain your answer.

Inaugural Parade Controversy

The inaugural parade is an historical tradition dating back to 1873, with the inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant. Since then, the parade has often been a way for new presidents to make a statement. For example, Abraham Lincoln was the first president to invite African Americans to march in his parade. They are often elaborate and long-lasting; President Obama’s first parade lasted well over two hours. This year, the parade is already stirring up controversy, and it hasn’t even happened yet.

Forty groups have been invited to participate in the parade, including marching bands, mounted police officers, and representatives from the armed forces, Boy Scouts of America, and the Disabled American Veterans. However, several notable performers–including singers Elton John, Celine Dion, John Legend, and many others–have refused to participate in the parade for political reasons. Last week, British singer Rebecca Ferguson said she would accept an invitation to participate, but only if she can perform “Strange Fruit,” a protest song about the lynching of African Americans. And for the first time in more than 20 years, not a single Washington D.C. area public school marching band applied to perform. Over 90 percent of D.C. voters supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

However, the marching band from Talladega College–Alabama’s oldest historically black college–has chosen to participate, despite the fact that other historically black colleges, such as Howard, have declined participation.

In all, the vast majority of the groups chosen to perform in the parade are from counties that Trump won in the election, causing many to question what “message” the president-elect is trying to send. Regardless, this parade is likely to be much shorter than past parades, topping out at only 60 to 90 minutes.

What Do You Think? Some people argue that an inaugural parade is a civic event, rather than a political one. Others, however, feel that boycotting the parade is a valid form of political protest. What do you think? If you were asked to perform in this year’s inaugural parade, would you agree to? Why or why not?

Dylann Roof Trial Continues

Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old white supremacist who killed nine people in June 2015 in a shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episocopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was convicted last month of federal murder and hate crimes. He now faces the sentencing phase of his trial, which will determine whether he receives the death penalty or life in prison.

Prosecutors claim that Roof should receive the death penalty because of his racist motive for the crime, his lack of remorse, and the devastating impact of the massacre on the victims’ families. Roof has confessed that he felt he had no choice but to open fire in the traditionally African American church because of his perception that white Americans are under attack by other racial groups. Prosecutors also presented a journal that Roof wrote while in jail that says he is not sorry for what he did.

Roof has chosen to represent himself during sentencing, rather than rely on his attorneys for his defense. He claims that he does not have mental health issues, and he has not called any witnesses. Meanwhile, the prosecution plans to call more than 30 witnesses and family members of the victims.

Only three federal criminals have been executed in the United States since 1976, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. In order for Roof to receive the death penalty, all twelve jurors must unanimously agree to the sentencing. Regardless of what happens at the sentencing, Roof will also undergo a state trial for murder later this month. South Carolina prosecutors have already stated that they will seek the death penalty as well.

Dig Deeper Three Americans have received the death penalty since 1976: Timothy McVeigh and Juan Raul Garza in 2001, and Louis Jones in 2003. Using Internet resources, spend a few minutes researching one of these men. Why did he receive the death penalty? Based on what you’ve learned, in your opinion, should Roof receive the death penalty as well? Why or why not?