Best of #StateReads: Abuse Suits Against Scouts Hinge on State Laws

By: - October 24, 2012 12:00 am

This week’s collection of #StateReads details how state statutes of limitation affect the ability of sexual abuse victims to sue the Boy Scouts of America; explores the ins-and-outs of the booming medical marijuana business in Colorado; and outlines how write-in candidates prevent many Florida voters from determining their state legislators.

These examples of extraordinary journalism about state government were recommended in tweets using the #StateReads hashtag on Twitter and in email submissions to [email protected].

“Geography determines justice for Scout abuse victims” —Los Angeles Times

The Boy Scouts of America expelled roughly 5,000 men from the organization from 1947 to 2005 on suspicions of sexual abuse, but the ability of victims to sue the Scouts for damages “will vary dramatically by state,” writes Ashley Powers (@ashleypowers). State statutes of limitation could be the deciding factor in whether a case could proceed. Recently, Powers wrote, an Oregon man won a verdict of million against the scouting group, while a victim in adjoining Idaho had his lawsuit blocked because of time limits. The difference came in how courts interpreted their respective state laws, which were similar.

“Medical marijuana: Will Colorado’s ‘green rush’ last?” — 60 Minutes

Colorado, Oregon and Washington will decide next month whether to allow the sale of marijuana under state law and in defiance of federal prohibitions. “If you want to know what legalized marijuana might look like,” reports Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes (@60Minutes), “the place to go is Colorado, which has the most-developed medical marijuana industry in the country.” Kroft visited Denver to look at the thriving marijuana industry in a city where pot dispensaries outnumber McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. His report examined state regulations of pot sales, the growing market for edible marijuana products and the legal limbo that leaves “ganjapreneurs” unable to open bank accounts or process credit card transactions.

“California legislative staffers moonlight in campaign jobs” —The Sacramento Bee

Nearly 200 legislative staffers in California also worked for political causes two years ago, and dozens of them even took on political work last year, when legislative seats were not on the ballot, reports Torey Van Oot (@CapitolAlert). The staffers have to take vacation time to do the work, because they cannot do it on state time. But working on campaigns funded by political donors raises its own questions, Van Oot writes. Critics say the outside work gives too much influence to political donors who pay staffers for their side jobs. Defenders of the practice say it helps them hone their political skills for their day jobs at the Capitol.

“Futile or credible, write-in candidates deny hundreds of thousands a vote in state legislative races” —Tampa Bay Times

“Write-in candidates matter in Florida,” writes Michael Van Sickler (@MikeVanSickler). “When they run, voters lose.” No write-in candidate has ever won a Florida legislative seat, but they can prevent candidates from ever facing a serious challenger in the general election. Under Florida law, only registered Republicans usually pick Republican candidates and registered Democrats usually pick Democratic candidates. But the primaries are open—and held in the fall general election—if a seat is uncontested by the other party in the general election. That is where the write-in candidates come in. When a write-in candidate runs in the general election, his or her opponent’s or opponents’ primary is closed. So only that party’s voters choose a winner from among viable candidates in the general election primary. This year, Van Sickler reports, candidates in 15 legislative races avoided general election match-ups by facing write-in opponents instead.

“Democrats try to shield lawmakers from tax hike fallout” — Chicago Tribune

In Illinois, very few Democratic legislators who voted for an income tax hike two years ago face competitive races this November, reports Ray Long (@RayLong). Part of the reason is because the Democrats who control the state Senate and House “led a shrewd effort to redraw legislative boundaries last year in the months after the tax increase vote took place,” Long writes. The tax hikes also squeaked by with the help of a dozen lame-duck legislators and others who decided not to run for re-election. But Long notes that Republicans running against the Democrats who voted for the tax hikes are making it a major part of their campaigns.

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