In a much anticipated decision, Wyeth v. Levine,
the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision upheld states' right to hold the
drug industry accountable for not adequately warning consumers and
prescribers of a drug's impact. The pharmaceutical industry had argued
that Federal Drug Administration approval of a drug's warning label
pre-empts state claims of injury based on the failure by a company to
warn of additional dangers not covered by the FDA-approved label. The
court rejected this argument.
With one former Governor in jail for racketeering and another removed
and indicted for selling political appointments for large campaign
donations, now might just be the time that Illinois finally reforms its
government. The new governor, Pat Quinn, has formed the Illinois Reform Commission. The
Commission is tasked with making recommendations within 100 days on how
to reform the government and finally stemming the corruption for which
the state has long been famous. The commission has already identified loose
campaign finance regulations and the lack of transparency as the
primary drivers of corruption in state government. Now they are
traveling around the state to hear from experts and citizens on what
they think needs to be done.
Last Friday, the New Mexico House of Representatives approved
the National Popular Vote bill by a vote of 42-27, becoming the 23rd
legislative chamber in the country to support adopting a system where
the candidate winning the most votes for President nationally would win
the election. The vote in the House reflected polls in the state showing 76% support for moving to national popular vote.
The elections of 2008 served as a critical test of the nation's
election systems. With changes in voting machines and procedures,
coupled with expectations of record voter turnout, election
administrators held their breath and hoped their system wouldn't fail.
While the system didn't fail, voters faced serious obstacles in
exercising their right to vote. Voter registration ended up being the problem that affected the largest number of voters. Even before the first votes were cast, it was apparent
that our voter registration systems were woefully inadequate. While in
other nations 90% or more of the eligible voter population is
registered to vote, in the United States less than 75% of eligible
voters are registered.
Once the sleepy backwater of electoral politics, judicial elections
have recently become a battleground where right wing and corporate
groups spend large sums to fill the courts with jurists who will
support their interests. This is perhaps the most troubling example of
money corrupting our politics, because instead of pay-to-play politics
it gives us pay-to-win justice. The independence of the judiciary
simply cannot be maintained in an environment where jurists are
competing for votes in high-priced, bare-knuckle political brawls.
This Dispatch is a roundup of what ballot initiatives will
appear on state ballots across the country this November. Whether it's
workers rights, energy policy, education, transit, abortion or health
care, ballot initiates give voters a chance to directly vote on an