The RP’s Weekly Web Gems- The Politics of the States

Cleo Powell has made history as the state of Virginia's first African-American female Supreme Court Justice.

Virginia has its first female African-American Supreme Court Justice. Cleo Elaine Powell was sworn in on October 21 to the seat, vacated by Leroy R. Hassell, Sr., the states first African-American chief justice, who passed away in February. “He was my mentor, he was my friend,” Powell said of Hassell. “It is my privilege to fill the seat that he so untimely vacated.” A native of southern Virginia, Powell received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Virginia and was the first African-American woman to serve on the Virginia Court of Appeals in 2008. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin has sued that state for its recently-enacted voter ID laws. The Republican-backed legislation does not directly affect women voters qua women voters, the group has stated that it believes that the laws are in violation of the Constitution by impinging upon the voting rights of minorities. “We are appalled by the stories the league is hearing about the barriers people are facing in trying to obtain an acceptable ID,” the group’s president, Melanie Ramey, said. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

In other voter registration news, a New Smyrna Beach, Fla. teacher may be fined thousands of dollars for holding a student voter registration drive. Jill Cicciarelli, who advises student government ar New Smyrna Beach High School, is said to have violated a controversial new state law regarding registration of new voters. Aimed at groups like ACORN, the law requires that any third party registering voters must register with the state and submit applications within 48 hours. [Daytona Beach News-Journal]

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law legislation that would allow children aged 12 and up to seek medical care for sexually transmitted diseases– including the much-maligned Gardasil vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV). The bill, signed hours before the governor’s deadline to sign bills sent to him by the State Assembly, was tempered by a donation two days later, when pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca donated some $8,000 to Brown’s reelection campaign. AstraZeneca says the donation was not related to the new law. (Incidentally, Gardasil is produced by rival Merck.) [Sacramento Bee]

Debates between Republican Cindy Golding and Democrat Liz Mathis have been scheduled in an Iowa Senate special election. The election is hotly-contested and could flip the Senate’s close 26-24 Democratic majority to a 25-25 tie which, along with Republican Governor Terry Branstad and a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, would solidify Republican power in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. The seat was opened when incumbent Democrat Swati Dandekar Branstad appointed her to the state utilities board. [Des Moines Register]

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