The Supreme Court threw out legislation that let rape and domestic-violence victims sue their attackers in federal court, saying Congress overstepped its authority to regulate interstate commerce and enforce the Constitution's equal-protection guarantee. The 5-to-4 decision dealt with a key provision of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act and followed the court's recent trend of expanding states' rights at the expense of federal government. The ruling means that Christy Brzonkala, who became the first person to sue under the law, cannot pursue her federal suit against two football players at Virginia Tech.
The justices also ruled, 7 to 2 in a Florida case, that people who bribe hospital officials are subject to federal prosecutions, because the institutions receive Medicare - i.e., federal - funding. In addition, the court turned away the appeal of a former Georgia high school teacher who was fired for refusing to take a drug test. She argued she was subjected to an unlawful search. And the justices rejected a challenge to the way the lobbying expenses of nonprofit organizations are taxed. The American Society of Association Executives claimed the tax is higher than ordinary rates and therefore amounts to an unfair levy on speech.
Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush prepared to propose officially a set of reforms to the Social Security system. The main plank of the plan - as outlined in a speech he was to make in California - is to allow workers to invest some of their payroll taxes in personal investment accounts. The Texas governor also pledged to dedicate the entire $2 trillion Social Security surplus to the retirement program. His Democratic rival, Vice President Al Gore, dismissed the plan in advance, saying it would drain funds from Social Security and place retirement incomes at risk.
A new national survey found that blacks feel no other social group in the US is discriminated against more than they - and the rest of respondents overwhelmingly agreed. Eighty-three percent of the 2,584 people questioned said African-Americans were discrimination victims. Hispanics, women, and native Americans were the next most-cited groups in the poll, which was conducted by the National Conference for Community and Justice, a New York-based nonprofit organization.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson was to leave today for West Africa at the request of President Clinton to try to help end fighting in Sierra Leone. Jackson, who helped mediate there last year, also planned to visit Guinea, Liberia, Mali, and Nigeria in an effort to support regional efforts to stabilize Sierra Leone.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt promised New Mexico residents that investigators would have answers for them by Thursday about why an intentionally set blaze got out of control. "If we were negligent, we pay," he said, referring to a mandate of federal legislation. Some 7,000 residents of White Rock were given clearance to go home, while almost 400 evacuees from Los Alamos (including Dick and Judy Opsahl, above) were bused there to survey damage.
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