National Roundup

North Carolina
Suit filed over law blocking rules of anti-discrimination

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Opponents of a new North Carolina law blocking local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules and requiring transgender students to use bathrooms assigned to their biological sex wasted little time challenging the measure, filing a federal lawsuit Monday morning.

Two transgender people, a law school professor and civil liberties groups filed the lawsuit. They want the new law to be declared unconstitutional, and they want to prevent its enforcement.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and Equality North Carolina scheduled a Monday news conference in Raleigh to discuss the lawsuit.

The law was approved last week by the legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. GOP lawmakers wanted to overturn an impending Charlotte ordinance that allowed transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity. But the new law also prevents all cities and counties from extending protections covering sexual orientation and gender identity at restaurants, hotels and stores.

Corporations have criticized the law, but McCrory and allies are defending it.

The Charlotte ordinance would have enabled transgender people to legally use restrooms aligned with their gender identity, and would have provided broad protections against discrimination in public accommodations in the state’s largest city.

North Carolina is the first state to require public school and university students to use only those bathrooms that match their birth certificates, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

Advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights say state legislators demonized them with bogus claims about bathroom risks. Supporters say the new law protects all people from having to share bathrooms with people who make them feel unsafe.

Attorney: Court ruling lets ­political candidates lie

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Candidates for public office in Ohio can lie and get away with it under a recent federal court ruling that struck down a state law banning false statements in campaigns, an attorney says.

Attorney Donald Brey, who has represented Republicans in cases before the Ohio Elections Commission, told The Columbus Dispatch his clients mostly tell the truth, but can legally lie as long as they don’t defame anyone.

In past elections, the commission ruled on false-advertising complaints. That changed when the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals a few weeks ago upheld the 2014 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black that found the law violated the First Amend­ment. The Dispatch reports no further appeal is expected.

Black wrote that “lies are bad,” but with some political speech, “there is no clear way to determine whether a political statement is a lie or the truth, and we certainly do not want the government deciding what is political truth.”
Phil Richter, executive director of the state Elections Commission, said he has had to turn away calls from candidates alleging false-advertising claims.

Those candidates must now file a defamation lawsuit, which could be more difficult to prove and could drag on past Election Day.

“I think you’re going to see people making more outrageous statements as they go through the election process,” Richter said.

Rep. Nicholas Celebrezze, D-Parma, who headed candidate recruiting for House Democrats, said the number of false claims is going to increase.

“The gloves are off,” he said.

Both Richter and Celebrezze say state lawmakers should try to reinstate an alternative method of handling false advertising complaints that complies with the First Amendment. Richter said they must first remove criminal penalties that he says were rarely ever used.

Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, chairman of the Senate Government Oversight Committee, said staff attorneys are examining the rulings to determine if a compromise is available.

“It’s a tricky area,” he said. “I don’t like people lying in campaigns. I think the law should encourage people to tell the truth, but I don’t know that there’s a lot we can do.”

2 dead, venomous snakes found in box at post office

WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) — Two dead venomous snakes were found in a package in a western Pennsylvania post office earlier this month, federal authorities said.

The box shipped from the Philippines to the Beaver County post office was declared as containing T-shirts, The Beaver County Times reported.

Capt. Thomas Christ of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission said a waterways conservation officer opened the box and found two venomous pit vipers, both dead.

Pit vipers find their prey and places to hide by sensing heat. There are more than 150 species of pit vipers. Officials didn’t reveal the exact kind of snake, but said they believe the reptiles were alive when they were put in the box.

Additional snakes were found at the home of the person to which the box was addressed, Christ said. He said he could not say what the person intended to do with the snakes if they had arrived alive. U.S. Fish and Wild­life authorities are investigating.

Mailing an animal is a federal offense, and in Pennsylvania, a permit is required to buy a snake, said Henry Kacprzyk, curator of reptiles at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium.

“On a legal end, it’s not something that is a moneymaker,” Kacprzyk said.

Kacprzyk also said that brining an exotic snake from another country is dangerous, since hospitals carry antivenom antidotes for venomous snakes common to the United States but don’t have antidotes for those from other countries.

“People are taking risks,” Kacprzyk said. “People assume if they get a bite, they can go to the hospital, and that is not the case.”

New York
State’s paperless-prescribing law takes effect

NEW YORK (AP) — New York is putting an end to most paper prescriptions for medicine as the nation’s toughest electronic-prescribing law takes effect.

As of Sunday, doctors, dentists and other health care professionals must electronically send prescriptions directly to pharmacies, instead of giving paper scripts to patients. There are exceptions for emergencies and unusual circumstances, and thousands of prescribers have gotten extensions.

The law aims to fight pain­killer abuse by thwarting prescription-slip forgery, while reducing errors by eliminating sometimes hard-to-read handwriting.

What’s known as “e-prescribing” has grown nationwide in recent years. Many patients, doctors and pharmacists find it time-saving and helpful.

But some New York medical leaders have expressed qualms about requiring e-prescribing in almost all situations and about the law’s penalties. They include the possibility of fines, license loss or even jail.