National Roundup

Court blocks ‘millionaire tax’ question from state ballot

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts’ highest court has struck down a proposed “millionaire tax” ballot question, blocking it from going before state voters in November.

The Supreme Judicial Court, in a split decision, ruled that the initiative petition should not have been certified by the attorney general.

The constitutional amendment would have imposed a surtax of 4 percent on any portion of an individual’s annual income that exceeds $1 million. The measure called for revenues from the tax to be used for transportation and education.

Several business groups sued to stop what proponents had termed the Fair Share Amendment from appearing on the ballot, claiming it violated constitutional restrictions on ballot questions.

The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition collected more than 150,000 signatures in support of the measure.

2 sisters accused of stabbing each other in ‘mutual combat’

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two sisters accused of stabbing each other during a fight in front of five small children are in jail in Wisconsin pending criminal charges.

The Madison Police Department says officers were dispatched to a residence just after noon Saturday after one woman reported she had been stabbed. The officers arrived to find two “uncooperative” sisters ages 24 and 23 with stab wounds on their arms.

A police statement says the women had “engaged in mutual combat,” but did not suffer life-threatening wounds.

Police say both women will be charged with domestic recklessly endangering safety.

The statement also says a 30-year-old man is suspected of initiating the disturbance.

Child Protective Services was called to assist with the five children.

State Supreme Court to hear arguments on giant telescope

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether to approve a building permit for a telescope on Mauna Kea, the grand volcano on Hawaii island.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the high court will listen to oral arguments Thursday on the Thirty Meter Telescope, which is named for the diameter of its main light-collecting mirror. It would be the largest and most expensive in the Northern Hemisphere.

Some astronomers say the Thirty Meter Telescope, which was originally estimated to cost $1.4 billion, will now take some $2 billion to complete.

If Thirty Meter Telescope astronomers don’t get clearance to start building on Mauna Kea soon, they say they will build it on La Palma in the Canary Islands, off Africa.

The Thirty Meter Telescope has been in the planning for 15 years.

Courthouse struggles to keep goldfish

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — As a visitor to the Woodbury County Courthouse moved closer to a pool of water in the rotunda, four small goldfish darted from rock to rock.

Dry for a number of years, county officials decided to fill the pool and restock it with fish as part of the recent 100th anniversary celebration of the courthouse. Of the three dozen fish released in there two months ago, just a handful remain.
Rather than dropping like proverbial flies, the fish were “floating like dead goldfish,” County Supervisor Matthew Ung told the Sioux City Journal.

“Apparently our pump is heating the water too much and that’s what’s killing them,” Ung said. “Building Services is going to start cycling that on and off manually to reduce that heating effect as a short term solution. As a long term solution, we will have to spend a few thousand to get a better pump system.”

Ung was a leading proponent of re-establishing the goldfish tradition in the courthouse.

Ung said the pool on the rotunda’s south end is an atypically distinctive feature for the courthouse, which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1996. The pool is roughly four feet by four feet, with water currently about eight inches deep and some plastic green trees mixed in with the rocks.

Ung said it makes sense to get the right kind of pump for the pool, because “practically, it cannot be used for anything other than a fish pond.”

He looks forward to the time when people can see goldfish flourishing again. Ung cited an example from when he gave a courthouse tour in May to a Perry Creek Elementary class.

“I said I was going to go upstairs to make sure a judge was ready to welcome them into a courtroom, so in the meantime they were free to explore the atrium for a couple minutes until I got back,” he said. “Almost all of them instantly bolted up from sitting on the floor and stampeded over to the fish pond.”

Former convict sworn in as lawyer in state

SEATTLE (AP) — One of Washington state’s newest attorneys is a former convict.

Seattle University Law School graduate Tarra Simmons was sworn in as a lawyer Saturday, seven months after the state Supreme Court ruled that she could take the bar exam despite her past, KING-TV reported .

“I hope that this sends a message to people that you are never defined by your worst mistakes,” she said at her swearing-in.

Simmons was convicted of assault in 2001 and of organized retail theft, unlawful possession of a firearm and drug possession in 2011, following a battle with addiction. In all she has served more than three years in prison, went through two bankruptcies and the foreclosure of her home.

But a lot of lawyers helped her along the way, she said, and that helped inspire her to attend law school.

The Washington State Bar Association’s character and fitness board nevertheless recommended against her being allowed to practice law, saying she had failed to demonstrate that she would exercise good judgment and conduct herself with a high degree of degree of honesty and integrity.

The state Supreme Court unanimously disagreed with that decision. The justices credited Simmons with being open about her past, showing remorse, seeking treatment and serving as an outspoken advocate for legal aid.

“This day is the finale of a really long and hard journey that started when I was in prison,” she said. “When I was at my lowest moment, I never thought that it would be this amazing.”

Simmons hopes to work with those re-entering society after their prison terms.

“We are a nation of second chances and a state of second chances, and we need more of that and less barriers and less hate,” she said.