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News Scan

Massachusetts House Passes Three-Strikes Bill: Dan Ring of The Republican reports the Massachusetts House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 139-14 to approve a habitual offender initiative that includes 40 crimes. The bill eliminates parole for three-time convicted violent offenders, reduces mandatory minimum sentences for 16 drug violations, and reduces the size of a "school zone" for possessing an illegal drug with intent to distribute. For a crime to qualify as a "strike," felons would have had to be sentenced to at least three years in state prison for that offense. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Second Judge Rejects Wisconsin Voter ID Law: Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel reports a second judge on Tuesday ruled Wisconsin's voter ID law unconstitutional. Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan had issued a temporary injunction blocking the law in March, and made that injunction permanent in his decision Tuesday. Dane County Judge Richard Niess also permanently blocked the law in March. The state Supreme Court declined to take up the cases earlier this year, but is expected to eventually do so. Meanwhile in the state of Washington, residents will soon be able to register to vote via Facebook. CNN has this story.

New Jersey Law Mandates Drug Treatment Instead of Prison: NJToday.net reports New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill that will impose mandatory sentencing to New Jersey's drug court program instead of prison for some nonviolent offenders. The mandatory drug court for nonviolent offenders will be phased in over a 5-year period. Participation in the drug court program is currently voluntary. Defendants will undergo an assessment to determine whether they are drug dependent and would benefit from the program and treatment.

Racial Profiling Trial Begins for Arpaio: Jacques Billeaud of the Associated Press reports on Thursday, the trial in which Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his department are accused of racially profiling Hispanics during patrols began in a federal court in Phoenix. The group of Latinos who filed the civil lawsuit against Arpaio and his department are not seeking monetary damages, but a declaration that Arpaio's office partakes in racial profiling and an order to require the department to make changes. The Department of Justice lawsuit against Arpaio's office includes many of the same racial profiling allegations, but goes further in its accusations. The trial date has not yet been set in that case, but a DOJ lawyer for the agency's civil rights case watched the trial Thursday.

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