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Inside Politics: Scalia critics say Justice too political last term

- - Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Justice Antonin Scalia drew unusually critical attention during this past Supreme Court term for comments he made in court and in his writing that seemed to some more political than judicial.

His dissent in the Arizona immigration case contained a harsh assessment of the Obama administration's immigration policy and prompted a public rebuke from a fellow Republican-appointed judge.

The 76-year-old Justice Scalia is a gifted writer with a razor wit and willingness to do battle with those on the other side of an issue. Those qualities have made him a powerful voice, an entertaining presence and a magnet for criticism on the court for more than 25 years. Even with that vivid background, some of Justice Scalia's recent remarks stood out in the eyes of court observers.

Measured by wins and losses, the court term did not end well for Justice Scalia. He was on the losing end of the court's biggest cases involving health care, immigration, lying about military medals and prison sentences, both for crack cocaine offenders and juvenile killers.

GEORGIA

Race to the Top funds threatened by changes

ATLANTA — Georgia could lose $33 million of its $400 million Race to the Top school grant because of proposed changes to a new evaluation system for principals and teachers.

The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal saying the funds dedicated to the program are "at high risk." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the agency has asked the state to address its concerns by Aug. 1 and suggested monthly status reports on its progress.

Hawaii is the only other state to receive such a warning of the dozen that were awarded Race to the Top grants. Federal officials expressed concerns that the state is proposing changes before it finds out how well the proposed new evaluations worked. They were tried in 26 districts between January and May.

State officials are looking at scrapping evaluations of teachers by their kindergarten to second-grade students, arguing that ratings by children so young would likely be positive and not reliable. They also want surveys by older students to be informational and to not count as 10 percent of a teacher's formal evaluation.

MICHIGAN

Snyder, GOP lawmakers team up for 603 laws

LANSING — From taxes to motorcycle helmets, Gov. Rick Snyder and his lieutenant governor have signed 603 laws since taking office in 2011, a pace not seen in years.

The 2010 election ended divided government in Michigan and put Republicans in control of the Legislature, the governor's office and the state Supreme Court. While Mr. Snyder has vetoed some bills, most proposals that win consensus from the GOP sail to his desk and into law.

Besides approving annual state budgets, Republicans have changed Michigan's tax structure, made motorcycle helmets voluntary and passed laws that haven't been friendly to unions.

Some laws have been challenged in court. A federal judge in Detroit recently enjoined a law that would end payroll deduction as a way for school employees to pay union dues.

The 603 new laws roughly match the number signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, at the same point during the 2005-06 legislative sessions.

MISSISSIPPI

Saggy pants banned in Guntown

GUNTOWN — The city of Guntown in north Mississippi has banned saggy pants as part of an overall ordinance on indecency.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that the ordinance approved this week by the Board of Aldermen takes effect Aug. 1.

It prohibits anyone from wearing pants or skirts that ride more than three inches below the top of the hips and expose skin or underwear.

Violators can be fined $50 the first time and up to $200 each additional time and be subject to complete up to 40 hours of community service.

Many other Mississippi towns have passed near-identical ordinances.

IOWA

Governor leaves hospital after choking on carrot

DES MOINES — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been released from a California hospital after choking on food during a ceremony for the rededication of the USS Iowa battleship in Los Angeles.

Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said Wednesday the governor choked on a carrot at some point during the event and vomited.

He said the governor was taken to a nearby hospital out of an abundance of caution, went through a series of tests and was quickly released after "everything turned out fine."

He said Mr. Branstad is in good spirits, and "we're glad he's OK."

The USS Iowa is a World War II-era battleship that's being turned into a museum.

From wire dispatches and staff reports