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Austin’s Largest Selection of International Folk Art, Silver Jewelry and Textiles “T”‘ E 400 RC> S FOLK ART & OTHER TREASURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD 1.. 209 CONGRESS AVEAUSTIN 512/4179-8377 , OPEN DAILY 10-6 www.tesoros.com4rvt and phone calls from architects on this.” For anyone who’s watched the House under Craddick the past three sessions, it should come as no surprise that the speaker and his staff would try to strongarm a House member and the Senate perhaps for personal reasons. NO ROBERTS RELIEF In February, an Observer cover story took a close look at how the newest additions to the U.S. Supreme Court could affect death penalty cases. At the time of Anthony Zurcher’s examination \(“Relief seemed up in the air. What George W. Bush appointees Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito “think of the death penalty and its application is not at all clear,” Zurcher wrote. But by sifting through the appointees’ brief track records on the high court, Zurcher concluded the evidence didn’t bode well for opponents of the death penalty. Three months later, Robert Owen and Jordan Steiker, two Austin lawyers who have argued and won death penalty cases before the Roberts court, said any ambiguity about the two newbies was gone: They were almost certainly in the Scalia-Thomas camp. But the court as a whole is far from settled. The key, the lawyers told a May luncheon of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy’s Austin chapter, was Justice Anthony Kennedy. Steiker and Owen, both law professors at the University of Texas, have been arguing death penalty cases for more than a decade. In their opinion, the additions of Roberts and Alito have left the high court more divided than ever on the issue. They see the court as separated into two blocs. Four justices are almost certain to side with the death penalty: Roberts, Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. And four seem willing to go so far as to find the death penalty unconstitutional because it has been inconsistently applied: Steven Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens. Meaning, on this issue, “Justice Kennedy now controls the court,” Steiker said. Kennedy, like his recently depart ed colleagues, William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor, began as a reliable backer of capital punishment but has since indicated growing doubts about how it is meted out. “Ten to 15 years ago, Kennedy seemed unreachable,” Steiker said. “But he’s become someone who’s circumspect about the death penalty.” But even the lawyers, who have argued before Kennedy for years, admit they can’t predict which way he’ll go on a particular case. That uncertainty could lead to a slowdown in death penalty cases litigation, as advocacy groups on both sides enter a “sort of standoff while waiting for another change in the makeup of the court,” Owen said. Both lawyers, though, did feel confident making one prediction about the immediate future: “Expect every death penalty case to be 5-4,” Steiker said. THE DAMAGE DONE A simple piece of legislation that would have saved lives and money expired in committee on May 19, despite a majority of support in both the House and the Senate. Senate Bill 308 by Sen. Robert Deuell that exchange clean syringes for dirty ones for intravenous drug usersa policy that has unfailingly reduced the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C in a number of cities across the world. SB 308 passed out of the Senate with a vote of 23-8 on April 27 and moved on to the House Public Health committee, where chairwoman Rep. Dianne White hearing for the bill as part of a deal with Deuell, but says it was understood that a vote would never be called. “I was not persuaded that the public health advantages outweigh my concerns and the concerns of my constituents about ensuring the availability of needles to illegal drug users,” Delisi says. Tracey Hayes of the ACLU of Texas says the bill would have had six supporting votes in the committee more than enough to pass it along. Any opposition to this bipartisan policy stems from a fear by some that the issue would be used against them in political campaigns, she says. Needle exchange is anything but radical in the medical community. Among the bill’s supporters are the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association, and Delisi’s own Temple hospital, the Scott & White Center for Healthcare Policy. Given the $385,000 an uninsured HIV/AIDS patient typically costs the state, any measure that would prevent the spread of the disease can only be seen as fiscally conservative. Dr. Peter Lurie of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group testified before the Senate Health and Human Services committee that 200 to 400 new HIV cases could be prevented in six Texas counties by 2020 if needle exchange programs are implemented. Nearly every other state has a policy allowing for syringe exchange, Hayes says. Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon \(D-San program for Bexar County as an amendment on another bill on May 21. The House passed the amendment 71-60. The votes are there in both houses for a larger program. Perhaps Delisi was unconvinced because she didn’t show up for the hearing on the billin the committee she chairs. Delisi didn’t see a need. “Oh, that legislation has been around for years,” she says. JUNE 1, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7