News

School-vouchersThe spigot of taxpayer-funds flowing to private schools under the state’s recently-enacted school voucher program remains closed as the Court of Appeals yesterday denied a second request by parents and other voucher proponents for emergency relief.

Those parents and proponents — including Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger — have been trying to have voucher funds released while they appeal a ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood, finding the program unconstitutional.

They had unsuccessfully sought that relief from the Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court even before Hobgood had reduced his ruling to a final written order.

With the final order — issued on August 28 — in hand, the voucher proponents again asked the Court of Appeals to block Hobgood’s order and let money flow while the court reviewed the merits of his decision.

And yesterday, for the second time, the Court of Appeals denied that request for an immediate stay.

The parties will now await a ruling by the Court of Appeals on the voucher proponents’ petition for a review on the merits of the Hobgood order.

Response briefs by the  parties challenging the voucher program are due in court next week.

 

News

The U.S. Supreme Court will take a look at seven same-sex marriage petitions for review on September 29 as the justices get ready for the new term, according to Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog:

In order of their filing at the Court, these are the cases:  Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah), Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma), Rainey v. Bostic (Virginia), Schaefer v. Bostic (Virginia), McQuigg v. Bostic (Virginia), Bogan v. Baskin (Indiana), and Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin).

Together, the petitions raise two constitutional questions:  do states have power to refuse to allow same-sex couples to marry, and do states have power to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states?  In all of the federal appeals courts’ decisions being challenged in these cases, state marriage bans of one or both of those kinds were struck down under the federal Constitution, either under equal protection or due process guarantees, or both.

As Denniston notes, there’s no telling what if anything they’ll do with the cases, but the Court is moving witih some dispatch, collecting the petitions for consideration early in the term.

Although no one at the Court said this explicitly, the Justices apparently wanted all seven of the petitions so far filed to be ready for the September 29 Conference, which is to be held a week before the new Term formally opens.  The seven petitions present a variety of scenarios with regard to who is appealing and what they are asking.  There is no way for outsiders to know exactly what the Justices will be looking for as they go over the seven filings.

Those petitions almost certainly will not be the last that the Supreme Court sees in the coming Term.  Two other federal appeals courts are poised to rule quite soon, and a third has a case before it but has not yet scheduled a hearing.

The Court, however, need not await the arrival of any other petitions, if it is prepared to take on the controversy itself promptly.

If the Court does grant review of any same-sex marriage cases any time up to the middle of January, a final decision would be expected by next summer.

News

vote2In an order issued today, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to expedite an appeal of a lower court’s refusal to block voting law changes from taking effect this November, and has scheduled argument on that appeal for September 25 in Charlotte.

That lower court refusal came in the form of  a 125-page decision released at 5 p.m. on August 8 by U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder, who ruled that the upcoming November elections would go forward under provisions of the new voting law enacted by the General Assembly in 2013.

For North Carolina voters, that meant that for this election cycle, there would be no same-day registration, early voting days would be reduced from 17 to 10, and votes cast out-of-precinct would not be counted.

Here is the order.

For more background on the case and the lower court order, read here.

News

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. has vacated a July ruling by a three-judge panel of that court striking down Obamacare subsidies issued through the federal exchange.

The full panel of the court will instead review that challenge in arguments expected in December.

Democratic appointees on the full court outnumber Republicans, and as Elise Viebeck notes in this post at The Hill, the ruling for a review by the full court is a victory for the Obama administration.

In July, the three-judge panel had ruled in Halbig v. Burwell  that tax credits under the Affordable Care Act can only be available to people who enrolled in new exchanges set up in states — not those who enrolled in the default federal program.

Hours later, though, the Fourth Circuit issued a contrary decision in King v. Burwell, upholding the availability of Affordable Care Act tax credits to health insurance purchasers on both state exchanges and the federal exchange.

In North Carolina, which did not set up a state exchange, more than 350,000 residents purchased health insurance on the federal exchange — and more than 90 percent did so with the assistance of subsidies.

 

News

Last night’s debate between Sen. Kay Hagan and former state speaker Thom Tillis included plenty of bantering about who cares more about women’s health issues — most of which concerned access to contraception after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

Sen. Hagan called the decision as she saw it — a blatant effort to restrict access to contraception, while Tillis defended the rights of small businesses with a professed religious affiliation and announced a new-found affection for the expansion of contraception by a variety of means — making birth control pills available over-the-counter as opposed to through a prescription, for example.

Of course, contraception is only one piece of the women’s health pie, and a decision out of Texas late last week reminds us that the fight over restrictive state abortion laws continues to percolate in the federal courts.

In that decision, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel — a George W. Bush appointee — ruled that the state’s requirement that abortion facilities be outfitted as ambulatory surgical centers unduly burdened women without any countervailing legitimate state interest.

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