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Posts tagged: U.S. Supreme Court

Today’s fun video: John Oliver on Hobby Lobby case

 

This actually aired the night before Monday's Supreme Court decision came down, but Oliver's rift on what corporations should have to do if they really want to be considered people may be even more on point now.

He'd probably get high fives from the minority and those in their corner, but not from the five who ruled for Hobby Lobby and those who think they're right on the mark. 

Hobby Lobby to fuel RPA debate next year?

OLYMPIA – Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows some companies to refuse birth control coverage for employees is likely to add fuel to both sides of the Washington legislative controversies over the Reproductive Parity Act.

It probably won’t affect two other controversial cases that involve businesses and claims of religious freedom.

A priority for Gov. Jay Inslee and most legislative Democrats for the last two years, the Reproductive Parity Act would require any insurance plan that offers maternity care to also cover abortions. It easily passed the state House of Representatives this year and last, but died in the Senate where the ruling coalition is predominantly Republicans.

“I’m hoping that what this will do is urge the Legislature to pick (the legislation) up and pass it next year,” Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, prime sponsor of the Reproductive Parity Act, said of the court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said he doubted that the court’s decision will change any minds on either side of the issue, but it could cause both sides to step up efforts for or against the proposal: “Both sides have their share of passionate people.”

The Hobby Lobby involves forms of contraception that some people consider a form of abortion. The Reproductive Parity Act covers actual abortions, Padden said. “The position against the RPA is even stronger than the argument against abortion in the Hobby Lobby case,” he said.

Opponents of abortion will definitely use Monday’s decision to fight the proposal, Hobbs predicted, and supporters should take it as a sign that a woman’s right to decide to have an abortion is not “all worked out” even though that Supreme Court case is 40 years old. “I think this is a fight that will continue on a state-by-state basis.”

Hobbs said he will likely sponsor  a new version of the Reproductive Parity Act in the next session. Padden, who would lead a committee with jurisdiction over the proposal unless Democrats regain the majority, said he can’t decide at this point whether he’d schedule a hearing. “But I’m not a big fan of mandates,” he added.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the Hobby Lobby decision should have no impact on a court case in which some pharmacists don’t want to stock the morning-after birth control pill or a separate case in which a florist refused to serve a same-sex couple’s wedding. Religious freedom is cited in both cases, but they involve state laws, not the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act involved in Monday’s ruling, he said.

The court also said the Hobby Lobby decision doesn’t create a religious exception to anti-discrimination laws, Ferguson said. The state argues the florist case involves discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is illegal under Washington law. 

For comments about the Hobby Lobby decision from Northwest politicians, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Court ruling expands rights for WA same-sex couples

OLYMPIA – Supporters of Washington’s same-sex marriage law called Wednesday’s Supreme Court decisions a major step forward for gay and lesbian couples, but warned it’s not the end of the road. There are more than 1,000 federal rules and regulations that will have to be studied, and likely more court battles ahead.

“We’re on a long road and today was a Mach 1 step forward,” Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said. “It doesn’t mean we’re at the endpoint.”

When the Legislature approved a same-sex marriage law last spring and voters affirmed it in the November elections,  that invalided the state’s version of the Defense of Marriage Act. But same-sex couples weren’t eligible for some federal benefits, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog

Inslee: Time to move forward

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee said his GOP opponent was “wrong from the beginning” to join the lawsuit challenging the federal health care reform law.

A couple hours earlier, Inslee's chief Republican rival, Attorney General Rob McKenna had defended his decision to join the lawsuit and said that with the court's 5-4 ruling, at least the state and nation has greater certainty on what Congress can and can't do.

“I always believed this was constitutional,” Inslee said Thursday afternoon at a brief press conference. “I had no qualms in voting for this bill.”

The ruling means the efforts to expand and improve the nation's health care system can move forward, he said. If he wins the race for governor in November “I will lead the effort to expand coverage,” Inslee said.

Whether or not McKenna's participation in the suit influences voters, health care remains a major issue for the state for years to come, Inslee said.

 

Obama on the Obamacare decision

President Obama looked pretty happy when he took to the microphone earlier this morning to comment on the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that upheld the Affordable Care Act.

For those who didn't see that, but wonder what he had to say, a transcript is inside the blog.

Press conferences coming on Obamacare decision

Gov. Chris Gregoire is holding a press conference at 10:30 a.m. in Olympia on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. She's already released a statement that she's pleased.

Attorney General Rob McKenna is holding a press conference at 11:30 a.m. in Seattle on the ruling. He was part of the group that opposed the law and lost, but he's described it as part of the nation's system of checks and balances.

Former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, McKenna's likely opponent for governor in the November election, has a press conference after a campaign luncheon in Seattle at about 1:30 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is part of a House GOP squadron holding a press conference in Washington, D.C. at 10:30 a.m. She's already released a statement saying they'll keep trying to “repeal and replace” it.

McKenna: Part of the checks and balances

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Rob McKenna was among the original plaintiffs challenging the Affordable Care Act and this morning defended the lawsuit, despite the loss, as part of the nation's “series of checks and balances”.

“While we’re disappointed that this close decision did not find in the states’ favor with regard to the individual mandate, the country benefits from a thoughtful debate about the reach of federal power into the legal rights of the states and the personal financial decisions of all Americans,” he said in a press release.

Other state officials who are Democrats were critical of McKenna for joining the lawsuit, and turned up the criticism when he said he was only challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate but the suit called for throwing out the entire law. It's a major bone of contention between McKenna and former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, the Democrat challenging McKenna for governor, who voted for the law when it was in Congress. So it's unlikely to be viewed as merely a way of testing the checks and balances by them.

To read the entire press release from McKenna, go inside the blog. 

McMorris Rodgers: Constitutional but unworkable

Even if the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning, it's still unworkable, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers insisted.

The Eastern Washington Republican was sent to the court as one of the GOP spokespersons to address the gathered media hordes. After listening to the decision, she issued a press release that vowed her party will continue trying to repeal the law that she called “an unprecedented expansion of government power.”

To read the full press release, go inside the blog.

U.S. Supreme Court asked to overturn state primary

OLYMPIA — The state's Democratic and Libertarian parties are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to do what lower courts have refused: Throw out the state's Top Two primary system.

The two parties have asked the nation's top court to hear arguments on the state's primary system, which has all candidates for all offices on a single ballot and lists candidates by the party they say they “prefer”. The two candidates receiving the most votes advance to the general election, regardless of party preference.

The Supreme Court would be the last stop in a long battle the parties have waged over the way Washington conducts its primaries. For more than a half-century, Washington operated what was known as a blanket primary, where all candidates for all offices appeared on a single ballot, and voters could select on candidate from any party for each office. When those ballots were tallied, the Democrat and Republican candidate for each office advanced to the general election, as did minor party candidates and independents who crossed a threshhold for a minimum number of votes.

Washington voters don't register by party, and the major parties argued that meant people who weren't their members were choosing their nominees. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a similar law in California for violating constitutional protections of freedom of association, and the Washington parties won a court challenge to their state's law in 2003. Voters approved an initiative for the Top 2 primary, which was also challenged in court, and while the court case was pending, primaries in which voters had to choose a Democratic or Republican ballot or nonpartisan ballot if there were nonpartisan races or measures in the same election.

Eventually the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 the Top 2 primary was, on its face, constitutional. But it left open the possibility that it could be administered in a way that was unconstitutional. The parties challenged the way the primary ballot identifies a candidate's party preference, arguing they don't have an adequate way of objecting to a candidate who claims to be associated with them, and that voters might be confused that listing of party preference indicates the candidate is a member of the party.

That challenge failed with a U.S. District Court judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ballot contains a disclaimer that a candidate's preference does not necessarily have the support of that party, and the appeals court said that was enough. The parties are saying, however, there wasn't any evidence in front of the appeals court to show “that voters read or understand the disclaimer or that doing so would affect voter perceptions of the candidate-party association.”

Secretary of State Sam Reed defended the Top 2 primary as a way for state residents to vote for the person, not the party label. “I hope the Supreme Court will decline to take the case, and will acknowledge that we followed to court's roadmap for how to conduct the primary as a nonpartisan, winnow election that puts the voter in the driver's seat.”

The state Republican Party had been involved in the previous court cases, but is not part of the latest effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, which is a request for a writ of certiorari.


Documents:

McKenna stays in health care suit; Dems step up criticism

OLYMPIA – Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna won’t withdraw from a multi-state lawsuit against federal health care reform, even though the other states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to do something McKenna says he doesn’t want.
Throw out the entire law.
Washington Democrats contend McKenna, the likely GOP nominee for governor next year, should be held responsible if the Supreme Court scraps the law and leaves thousands of state residents without health care…



J
To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

Supremes: Human Life would have to reveal donors

OLYMPIA – The U.S. Supreme Court answered once and for all Tuesday whether a conservative group can hide the names of donors to a campaign against an assisted suicide initiative.

It can’t.

The court refused to hear an appeal of lower courts’ rulings against Human Life of Washington, which sought an injunction against the state’s Public Disclosure Commission for a planned 2008 campaign against assisted suicide. (Note: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the group refused to report donors and the PDC found it in violation of disclosure laws.)

It was the second time in eight months the nation’s highest court upheld state disclosure laws being challenged by faith-based groups. In both cases the groups were defended by an attorney who challenges election laws around the country.

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, click here.

Rossi: Would vote no on Kagan

Dino Rossi has taken a stand, apparently in part after prodding by the Everett Herald, on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

The short answer is he’d oppose her nomination. The long answer, which can be found inside the blog, notes he might back her for a lower court but doesn’t think she should get a spot on the Supremes without prior judicial experience.

Jerry Cornfield, political reporter for The Everett Herald, had ask Rossi’s staff last week whether he’d support or oppose Kagan. At the time, incumbent Patty Murray was on record as supporting Kagan, and another Republican challenger, Clint Didier, was strongly against.

Rossi’s staff said they’d send word, but didn’t. At lunchtime, Cornfield noted Rossi was still mum on Kagan:It could be they’re busy. More likely, they’re weighing the strategic value of letting anyone know until it’s too late for anyone to care…If Rossi opposed the nomination he’d have made a big deal of it by now. Many conservatives around the country oppose Kagan’s nomination and it could only have helped him in that crowd. Republican Clint Didier opposes her nomination and he gets loud cheers at events when he makes it known. “

Then the Democratic campaign operatives picked up the chant, recirculating the blog post to poke Rossi.

Murray to vote for Kagan

Sen. Patty Murray gave her official endorsement today to Solictor General Elana Kagan for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

It may be the least surprising news of the morning that the state’s senior Democratic senator will back the pick of a Democratic president to fill what’s considered a liberal seat on the nation’s highest court. But there you have it.

Full statement of Murray on Kagan can be found inside the blog.

U.S. Supremes: Releasing initiative names not barred by First Amendment

OLYMPIA — Round One in the fight over names on initiative petitions goes to the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning in Doe v. Reed that the First Amendment is not a barrier to the state releasing the names of people who sign initiatives or referendums. The state’s concerns about honesty and transparency in the election process in general trump federal privacy concerns, in general.

We say in general because this was the broad challenge of the signature release by attorneys for Referendum 71 and Protect Washington Marriage, who wanted to overturn new rules involving same sex unions and others that are short of marriage but more liberal than before the law changed in 2009. Ruling 8-1, the Supremes said that they weren’t going to give a blanket ban on releasing names, which the R-71 sponsors said was warranted under the First Amendment.

But a case-specific ban would be possible, the high court said. The case now goes back to the U.S. District Court of Western Washington for Round Two, where R-71 proponents will get a chance to make the case that releasing the names on these particular petitions would subject some signers to harassment.

Beyond that, there will be a Round Three in the Washington State Courts, where initiative sponsors are arguing that stricter Washington State Constitution rights of privacy would bar the release of names.

Seems possible this won’t be settled for several years. Which brings up the question of how many of those names and addresses won’t be any good, anyway, from people passing on or moving on.

Early morning trek for history

After nearly four months in Washington, D.C., on an American studies program, Michelle Creek had a chance at something special Wednesday – but it meant getting up at 5:45 a.m., walking some 10 blocks through the city and waiting in line in the early morning chill.

“I could not miss it,” the Whitworth University political science major and pre-law student said.

Concert tickets? The latest hot electronic gadget? No. A chance to see history being made. She wanted a seat in the U.S. Supreme Court for the arguments of Roe v. Reed, a potentially landmark case to decide whether the names of people who sign petitions for ballot measures are public.

Court, Legislature both pondering initative names

OLYMPIA — The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the names of Washington voters who sign a petition to put a law on the ballot can be made public, and subject to release.

The high court could hear the case of Doe vs. Reed as early as April, taking up the fight over the names and addresses of people who signed petitions to put Referendum 71 on last year’s November ballot.

A few hours after the court announced it was adding the case to its schedule, a legislative committee considered dueling bills spawned by the dispute. One would provide an exemption to the state’s Public Records Law for the names and addresses on initiative or referendum petitions; the other would state categorically that they are public records

Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia, chairman of the State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee, said he couldn’t reschedule the bills for later hearings just because the court agreed to take up the R-71 case. He plans to talk with House leadership on whether to schedule a committee vote that could send one or both bills to the House floor.
For more on this story, Click Here to go inside the blog.

Supreme Court will take Ref. 71 signature case

OLYMPIA — The U.S. Supreme Court granted a request to review the dispute on whether the names of people who sign a petition to put a law  before voters are public, and subject to release.

The high court today granted certiorari to the case Doe v Reed, and set it for a hearing as early as April. An exact date hasn’t been set.

The case involves a fight over the names and addresses of people who signed petitions to put Referendum 71 on last year’s November ballot. The referendum, which sought to overturn expanded rights for same sex and elderly heterosexual coupes, was sponsored by people opposed to gay marriage.

Supporters of gay rights filed a public records request for the names of everyone who signed the petition, Referendum backers objected, saying they feared the signers would be harassed.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna have said the names of people who sign initiative or referendum petitions are public under the state’s Public Records Act. Federal and state judges have disagreed. Most recently, a divided panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled they are public records, but the release of the names has been put on hold pending the appeal to the nation’s highest court.

Meanwhile, bills being introduced at the Legislature seek to declare the  names definitely are public or are exempt from released under the public records act.

High court to look at Ref. 71 case

The U.S. Supreme Court will take a peek at whether those names on the Referendum 71 petitions are public records or private info.

The Washington Secretary of State’s office, which says they are public records, announced today the Supremes have put the Ref. 71 issue on a list of cases they’ll review on Jan. 15. This could be the next step toward a full-blown appeal of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that they’re subject to release, or the end of the line for the fight.

The high court would be expected to announce that day or soon after whether they will take up the case, Brian Zylstra, deputy communications director, said.

For background on the case, go inside the blog.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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