Manic Monday Markup 6/30/14…
We begin today in Washington, where the United States Supreme Court issued narrow, but highly charged rulings on contraception and the fate of public employee unions. In the Harris v. Quinn case, the Court questioned long-standing precedent that allows state prohibition against union free riders, but did not overrule that precedent. Specifically, what the Court called partial state employees, which it deemed personal care attendants are, could not be compelled to pay dues to the unions bargaining on their behalf. It appears to queue up a case that could strike down such laws for public employees entirely. In the meantime, it undermines the bargaining power of the employees in the Harris case.
Meanwhile, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby the Court also ruled that a closely held corporation could deny contraception coverage to its employees through health insurance plans. The ruling was not based on the constitution, however, but rather the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, limiting its application only to the federal government. The ju-jitsu Samuel Alito employed here was called out by Ruth Bader Ginsburg who authored the dissent. The ruling could imperil progress on LGBT rights, too, despite Anthony Kennedy’s concurrence. The rulings come at a time of apparently low confidence in the Court.
…And the World:
In the territory held by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the jihadist organization, empowered by the disaffected Sunni minority of Iraq have declared an “Islamic State” and caliphate to which it calls on all Muslims to recognize. Meanwhile, Russia is selling jets to Iraq.
Following last week’s guilty verdict for Andy Coulson, the former New of the World editor and communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron faces a retrial for the remaining charges. Meanwhile, the Murdoch empire tries to put the scandal behind it.
The Feds (cont’d):
Paul Waldman writing at the Plum Line says the Hobby Lobby case show it is time to ditch the employer based health insurance system.
Elizabeth Warren was in Kentucky to campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat running against Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Globe is calling it a test of Democrats’ efforts to apply Warren’s populism and message to the South.
A New York court has ruled that towns may ban fracking within their borders.
President Obama is expected nominate former Proctor and Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as Veterans Affairs Secretary.
The State of Things:
North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright says his city is broke and that a Proposition 2 ½ override will be needed to keep the city solvent and/or avoid major cuts. The city’s finances were exasperated by the closure of North Adams Regional Medical Center. Alcombright compared his city to Detroit, but the Department of Revenue, which oversees municipal finances says they will not permit Bay State localities to go bankrupt.
The Republican tallies up the legal bills Ludlow Rep. Thomas Petrolati has racked up since the probation scandal blew up in 2010. The final number is $200 grand. Good background on his career and a bit on the scandal too.
Antiabortion activists rallied on the Boston Common following last week’s Supreme Court decision striking the commonwealth’s buffer zone law for abortion providers.
The Fourth Estatements:
The Reminder’s Mike Dobbs opines on the negative impact of the purchase of WGGB, both an ABC & a FOX affiliate, by Meredith Corporation, which owns the city’s CBS affiliate, WSHM.
MassMutual is creating an investment fund for entrepreneurs in the city.
Former Springfield Police Officer Jeffrey Asher will have one more chance to overturn his conviction for assault as his appeal goes up to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
More progress, it seems, after the gas explosion in Downtown Springfield.
The decisions today from the Supreme Court, though narrow, are incredibly disappointing. In part because they are strained readings of law that appear to suit a specific purpose. Elena Kagan, in her dissent in the Harris case, rightly noted failures on the part of Alito to follow the Supreme Court’s own precedent on striking down precedent. However, there is another dimension to this that is worth exploring and one tweet gets that right. Today we award the tweet prize to Connecticut’s junior US Senator Chris Murphy. As Republicans accuse President Obama of power grabs, Murphy rightly turns the same on the very Supreme Court that Republicans say backs them up. Murphy rightly notes that the cases today and the Voting Rights Act cases are, in effect, power grabs from Congress and the state legislatures. It is true that the judiciary’s role is to guard against overreach, but to do so they must follow their own rules. In the cases decided today and Murphy cites, the Court’s legal reasoning seems to depart from both legalities and reason the Court itself used to hold dear.
From voting rights to women's health care, the Supreme Court is engaging in a massive power grab from Congress.
— Chris Murphy 🟧 (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 30, 2014