High court puts Texas abortion law on hold

by | Jul 9, 2015 | Opinion

By Ed Sterling

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote on June 29, granted a stay preventing revisions to the state abortion law made by the Texas Legislature in 2013 from taking effect on July 1.

The stay will remain in effect while the court is on hiatus. When it reconvenes in October, the court will decide if the issues at stake in the Texas case, Whole Woman’s Health (and others) v. Cole, merit further review. Voting to deny the stay were Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito.

Created by House Bill 2 in the second special session of the 83rd Texas Legislature, the law would further restrict abortion providers and complicate patient access to abortion services. In question are matters related to the law’s admitting privileges requirement for physicians performing abortions and the requirement that abortion-providing facilities must upgrade as necessary to qualify as ambulatory surgical centers.

Governor Greg Abbott commented, “HB 2 was a constitutional exercise of Texas’ lawmaking authority that was correctly and unanimously upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Texas will continue to fight for higher-quality healthcare standards for women while protecting our most vulnerable, the unborn, and I’m confident the Supreme Court will ultimately uphold this law.”

SCOTUS rules against EPA

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 29 ruled in favor of Texas plus 22 other states and a list of co-plaintiffs that sued the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the enforcement of rules the federal agency adopted to reduce the release of mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants that use coal to generate electricity.

Plaintiffs claimed the EPA disregarded the cost of compliance, calculated at $9.6 billion per year, and potential job losses that obeying the regulations would cause. The EPA cited epidemiological information in showing its proposed regulation was intended to achieve the Clean Air Act’s goal of improving public health.

Justice Scalia, who delivered the majority opinion, wrote: “EPA must consider cost—including cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost.”

Texas to receive spill funds

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on June 30 announced “an agreement in principle” between BP Exploration and Production Inc. and the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and the federal government.

As part of the agreement resulting from the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill in 2010, BP will pay $20.2 billion in damages and penalties with Texas receiving more than $750 million.

Gov. Abbott commented: “After five years, I’m proud to announce that Texas, along with the other Gulf States, has reached an agreement in principle with BP to resolve all the states’ claims. This settlement will allow Texas to reinvest in the Gulf community and reinvigorate the economic and environmental health of the region.”

TCEQ said the money would be included in a 15-year payout plan starting in 2017.

Speaker reflects on session

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on July 1 praised the state House of Representatives for a successful regular session that began on Jan. 13 and ended June 1.

Straus highlighted the approval of “a balanced two-year state budget that grows less than two percent per year and allows for almost $4 billion in tax relief” which he said also puts additional resources into public education and higher education.

He also mentioned strides made in “oversight of taxpayer dollars” particularly in regards to how agencies award and administer private-sector contracts.

Finally, Straus noted, “For decades, the state has collected fees for a stated purpose, but withheld the money from that purpose so that it could be counted to certify the rest of the budget. The House reduced that practice in 2013 and further reduced it this session. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars in fees were reduced, while additional resources flowed to transportation, hospital trauma care and state parks.”

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