Austin -- The State of Texas’ appeal of a lower court injunction preventing House Bill 15 “relating to informed consent to an abortion” from taking effect failed to win the U.S. Supreme Court’s approval last week.
The high court did the what the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans did last month: it chose not to overrule Austin U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks’ Aug. 30 preliminary injunction stopping the legislation widely known as the “sonogram bill” from taking effect.
Sparks’ 55-page court order dated Aug. 30 says HB 15, unlike current law, violates the First Amendment because it “compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity, and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen.” Sparks also expressed discomfort with the proposed law’s penalty portion, under which physicians convicted of violations face fines and revocation of their license to practice medicine.
High on Gov. Rick Perry’s list emergency bills for the 82nd Texas Legislature to pass last spring, HB 15 remains an open issue before Sparks’ court. With the injunction in effect, new briefs may be submitted by the parties.
26 states petition over health act
Texas and 25 other states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and was signed into law by President Obama on March 2010.
In a petition dated Sept. 28, the states claim the Act is unconstitutional because it “imposes coercive new spending mandates on the states and interferes with individual Americans’ constitutionally protected freedoms by forcing them to purchase health insurance.”
“As three federal district court judges have found, and as the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in this very case, the federal government exceeded the constitutional limits of its authority by requiring all Americans to buy government-approved health insurance,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.
“Given the substantial implementation costs associated with this 2,700-page law—and the unconstitutional mandate that it will impose on all Americans—we are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve our constitutional challenge as quickly as possible. With our system of limited government and the rights guaranteed the States under the Tenth Amendment imperiled by the Obama Administration’s unprecedented health care law, the stakes could not be higher.”
According to the petition, “The Medicaid expansion mandated by the act unlawfully coerces the states by mandating increased state spending without providing any practical mechanism for states to opt out of the program,” Abbott’s office said.
Border security study is released
A report ordered by the Texas Legislature’s House Bill 4 and commissioned by the Texas departments of agriculture and public safety suggests from a military perspective how to deal with “spillover border violence” along the Rio Grande River.
The report was released on Sept. 26. Among the findings:
• “Criminality spawned in Mexico is spilling over to the U.S. and Texas is the tactical close combat zone and frontline of this conflict.”
• “Federal authorities are reluctant to admit to the increasing cross-border campaign by narco-terrorists.”
• “Texas is the frontline in this escalating war and the potential consequences of success or failure will affect our entire nation.”
From October 2008 through August 2011, the report says, Texas identified 88,080 unique criminal alien defendants in Texas, and those defendants are responsible for 344,398 individual criminal charges over their criminal careers, including 2,245 homicides and 46,412 sexual assaults.
Important election dates ahead
Election Day statewide is set for Nov. 8. On the ballot are nine proposed amendments to the state constitution.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, the last day to register to vote is Oct. 11, and the first day of early voting will be Oct. 24.
Schools ‘AP’ program growing
Texas posted an 11 percent increase in the number of public school students taking an Advanced Placement test in 2011, according to the College Board, which oversees the testing program.
Some 186,576 Texas public school students took 339,406 AP exams last school year and participation gains for Texas’ Asian, African-American, American Indian, Hispanic and white students outpaced the growth rate for their peer groups nationally, the Texas Education Agency reported.