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NEWS
July 10, 2015 | By Angela Couloumbis, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG - Calling Gov. Wolf's moratorium on the death penalty "an egregious violation" of the state constitution, Pennsylvania's top prosecutor is asking its Supreme Court to clear the path for the state's first execution in more than a decade. In a filing Wednesday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane asked the court to allow the execution of Hubert L. Michael Jr., who confessed to murdering a York County teenager two decades ago. Kane argued that it is "blatantly unconstitutional" for Wolf to stay all death sentences, and that allowing Wolf's moratorium to stand would effectively grant him the authority to ignore any laws with which he does not agree.
BUSINESS
July 1, 2015 | By Chris Mondics, Inquirer Staff Writer
In a ruling with wide implication for utilities and regulated industries, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday blocked Obama administration rules aimed at reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants, saying regulators failed to take cost into account. The court, in a 5-4 opinion, said the Environmental Protection Agency was obligated under the Clean Air Act to weigh the cost at the outset of efforts to cut emissions of mercury and other pollutants. "The agency must consider cost - including, most importantly, cost of compliance - before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary," the court said in its majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia.
NEWS
June 28, 2015 | By Jessica Parks and Rita Giordano, Inquirer Staff Writers
On both sides of the Delaware River, advocates cheered Friday's Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right, while critics voiced concerns about improper judicial activism and restrictions on religious freedom. In Philadelphia, John Speer rested a rainbow flag - the same one Mayor Nutter ordered to fly at City Hall - on one shoulder. Speer, 72, came out in 1976. Before that, he sneaked into gay bars. "I really didn't think I'd live to see this day," said Speer, one of hundreds who convened on Independence Mall to celebrate the ruling.
NEWS
June 28, 2015 | By Jessica Parks and Matt Gelb, Inquirer Staff Writers
John Speer rested a rainbow flag - the same one Mayor Nutter ordered Friday to fly at City Hall - on one shoulder. Speer, 72, came out in 1976. Before that, he sneaked into gay bars. "I really didn't think I'd live to see this day," said Speer, one of hundreds who convened on Independence Mall to celebrate a Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right. Nutter, less than an hour after his flight from Italy landed in Philadelphia, read from the Declaration of Independence.
NEWS
June 27, 2015 | By Chris Mondics and Don Sapatkin, Inquirer Staff Writers
In its second ruling in three years upholding President Obama's health-care law, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday turned back challengers' claims that the law barred health insurance subsidies to millions in 34 states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The 6-3 opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., upheld a central pillar of the Affordable Care Act and allows the administration's five-year-old initiative to get health coverage to more Americans. The decision lifted a cloud that threatened to end coverage for millions of Americans, disrupt state insurance markets, and pressure politicians whose constituents receive the subsidies to find a way to save them.
NEWS
June 27, 2015 | By Chris Hepp and Jessica Parks, Inquirer Staff Writers
A law that permitted the National Rifle Association to sue Philadelphia and other municipalities over local gun ordinances that are stricter than state law is unconstitutional, a state appeals court ruled Thursday. The 2014 law granted legal standing to "membership organizations" to sue over local gun laws and collect legal fees and other costs if they won. The NRA used the measure to sue Philadelphia. Other municipalities have repealed ordinances to avoid similar suits. In a decision released Thursday, a seven-member Commonwealth Court panel ruled unanimously that the law, known as Act 192, violated the state constitution because of the way it was enacted by the General Assembly.
NEWS
June 26, 2015
POPE FRANCIS hasn't even arrived, but already yesterday brought two miracles. Both are court rulings, and both will ensure millions of Pennsylvanians will be able to lead healthier lives. First, the state Commonwealth Court struck down Act 192 that would have allowed the National Rifle Association to sue Pennsylvania cities that enact local gun laws, and demand taxpayers pay their legal fees. The law was an affront to big cities like ours that are fighting against gun violence. The court's decision dealt a rare defeat for the NRA, a miracle for which we have two words: Praise Jesus.
NEWS
June 23, 2015 | By Don Sapatkin, Inquirer Staff Writer
Barbara Butler takes home $250 a week for driving a school bus with blind children to a Catholic day school part time. Her health insurance premiums are $517 a month. She pays 76 cents, and Washington picks up the rest. The Supreme Court is expected to rule within a week on whether that subsidy, a key part of President Obama's health-care law, is legal in 34 states. If it decides not, then the West Philadelphia resident's premiums would swell to half her income. "Fortunately for me, I'm pretty healthy," Butler said.
BUSINESS
June 22, 2015 | By Chris Mondics, Inquirer Staff Writer
After countless hours of courtroom argument, dozens of briefs, and seemingly endless legal maneuvering, the fate of President Obama's Affordable Care Act comes down to the meaning of six simple words. On June 28, 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court first narrowly upheld the law, it seemed the bitter struggle over Obama's huge expansion of federally funded health care had come to an end. But the calm was short-lived. Within a few months, conservative legal theorists seized on a little-noticed sentence in the law that seemed to limit federal assistance for consumers to buy health insurance purchased on state-established exchanges, or marketplaces.
NEWS
June 22, 2015 | By Jessica Parks, Inquirer Staff Writer
The U.S. Supreme Court has barely a week left to issue a ruling that could settle the same-sex marriage issue nationwide. But among legal scholars and the public, there's little debate about which way the court will go. "We don't need nine votes. I can count to five, and that's all we need to win," NYU Law professor Kenji Yoshino said at a forum in Center City this month. Yoshino predicted the four liberal justices and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, considered a swing vote, will declare same-sex marriage a constitutional right and overturn the 13 remaining state bans.
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