Legislative & court updates for June 30, 2016

justice-scales-and-gavelImmigration: U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said June 23 that he supports the 4-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on immigration.

The decision affirmed an appeals court ruling that blocks President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

“I strongly oppose President Obama’s unilateral actions, which effectively changed immigration laws without going through Congress, and I am pleased that the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling blocking these actions from moving forward,” Corker said last Thursday. “Today’s result is a victory for separation of powers and the democratic process.”

The Supreme Court took up the case (United States of America v. State of Texas) after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in November of 2015 affirmed a preliminary injunction by a federal district court in Brownsville, Texas, blocking the Obama administration from moving forward with its executive actions on immigration.

Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slatery III also approved the court’s decision. “With the Court affirming the lower court, we finally have a decision placing limits on executive authority and confining its role to enforcing, and not making, our laws.”

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collier-ville) said, “It matters who governs and it matters when the power of those who govern is unconstitutionally usurped.”

Abortion rights: The Supreme Court ruled Monday to reverse the lower court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, striking down the Texas laws that limited access to abortions.

The laws would have required doctors who perform abortions to have privileges to admit patients to local hospitals and require abortion clinics to have facilities comparable to outpatient surgical centers.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) expressed his disappointment in the ruling.

“This decision erodes the right of states to ensure the health and safety of mothers undergoing an abortion,” he said. “The decision also underscores the need for pro-life leaders who will stand up for patient safety and the unborn.”

Carjacking: July 1 marks the implementation of a wide variety of new laws in Tennessee including major legislation that requires any person convicted of carjacking to serve no less than 75 percent of the sentence imposed by the court, less any earned and retained sentence credits. Previously, offenders convicted of carjacking could serve as little as 30 percent of their sentence before being released on parole.

The legislation was passed amid a spate of carjackings in the Memphis area over the past year.

“Tennesseans should not have to worry about being held at gunpoint while driving in our communities,” said Senator Kelsey, who is co-sponsor of the new law. “This new law will keep Tennesseans safer by ensuring that carjackers serve more time behind bars.”

Religious rights: A Supreme Court decision on June 23 sets a precedent against personal religious beliefs being used to deny lawfully prescribed medication.

The court rejected an appeal from Washington State pharmacists who had religious objections to providing Plan B or other emergency contraceptives.

However, individuals with moral objections can direct patients to another pharmacist at the same store.

Drunk driving: Police must now get a search warrant before requiring drivers to take blood alcohol tests, according to another June 23 Supreme Court decision. (Breath tests were not included in the ruling because they are considered to be less intrusive.) This limits new state laws that criminalize motorists’ refuals to submit to alcohol tests.