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Sparks fly in Paxton’s abortion case


Lone Star watch by Ed Sterling

TEXANS WHO rely on Planned Parenthood as a medical care provider won’t have to seek those services elsewhere, pending an upcoming trial.
In the lawsuit titled Planned Parenthood Et Al v Texas Health And Human Services Commission, Austin-based US district judge Sam Sparks last week granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the commission, a state department, from eliminating funding for the family-service organization from its 2017-18 Medicaid budget.
In his judgment, Sparks wrote: “There is no legitimate public interest in allowing Texas to complete its planned terminations [of funding] based on the current facts.
“Instead, the public interest favors enforcing the individual plaintiffs’ rights and avoiding disrupting the health care of some of Texas’ most vulnerable individuals.”
Sparks found that an injunction would ensure that Medicaid recipients in Texas “will continue to have access to medical care at their chosen providers” and that the state department’s termination of Planned Parenthood’s provider agreements probably violates federal law.
On Tuesday last week, February 21, the judge ordered the plaintiffs and defendants to work out a schedule for presenting arguments in court within 30 days. The court will then schedule a trial date.
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton expressed disappointment at the ruling and said he plans to file an appeal.
His office released a statement saying he “promised to continue his fight to protect the unborn and Texas taxpayers”, accusing Sparks of ruling that Planned Parenthood’s “willingness to violate state and federal law on manipulating abortion procedures and profiting from the sale of fetal tissue”, as well as “making false statements” to law-enforcement agencies and “misleading” courts, were “insufficient grounds for Texas to exclude the organization from participating in the state’s Medicaid program”.
The statement quoted Paxton as saying the decision “flies in the face of basic human decency”.

Feds and state in ‘bathroom bill’ lockstep

A REPUBLICAN’S bill seeking a new law on the use of school restrooms by transgender students was on the table on Monday, awaiting a hearing by the state senate’s state affairs committee in the wake of the federal government’s reversal of an Obama administration directive on the issue last year.
The Trump administration last week overturned former president Barack Obama’s May directive to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.
On Wednesday, February 22, the civil rights divisions for the federal justice and education departments issued a joint guidance letter instructing their staff that they were reversing the controversial move.
The directive had been on ice since late August, when a Fort Worth federal district court enjoined the Obama administration from its nationwide enforcement.
Meanwhile, Texas senate bill 6, introduced by Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham and considered a high priority by governor Greg Abbott and lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, proposes a Texas requirement for transgender students to use facilities that match the biological sex they were assigned at birth.
On Wednesday, February 22, Patrick issued a statement welcoming president Donald Trump’s directive and saying the subject “is a state issue” that “ensures that public schools continue to designate separate restrooms, locker rooms and showers for boys and girls as well as allowing schools to continue to determine how they will accommodate students with individual needs, as they have always done”.
Saying he helped Kolkhorst write the bill, known as the Texas Privacy act, he added: “SB6 also protects private businesses from being forced by a local government to adopt any kind of restroom, locker room or shower policy and requires government buildings to continue to designate separate restrooms, locker rooms and showers for men and women.
“SB 6 does not discriminate against anyone. It is a common-sense privacy and public safety policy
for everyone.”

Legendary chief justice Pope dies

NOTED JURIST Jack Pope of Austin died at age 103
on Saturday.
The former state chief justice, who was born in Abilene in 1913, became famous for helping establish formal judicial education for Texas judges, fighting for a voluntary judicial ethics code at a time when judges had none and fighting again to make that code mandatory and enforceable.
Altogether, he served as a Texas jurist for 38 years, first as a district court judge, then as a court-of-appeals justice and later the state’s supreme court, becoming chief justice in both appellate courts. His judicial tenure, as a whole, was the longest of any Texas supreme-court justice.
While on the bench in the court of appeals, Pope’s reassessment of water rights conveyed by Spanish and Mexican land grants changed Texas water law for ever.
As chief justice, he forged a way to guarantee income to finance legal assistance for the poor.
Concerned with double litigation in the same case, he won legislative support for statutory changes to thwart “forum shopping” for favorable judges.

Poor students lead way in AP exams

ALMOST 123,000 of Texas’ 2016 high-school graduates took at least one advanced-placement-program exam during the previous three years, according to the state’s education commissioner.
Mike Morath said last week that the total, 122,606, amounts to 38.7 per cent of the state’s graduating class, while the national percentage rate for the same period is 36.2.
And Santa Fe was one of 22 Texas independent school districts recognized for their efforts to increase access to AP coursework while maintaining or increasing the percentage of their students earning AP exam scores of three or higher.
The figures came from research by College Board, the nonprofit successor to the national college entrance examination board, which oversees the program.
Morath said they show that “Texas was again the closest state to achieving equitable participation for low-income students”.
He said 50.3 per cent of the state’s AP examinees in the class of 2016 were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, of whom 45.1 per cent achieved a score of three or higher – “much higher than the national average, 24.9 per cent, and higher than any other state”.
Further good news came in the fact that three of the 10 most popular AP courses in Texas were in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, courses.
However, overall, 20.2 per cent of Texas students in the class of 2016 scored three or higher on an AP exam during high school, which was below the national average of 21.9 per cent.

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