Discouraged by seemingly endless court battles, gerrymandering opponents in some states are shifting their strategy two years before the 2020 census sparks another round of redistricting for legislative seats. Voters in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah will decide in November whether to have independent commissioners, rather than state lawmakers, draw congressional maps and the lines for state legislative seats. Except for Colorado, where lawmakers added the ballot measure, activists got these initiatives on the ballot by gathering signatures. And earlier this year, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that requires bipartisan support for new lines, though the power to draw them returns to the majority party if several redistricting attempts fail. The new system goes into effect in 2021.
More than 30 years ago, Congress identified what it said was a grave threat to the American promise of equal justice for all: Federal judges were giving wildly different punishments to defendants who had committed the same crimes. The worries were many. Some lawmakers feared lenient judges were giving criminals too little time in prison. Others suspected African-American defendants were being unfairly sentenced to steeper prison terms than white defendants. In 1984, Congress created the U.S. Sentencing Commission with remarkable bipartisan support.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in every state in the United States after a ruling by the United States Supreme Court. A little more than 11 years after Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that same-sex couples have the right to marry and that laws that barred such marriages are, in fact, unconstitutional. “Were the Court to uphold the challenged laws as constitutional, it would teach the Nation that these laws are in accord with our society’s most basic compact,” Justice Anthonhy Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “Were the Court to stay its hand to allow slower, case-by-case determination of the required availability of specific public benefits to same-sex couples, it still would deny gays and lesbians many rights and responsibilities intertwined with marriage.” Within hours, same-sex couples in states that had previously not allowed same-sex marriages were lining up at courthouses to get married.
The United States Supreme Court dealt a blow this morning to efforts to handicap the Affordable Care Act subsidies provision by deciding 6-3 that federal subsidies for Americans seeking health insurance through state-based exchanges are legal. See the reactions to the ruling from New Mexico’s congressional delegation. Republican opponents of the law sued to have those subsidies, essentially providing discounts on premiums for health policies offered through health exchanges, declared improper because the language of the ACA provided for those subsidies only through state-based exchanges, they argued. The argument said the law did not allow for subsidies in states that relied on the federal exchange instead of those created by the state themselves. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a decision for the majority.