The proposal would allow citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who sells or manufactures assault-style weapons.
Newsom Slams Latest Supreme Court Ruling on Texas Law
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Saturday that his administration will push for a new measure to tackle gun control modeled after the enforcement mechanism in Texas’ law that bans most abortions after six weeks.
The Texas law, enacted earlier this year, allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps someone obtain an abortion after six weeks including doctors, clinic staff, counselors, as well as those who help pay for the procedure and even rideshare drivers who take patients to a provider.
Citizens who file such lawsuits do not need to have a connection to the defendants or prove any personal injury. The provision effectively gives private citizens, rather than state officials, the sole ability to enforce the law, thus insulating the government from lawsuits and making it much harder for the policy to be challenged in federal courts.
Newsom’s announcement came in response to the Supreme Court’s decision a day earlier to allow legal challenges to the Texas law but keep the controversial ban in place while litigation plays out in lower courts.
Newsom argued on Twitter that the latest ruling set a precedent for states to create similar legal tools to protect their laws from federal court reviews.
“SCOTUS is letting private citizens in Texas sue to stop abortion?! If that’s the precedent then we’ll let Californians sue those who put ghost guns and assault weapons on our streets,” he wrote.
A New Kind of Gun Law Enforcement
In a press release, Newsom further expanded his analogy to apply to a recent decision from a federal judge, who in June struck down California’s decades-long ban on the sale and manufacture of assault-style weapons.
In that ruling, federal district court Judge Robert Benitez claimed the long-standing ban violated the Second Amendment and specifically pointed to the utility of AR-15’s in his decision.
“Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” he wrote at the time. “Good for both home and battle.”
Citing that decision in his statement, Newsom argued that “if states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts that compare assault weapons to Swiss Army knives, then California will use that authority to protect people’s lives, where Texas used it to put women in harm’s way.”
“I have directed my staff to work with the Legislature and the Attorney General on a bill that would create a right of action allowing private citizens to seek injunctive relief, and statutory damages of at least $10,000 per violation plus costs and attorney’s fees, against anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit or parts in the State of California,” he continued.
“If the most efficient way to keep these devastating weapons off our streets is to add the threat of private lawsuits, we should do just that.”
Newsom’s measure — which marks the first proposal to use the Texas enforcement mechanism for another kind of policy goal — would effectively bypass Benitez’s ruling by removing the state’s ability to enforce the law and protecting the ban from judicial challenges.
Khiara Bridges, a professor at UC Berkeley School of Law, told the Los Angeles Times that while Newsom’s law will likely be struck down if it ends up before the Supreme Court, the conservative majority could find a way to do so while still upholding the Texas policy.
“We have six justices, and it’s looking more like five these days, who like gun rights and don’t like abortion rights,” she said. “They’re willing to disregard some precedent while venerating other precedent. I have no doubt whatsoever that the Supreme Court will find some bizarre, disingenuous argument to distinguish gun rights from abortion rights.”
Still, Bridges also argued that Newsom’s proposal could push the high court to correct what she believes is a dangerous precedent that allows states to write laws to bypass federal court review.
See what others are saying: (The Los Angeles Times) (Vox) (The New York Times)
Judges Uphold North Carolina’s Congressional Map in Major GOP Win
The judges agreed that the congressional map was “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting” but said they did not have the power to intervene in legislative matters.
New Maps Upheld
A three-judge panel in North Carolina upheld the state’s new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, deciding it did not have the power to respond to arguments that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered it to benefit them.
Voting rights groups and Democrats sued over the new maps, which were drawn by the state’s Republican legislature following the 2020 census.
The maps left Democrats with just three of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats in a battleground state that is more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Previously, Democrats held five of the 13 districts the state had before the last census, during which North Carolina was allocated an additional seat.
The challengers argued that the blatantly partisan maps had been drawn in a way that went against longstanding rules, violated the state’s Constitution, and intentionally disenfranchised Black voters.
In their unanimous ruling, the panel — composed of one Democrat and two Republicans — agreed that both the legislative and congressional maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.”
The judges added that they had “disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.”
Despite their beliefs, the panel said they did not have a legal basis for intervening in political matters and constraining the legislature. They additionally ruled that the challengers did not prove their claims that the maps were discriminatory based on race.
Notably, the judges also stated that partisan gerrymandering does not actually violate the state’s Constitution.
The Path Ahead
While the decision marks a setback to the plaintiffs, the groups have already said they will appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court has a slim Democratic majority and has already signaled they may be open to tossing the map.
There are also past precedents for voting maps to be thrown out in North Carolina. The state has an extensive history of legal battles over gerrymandering, and Republican leaders have been forced to redraw maps twice in recent years.
A forthcoming decision is highly anticipated, as North Carolina’s congressional map could play a major role in the control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections if they are as close as expected.
See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden Administration Says Private Insurers Will Have to Cover 8 At-Home Tests a Month
The policy will apply to all the nearly 150 million Americans who have private insurance.
New At-Home Testing Policy
The Biden administration announced Monday that private health insurers will now be required to pay for up to eight at-home rapid tests per plan member each month.
Under the new policy, starting Saturday, private insurance holders will be able to purchase any at-home test approved by the FDA at a pharmacy or online. They will either not be asked to pay any upfront costs or be reimbursed for their purchase through their provider.
The move is expected to significantly expand access to rapid tests that other countries have been distributing to their citizens free of charge for months.
According to reports, nearly 150 million Americans — about 45% of the population — have private insurance.
Each dependent enrolled on the primary insurance holder’s account is counted as a member. That means a family of four enrolled on a single plan would be eligible for 32 free at-home rapid tests a month.
All tests may not be fully covered depending on where they are purchased.
In order to help offset costs, the Biden administration is incentivizing insurance providers to establish a network of “preferred” pharmacies and stores where people in the plan can get tests without paying out of pocket.
As a result, health plans that do create those networks will only be required to reimburse up to $12 per test if they are purchased out of that network, meaning people could be on the hook for the rest of the cost.
If an insurer does not set up a preferred network, they will have to cover all at-home tests in full regardless of the place of purchase.
During a briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said tests should be “out the door in the coming weeks.”
“The contracts [for testing companies] are structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week,” she added.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Biden Administration Unveils Plan To Replace All Lead Pipes
The effort builds on the $15 billion allocated under the bipartisan infrastructure bill for lead pipe replacement, but industry leaders say $60 billion will be needed for nationwide revitalization.
White House Outlines Actions on Lead Pipes and Paint
The Biden administration rolled out a sweeping plan on Thursday to remove all the nation’s lead pipes over the next decade and take other steps to prevent lead paint contamination.
Lead, which was commonly used in piping for municipal water systems all over the country until it was banned in 1978, is a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause serious nervous system damage, especially in children.
Contamination from lead pipes seeping into water supplies has caused multiple high-profile public health and environmental catastrophes over the last decade, including the notorious crisis in Flint, Michigan.
According to a White House factsheet, an estimated 10 million households are connected to water through lead pipes. Children and teenagers in 400,000 schools and child care facilities also risk exposure to lead-contaminated water.
“Because of inequitable infrastructure development and disinvestment, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these risks,” the factsheet stated.
To address those disparities and revitalize water systems across the nation, the White House outlined 15 new action items the Biden administration is taking, including:
- Launching “a new regulatory process to protect communities from lead in drinking water” through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Clarifying that state, local, and Tribal governments can use the $350 billion aid allocated under the American Rescue Plan to replace lead service lines.
- Establishing federally-operated regional technical assistance hubs “to fast track lead service line removal projects in partnership with labor unions and local water agencies.”
- Awarding federal grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remove lead paint in low-income communities.
- Directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand childhood lead testing.
- Establishing “a new Cabinet Level Partnership for Lead Remediation in Schools and Child Care Centers.”
The White House also said it will direct the EPA to allocate $3 billion for state, local, and Tribal governments to replace lead pipes through funding that was approved under the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden last month.
A Matter of Funding
In total, Congress provided $15 billion to revitalize the nation’s lead-pipe systems under the infrastructure bill.
However, industry experts have estimated that it will cost $60 billion to entirely overhaul all the remaining lead pipes in the U.S.
As a result, the Biden administration has proposed several additional funding mechanisms in the social safety net package, known as the Build Back Better Act, that is currently being negotiated by Congress.
Specifically, the legislation would set aside $9 billion for lead remediation grants to disadvantaged communities, $1 billion for rural water utilities to remove lead pipes, and $5 billion for mitigation efforts such as removing lead-based water fixtures in low-income households.
The Build Back Better Act would additionally provide $65 billion for public housing agencies and $5 billion for other federally-assisted housing organizations to improve housing quality, including by replacing lead pipes and service lines.
The status of that legislation, as well as what provisions will remain in the final version, remain in limbo. While Democratic leadership has pushed to pass the sweeping social bill before the new year, all 50 of the party’s members in the Senate will need to sign on, and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has continued to withhold his support.