Justices return for season of big decisions, amid campaign

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For a Supreme Court that says it has an allergy to politics, the next few months might require a lot of tissues.

The court is poised to issue campaign-season decisions in the full bloom of spring in cases dealing with President Donald Trump’s tax and other financial records, abortion, LGBT rights, immigration, guns, church-state relations and the environment.

The bumper crop of political hot potatoes on the court’s agenda will test Chief Justice John Roberts’ insistence that the public should not view the court as just another political institution.

“It’s interesting that all of this is coming together in an election year. The chief justice has made it clear that people should view the court as a nonpolitical branch of government and people tend to have the opposite view when they see these big cases,” said Sarah Harrington, who has argued 21 cases in front of the high court.

The justices are gathering on Friday for the first time in nearly a month to put the finishing touches on opinions in cases that were argued in the fall and decide what new cases to take on. Most prominent among the possibilities is the latest dispute over the Obama-era health care overhaul.

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Texas Adopts Statewide Texting-While-Driving Ban

Effective September 1, 2017, Texas will become the 47th state to pass a statewide ban on texting while driving. Governor Abbott’s signing of House Bill 62 is an effort to unify Texas under a uniform ban and remedy the “patchwork quilt of regulations that dictate driving practices in Texas.”

The bill specifically prohibits drivers from reading, writing, or sending an electronic message on a device unless the vehicle is stopped. That includes texting and emailing. It does not, however, prohibit dialing a number to call someone, talking on the phone using a hands-free device, or using the phone’s GPS system.

Violations would be punishable by a fine ranging from $25 to $99, to be set by each municipality. Although penalties could rise to as much as $200 for repeat offenders.

Studies have found that a driver’s reaction time is half as much when a driver is distracted by sending or reading a text message. According to state officials, in 2015 more than 105,000 traffic accidents in Texas involved distracted driving, leading to at least 476 fatalities.

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