Puerto Ricans get their 3rd governor in 6 days

Legal Events

Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez became Puerto Rico’s new governor Wednesday, just the second woman to hold the office, after weeks of political turmoil and hours after the island’s Supreme Court declared Pedro Pierluisi’s swearing-in a week ago unconstitutional.

Accompanied by her husband, Judge Jorge Diaz, and one of her daughters, Vazquez took the oath of office in the early evening at the Supreme Court before leaving without making any public comment. She then issued a brief televised statement late Wednesday, saying she feels the pain that Puerto Ricans have experienced in recent weeks.

“We have all felt the anxiety provoked by the instability and uncertainty,” Vazquez said, adding that she would meet with legislators and government officials in the coming days. “Faced with this enormous challenge and with God ahead, I take a step forward with no interest other than serving the people ... It is necessary to give the island stability, certainty to the markets and secure (hurricane) reconstruction funds.”

The high court’s unanimous decision, which could not be appealed, settled the dispute over who will lead the U.S. territory after its political establishment was knocked off balance by big street protests spawned by anger over corruption, mismanagement of funds and a leaked obscenity-laced chat that forced the previous governor and several top aides to resign.

But it was also expected to unleash a new wave of demonstrations because many Puerto Ricans have said they don’t want Vazquez as governor.

“It is concluded that the swearing in as governor by Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia, named secretary of state in recess, is unconstitutional,” the court said in a brief statement.

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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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