Texas: Affirmative action upheld
WASHINGTON — A divided U.S. Supreme Court gave a victory to affirmative action in college admissions, upholding a policy that the University of Texas says is crucial for fostering campus diversity.
The justices, voting 4-3, ruled against Abigail Fisher, a white woman who said she suffered unconstitutional discrimination when she was rejected by the school in 2008.
Opponents were hoping the court would use the case to put new limits on racial preferences in college admissions. Instead, Justice Anthony Kennedy, a critic of affirmative action in the past, joined the court’s liberal wing to uphold the plan.
The ruling came from an unusual seven-member court that was missing both Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, and Justice Elena Kagan, who was recused because she had been involved in the litigation as an Obama administration lawyer.
Texas has a unique hybrid admissions policy. The state’s Top Ten Percent Law, enacted in 1997 in response to a court decision, requires the school to admit three-quarters of its freshman class each year solely on the basis of high school class rank.
That system, while race-neutral on the surface, ensures a significant number of minorities because it guarantees slots to students at predominantly Hispanic and black schools.
The university directly considers race as a factor only in admitting the rest of the class, adding what Texas says is an important additional component of diversity. The university’s current freshman class is 22 percent Hispanic and less than 5 percent black.
South Carolina: Haley signs election law changes
EASLEY, S.C. — Gov. Nikki Haley has signed two ethics laws on income disclosure and independent investigations of legislators.
The Republican governor signed the measures Thursday in Easley, where she thanked Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin for his work on ethics reform over the last four years. She also endorsed Martin, who’s in a primary runoff Tuesday for the Pickens County seat.
Starting next year, all elected and appointed officials must report their private income sources — but not the amounts — on their annual ethics filings. They must also report who pays their spouses and dependent children.
The other law sends complaints against legislators to a restructured State Ethics Commission, allowing for an independent review.
Currently, House and Senate ethics committees oversee campaign finance filings and handle complaints against their colleagues.
Arkansas: Execution protocol, drug secrecy upheld
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas can execute eight death row inmates, a split state Supreme Court ruled Thursday in upholding a state law that keeps information about its lethal injection drugs confidential.
It has only seven days, however, before one of the drugs needed for the three-drug protocol expires, and it isn’t clear when Arkansas will be able to resume its first executions since 2005.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she would request new execution dates once the stays are lifted on the eight inmate executions.
Generally, a ruling goes into effect 18 days after it is issued. A paralytic drug, vecuronium bromide, expires on June 30, and the supplier has said it will not sell the state more. So, for the stays to be lifted before the drugs expire, Rutledge must ask the court to expedite the certification process, which she had not done as of Thursday.
“I will notify the governor once the stays of executions have been lifted so that he may set execution dates. I know that victims’ families want to see justice carried out, and that is exactly what I will continue to work toward as Attorney General,” she wrote in an emailed statement.
California: Bills target concealed carry laws
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two new gun-control proposals in the state Legislature could make it tougher and more expensive for Californians to legally carry concealed weapons.
AB466 would tighten the existing “good cause” requirement for a license. It requires the applicant to prove they face greater harm than the general public. That standard follows a recent federal appeals court ruling.
The other, AB450, would raise the fee for a concealed weapons application to cover costs of issuing and enforcing permits.
Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, the author of both, says concealed carry permits are a “privilege” that should be granted to only those with a genuine need.
The measures introduced Thursday join more than a dozen gun control bills advancing through the state Legislature.