Week in Review

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The Supreme Court issues major decisions on immigration and affirmative action, FAA finalizes drone rule, and more…

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  • In its second experience with the case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin to allow the University of Texas to continue considering race as a factor in admissions. Though the decision has received praise from supporters of affirmative action programs, among them Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Court did not give affirmative action a wholesale endorsement, calling for continuing evaluation of the necessity of these programs in light of shifting demographics.
  • The Senate rejected four proposed gun control measures in the wake of the shooting in Orlando, Florida, shifting focus to a new compromise proposal by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine)—Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threw his support behind the amendment alongside other Democrats and characterized it as a “small step forward,” but Senator Collins reportedly still needs to bring eight more Republicans onboard after the Senate took a test vote on Thursday, a difficult task given that Chris Cox, Executive Director of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) reportedly blasted the measure as “unconstitutional.”
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized a new rule that is expected to greatly increase access to small commercial drones—a rule which replaces the old waiver system with a new system that includes a test, online registration, and an age requirement, and which, while it has been generally viewed as a positive first step by drone advocates, was criticized by some transportation experts for allegedly being too restrictive due to restrictions on nighttime drone operation and the inclusion of a requirement that drones remain within the line of sight of the operator.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court declined to to hear a case challenging a Connecticut law—which was enacted in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut and which bans many semiautomatic weapons—as a violation of the Second Amendment, leaving in place a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which upheld most of the ban as constitutional.
  • Led by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled a long-awaited plan for a replacement system should the Affordable Care Act (ACA) be repealed, which would roll back of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, implement a work requirement for able-bodied adults using Medicaid, increase the age of eligibility for both Medicare and Social Security, and turn Medicare into a “market-based model.” Supporters of the ACA fear that this plan would reverse the progress the ACA has made in reducing the number of uninsured.
  • In a blow to the Obama Administration’s environmental goals, U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl issued an order invalidating the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) rule implementing a host of safety requirements for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on public lands. While the BLM had hoped that the rule would “improve safety and help protect groundwater,” Judge Skavdahl stated that “whether hydraulic fracturing is good or bad for the environment” was not the question, and that the BLM had simply “lacked Congressional authority to promulgate” the rule.


  • In an op-ed published in the Seattle Times, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called for reforming the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) coal leasing program. In the face of the growing threats from climate change and the need to shift to “the cleaner, more efficient fuels of the future,” Cantwell and Allen write, federal coal-leasing rates—which currently are below market rates—should be increased to better reflect the true cost that coal leasing poses to the public.
  • Mark Dynarski, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, recently published a report that analyzed school voucher program outcomes in Indiana and Louisiana, and found that public school students who attended private schools with a voucher scored significantly worse than public school students on both reading and math exams. Dynarski acknowledged that the results of studies of other voucher systems have been mixed, but he asserted that, at the very least, these findings undermine the traditional assumption that sending children from low-income families to private schools will automatically yield a positive outcome.