News & Commentary

November 27, 2013

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a pair of cases on whether the Affordable Care Act can mandate that corporations provide insurance coverage for contraceptives for their employees despite religious objections of the corporation’s owners.  As Adam Liptak of the New York Times reports, the Third and Tenth Circuits have split on the issue.  Oral arguments are expected for March with a decision issued by June.

The Editorial Board of the New York Times is also chiming in on the case.  The Editorial Board argues the contraceptives mandate doesn’t run afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law cited by corporate religious objectors.  The statute “bars the federal government from taking actions that ‘substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion’ unless the action advances a compelling government interest and is the ‘least restrictive means’ of achieving it.”

Pope Francis has issued an apostolic exhortation entitled “Evangelii Gaudium” (the Joy of the Gospel) — a papal pronouncement with less weight than an encyclical.  The exhortation echoes longstanding church concerns about poverty and inequality.  Among other things, the Washington Post notes the exhortation sharply criticizes “trickle-down” economics as “expresses[ing] a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power . . . .”

City voters in Seatac have approved the highest municipal wage in the nation—$15/hr—by a narrow margin.  If the vote survives recount efforts, it will provide a boon to thousands airport workers employed in this small city south of Seattle: Seatac is home to the Seattle-Tacoma International airport.  The New York Times notes that labor unions are praising the result as a call to action on the issue of worker wages.

In other minimum wage news, the County Council of Montgomery Maryland has voted to raise the wages of workers to $11.50/hr by 2017.  As the Washington Post reports, the law will affect employees doing work in the county for companies “operating and doing business in the county.”  The vote marks a reversal of the council’s previous position that wages should be addressed at the state and federal level.

The New York Times is reporting that creditors in the Detroit bankruptcy have filed a motion to create a committee to retain a “leading art intermediary” to value the City’s world-class art collection in anticipation of a possible sale. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the creditor group, which includes City retirees and labor unions, argues that the art collection has no connection with Detroit’s provision of core services and should be sold to maximize creditor recovery.

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