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The Brief: March 26, 2012

Two years after its passage, federal health care reform has landed at the steps of the Supreme Court.

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The Big Conversation:

Two years after its passage, federal health care reform has landed at the steps of the Supreme Court.

The high court today begins three days of hearings on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has drawn legal challenges from Texas and 25 other states.

Though Attorney General Greg Abbott will not argue in the case, he is scheduled to appear at the hearings. And much remains at stake for Texas, which has the highest percentage of uninsured residents in the nation.

Though the case revolves around the so-called individual mandate, which would require nearly all Americans to buy health insurance or face penalties, the court will not hear that matter until Tuesday.

Today, the judges will consider, as The New York Times reports, a procedural question: whether they are barred from hearing the case until 2015, after the first penalties are issued.

On Tuesday, the judges will review the individual mandate, for which they have allotted two hours of argument. On Wednesday, the court will hear whether the law can be enacted without the individual mandate and whether Congress exceeded its authority in passing the law. The court will release audio recordings of the arguments every day.

The Tribune and KTRK-TV in Houston have partnered to report on how the law has already affected some residents and to curate content that explains what's at stake for nearly 6 million uninsured Texans.


  • Today will be the first time Texas students take the state's new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR exams, a more rigorous version of the current TAKS test. In February, the Texas Education Agency, under mounting pressure from lawmakers, parents and school leaders, also announced that it would waive a rule this year requiring that the new tests account for 15 percent of students' final grades. The rollout of the test comes as hundreds of educators, lawmakers and parents descended on the Capitol on Saturday to protest cuts to public education in an attempt at a revival of a similar rally held last year.
  • The Austin American-Statesman reported Saturday that Attorney General Greg Abbott has asked a federal court in Washington to prevent 12 state lawmakers from giving depositions in the state's voter ID case. The Justice Department has asked to question several lawmakers — including state Sen. Troy Fraser, the author of the bill — and has sought copies of written communications between lawmakers. The state has called the requests "an unwarranted federal intrusion into the operations of the Texas Legislature."
  • As the Tribune's Reeve Hamilton reports, the Fort Bend County Democratic Party has made a rare primary endorsement in Congressional District 22, selecting K.P. George over Kesha Rogers, a devotee of the controversial activist Lyndon LaRouche who has called for impeaching President Barack Obama.

“I like Mitt Romney as much as any good-looking man can like another good-looking man and not break Texas law.”Rick Perry at Saturday night's Gridiron Club dinner, an annual roast-type event in Washington, D.C., for politicians and the media


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