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The Brief: July 1, 2014

Political rhetoric aside, uncertainty remains on the larger impact of Monday's Hobby Lobby decision.

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The Big Conversation

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision allowing Hobby Lobby to opt out of a mandate to provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act drew cheers from conservatives who viewed it as a big win for religious liberty. Those on the left were equally vehement in criticizing the ruling as anti-woman.

As far as its practical impact, though, the Houston Chronicle's L.M. Sixel talked to one employee benefits lawyer who said he did not see the decision as "having much impact." That's because the Affordable Care Act only applies to employers with 50 or more employees and thus exempts most small businesses. And the court's decision on Monday applied to "closely held" corporations — where more than half the stock is held by five or fewer individuals. Those owners also must have sincerely held religious beliefs.

A lawyer interviewed, though, by Texas Lawyer suggested the decision could leave the door open to further expansion in mandate carve outs. Monday's decision applied to "closely held" corporations, but the wording in the decision said that larger corporations are "unlikely" to pursue the rights asserted by smaller businesses. That would seem to imply that large corporations could assert a similar right sometime down the road.

One hurdle in establishing those rights would be the requirement that the corporation have sincerely held religious beliefs. But the court did not establish a test for determining the sincerity of religious beliefs. "This could create uncertainty with future legal challenges," Texas Lawyer wrote.

The Day Ahead

•    The House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee meets at 9 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to talk about possible legislation dealing with the storage of ammonium nitrate. (agenda)

•    The House Select Committee on Child Protection meets at 10 a.m. in the John H. Reagan Building to take invited testimony. (agenda)

Trib Must-Reads

Workers' Comp Insurer Sues Widow to Stop Benefits, by Jay Root

Analysis: Is That Any Way to Attract Gringos?, by Ross Ramsey

Ten Commandments Sign May Prompt Rule Change, by Gilad Edelman


State, river authorities win appeals ruling on whooping cranes, Austin American-Statesman

Valley body found was unaccompanied Guatemalan boy, 11, San Antonio Express-News

Effort to aid migrant children won’t cost county taxpayers, Jenkins says, The Dallas Morning News

Former Sen. Hutchison takes helm of UT alumni group amid challenges, Austin American-Statesman

$12 million Texas lottery prize unclaimed, Houston Chronicle

More TV stations' political ad data go online, San Antonio Express-News

Energy Sector Faces Attacks From Hackers in Russia, The New York Times

Quote to Note

“We’re in a political campaign, and the candidate is Uber, and the opponent is an asshole named Taxi.”

— Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO, on the challenges facing the ride-sharing company

Today in TribTalk

Mandatory workers' comp is right for Texas, by Patricia Zavala

What's really happening on the border, by Jim Darling

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    The Texas Tribune Festival runs from Sept. 19-21 at the University of Texas at Austin. Tickets are on sale now.

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