Monday, May 28, 2018
News Roundup

In Florida, opinions vary on Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling

The Supreme Court's decision Monday in what is often called the Hobby Lobby case brought a range of reaction from business owners and politicians around Florida and the Tampa Bay area.

The court said that corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.

The justices' 5-4 decision is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies' health insurance plans.

Paul Pizzo, a Tampa attorney who represented a Largo business owner who argued the contraceptive mandate violated his religious beliefs, said his client was ecstatic over the ruling.

"It's not about money. It's about religious beliefs,'' Pizzo said. "I don't know what these folks would have done if the decision went the other way. The penalties were so draconian.''

Beckwith Electric Co. had won a ruling by a federal judge last year exempting it from having to pay for certain contraceptive drugs and devices and was anxiously awaiting the top court's decision. Pizzo said the ruling will allow the 160-employee company to continue operating as usual.

"I think it's a good decision for America,'' he said. "I think women's health interests will not be adversely impacted, but the people who hold these beliefs will be allowed to continue to practice their beliefs.''

A devout Southern Baptist, the company's owner, Thomas Beckwith, has said he doesn't oppose all forms of birth control but objects to drugs and devices that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. Losing the case would have forced him to pay millions of dollars in annual fines, an amount that could have threatened his company's survival.

Lillian Tamayo, chairwoman of the Florida Planned Parenthood PAC, called the judges' decision a ruling against women and families.

"The decision to take birth control is between a woman and her doctor, not her boss,'' she said in a statement. "It's not the role of bosses of private, for-profit businesses to make decisions about women's health care for their employees based solely on their own personal religious beliefs.''

She criticized Florida for being among 20 states that filed a brief in support of Hobby Lobby's case and emphasized that the ruling didn't strike down birth control benefits provided under the health care act.

Florida's chief financial officer Jeff Atwater praised the court for upholding matters of personal faith without any overreaching of government involvement.

"It reaffirms a fundamental truth . . . that religious rights are of profound significance to Americans, and deserve at least the same level of protection as any of our founding principles,'' he said.

Michael Allen, a professor at Stetson University College of Law, said the ruling, while a clear winner for religious freedoms, left open for interpretation questions about how a corporation can exercise those liberties.

Rather than a case about First Amendment rights, Allen said, it was case about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which could be changed by Congress at any time. The act prevents laws that burden a person's free exercise of their religion.

"I think certain members of the court are more inclined to make incremental decisions and leave things to be decided down the road," he said. "But you really do let the genie out.''

Comments
Rays journal: Reliever Austin Pruitt pitches nearly six scoreless innings for second career save

Rays journal: Reliever Austin Pruitt pitches nearly six scoreless innings for second career save

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays RHP Austin Pruitt has started and worked out of the bullpen, in both short and long relief.But he did not expect to pick up his second career save Sunday by having to log 5⅔ innings, allowing only three hits whi...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Floodwaters surge in Maryland town

Floodwaters surge in Maryland town

Crews were engaged in multiple water rescues and buildings collapsed in historic Ellicott City on Sunday evening as floodwaters raged through its streets following torrential thunderstorms, Howard County, Maryland, officials said.Maryland Gov. Larry ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Orioles game

Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Orioles game

So the team that just got back from a 10-day, 11-game road trip in three time zones is headed back out west for Memorial Day? The Rays travel to Oakland, Calif., Seattle and Washington, D.C. It's the first time they visited the West Coast on back-to-...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

ST. PETERSBURG — If you think the Rays are holding their pitching staff together with baling wire, duct tape and an overbooked shuttle to Triple-A Durham, a bigger story might be how their bats keep producing runs no matter who is swinging them...
Updated: 9 hours ago
RFK’s son: There was 2nd shooter

RFK’s son: There was 2nd shooter

Los Angeles Times (TNS)As the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy approaches, conspiracy theories still abound.The latest to back the theory of a second gunman is the senator’s son Robert F. Kennedy Jr.Sirhan B. Sirhan, a ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Visa woes have summer businesses hiring Puerto Ricans

Visa woes have summer businesses hiring Puerto Ricans

PHIPPSBURG, Maine — Frustrated by red tape and visa limits on foreign workers, tourism businesses from Maine to Missouri are turning to Puerto Ricans who are fleeing a shattered economy and devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Bob Smith, owner of S...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Troopers looking for driver in New Port Richey fatal hit-and-run

Troopers looking for driver in New Port Richey fatal hit-and-run

NEW PORT RICHEYDriver surrenders after crash that kills bicyclistThe driver Florida Highway Patrol troopers say struck and killed a bicyclist then drove from the scene turned herself in Sunday afternoon.Shanna Marie Rampino surrendered a 2000 Toyota ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
A solemn display

A solemn display

Associated PressVisitors to Boston Commons in Boston last week pass 37,000 American flags planted to honor every Massachusetts resident killed in war dating to the Revolutionary War. The "flag garden" idea on Memorial Day started in Boston about a de...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Former President George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine

Former President George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine

BIDDEFORD, Maine — Former President George H.W. Bush was hospitalized Sunday in Maine after he experienced low blood pressure and fatigue, a spokesman said. Just after 2 p.m., Jim McGrath, a spokesman for the 93-year-old Bush, said he was awak...
Published: 05/27/18
None injured in Trinity rehab center fire

None injured in Trinity rehab center fire

TRINITY — No one was hurt Sunday morning after a fire broke out at a rehabilitation center.According to Pasco County Fire Rescue, Trinity Regional Rehab Center at 2144 Welbilt Blvd. is running on generator power after the blaze broke out about 10:30 ...
Published: 05/27/18