Cobler: Supreme Court rejects Paxton's election-related lawsuit


The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenging the results of the presidential election.

President Donald Trump and 17 Republican attorneys generals had joined the lawsuit, which asked the Supreme Court to toss out the elections in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The lawsuit claimed the states “exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to justify ignoring federal and state election laws and unlawfully enacting last-minute changes, thus skewing the results of the 2020 General Election.”

Texas Democrats accused Paxton of filing the lawsuit to distract voters from his own legal problems. More than 100 Republican members of Congress signed an amicus brief supporting the Texas lawsuit.

Sen. John Cornyn, the senior Texas Republican, did not. He told CNN that “I frankly struggle to understand the legal theory of it. No. 1, why would a state, even such a great state as Texas, have a say-so on how other states administer their elections? We have a diffused and dispersed system and even though we might not like it, they may think it’s unfair, those are decided at the state and local level and not at the national level.”

Shining less bright

The Texas Education Agency partially extinguished STAAR for this school year because of the pandemic.

The agency said the A-F ratings would be paused for 2020-21 school year because of the  disruptions to learning. Students still will take the STAAR test to provide information about individual learning. 

“The last nine months have been some of the most disruptive of our lives. The challenges have been especially pronounced for our parents, teachers and students,”

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement. “We continue to prioritize the health and safety of students, teachers and staff in our schools this year while working to ensure students grow academically.” 

The Texas State Teachers Association, which has opposed the standardized testing, said the TEA’s decision didn’t go far enough.

“Teachers already can tell parents how their children have been performing during this school year,” the teachers union said in a statement. “All the STAAR test will do is what it always has done: Measure a student’s ability to take a test. And it will force teachers, who already are working long hours adapting lesson plans for virtual and in‐person instruction, to waste invaluable time on STAAR preparation and administration.”

COVID black market

Federal agents seized more than 100,000 counterfeit N95 surgical masks being stored in an El Paso warehouse.

The fake masks, likely made in China, were headed to a hospital on the East Coast, officials said. The raid was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

ICE launched Operation Stolen Promise in April to protect U.S. consumers from fraud and other crime stemming from the pandemic.

The federal agency warns “that high public demand for access to vaccines and treatments will lead to illegal attempts to introduce counterfeit versions of these items into U.S. and global marketplaces.” In response, Homeland Security has started Operation Stolen Promise 2.0, which focuses on this emerging public health threat.

Officials urged the public to report suspected fraud involving counterfeit vaccines and treatments to covid19fraud@dhs.gov.

Fewer surprises

Texans’ complaints about surprise medical bills are down 96% through the first 10 months of the year, according to a new report from the Texas Department of Insurance.

In 2019, the Texas Legislature enacted a law to address the problem of surprise medical billing. The law removed consumers who have state-regulated plans, making up about 20 percent of residents, from billing disputes between health care providers and insurance plans. The protections took effect in January.

An agency spokesman provided highlights of the report:

In the 10 months, the state agency received 37 consumer complaints about such medical bills. That compares to 854 such complaints received from January through October 2019. Most of the 2020 complaints involved confusion about coinsurance amounts or concerned health plans not regulated by the agency.

The new law enables providers and plans to resolve billing disputes through arbitration and mediation. The state agency, which helps carry out the law, established an online portal to enter the system and built a list of certified arbitrators and mediators.

Chris Cobler is a board member and past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. He welcomes email at ccobler@texaspress.com.