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U.S. Supreme Court session starts today with cases on abortion, Second Amendment

The Supreme Court
J. Scott Applewhite

On today’s program: The U.S. Supreme Court begins their session today with a docket full of divisive issues in our society, such as abortion, the Second Amendment, and affirmative action; Ken Gormley will stay on as Duquesne University’s president after his contract was extended, and he says under his tenure the university has grown and reconnected with the community; and we’ll hear one perspective on why the city doesn’t need businesses to build as many parking spaces as the municipal code calls for. 

Supreme Court to consider abortion rights, firearms, and other controversial topics this session
(0:00 - 8:52)

The United States Supreme Court session begins today with a docket full of cases that touch on pressure points in our society: abortion, firearms, affirmative action.

Leading up to the session, Texas enacted one of the most restrictive abortion access laws in the country. Before the law went into effect, there was a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to block it, but the judicial body chose not to.

While the Texas law isn’t on the docket, the Court will hear a case from Mississippi challenging Roe v. Wade.

“It’s a direct challenge to the Roe v. Wade viability rule, [dictating the time frame within which someone can seek an abortion] … and it is also calling on the courts to overturn Roe versus Wade completely,” says David Harris, WESA’s legal analyst and a University of Pittsburgh law professor.

He says with three Trump-appointed justices now on the bench, this could be the end of Roe v. Wade.

The court will also hear a challenge to a New York law restricting concealed and open carry of firearms.

“I think it’s likely that the court will see it their way and will say that the New York law is unduly burdensome on second amendment rights,” says Harris. “Even though in the cases in which the second amendment was open to civilians, Justice Scalia said in his opinion, there is no doubt that certain kinds of gun regulation are constitutional.”

The Supreme Court will also hear cases covering affirmative action in higher education, and restrictions to taxpayer aid in religious schools.

Duquesne University President Ken Gormley will serve another five years 
(8:54 - 16:54)

Duquesne University President Ken Gormley will continue to hold his position for another five years. The school’s board of trustees made the announcement last month.

The university’s 13th president was inaugurated in 2016, but joined the university in 1994 as faculty in the law school.

“We set out to do a lot of fairly bold initiatives from the start,” says Gormley. “I remember giving my inauguration speech and talking about reaching for bigger goals and also reclaiming our position as a university that really helped to build Pittsburgh.”

In the coming years, Gormley says his big priorities include opening Duquesne’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, which will welcome its first class of students in 2024.

“It’s going to be the biggest lift in the history of the University, other than when we went from being a little Catholic College … to becoming a university in 1911,” says Gormley.

In the midst of the pandemic, Gormley says the school has also established thorough COVID-19 protocols including requiring students and staff to be vaccinated.

Restaurants may be on the hook for less parking
(16:57 - 22:30)

The Pittsburgh Planning Commission last week approved a change to parking requirements for restaurants in the city.

The zoning change would reduce the required number of off-street parking spaces for restaurants over 2,400 square feet.

Some restaurants in Lawrenceville have already had some of their parking requirements waived with support from a neighborhood organization.

“The restaurants actually don’t need as much parking as they’re required to have,” says Emily Persico, community development manager with the Lawrenceville Corporation, which supports businesses in that neighborhood.

Persico says the organization often supports businesses ’ requests for “parking relief” from the city’s zoning board and helps them come up with alternatives like a valet service or parking lot shared between businesses. In Lawrenceville, Persico says there isn’t enough space for the previously mandated parking, largely because the infrastructure was developed before the advent of cars.

“For Lawrenceville, we’ve been trying for about five years now … to improve infrastructure for bikers and for pedestrians and to limit parking, because right now there is just a lot of conflict, especially along Butler Street,” says Persico.

The amendment approved by the Planning Commission says that instead of building a parking spot for every additional 125 square feet in a business over 2,400 square feet, businesses have to create a parking spot for every additional 500 square feet.

The amendment will go before the city council for a vote.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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