Topic: Supreme Court
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February 27, 2013 at 3:25 PM
OLYMPIA — The Washington State Supreme Court is expected to rule Thursday whether requiring a two-thirds majority for lawmakers to raise taxes is constitutional.
One way or another, the ruling could affect lawmakers who are now trying to close a roughly $1 billion budget shortfall and deal with the court’s last major decision — last year’s order to significantly increase funding for public schools.
In general, Democrats are looking toward new taxes while Republicans do not favor tax increases. A ruling that the two-thirds requirement is constitutional, then, would boost the GOP. A ruling the other way would allow taxes to be increased with a simple majority vote.
But it’s not a given the Legislature would approve new taxes even if the court overturns the two-thirds requirement. Republicans control the state Senate and oppose any tax increase. And Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has said he would not approve new taxes, although he’s indicated he’s open to extending existing taxes.
The court’s ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by the League of Education Voters and other groups against Initiative 1053, a 2010 initiative sponsored by Tim Eyman that reinstated the two-thirds requirement. The two-thirds restriction was first authorized by voters in 1993. It was reimposed in 1998, 2007 and 2010, at least in part because of lawmakers’ penchant for suspending the requirement to raise more revenue.
The court has been asked to rule on the constitutionality in the past, and each time has avoided a direct decision.
June 28, 2012 at 12:50 PM
The only thing missing was foam “We’re #1” fingers when Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire and her staff celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court health care ruling at a news conference Thursday.
The court largely upheld the national health care law approved by Congress in 2010. Gregoire relished knocking Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna for being on the losing side.
McKenna, the GOP candidate for governor, joined other Republican attorneys general more than a year ago to challenge the federal health care law. Gregoire backs his Democratic challenger, Jay Inslee.
“I’ve read his (McKenna’s statement today that he is sorry the state didn’t win, but the state did win … This is a huge win on behalf of the people of the state of Washington,” Gregoire said. “So I disagree with his process. I disagree with the substance … I just think he was dead wrong.”
McKenna joined the lawsuit over the objections of Gregoire and other Democrats. He issued a press release Thursday saying, “While we’re disappointed that this close decision did not find in the states’ favor with regard to the individual mandate, the country benefits from a thoughtful debate about the reach of federal power into the legal rights of the states.”
McKenna had hoped the court would strike down as unconstitutional a provision in the law that mandates that nearly everyone purchase health care insurance, but keep the rest of the law. However, the court upheld that core requirement in a 5-to-4 decision.
Gregoire contends the decision wasn’t even close on that part of the case. “That wasn’t a conclusion that anybody was buying on the Supreme Court. So he was dead wrong on that. I would say that’s probably a 9-0,” she said. “The dissent said ‘get rid of the individual mandate and you get rid of the whole affordable health care act. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
McKenna’s campaign manager, Randy Pepple, said in an email that Gregoire “has made it clear from the beginning of this case, often in very partisan terms, that she disagreed with the attorney general. It’s not surprising that she would continue to disagree with him today.”
As for the health care law, McKenna “has consistently said” he’d implement the parts of the law found to be constitutional, if elected governor, Pepple said. “So his focus will be on implementing health care reform in a way that gives consumers more choices and lowers the cost of health care.”
June 28, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee jumped into the discussion about the U. S. Supreme Court’s vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act. Here are his comments:
“Today, in a majority ruling by Justices appointed by Presidents of both parties, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.
What this means for Washingtonians is that insurance companies can no longer deny people coverage based on pre-existing conditions; there can be no caps on lifetime coverage; young men and women just starting out on their career paths can stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26; and prescription drugs will become more affordable with the closing of the so-called Medicare “donut hole.”
The Supreme Court upheld this law despite enormous political pressure by Republican Attorneys General from around the country who tried to make this a partisan, political issue.
It is my hope that Republicans do not see today’s ruling as an opportunity for further partisan bickering. Instead, we need both parties to finally come together and make this law work for the American people.
Now, with this issue settled by the Supreme Court, let’s all focus on the most pressing issue we face – getting our economy moving again by creating good-paying jobs for the middle-class.”
June 28, 2012 at 11:13 AM
Reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act continues to roll in from Washington, D.C., Seattle and Olympia. Rounds of applause mix with worries about the mandate as a euphemism for a new tax.
Here is a sample of the many comments we received:
Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, obviously thrilled with the decision, said:
“This is a victory for the health care security and stability of Washington families. Today’s ruling means that families and small business owners will continue to benefit from better access, more choices, and a health care system that no longer works only for those who can afford it. It means that health care decisions will be in the hands of patients and their doctors, and that insurance companies will be forced to compete for the business of Washington state families.
It is also welcome news for all those across our state who are already benefiting from this law. It means that over 62,000 young adults in Washington will be allowed to keep their health coverage, that tens of thousands of Washington seniors will continue to receive checks for Medicare support, that hundreds of thousands of patients will continue to access free preventative services like mammograms and colonoscopies, and that millions of policy holders will continue to see the value of their premium dollar improve.”
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, issued as more muted response:
“While I respect today’s Supreme Court ruling, it is only one more point in the ongoing debate. I remain undeterred in improving health care for all Americans. The government takeover of health care raised taxes and health care costs, restricted access for patients and hurt businesses. Those problems remain and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to continue repealing harmful and expensive provisions of the law and finding common-sense, reasonable solutions for Americans to have access to affordable and quality health care.”
Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur said a tax is a tax is a tax:
“This morning’s verdict by the Supreme Court finally defines this legislation as exactly what it is: a tax on the middle class. When President Obama was trying to sell his ill-conceived legislation he ‘rejected the notion’ that it was a tax; today the Supreme Court told him that he could not deceive the American public with his rhetoric any longer.
I think it is important to highlight the distinction made by Justice Roberts in his final determination. He declared that this mandate was not constitutional under the interstate commerce clause or the necessary and proper clause. It was only deemed constitutional as a tax – the very word the President has rejected repeatedly in his pitch to the public. But spinning the story won’t change the facts, Mr. President. Today’s decision sets the new precedent of a federal tax to compel behavior. It is an ominous one, and serves as a very slippery slope for our country.”
Gov. Chris Gregoire was predictably upbeat:
“I applaud today’s Supreme Court decision. Since the Affordable Care Act was signed by the President, we have worked tirelessly to implement it in our state, with my firm belief that it was constitutional and would ultimately withstand legal challenge. I’m extremely pleased that the majority of the Court agreed on the merits of the law highlighted in the briefs that I and others submitted on its behalf.
The real winners today, however, are the millions of Americans and Washingtonians who have and will now continue to benefit from this Act. Among them are more than 50,000 young adults in our state who have gained insurance coverage through their parents’ plan, our more than 60,000 seniors who’ve annually received assistance to purchase needed prescription drugs, and the millions here that are no longer subject to unfair practices by insurance companies. And with this cloud of legal uncertainty removed, I look forward to the day not long from now when more than 800,000 people in our state will be able to use our Health Benefit Exchange to get the health insurance that they need but currently must go without.”
June 28, 2012 at 9:37 AM
WASHINGTON — He didn’t get the 6 to 3 ruling he predicted. But U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott said the Supreme Court’s opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act made him feel “even better” than the day he watched President Obama sign the law in 2010.
The Seattle Democrat, a long champion of universal coverage, said Chief Justice John Roberts’ siding with the court’s four liberals in favor of the individual mandate was an emphatic rebuttal to the law’s opponents.
“We needed that affirmation. The president has been vindicated,” McDermott said in an interview shortly after the ruling.
McDermott attended the oral arguments in the case challenging the law’s constitutionality. Afterwards, he predicted Roberts and Anthony Kennedy would break with the conservative justices to uphold the law.
But McDermott said he was glad to get a 5-to-4 ruling. He crowed that he ”always believed the law would withstand this attack by Tea Party Republicans like Washington State’s Attorney General, Rob McKenna.”
Some Republicans, however, said the court ruling won’t deter them from forging on with efforts to repeal the whole law.
Rep. Doc Hastings of Pasco, said in a statement he will keep pushing for a “different approach” that takes the government out of patient-doctor relationships.
“I have voted 30 times to repeal, de-fund, and eliminate all and parts of this job-destroying, government-knows-best approach to healthcare,” Hastings said. “Without full repeal of Obamacare, millions of Americans will continue to lose their current health coverage, seniors will have fewer Medicare choices, unelected unaccountable bureaucrats will be charged with making health care decisions that should be made by individuals, families and doctors, and the government will mandate which health care plans you can use – all while adding trillions to our ever-growing national debt.”
June 28, 2012 at 9:13 AM
Attorney General Rob McKenna, who had joined the 26-state health-care lawsuit, issued a low-key statement Thursday saying he was “disappointed” in the Supreme Court decision to uphold the law. But McKenna said he believes the nation benefited from a “thoughtful debate” about the limits of federal power.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 2010 Affordable Care Act. In a close decision, with multiple opinions, the Court ruled that the federal requirement to purchase health insurance – specifically a plan dictated by government regulators – does not violate the Constitution.
The states argued that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate commerce among the states but does not allow it to force Americans to engage in commerce. A majority of the Court agreed but the Court ultimately ruled that the mandate is constitutional under Congress’s taxing power.
“Our system of government provides a series of checks and balances, allowing new laws – especially ones that raise major constitutional questions – to be tested in court,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. “While we’re disappointed that this close decision did not find in the states’ favor with regard to the individual mandate, the country benefits from a thoughtful debate about the reach of federal power into the legal rights of the states and the personal financial decisions of all Americans.”
A majority of the Court also agreed with states’ argument that the federal government may not take away existing Medicaid funds from states that choose not to participate in the expansion of the Medicaid program.
“Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use,” the Court wrote. “What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.”
“Now the federal government must treat the states as equal partners, as both seek to provide health coverage for the poor,” said McKenna.
The case was brought by attorneys general of 26 states including Washington, along with the National Federation of Independent Business.
June 28, 2012 at 8:29 AM
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, was fast out of the gate with a statement about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding much of the Affordable Care Act. Larsen says there is no going back on health care.
Here is part of his reaction to Thursday’s ruling:
“Improvements to our health care are taking root right now, and that progress will continue for Northwest Washington and the rest of America. The Supreme Court’s decision today to uphold the Affordable Care Act is a welcome result for middle-class families across Northwest Washington and will bolster the necessary changes taking place in health care.”
We need to keep our focus on improving health care for all Americans. Improving health care means shifting the focus of health care from volume to value, improving the quality of care instead of just growing the quantity of care.
Improving health care means keeping Medicare sustainable and affordable by closing the prescription drug ‘donut hole’ and cracking down on fraud that bilks taxpayers.
Improving health care means making sure middle class families have a diverse array of options that all offer a high standard of affordable care.
Improving health care means we need to meet Northwest Washington’s needs so seniors can see the doctors they prefer, veterans have access to the specialty care they need, and families have preventive care that fits their budgets.
Northwest Washington is already seeing the improvements from the Affordable Care Act. Seniors in Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, Island and San Juan counties who are in the Medicare donut hole have saved more than $800 on their prescription medications so far this year alone. Nearly 33,000 kids and 140,000 adults in our area now have health insurance that covers preventive care like check-ups and cancer screenings without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles. The Court’s ruling today means those improvements will endure.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, it is time to move forward and make sure that we have health care that meets Northwest Washington’s needs.”
June 28, 2012 at 7:38 AM
WASHINGTON – Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler breathed a big sigh of relief and said the state is ready to forge ahead now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the basic tenets of the federal health-care law.
Washington state, he said, is well ahead of other states in reforming its health care system.
Here is part of Kreidler’s statement released shortly after the ruling was announced:
“Many reforms are currently in place, but key benefits and programs take effect in 2014, including Washington’s new Health Exchange, federal subsidies to help 477,000 people afford health insurance, an expansion of Medicaid for 328,000 poor childless adults and the ban on insurance companies from denying people coverage if they’re sick.
“I’m very pleased the Supreme Court chose to uphold the Affordable Care Act,” said Kreidler. “We’ve been busy for two years now implementing the reforms and have made great progress, but there’s a lot left to do before 2014. With the court decision out of the way, we can continue our focus on where it should be – bringing relief to families struggling to find quality, affordable health insurance.”
The millions of Washington state consumers benefiting from the Affordable Care Act’s early reforms include:
- More than 2.4 million people who no longer face lifetime caps on their health benefits.
- More than 52,000 young adults up to age 26 who have stayed on their parents’ health plans.
- More than 1.2 million people who now have coverage for preventive care with no co-pays or deductibles.
- More than 60,000 people in Medicare who have saved hundreds on their prescription drugs.
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