Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Supreme Court’

GOP Members Of Congress Ask Governors To Reject Health Exchanges, Nevada Program Already Well Under Way

By Sean Whaley | 12:30 pm July 10th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A letter from 12 U.S. Senators and 61 members of the House to the nation’s governors asking them to oppose the creation of health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act comes too late to have any effect in Nevada.

No members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation signed the letter, which says in part: “These expensive, complex, and intrusive exchanges impose a threat to the financial stability of our already-fragile state economies with no certainty of a limit to total enrollment numbers. By refusing to create an exchange, you will assist us in Congress to repeal this violation which will help lower the costs of doing business in your state, relative to other states that keep these financially draining exchanges in place.”

Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota are the first names on the letter signed only by Republicans and dated June 29.

The GOP-controlled House is set to vote this week on whether to repeal the law, but the Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to consider such a measure.

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval moved forward in the first days he took office in January 2011 to implement the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, despite his concerns about the constitutionality of the law. The U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled most of the law constitutional. Nevada was one of 26 states to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

Sandoval announced his intentions in his 2011 State of the State address: “I firmly believe that many aspects of the law are unconstitutional, and I will continue to fight to have them overturned. In the meantime, however, the law imposes many deadlines, and we cannot wait until litigation is resolved. We must also plan for a Health Insurance Exchange so that we – and not the federal government – control the program.”

A health care exchange is basically a one-stop shop for purchasing health insurance.

Several governors have said they won’t create their own health exchanges, among them Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Among the states that have not moved forward to create an exchange include Louisiana, Florida, Nebraska, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

But Nevada’s program is well along and will have a state based Exchange operational by Oct. 1, 2013. To date the Exchange has been awarded approximately $24.7 million in federal grants to pay for its establishment and implementation.

“Nevada was prudent to begin implementation over a year and a half ago rather than wait and risk federal intervention,” said Jon Hager, executive director of the Exchange, in a recent news release. “Thanks to advanced planning and foresight, Nevada is positioned to implement a state based health insurance exchange that is built with the needs of Nevadans in mind.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates approximately 21.3 percent of Nevadans, or 563,000 people, are uninsured. The Exchange’s mission is to increase the number of insured Nevadans by facilitating the purchase and sale of health insurance that provides quality health care through the creation of a transparent, simplified marketplace of qualified health plans.

Nevada’s exchange was created by Senate Bill 440 of the 2011 Legislature. It was passed unanimously of those voting in both the Senate and Assembly at the end of the session. Four members of the Assembly were excused and did not vote.

Nevada Groups React To U.S. Supreme Court Decision On Health Care Law

By Sean Whaley | 1:52 pm June 28th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada groups and organizations weighed in on the controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the health care law today, with comments across the spectrum.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a libertarian think tank, called it a, “practical and significant blow to individual liberty.”

Photo by Franz Jantzen courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Our nation’s founders intended the constitution to greatly restrict the power of the federal government, but unfortunately, this ruling further expands federal authority,” said Joseph Becker, chief legal officer and director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation. “Not even King George believed he had the authority to compel colonists to buy the tea tossed overboard in Boston Harbor, yet we now have an expansion of federal authority which, through the force of taxation, mandates as a practical matter that citizens must buy private-sector goods.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at NPRI, said: “Just because the Supreme Court has ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional doesn’t change the damage this flawed policy will do to individuals in America’s health care system.

“The primary shortcoming of the health care industry is that government policies have induced too much cost-shifting and neutered the effectiveness of the price system,” he said. “The ACA just doubles down on this shortcoming by increasing the degree of cost-shifting to ludicrous proportions. Small businesses will pay more, families and individuals will pay more, and states could pay more.”

Nevada State Medical Association (NSMA) President Florence N. Jameson, M.D., a Las Vegas obstetrician-gynecologist and founder of Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada, said in part: “Unfortunately, major health care problems are not resolved by this law. The Congress and the president must continue to work to find an acceptable way to sustain Medicare for seniors and persons with disabilities and the Medicaid program for indigent and chronically ill children and seniors.

“Governor Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Legislature will have to determine the impact on Nevada Medicaid of the Supreme Court’s decision, but it doesn’t make the funding of the Medicaid program easier,” she said. “It means that they must address again the often unfair way that health insurance coverage fails patients when they have the greatest need for medical care.”

Randi Thompson, Nevada state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, which was the named plaintiff in today’s landmark decision, said: “The Supreme Court may have ruled that the act may be constitutional, but it’s not good policy.

“I agree with the dissenting statement that the Affordable Care Act exceeds federal power in mandating the purchase of health insurance,” she said. “The court confirmed the mandate is a tax on every American. Add the mandate tax to a host of other new taxes in the new heath care law and you have the most costly bill every thrust on the American taxpayer.”

Michael Ginsburg, Southern Nevada director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said: “This law expands coverage to more than 30 million people and eliminates the worst insurance company abuses such as premium price-gouging, discrimination and denial of care for the sick in order to increase corporate profits. This decision makes clear that implementation of the law must move forward at the state and federal level without further delays from partisan political interference – including governors and elected officials.”

Scotty Watts, president of the Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans, said: “Today is an historic day for Americans of all ages, an affirmation of a law that helps children, workers, and retirees obtain affordable health care. Americans can now live more secure, knowing that their health and well-being are no longer tied to the whims and greed of the big insurance companies.”

“Today is a tremendous victory for Nevada  seniors, their children, and their grandchildren,” he said. “But we cannot rest on our laurels.  In the 2012 elections we cannot let politicians roll back the progress we have made.”

Nevada was one of 26 states that challenged the constitutionality of the law that resulted in today’s ruling. Nevada was represented by Las Vegas attorney Mark Hutchison, who worked on the case for free after Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto declined to challenge the law at former Gov. Jim Gibbons’ request.

Nevada State Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange said the decision, “offers relief to Nevadans with preexisting conditions, young people who can stay on their parents’ healthcare plans until they are 26 and seniors who rely on lower prescription drug costs.

“However, despite the Supreme Court settling this issue, Mitt Romney is still promising to fight old political battles of the past that would roll back protections from some of the worst abuses by the private insurance industry,” she said. “It’s time to move forward, end the partisan games and get back to work creating good paying middle-class jobs that stay here in Nevada.”

Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, said today: “What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States. And that is I will act to repeal Obamacare.

“Let’s make clear that we understand what the Court did and did not do,” he said. “What the court did today was say that Obamacare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do was say that Obamacare is good law or that it’s good policy.”

President Obama said in remarks at the White House: “The highest court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law. And we’ll work together to improve on it where we can.  But what we won’t do – what the country can’t afford to do – is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were.

“With today’s announcement, it’s time for us to move forward – to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law,” he said. “And now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time: putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.”


Gov. Brian Sandoval Says Today’s Ruling On Arizona Immigration Law Shows Need For Federal Reform

By Sean Whaley | 10:59 am June 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Arizona immigration law case points out the need for Congress and the president to come together and reform the country’s immigration laws.

“While I have always supported Arizona’s Tenth Amendment right to enact laws to address its unique concerns with public safety and have said all along the law is not needed in Nevada, I understand and respect the Supreme Court’s application of the Supremacy Clause,” he said.

Photo by Michael L. Dorn via Wikimedia Commons.

In today’s ruling, the court struck down much of the law passed by the Arizona Legislature and signed into law by GOP Gov. Jan Brewer.

One provision, requiring police to perform immigration checks on those they arrest or stop for questioning, was upheld by the court.

But other provisions, including one authorizing police to arrest immigrants without warrants where probable cause exists that they committed a public offense making them removable from the country, were struck down by the court.

Also rejected were sections making it a state crime for “unauthorized immigrants” to fail to carry registration papers and other government identification; and a ban on those not authorized for employment in the United States to apply, solicit or perform work.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., expressed concern at the section of the law that was upheld by the court.

“I am greatly concerned that the provision putting American citizens in danger of being detained by police unless they carry their immigration papers at all times will lead to a system of racial profiling,” he said in a statement.

“Immigration reform should continue securing our borders; punish unscrupulous employers who exploit immigrants and undercut American wages; pass the DREAM Act; and require the 11 million who are undocumented to register with the government, learn English, pay fines, pay taxes and go to the end of the line to legalize their status,” he said.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada praised the ruling.

“This ruling is a victory for everyone who respects basic human rights and equal treatment and protection under the law,” PLAN organizer Mario De La Rosa said in a statement. “While we had hoped for the entire law to be struck down, we agree with the court’s decision to rule against SB1070′s most egregious violations of the United States Constitution.”

De La Rosa said the group will continue to advocate for and work towards a more humane and fair immigration process, and will work to block any efforts by Nevada policy makers to enact similar laws.

Several Nevada lawmakers introduced immigration-related bills in the 2011 session, but they failed to win support.


Las Vegas Attorney Readies Nevada For U.S. Supreme Court Review Of Federal Health Care Law

By Sean Whaley | 2:43 pm November 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Las Vegas attorney representing Nevada in the 26-state challenge to the new federal health care law says the case is critically important because of the mandate for people to purchase health insurance.

“Never before in our nation’s history has the federal government required its citizens to purchase a product or service as a condition of citizenship in this country,” said Mark Hutchison, who is representing Nevada without charge in the case. “This case is of high importance to all Nevadans, because if the federal government can require us to purchase health insurance, then they can require us to purchase anything they choose.”

Hutchison, in a statement issued Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, said the initial written briefs are due Dec. 29. Oral arguments are expected to be in March. The court will issue a decision in the case before its term expires at the end of June 2012.

U.S. Supreme Court.

First appointed by Gov. Jim Gibbons, and then re-affirmed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, Hutchison was named to serve as lead special counsel for the state when Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto declined to represent the state in the federal litigation.

In addition to the 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is a party to the challenge.

Randi Thompson, Nevada state director for the NFIB, said in a statement Monday: “This act is already increasing the cost of health care on Nevadans, increasing costs to Nevada taxpayers for Medicaid and Medicare coverage, and causing business owners to even drop coverage for their employees. Health care needs to be more accessible and affordable, but this act is not the way to reach that goal.”

Others also weighed in on the decision.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer issued this statement: “Earlier this year, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to consider legal challenges to the health reform law and we are pleased the court has agreed to hear this case.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, one million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket and insurance companies have to spend more of your premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses. We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said in a statement: “Nevada families and businesses are already struggling in this current economic environment, and the president’s job killing health care law is making a difficult situation worse. The law’s excessive taxes, expensive regulations and questionable constitutionality are stripping businesses of the certainty they need to hire at a time when Nevadans and the rest of the country are desperate for jobs.

“While the Supreme Court considers this case, the president should work with Congress to find real solutions to health care reform so the excessive mandates in this law do not add to our national debt or hurt our struggling economy,” he said.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement: “Families, seniors and small businesses in Nevada and across the country are reaping the benefits of health insurance reform. Prescription drug costs for seniors are falling as the Medicare ‘donut hole’ closes, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and business owners are taking advantage of tax breaks.

“Just last week, a conservative judge appointed by President Reagan ruled that this legislation is constitutional, and I am confident the high court will do the same,” he said.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said in a statement: “I believe that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and it is my hope that the Supreme Court will overturn it. Already, during my short time in Congress, I voted to repeal a provision of the president’s health care law that raised eligibility for Medicaid far beyond the intended poverty level. This correction is estimated to save taxpayers at least $13 billion over 10 years.

“I eagerly await the court’s decision and from there we’ll be able to assess the path for repealing what amounts to government control of 16 percent of our economy,” he said.

A number of federal courts have weighed in on the law with sometimes contradictory rulings on the constitutionality of the law and the individual mandate. President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided to use the case filed by the states, including Nevada, and the NFIB, to determine the constitutionality of the law.

Nevada and the other states challenged the law in federal court in the Northern District of Florida. U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled in the states’ favor and declared the individual mandate in the federal health care law unconstitutional. He declared the entire law unconstitutional without the mandate.

The 11th U.S. District Court Appeals then upheld Vinson’s ruling on the individual mandate but said the rest of the law could stand.

The U.S. Supreme Court will now take up the issues of whether the individual mandate is constitutional and whether the entire law is unconstitutional if the individual mandate is unlawful.

The individual mandate requires all U.S. citizens and residents to purchase health insurance from a private company or face government-imposed penalties enforced by the Internal Revenue Service.

“We are pleased that the highest court in the country will make a final decision about the constitutional fate of the healthcare legislation,” Hutchison said. “The states are confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will determine that the law is unconstitutional.”

U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Nevada High Court, Upholds Nevada’s Ethics Law

By Sean Whaley | 2:08 pm June 13th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld Nevada’s ethics law in a case involving a Sparks city councilman. The opinion reversed a ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court.

The court, in an 11-page opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said Nevada’s ethics law does not infringe on elected officials’ free speech rights by imposing limits on when they can vote on public matters because of conflicts of interest.

Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the Carrigan opinion./Photo: U.S. Supreme Court

How can it be that a restriction on a public official’s right to vote is not a restriction on free speech? Scalia asked in the opinion.

“The answer is that a legislator’s vote is the commitment of his apportioned share of the legislature’s power to the passage or defeat of a particular proposal,” he said. “The legislative power thus committed is not personal to the legislator but belongs to the people; the legislator has no personal right to it.”

The case is called Nevada Commission on Ethics v. Carrigan. In 2006, Sparks city councilman Michael Carrigan had disclosed that his former campaign manager, Carlos Vasquez, was also a consultant with a business seeking to develop a hotel-casino in Sparks. Carrigan later voted for approval of this casino in a land-use vote.

The Nevada Commission on Ethics ruled the vote improper and censured Carrigan, who appealed the ruling.

The Nevada Supreme Court, however, reversed the decision on the basis that Nevada’s ethics laws were over-broad and impinged on Carrigan’s ability to vote on public matters, a matter the court characterized as free speech.

The high court in January agreed to hear the case.

The case took on national importance. Eight other states had implored the court to take up the issue, and a high-powered team at the University of Virginia School of Law that helped petition the court to hear the case agreed to argue the case before the court.

Caren Jenkins, executive director of the Nevada Ethics Commission, said the court’s decision has made for “an extraordinarily exciting day” at the agency’s office.

“Any time the highest court in the country confirms that the acts of your agency did not infringe on the United States Constitution is a good day,” she said.

“Two important things, at least, came out of this opinion,” Jenkins said. “One is the Nevada Commission on Ethics statute about requiring abstention by a public officer when there is a conflict of interest is not over broad, and that is terrific to learn. Secondly, legislative voting is not speech and therefore it is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

The commission is now looking forward to the reconsideration of the Carrigan case by the Nevada Supreme Court, she said.

“Without the shield, if you will, the defense of the infringement on the First Amendment, Mr. Carrigan’s arguments are going to be limited,” Jenkins said. “His attorneys are going to need to argue that there was some other wrongdoing, if you will, or some other act undertaken by the Commission on Ethics, that was impermissible. And we look forward to knowing what that might be.”

Audio clips:

Caren Jenkins of the state Ethics Commission says any day the nation’s high court rules the agency did not infringe on the U.S. Constitution is a good day:

061311Jenkins1 :15 a good day.”

Jenkins says the commission is looking forward to the rehearing of the matter by the Nevada Supreme Court:

061311Jenkins2 :29 that might be.”

Jenkins says two important points came out of the U.S. Supreme Court opinion:

061311Jenkins3 :27 to the Constitution.”