Board Approves New Administrator The Escambia County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved Randy Oliver as the new County Administrator on Sept. 17.
Oliver, who has more than 20 years of experience in public administration roles, will receive a maximum salary of $145,000 and will be reviewed annually through a three-year contract and will likely start sometime next month. He was selected from a list of seven finalists.
But before his approval, Commissioners Gene Valentino and Wilson Robertson tried to pass a motion to extend the contract of interim Administrator Larry Newsom for another year.
“I don’t want to be rushed into coming to a decision, like what happened last time (referring to the approval of former Administrator Bob McLaughlin),” Valentino told board members.
Robertson said he didn’t see a candidate on the list that was better for the county than Newsom.
Newsom, who has held the position since February, did not put himself into the running for the position.
Commissioner Grover Robinson said that not following through with the process and keeping Newsom could damage the reputation of the county and make it more difficult to hire in the future for such positions.
“I’m committed to process…not because I’m against Larry…I think he’s done a great job,” he said. “It’s not a fair process for the individuals behind us.”
Obama Health War Last week, Federal Judge Roger Vinson heard arguments from the U.S. Department of Justice and the attorneys for the State of Florida and the other 19 states suing the federal government over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (State of Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 10-cv-00091). DOJ had six attorneys; States had 18 people, including the Attorneys General for Alabama, Utah and Florida. Republican candidate for Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, sat in the audience. Vinson listened to the Feds defend their motion to dismiss the lawsuit and the States countered.
The DOJ attorney argued that while the states had a right to disagree over the policy, they don’t have the constitutional right to challenge how the federal government spends its money. He argued that the ACA is an expansion of the existing Medicaid program and that Congress has the right to modify that program as it sees fit. He had case law (South Dakota v. Dole and New York v. United States) to back up his statement that no court has ever ruled against that point, which he said undermined the states’ point (count 4) that they were being coerced into the expansion. The ACA falls within the spending power of Congress and is not coercive, according to the DOJ.
The DOJ also pointed out that the federal government will substantially increase its funding for the new Medicaid services, reimbursing 100 percent through 2016 and gradually declining to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.
Judge Vinson asked about coverage of illegal immigrants. The DOJ attorney said that they aren’t covered under the ACA.
Vinson later said that the 13th Amendment, which let the U.S. Senators be elected by popular vote, denied the states any direct representation in Congress. The DOJ replied by calling the idea that somehow the states have been disembodied as “revolutionary” and an “odd notion” with no limit to it.
The DOJ also argued that the court lacks jurisdiction over states’ challenges to the minimum coverage provision. Because the ACA doesn’t go into effect until four years from now, the two individuals named in the suit, Mary Brown and Kaj Ahlburg, have suffered no injury.
Then there was discussion over whether individuals are being taxed or penalized for not having the minimum coverage. Under ACA, those who don’t have health insurance will be penalized on their tax returns.
Vinson brought up the states’ point that people are, in essence, being taxed for not doing something, and while the Constitution gives Congress power under its Commerce Clause, how can it tax non-activity? Commerce is a business activity—not non-activity.
The DOJ argued that the health care is unique. Everyone participates, they have no control over when they need it, and they may or may not pay for it. “No one is a bystander.” The ACA regulates how someone pays for his health care and thus qualifies as commerce.
The states argued that Mary Brown and Kaj Ahlburg don’t have insurance and don’t intend to buy it in 2014. Therefore, their probability of harm is certain at a fixed point in the future. Furthermore, Brown is a member of the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business), which has incurred costs educating its members on ACA. Judge Vinson challenged whether this was a cost the NFIB would have incurred otherwise.
The attorneys also argued that it’s unrealistic to think the states would pull out of Medicaid and that the states will have to spend millions to prepare for the expansion—although they had no estimates to give the court. They argued the states could “piggyback” on the rights of Brown, Ahlburg and NFIB to have standing.
They also argued that Congress has only limited and enumerated powers. The states have general police powers. The ACA represents a “fundamental transformation of our constitutional system.” They stated that it would mean there is no limit to federal powers.
“There is no type of commerce that doesn’t involve activity,” said attorney David Rivkin. “Congress has never tried to use the Commerce Clause to compel inactive Americans to purchase a good or service.”
He argued that lack of insurance is not an economic activity. He attacked the notion of cost shifting that happens in health care with the insured having to pay for the uninsured. He pointed out that the cost shifts are due to people defaulting on credit cards, bankruptcies and subprime mortgages.
“There is nothing unique to insurance. People need bread and milk, but we can’t require them to buy them.”
Rivkin also argued that the regulating of inactivity is giving the federal government police powers and “eviscerates” states’ sovereignty. The federal government cannot mandate one private individual purchasing something from another private individual. It was also argued that by requiring parents to cover their children through age 26, it was an “unprecedented intrusion into family life.”
Correction For BP Quiz This quiz, published Sept. 9, 2010, posted the incorrect answer to the following question:
2. Who was the George Touart supporter who was arrested for trespassing on the property of one of Touart’s political opponents?
a) Derek Cosson
b) Charlie Fairchild
c) Mark Clabaugh
d) Rex Blackburn
The answer incorrectly given in the key was b), and it should have been c). We inadvertently transposed the answer. Mark Clabaugh pleaded in June nolo contendere to trespassing-occupied structure or conveyance and was given six months probation. The correct answer is in the online version of the quiz.
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