House Republican Leadership Appeals Lawsuit to Stop Medicaid Expansion in Alaska
May 09, 2016
The notice was filed Thursday by House leadership without the mandatory vote of both bodies, and minutes before the 30 day deadline to appeal the ruling. The appeal was filed by The House of Representatives rather than The Legislative Council, the plaintiff in the case.
“The law is clear - any court action undertaken on behalf of the Alaska Legislature while in session must be authorized by a vote of the Legislature. No such vote was taken despite the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition putting the question before the Legislature. The Republican-controlled leadership is violating the law by arbitrarily filing this appeal,” said Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition (AIDC) leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage). “The notice of appeal lists the Alaska House of Representatives as an appellant. The members of my Coalition oppose this lawsuit and were never given the chance to vote on this matter. Plain and simple, this is an abuse of power by the Majority leadership in the House.”
According to the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition, the decision to appeal the Medicaid expansion lawsuit will cost the state another $150,000, on top of the $300,000 already spent. The members of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition are opposed continuing a legally unwinnable lawsuit that wastes valuable state money during a fiscal crisis.
“Medicaid expansion is working by saving us money while simultaneously improving the healthcare options for thousands of Alaskans,” said Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage). “Continuing this lawsuit essentially results in the Republican leadership of the House Majority Caucus spending money to not save money. They are breaking the law, attempting to bypass hundreds of millions in federal money, and gambling with the future health of the Alaska people.”
Senator Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak), head of the Legislative Council, obtained an opinion from Legislative Legal Services in March of this year, inquiring about necessary steps to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court. The opinion from the Director of Legal Services, dated March 3, 2016, stated: “...once the legislature convenes in session, the interim authority of the Legislative Council ends, and the decision whether to institute an appeal with the Alaska Supreme Court requires a decision by a majority vote in both the house and the senate. This conclusion is supported by the legislative history under AS 24.20.060(4)(F), and past precedent of the legislature.”
“This action taken by House leadership is absolutely illegal, according to our own lawyers,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage), a member of the Judiciary Committee. “And even if it weren’t, and they won, they are basically suing the state to take federally funded health care away from 40,000 sick people, and they’re killing thousands of new jobs. It’s inexplicable.”
“We’re in deficit spending right now, as everyone knows,” added Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). “This action is not only a complete waste of time, it’s a colossal waste of money. It goes to show how tone deaf the majority is about Alaskans’ real concerns. How can they call themselves fiscal conservatives when they are so eager to waste Alaskans’ money?”
“The absolute last thing we need right now is this kind of pointless partisan politicking,” said Sen. Wielechowski. “Our own attorneys have said the lawsuit has no merit. A court has ruled it has no merit. It’s over. These eleventh hour tricks are nothing but an abuse of process, and an abuse of power.”
The Alaska Senate Democrats and Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition in the House have been opposed to the lawsuit from the first legal opinion. They continued to oppose the authorization of up to $400,000 to pay outside law firms to sue the governor, and funds to pay state attorneys to defend the same suit. Each made motions during operating budget discussion on the floor in April to call the issue to a vote. The motions were tabled in both bodies, preventing a vote.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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