Category Archives: Courts

Ducey v. Brnovich on ABOR tuition lawsuit

Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch Industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly know as the state of Arizona, is an ex officio member of the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), recently sued by Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a publicity stunt over high tuition rates at the state universities.

Governor Ducey says his AG Mark Brnovich is full-o-crap. Ducey stands by ABOR, says tuition rates are constitutional:

Arizona’s three universities are in compliance with constitutional requirements to keep instruction “as nearly free as possible,” Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday, despite what Attorney General Mark Brnovich contends.

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More to the point, the governor said he believes the regents, in setting tuition — and even in imposing sharp increases during the past 15 years — are keeping the cost of instruction within what the constitution requires.

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Arizona Supreme Court to hear appeal of Gov. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid expansion plan

Earlier this year, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the Maricopa County Superior Court decision upholding former governor Jan Brewer’s Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan in 2013. AZ Court of Appeals upholds Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan.

The “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, which is litigating the case on behalf of our lawless Tea-Publican legislators who are parties to this lawsuit, of course appealed the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan goes to Arizona Supreme Court.

The Arizona Supreme Court has now said it will hear the appeal. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, AZ Supreme Court to decide on Medicaid tax:

The state’s high court agreed Tuesday to decide whether a levy that funds Arizona’s expanded Medicaid program was illegally enacted.

Without comment, the justices said they want to give foes of the levy — current and former state lawmakers — a chance to make the case that it really is a tax.

What the court decides will be significant, as it takes a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to raise taxes [the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” Amendment, Prop. 108 (1992)]. . And since the measure did not get that margin, a finding that the levy actually is a tax would mean the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program, could no longer collect it.

More significant, without the approximately $265 million being collected each year, the state could no longer afford to provide care to about 400,000 Arizonans who were added to the plan as a result of the 2013 action.

Tuesday’s action does not mean the justices have already reached a conclusion. But just the decision to review lower court ruling upholding the legality of the levy places it in potential jeopardy.

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ABOR should implead the Arizona legislature as an indispensable party in tuition suit

I posted about this lawsuit over the weekend, AG Mark Brnovich creates a ‘straw man’ for our lawless Tea-Publican legislature on higher ed funding.

The head of the state Board of Regents, Bill Ridenour, blasted Attorney General Mark Brnovich for what he said is a publicity stunt Friday — he called it “political pandering” — in suing the board and blaming its members for the steep hike in tuition in the last 15 years. ABOR chairman calls tuition lawsuit a publicity stunt:

“The AG’s lawsuit, while it makes for good headlines, does nothing to change the burden for students and their families,” he said in a prepared statement. “The suit is full of attacks, but offers no constructive remedies.”

Ridenour said Brnovich is right on at least one issue: The “seismic” shift in cost from the state to students to attend one of the state’s three universities.

What’s wrong with the litigation, he said, is that it seeks a solution from just the regents, ignoring the role he said lawmakers have played in the 300-plus percent increase in tuition since 2003. And Ridenour said if the issue is going to be hashed out in court, then the lawsuit needs to involve more than the regents.

“If it goes to that extent, the Legislature is an indispensable party,” he told Capitol Media Services.

Ridenour is absolutely correct. ABOR should move the court for impleader of the Arizona legislature, because the constitutional provisions for which Brnovich is suing ABOR are actually express directives to the Arizona legislature:

Article XI, Section 6: The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible. The legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which a free school shall be established and maintained in every school district for at least six months in each year, which school shall be open to all pupils between the ages of six and twenty-one years.

Article XI, Section 10.  The revenue for the maintenance of the respective state educational institutions shall be derived from the investment of the proceeds of the sale, and from the rental of such lands as have been set aside by the enabling act approved June 20, 1910, or other legislative enactment of the United States, for the use and benefit of the respective state educational institutions. In addition to such income the legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement.

I cannot imagine that the court would not grant ABOR’s motion to implead the Arizona legislature as an indispensable party.

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Contradictions and confusion over fate of ‘Obamacare’

Recent reporting on the fate of “Obamacare” has been both contradictory and confusing to anyone trying to follow the machinations of Congress and the Trump White House.

Tom Price at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS), a Teabagger opponent of “Obamacare,” continues his efforts to sabotage “Obamacare.” The Same Agency That Runs Obamacare Is Using Taxpayer Money to Undermine It:

The Trump administration said on Thursday that it would slash spending on advertising and promotion for the Affordable Care Act, but it has already been waging a multipronged campaign against it.

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[T]he Department of Health and Human Services — an agency with a legal responsibility to administer the law — has used taxpayer dollars to oppose it.

Legal experts say that while it is common for a new administration to reinterpret an existing law, it is unusual to take steps to undermine it. Here are three ways the health department has campaigned against Obamacare. [Quick Summary]

1. REDIRECTING PROMOTIONAL FUNDING

Instead of using its outreach budget to promote the Affordable Care Act, the department made videos critical of the law.

2. ATTACKING THE LAW

The department targeted the Affordable Care Act with a marketing campaign as Republicans in Congress tried to repeal the legislation.

3. DELETING INFORMATION ONLINE

The department removed useful guidance for consumers about the Affordable Care Act from its website.

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AG Mark Brnovich creates a ‘straw man’ for our lawless Tea-Publican legislature on higher ed funding

It was recently reported that “State support for students at Arizona’s three public universities has fallen by 53.8 percent since 2008, more than three times the national decline over the same period, according to a new report.” Arizona cuts to college student support still among steepest in nation:

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the Arizona cuts were the most extreme example of a national trend that has seen a total reduction in state aid of nearly $9 billion over the 10 years, as states scrambled to close budget gaps caused by the recession.

Despite efforts by states in recent years to reverse the trend – including in Arizona, where state support per student rose 4.25 percent last year – the report’s authors said they worry that those increases are slowing down.

“The clear majority of states have been reinvesting and that has been a broad trend over the past few years,” said Michael Mitchell, a senior policy analyst at the CBPP, in a call on the Wednesday report.

“But there are indications that we can see that this reinvestment is trailing off and the amount of reinvestment that we’ve seen over the past few years just hasn’t been enough to make up for the drastic magnitude of cuts over the time period we’re looking at,” he said.

Those cuts average 16 percent per student nationally since 2008, the report said.

Arizona’s 53.8 percent reduction was largest in the nation, with Louisiana next-closest with a 44.9 percent reduction. In terms of an actual dollar reduction, however, Arizona’s per-student cut of $3,450 was fourth-highest, behind Louisiana, New Mexico and Alabama.

While the cuts have been partially offset by increases in federal aid – an average Pell grant grew 23 percent during the period – steady increases in tuition continue to make college unaffordable for many, according to the report.

“We have seen increases in federal student aid, but in states where tuition costs have increased rapidly those additional federal investments have not kept up with rising college costs,” Mitchell said. “The net cost of attendance has increased even for low-income students at four-year colleges.

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Amicus briefs filed in partisan gerrymandering case before SCOTUS

The most important Supreme Court case in the new term beginning the first Monday in October is Whitford v. Gill: Partisan gerrymandering case before SCOTUS; SCOTUS to review partisan gerrymandering in Whitford v. Gill (the appeal at SCOTUS is now captioned Gill v. Whitford).

The New York Times Magazine recently published a lengthy investigative report as a preview of the issues in what may become a landmark case, The New Front in the Gerrymandering Wars: Democracy vs. Math (snippet):

Political scientists and mathematicians have been trying ever since to create a standard that will satisfy Justice Kennedy — still the court’s crucial swing vote. They argue that with the help of experts, courts themselves can use the mapmakers’ advanced tools to assess and block gerrymandering.

Last November, relying on the same kind of analyses as the map drafters, the three-­judge panel in the second Wisconsin case struck down the state’s 2011 redistricting law. The Republicans appealed to the Supreme Court, which will hear the case on Oct. 3.

The outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision in Gill v. Whitford is likely to shape American politics for years and perhaps decades to come.

There has been some surprising new developments this week. The New York Times reports, Prominent Republicans Urge Supreme Court to End Gerrymandering:

Breaking ranks with many of their fellow Republicans, a group of prominent politicians filed briefs on Tuesday urging the Supreme Court to rule that extreme political gerrymandering — the drawing of voting districts to give lopsided advantages to the party in power — violates the Constitution.

The briefs were signed by Republicans including Senator John McCain of Arizona; Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio; Bob Dole, the former Republican Senate leader from Kansas and the party’s 1996 presidential nominee; the former senators John C. Danforth of Missouri, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming; and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former governor of California.

“Partisan gerrymandering has become a tool for powerful interests to distort the democratic process,” reads a brief filed by Mr. McCain and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case, Gill v. Whitford, No. 16-1161, on Oct. 3.

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