The ‘Kochtopus’ Death Star still trying to kill Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion


DeathStarThe “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, seamlessly representing the GOP leadership of the Arizona Legislature, is appealing from the dismissal of their case on grounds of lack of standing to sue to block the state of Arizona from expanding Medicaid (AHCCCS), with the intended consequence of taking away medical care to many thousands of Arizonans who now have gained access to health care thanks to “ObamaCare.” Their preferred health care plan for the poor is the Ebeneezer Scrooge Plan: “Perhaps you should die, and decrease the surplus population.” Republican lawmakers fighting against Medicaid program in court:

Republican lawmakers asked the state Court of Appeals Wednesday to give them a chance to prove that hundreds of millions of dollars being used to support an expanded Medicaid program are being collected illegally.

Attorney Christina Sandefur [self-described “libertarian constitutional lawyer and freedom fighter”] told the judges the Arizona Constitution is clear: Any measure that raises taxes or increases revenues can be enacted only with approval of two-thirds of both the state House and Senate.

But last year’s vote to impose the levy on hospitals to finance the program – Gov. Jan Brewer calls an assessment and not a tax – did not get that margin. That, she said, makes it not only illegal but also deprives her lawmakers, who make up more than a third of both chambers, of their constitutional right to block the fee.

Sandefur is making her case to the appellate court because Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ruled last year the lawmakers who opposed the tax, who make up more than a third of both the House and Senate, have no right to sue because they had not been injured.

Judge Cooper said only those injured by the tax, meaning the hospitals, have standing to challenge it.

Sandefur, a Goldwater Institute lawyer, representing the dissidents, said that’s not true.

“They were injured when the governor signed the illegal tax into law,” she said. Sandefur said their constitutional ability to block the levy was nullified.

* * *

Hanging in the balance is more than the question of whether the tax on hospitals – an estimated $256 million this coming budget year – can be collected and, by extension, whether there is money for Brewer’s Medicaid expansion. There’s also the question of whether a simple majority of lawmakers are free to simply decide that 1992 voter-approved constitutional requirement for a two-thirds vote does not apply, free from being challenged by the minority of lawmakers who otherwise would have been able to block the levy.

That argument, being presented by Brewer attorney Douglas Northup, clearly concerned Judge Peter Swann.

“That would sort of render the entire constitutional amendment toothless,” he said.

“If a simple majority could decide that no supermajority is required, when would a supermajority ever be required?”

But Northup said that’s making an assumption the levy is, in fact, a tax. He said that has never been proven.

“Just because somebody says it’s a duck doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a duck,” Northup said.

This case is no longer about Medicaid expansion for the “Kochtopus” Death Star. No, it is now only concerned about preserving its undemocratic Prop. 108 (1992), which requires a two-thirds supermajority vote in both legislative chambers to impose or increase any taxes, or to reduce any tax credits or exemptions.  This antidemocratic provision only enables a tyranny of a minority of anti-tax zealots (the “Kochtopus” and its minions), negating simple majority rule, the foundation of a democracy.

Here is what self-described “libertarian constitutional lawyer and freedom fighter” Sandefur said in an op-ed in The Republic last month. The real ‘sore losers’ in Medicaid-tax case:

In a Feb. 11 editorial, The Arizona Republic’s editorial board dubbed these lawmakers “sore losers” for appealing that ruling.

* * *

Sadly, if this ruling stands, the real losers will not be the legislators but the voters and the state Constitution.

Preoccupied with lambasting the legislators for obstructing Medicaid expansion, the editorial board misses the forest for the trees. The desirability of the Medicaid program isn’t on trial; that’s a policy question left to the political process. The stakes of this lawsuit are much higher. At issue is the fate of a critical voter-approved constitutional protection, Proposition 108, which requires a two-thirds legislative supermajority for all new taxes and fees. The Medicaid tax became law with the approval of only a simple majority, nullifying the votes of those legislators who opposed it.

The board argues that the Legislature itself should get to decide whether Prop. 108 applies to a given tax. Never mind that more than 20 years ago, Arizona voters enacted Prop. 108 to “make it more difficult to raise taxes” and “restrain growth in state government,” even in “emergency situations” or programs “for the poor.” Those pesky details stand in the way of billions of dollars in subsidies for Arizona hospitals.

For the editorial board, simple majorities should always carry the day, even where the Arizona Constitution explicitly forbids it.

Such sneering condescension for simple majority rule, the foundation of democracy. No this “freedom fighter” for the “Kochtopus” prefers the undemocratic tyranny of a minority of anti-tax zealots preventing common sense and fiscally responsible  solutions to the problems confronting Arizona, most of which are due to the far-right policies of the “Kochtopus”enacted by our GOP-controlled legislature since 1988.

I have advocated for years in favor of a ballot measure for the straightforward repeal of the undemocratic Prop. 108 to restore simple majority rule and fiscal sanity to Arizona. Let’s take back our democracy from the “Kochtopus” tyranny and make 2016 the year this repeal measure is on the ballot. Use the Force to Krush the Kochtopus!


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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.