U.S. Sen. Al Franken said opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) raised a "ridiculous" argument at the Supreme Court Wednesday when they told the justices that the nation's health care reform law does not allow premium-lowering tax credits in 34 states where the federal government runs insurance exchanges.
"I was actually there when the law was written and passed," Franken told a press conference after the oral arguments. "I know what our intention was."
It was not, the Minnesota Democrat said, to exclude millions of Americans from health insurance coverage by denying them subsidies needed to afford policies. Franken accused ACA opponents of seizing on a few words in a 2,200-page bill to "reverse engineer" an argument that would kill the entire law.
The health law does say that premium subsidies are available to state-run exchanges. But it also says that the federal government will operate exchanges in states that refuse to form them. Subsidies, mandatory participation and coverage of pre-existing conditions are the three-legs of the legislative stool that support health reform. Getting rid of any of them will undermine the rest, most experts agree.
Joining Franken at the press conference were Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and premium tax credit beneficiaries Bonita Johnson of Detroit and Terry Donald of St. Petersburg, Fla. Johnson and Donald receive premium subsidies from federally run exchanges. Johnson said her health insurance would cost four times as much without subsidies and no longer be affordable. Donald, whose wife has cancer, said his insurance would be six times as much and he would have to drop coverage.
"This was not anyone's thinking" when the health care law passed in 2010, Franken said.
Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that Target Corp. layoffs will create a "very, very, very difficult situation" for thousands of Minnesota families. Noting the decision has already been made, Dayton said he nonetheless requested a meeting with CEO Brian Cornell to hear his rationale for plans to lay off several thousand employees in the next two years, largely at the company's downtown Minneapolis headquarters.
"I did not receive any kind of advance notice," Dayton said Wednesday morning in response to a reporter's question. He said he and Lieutenant Gov. Tina Smith, his frequent emissary to the business community, want to meet with Cornell "as soon as possible."
Cornell announced the layoff plans at a Tuesday meeting of investors and analysts in New York. He said the goal is to achieve $2 billion in annual savings as the company tries to rebound from several years of economic struggles.
Dayton's father and uncles built the Minneapolis department store company, Dayton's, into Target. He reminded that his family's ties to the company "have long since been severed," but suggested its status as Minnesota's largest private for-profit employer gives him an ongoing stake in its decisions.
"I think this could have and should have been handled differently, but that's just my view," Dayton said. Of Cornell he said: "He's relatively new here and it's a very, very important company to Minnesota."
Speaking of the fallout for those who get laid off, Dayton said: "I hope he's cognizant of that. I intend to find that out for myself."
A revolutionary proposal that would take amicable divorces out of the courts has the backing of two Minnesota lawmakers who say that while they don’t intend to ask for a hearing this session, they want to start a conversation.
The “Cooperative Private Divorce” legislation would allow couples to form divorce agreements without filing with the court or needing a judge’s signoff. The traditional system would remain in place for others.
The bill's sponsors, Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, who was divorced a decade ago, and Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, who was a child of divorce, say their bill would mark the most significant change to divorce law since “no fault” divorce became law 45 years ago. The current process, Lesch said, encourages couples “to become opponents in a win-lose contest with high stakes.”
“The result is a toxic situation for everyone involved and also becomes incredibly expensive,” Lesch said.
Pappas said that involving the courts can often sour what began as cooperative marriage dissolutions. That said, it wouldn’t replace the current court system.
“It’s very very important to protect the few who need protection, such as battered women in particular who are victims of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their spouse, I don’t think we should hold all couples hostage for that.”
Under the proposal, couples seeking a divorce would begin an online orientation that and submit their “Intent to Divorce” to a state agency like the Bureau of Mediation Services, where the records would be kept private. After 90 days, they would submit a “Declaration of Divorce” containing their agreements. There would be no third-party review or judicial approval.
Pappas said she and Lesch do not intend to request a hearing for the bill this session, rather than to start a conversation this summer. Although advocates have no estimated cost on implementing the program, they say it could pay for itself by reducing caseloads in family court.
William Doherty, a professor in the Department of Family Social Sciences at the University of Minnesota and longtime marriage and family therapist, helped craft the legislation, which he called “radical reform.”
He said that although Minnesota has moved on from a system where one spouse must be found at fault for the divorce to be granted, requiring every marriage to go through a cumbersome court process and judge’s signoff to dissolve is just as archaic.
“We want to have an alternative to the court-based system in order to say to the public, this does not have to be a contest where two people who hire separate agents of their own individual interests and ultimately either fight it out in court or avoid court but still do a battle,” he said. “This is a cultural change we’re seeking as well as a legal change.”
Photo: Rep. John Lesch, flanked by Cooperative Private Divorce advocates, announces the legislation.
WASHINGTON -- There has been so much drama with funding the Department of Homeland Security that the effort basically sucked all the energy out of the last two weeks of Congress.
Yet, today, the divided Minnesota House delegation all voted the same: To support a "clean" bill to fund the Department through this September.
The three Republican Reps. Tom Emmer, John Kline and Erik Paulsen joined Democratic Reps. Tim Walz, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson in a yes vote.
Some Republicans last week disagreed with fully funding the Department because they didn't support -- or want to give money to -- enforcing President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. Obama's executive action prioritized deporting felons, not people working without papers and provided temporary stay in the U.S. for people who have been here more than five years and pass a background check.
Back and forth, the House and Senate squabbled about a so-called "clean" bill -- without restrictions to funds -- versus a bill that stripped money from immigration enforcement.
Emmer, who was elected to replace Rep. Michele Bachmann last November, notably criticized his Republican colleagues over the weekend after the Department came within about an hour of shutting down.
Rep. Nolan said after the vote: "I am pleased to see that one-third of the House Republicans supported this clean bill, and I hope that we can all continue to support full-long term funding measures in the future."
Gov. Mark Dayton will lead a trade mission to Mexico this August.
The governor's office revealed plans for the trip Tuesday. Full details and exact dates for the trip will be revealed later this week.
It will be Dayton's third trade mission as governor, The trips have become a tradition not just for Minnesota governors but by governors around the country. The trips primarily involve a group of business and political leaders trying to cultivate new trade markets for state producers.
Mexico is the United States' number two trading partner, after Canada. Former Gov. Jesse Ventura led a Minnesota trade mission there in 2000.
In his first term, Dayton led such trips to Europe and southeast Asia.
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