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Susan Estrich - What courts do best

Sometimes what courts do best is the same as what second-grade teachers do best: clean up sloppy sentences. You know what the student meant to say, but what they actually did say doesn't quite make sense.

Six words: If you can't afford health coverage, subsidies are available through "an exchange established by the state."

But what if the state didn't set up an exchange and instead is relying on the exchange set up by the federal government?

Do you then NOT get a subsidy?

The majority opinion referenced "more than a few examples of inartful drafting," but concluded that "the context and structure of the act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase."

In other words, Congress meant for the act to work, not to fail, and so the court, recognizing the frenzied state of drafting and redrafting mid-election, decided to read the bill so that it would work. It decided to read the bill so that poor people would get subsidies regardless of whether their state created an exchange. Congress was trying to help people who needed help, and the Supreme Court, as it has done in the past (maternity leave being an example of a gendered law that was upheld), has cleaned up the inartful language that would bar precisely what Congress was trying to provide.

So what's everyone yelling about? Simple. This was never about principle. This wasn't a dispute about the separation of powers or abuse of executive power or anything like that. This has been a fight about politics, fair and square.

Plenty of elections turning on it. But all politics.
So the people from the states that "weren't entitled" to subsidies actually wanted the subsidies — they were just against the law. You won't see many people sending those subsidy checks back in the mail, or insisting that their 20-something kids not be covered, or — imagine — excluding people from buying insurance precisely because they are sick. What could be more ridiculous?

I hope someone has tallied up the amount of time the Republicans have wasted filibustering and coming up with votes sure to fail in an effort to thwart their political defeats. And then what do they do? They go running to the courts to demand that the judiciary, known as unduly active when they're against you, become the staunch defenders of constitutional government when you're out to crush Congress.

In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said: "We should start calling this law SCOTUScare." By Scalia's lights, the court has saved the law twice now from its sloppy drafting — or unconstitutional abuse of power, which is how he would have it.

But there is another way to see it, which is simply this: The court did its job. It cleaned up some drafting and interpreted the law as a good-faith effort to accomplish what its drafters set out to do, which is expand affordable access to quality health care. No small job and not done perfectly, certainly not this time. But if we would spend half as much time figuring out how to fix the law, which is here to stay, as we have playing games that would neither destroy nor fix it, Americans might be better off in more ways than one.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

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The budget needs to reflect the real needs of New Hampshire

To The Daily Sun,

An open letter to State Senator Jeanie Forrester of Meredith:

Good morning Senator Forrester,
First and foremost, it can be complimented that you recognized the need to finance the contract to fund the raises agreed to by the SEIU and the governor's office. This is a contract cannot be negotiated with any of the General Court or the Senate. (This is confirmed by SEIU President, Mr. Gulla in a previous statement.) Thank you so kindly for your support.

Secondly, the continued chorus call of the General Court for greater than 21 years of personal residence here in N.H., (a "flatlander" who moved from south of New England, formerly a resident of Pennsylvania), that there are insufficient funds to provide for government services, as well as to provide benefits and salaries for its employees, (the Executive and other branches of the NH State Government) must stop. This has become repetitive, unacceptable, and old. It does not help our economy, and has made it worse. While the rule governing the salaries of said legislators are limited to $100 a year plus expenses, this same must not apply to the state employees. This society we currently enjoy, has moved from volunteer organizations to those who are paid, given the demands of the respective requirements to maintain community services. Volunteer services can no longer be the drive moving our state forward.
There is a critical concern regarding funding issues. However, there is a more important critical concern. A bi-partisan or multiple-party committee must be selected to determine the current needs of this state to provide for its citizens. Included in this group must be members of the SEIU, as its members will be most impacted for the administration of this state's services and maintenance of infrastructure. This committee must have citizen input as well, representing all areas of this state. Given the acuity of state finances, this must be timely organized, and expeditiously completed. This are several points to review. One: determine the level of services and needs required for N.H. citizens to assure their health, safety, welfare, as well as their rights to the security of their property and home. Two: Determine the actual level of funding required to maintain these services. Three: The recognition that the "No tax pledge" is obsolete and out of place in the current settings today. This pledge in reality is detrimental to our rights under number one. This pledge is the reason for N.H.'s financial crisis today. There is an essential, mandatory need to invest immediately into N.H. citizenry, infrastructure, and transportation modality.
Funding can be accomplished in a manner to both stabilize financial resources as well as to not compromise the integrity of the finances for N.H. citizens. There are several areas that have been eliminated by this out of date "no tax pledge" to consider. 1. There is a strong need to have a sales tax for non-essential goods and services. A model to consider is the Pennsylvania Sales tax code. 2. There is a need to equalize taxes paid in this state, to incorporate real estate tax reduction and to propose a fair and equitable income tax based on ability to pay. This method will actually increase funding availability once the needs of this state are established. Current tax loopholes must be close (as per Dan Feltes's proposal), not reduced (per the General Court's proposal). Too many individual businesses AND individuals can pay these taxes which will further reduce the real estate tax burdens on the middle and low income citizens of this state. It has been heard many business are willing to pay these taxes, to offset their costs of receiving goods and services as well as distribution, given the poor infrastructure and lack of good public transportation. Why? Such taxes can reduce their own tax burdens on federal tax forms. In short, this keeps the monies in N.H., and not send to the federal government monies they should not receive, and enable us to move forward. Such will also positively affect the citizens of this state.

The sales tax as proposed would create a new funding source outside of N.H. citizens who reside here. Out of state tourists, which is the mainstay of NH's economy, would be paying these sales tax to further increase the general fund. Tourists also use services that N.H. citizens enjoy, but are limited to contributing to costs of maintaining these services. This sales tax would be fairly broad based, and single level. The proposal is to cut room and meals tax to this same level. Room and meals taxes are not "sin taxes". Liquor, cigarettes, and related industries can be taxed separately from the sales tax. This s ales tax would fairly tax these industries at one level, further simplifying administrative expenses to maintain such a department. This would boost the overall room and meals economy as well as increasing more tax volume at the lower level. In turn, the need to reduce property taxes comes into play which in turn, given the extra cash flow from citizens increases this economic window to our mutual benefit. Such a tax can also be competitive with our neighboring states. This has been shared this with you this before Ms. Forrester. So far, nothing has happened regarding this proposal.
Improvements to both infrastructure as well as multiple transportation modality will also improve the tourist industry, along with the general economy as a whole. Investment in this is mandatory and required to restore economic health to this state. The area of greatest needs are the North Country as well as the Lakes Region area along with other more remote areas of this state. This state must think in terms of investment rather than tax liability. If done now, the costs will dramatically decrease over the long term. The economy of this state will improve dramatically and be more stable.
There is an immediate need to increase this state's minimum wage now, not over time. There is no excuse for anyone in this state making less than $15 per hour. Given costs of energy and multiple other related expenses, health care, it is barely a livable wage at that. In fact, it has already been proven where states did increase this minimum wage, their economies improved dramatically. This argument is quite simple and was previously demonstrated previously before the Senate Finance Committee. This is required in order to improve this state's economy and retain its currently decreasing youth population.

The costs of doing nothing has been detrimental to this State's health, safety, and welfare. Please excuse the use of cars to demonstrate. Currently our legislators seem bent on using a Volkswagen budget or even a used cheap used car budget, when clearly we now need a Range Rover budget to temporarily offset the pattern of not providing Chevys and Fords in the past. It is hoped this makes sense. Instead of maintaining our resources, physical infrastructure, and the employees who make these happen, the state jeopardizes its liability issues with the lawsuits that can recur, and substantially to the point the state would immediately bankrupt. If that bridge between Maine and N.H. collapses in height of rush hour, that alone can destroy our state. This responsibility rests on all your shoulders. The urgency of your actions to promote and conserve our legacy is now. We can no longer afford to keep paying repairs on cars for traveling on poor roads. The health rights of those less fortunate are being compromised. Our rights are compromised under the U.S. Constitution regarding the right to the pursuit of happiness, safety, wealth, and property. Our economy is not moving forward in a healthy manner. Your efforts to conserve our state is essential. The need to invest in our state is mandatory.

We no longer can bury our heads in the sand during this critical time period of our state, as we have in the past. It has become too costly to all of us, the citizens of this wonderful State of N.H. The no-tax pledge is obsolete. It is time for this Legislature, both the General Court and Senate to develop a budget that is responsible and reflective of first the real needs of this state, and how to fund them responsibly and equitably. Only with a combination of all these thoughts, can N.H. move forward and proudly with its motto, "Live Free Or Die".

Thank you for your kind consideration of these thoughts on behalf of N.H. citizens, employees for their health, safety, and protection of our property and homes.

Robert T Joseph, Jr., RN, ASN, BA, EMT-I

New Hampton

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