State senate Democrats passed an unemployment insurance bill out of committee today that does not include a cash stipend for unemployed parents.
Unemployment insurance rates are set to increase for business on February 8, and the legislature is in high gear trying to pass a bill that staves off the new rates, saving business $300 million this year.
Labor advocates tried to make the case that the business-friendly fix—which is tapping the $2 billion unemployment insurance trust fund with $478 million to cover the costs—should also help workers. They pushed for a $15-a-week children's benefit—dollars they argued would help workers and go straight into the economy. The house Democrats included the children's benefit in their version of the bill.
Washington State Labor Council lobbyist Rebecca Johnson tells PubliCola the group is "fine" going with the senate version for the temporary tax relief bill for business and that they'll work the rest of the session to get the children's benefit into a permanent unemployment insurance bill.
The senate bill was sponsored by state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36, Ballard, Queen Anne, Magnolia.)
Today's Winner: Rob McKenna's 2012 Campaign
Given today's big news from Florida—a federal judge in Florida ruled that the health care reform bill was unconstitutional—Washington State AG Rob McKenna (a co-petitioner in the Florida case), doesn't sound as krazy as blue Washington made him out to be last June when he joined other state AGs and filed the case.
McKenna was quick to call attention to the decision:
I'm happy to tell you that the judge has agreed with our arguments that the health insurance mandate is unconstitutional. The Administration claims that the Constitution's Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to force Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Twenty-seven other state attorneys general, governors and I have challenged this power grab, pointing out that it is unprecedented in our nation's history. We asked the court to keep Congress and this law within the bounds of the Constitution.
Framing the debate, Judge Robert Vinson of the U.S. District Court for Northern Florida wrote today "This case…is not really about our health care system at all. It is principally about our federalist system, and it raises very important issues regarding the Constitutional role of the federal government." He rejected the notion that the federal government can require citizens to purchase a commercial product in the private market, ruling that "The individual mandate falls outside the boundary of Congress' Commerce Clause authority and cannot be reconciled with a limited government of enumerated powers...It is not Constitutional."
PubliCola's own LawNerd wrote about the health care reform lawsuit here.
Gov. Chris Gregoire responded to the ruling today as well:
“There’s no question I’m disappointed in today’s ruling. Not only did Judge Vinson rule against the individual mandate, he declared the entire law unconstitutional. This ruling, as I have stated all along, is not good for Washingtonians.
“This means that nearly 900,000 seniors in Washington who have Medicare coverage will be forced to pay more for regular check-ups and important preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies. It means the more than 45,000 Washington Medicare beneficiaries who received a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate to help pay for prescription drugs may be forced to give that benefit back. In addition, they’d lose out on the 50 percent discounts on certain prescription drugs.
“Nationally, it means up to 4 million small businesses lose out on $40 billion worth of tax credits to defray employee health-care costs. It puts at risk those with preexisting conditions who can now be denied health coverage by insurance companies. It means young adults and families will no longer have the peace of mind knowing that children up to the age of 26 could be covered under their parents health insurance plan. And it means people with insurance will continue to pay more than their fair share to cover the costs of the uninsured.