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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Ruling on health law prompts responses
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 • Posted July 5, 2012

AUSTIN — Texas public officeholders reacted quickly to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 28 ruling on the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. Gov. Rick Perry said the majority opinion penned by Chief Justice John Roberts would be “a stomach punch to the American economy.” Attorney General Greg Abbott said the case, in which Texas was one of 26 states that petitioned to have the law declared unconstitutional, said it was not about health care, “it was about the rule of law and a fight against a federal government that continues to expand.” State Comptroller Susan Combs said the law “will place an enormous burden on Texas taxpayers and place a huge constraint on our budget.” Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Grapevine, chair of the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said, “The health care system is nowhere near ready for the massive influx of patients who will be forced to buy coverage, especially given our existing health care workforce shortages.” However, Gilberto Hinojosa of Brownsville, newly elected chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said, “Today’s decision on The Affordable Health Care Act by the Supreme Court is a vindication of President Barack Obama and a slam in the faces of Republicans who offer no alternative to this country’s broken health care system. A choice between bankruptcy or death is no choice at all.” Hinojosa said that since its passage, the health care law “has improved the lives of Texans of all ages and walks of life” and gave as examples young adults gaining coverage through their parents’ plan, coverage for preexisting conditions, savings on prescription drugs and preventive services with no co-pays. Republican leaders in Congress said they would call votes this month to repeal the act in its entirety. Initial reactions aside, how states and individuals adjust to the court decision will come to light as more parts of the act are scheduled to take effect periodically over the next eight years. To wit, the federal government is to pay 100 percent of the costs for those who are newly eligible for Medicaid for 2014 through 2016. And, in 2017, the federal government’s share of Medicaid payments to states will begin to decrease but will not fall to less than 90 percent.

Briefly, here is what the court ruled:

1. The act’s “individual mandate” requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance exceeds Congress's authority to regulate commerce and thus is unconstitutional.

2. The act’s “shared responsibility payment” or penalty on individuals who do not purchase health insurance is a tax that does not violate the Constitution. The penalty is to be assessed and collected by the Internal Revenue Service.

3. The federal government may not withdraw existing Medicaid funding from states for failure to comply with the requirements set out in the act’s Medicaid expansion.

DPS to increase patrols

The Texas Department of Public Safety last week announced DWI patrols for a nine-day period from June 30 to July 8 would be increased. “The goal of our enforcement effort is to save lives and make travelling in Texas safer for residents and visitors during the July 4th holiday,” said DPS Director Steve McCraw. High-risk locations at times when alcohol-related crashes are most frequent will be targeted.

Cities rank high in growth

Texas had eight of the 15 most rapidly growing large cities between Census Day, April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, according to population estimates released June 28 by the U.S. Census Bureau. Round Rock, with population 104,664 and a 4.8 percent population increase, was ranked the second-fastest growing city in the nation. Austin was third, with a 3.8 percent increase and population 820,611. Fourth place Plano posted 3.8 percent growth and a population of 269,776. Fifth place McKinney grew 3.8 percent and was counted at 136,067 residents. Sixth place Frisco grew by 3.8 percent with its population listed as 121,387. Seventh place Denton increased by 3.4 percent with population listed as 117,187. Thirteenth place McAllen grew at 3.0 percent with population 133,742. And the last Texas incorporated municipality in the top 15 was 14th place Carrollton, which grew 3.0 percent and had a population of 122,640.

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