UPDATE: 7:30 PM - NEW INFORMATION ON THE CONTACTS BETWEEN WARREN AND STARK COUNTY BOARDS OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
COMMISSIONER THOMAS BERNABEI
WHETHER OR NOT
IS STILL CONTEMPLATING
JOINING OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL
Ever since Democratic President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (labeled "Obamacare" by Republicans which label has been accepted by President Obama) into law on March 23, 2010, it has become a political rallying point for many elected Republicans in expression their loyal opposition to our nation's Democratic-controlled executive branch of government.
Since President Obama signed the measure into law, there have been some 67 Republican attempts in the U.S. House of Representatives to undo Obamacare to one degree or another.
The fight has pretty much been limited to the national level of our federal (i.e. national, state and local government) structure of government.
However, the fight did filter down to the state of Ohio level with a 2011 Constitutional ballot initiative.
Now we learn that there has been an effort to get Stark County involved in a lawsuit filed on January 26, 2015 by Republican Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
- (SCPR note: lawsuit also includes Warren County and several Ohio universities)
At yesterday's Stark County commissioners' regular meeting, Commissioner Thomas Bernabei said in answer to a SCPR question (see video below) that it came from the Warren County commissioners. Warren County is a county as of 2010 of some 212,000 residents.
And here is an interesting response to Gully from Stark County Chief Administrator Brant Luther.
Luther: "Having said that ... we still have a little division here in Stark, making the outcome unpredictable."
So the question is "whom knows whom" (in the politically connectedness sense of the expression - Stark County to Warren County or vice versa - for Stark to be solicited by Warren?
We may never know, but readers of the SCPR can depend on The Report to keep digging.
While he didn't say so expressly, the SCPR thinks that the only reason that Stark County did not join the lawsuit is because of Commissioner Tom Bernabei's opposition.
Of course, Stark County's two Republican commissioners (Creighton and Regula) could override what the SCPR thinks is a Bernabei opposition.
It is interesting that they did not pass a resolution to join the-then contemplated lawsuit at the commissioners' regularly scheduled meeting of December 30, 2014 when Bernabei was absent.
In a videotaped Q&A with commissioners at the conclusion of yesterday's meeting, Commissioner Bernabei (as president of the board and the only commissioner heretofore who had not articulated his position) took most of the questions of The Report.
And the SCPR agrees with his assessment.
Moreover, Stark Countians should not be paying perhaps as much as $85,000 of Stark County Democrat, Republican, independent and "not registered to vote" taxpayer dollars to litigate on a question that has strong political overtones to it and has no better than 50/50 chance of succeeding.
The SCPR believes that DeWine's and the Warren County commissioners' motivation suspiciously reeks of the Republican Party's obsession to undo Obamacare piece by piece.
It is intriguing that the only county among Ohio's 88 counties to sign on with DeWine is Warren.
Here is some material that the SCPR has gathered from various sources on the Internet which some readers might think is strong evidence of The Report's suspicions, at least on the part of Warren County officials.
In a press release, here, in part, is what the Warren County gave as their reasons for joining DeWine's lawsuit initiative:
Warren County, like many other counties and states, has self-insured health care coverage, and utilizes a third party administration company to administer its plan. It is therefore not exempt from these fees.
The fees are $63 for employees and dependents for 2015, with the per person charge estimated at $44 for 2016, and $27 for 2017. Warren County’s plan covers about 1,808 employees and dependents, which means we are being taxed $113,904 in 2015, $79,552 in 2016, and $48,816 in 2017.
Warren County Commissioners opted to make the initial payment of $94,710.00 on January 15, 2015 because the ACA’s penalty for non-compliance with remitting the Transitional Reinsurance Fee is $100 per day, per covered life. Had Warren County not made the initial payment, our penalty would be $100 x 1,808 (current employees and dependents) = $180,800 A DAY!
"The Obama administration has to understand that we don't work for them – county government is a government for the tax-paying county citizens," said David Young, Warren County Board of
Commissioners President. "We, the county commissioners, as all local county officials should, operate and fight for the honest and effective governing of county taxpayer money."
"The Obama Administration’s cavalier approach to funding the Affordable Care Act is reckless, risky, unethical and, we believe, unconstitutional." (color added for emphasis sake)
- SCPR note: Stark County paid a little over $218,000 in coverage of over 3,000 employees
The last paragraph, the SCPR thinks, betrays a political vitriol as a strong factor playing into the decision to be a party-plaintiff against the United States government.
As the graphics above indicate, it appears that Warren County is a "one-party-county" in which only Republicans run for county commissioner (at least, in 2012 and 2014) which seemingly encourages them to have the chutzpah to use "local" taxpayer money to advance a political party agenda.
Commissioner Tom Grossman is a former Warren County Republican Party chairman.
Stark County is quite a different story on the matter of not supporting/supporting President Obama before Obamacare and even after Obamacare.
Recently, a SCPR reader e-mailed yours truly requesting that the SCPR get into statements made by Republican commissioners Creighton and Regula as well as Canton's local newspaper to tell the full story on why Stark County getting into the DeWine/Warren County legal initiative might not be a good idea.
At issue was a January 27th Repository editorial advocating that the Stark County commissioners join the lawsuit.
Here is a copy of that readers letter to the editor of The Repository:
The Repository’s editorial board failed to tell readers important information when it urged Stark County to join Ohio Attorney General DeWine’s transitional reinsurance fee litigation (“DeWine files lawsuit over Affordable Care Act fee,” Jan. 27).
First, the editorial board failed to mention the cost of this litigation. For example, DeWine’s staff will spend thousands of hours on this litigation. Time that could be spent putting criminals in jail and keeping us safe, as promised during DeWine’s election campaign. Further, Ohio’s Warren County has hired a Washington lawyer to be the brains behind the litigation. Top tier Washington lawyers can bill out at $1,000 per hour.
Second, the editorial board failed to discuss the likelihood of success of the litigation. The odds of DeWine winning his litigation are slim to none.
Already a leading health care expert has told The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and confirmed to me by email, that DeWine is misreading the law. This error may cause DeWine’s litigation to fail.
Third, the editorial board failed to tell readers that what is possibly driving the litigation is DeWine’s political ambition and desire to burnish his conservative credentials. The media has speculated that DeWine will run for governor in 2018. So DeWine is using our tax money to pay for his litigation that keeps him in the public’s eye.It is interesting that Mr. Melson thinks he has to turn to The Stark County Political Report in order to get "the rest of the story" out before the Stark County public.
The editorial board should have explained the above factors to readers rather than simply cheerleading expensive litigation that seems to be driven more by ideology and political ambition than common sense.
ROBERT S. MELSON, NAVARRE
The Report thinks Melson makes telling points.
As SCPR readers know, yours truly thinks that highly partisan Republicans and Democrats are ruining our democratic-republic as they jockey with one another for political advantage.
That is what The Report thinks this fight is about.
It is a sad day indeed when our local newspaper weighs in on the TRP issue making a recommendation without telling the complete story.
But that is what we have all come to expect from The Canton Repository.