Friday, June 29, 2012

Supreme Court Holds Health Care Law Constitutional

Yesterday marked the conclusion, not only to the Supreme Court’s 2011-2012 term, but to the heated debate regarding the Constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a/k/a “Obamacare”.  In deciding the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Supreme Court's four liberals to uphold President Barack Obama's health plan’s individual mandate requiring citizens to carry insurance or pay a penalty.  By a 5-4 vote, the court held that the mandate was valid under Congress' constitutional authority "to lay and collect Taxes" to provide for "the general Welfare of the United States."  Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts stated that the penalty for failing to carry insurance possesses "the essential feature of any tax," producing revenue for the government.

The Court held one part of the law unconstitutional, deciding that the act’s expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program threatened states' existing funding.  The Court ruled that the federal government cannot put sanctions on states' existing Medicaid funding if the states decline to go along with the Medicaid expansion.

The four justices voting against the Constitutionality of the health care plan, Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, stated in their dissent that they would have struck down the entire law, arguing that neither the government's commerce nor taxing power justified the mandate.  They opined that by reinterpreting the insurance mandate and changing the Medicaid provision, the majority engaged in “vast judicial overreaching" and decided “to save a statute Congress did not write.”

Friday, June 22, 2012

DUI License Suspension Rule Changes

As of January 1, 2012, Connecticut has instituted new penalties for individuals convicted for a first offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI).  Under the new rules, individuals convicted for their first DUI offense will have their license suspended for 45 days, provided they install an Ignition InterlockDevice (IID) in their car for one year.  An IID is a device installed in the motor vehicle that measures the blood alcohol content of the driver and prevents the engine from starting if the blood alcohol content of the driver is more than .025 percent. 

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is applying the new suspension rules based on the date of conviction, not the date of conduct.  Therefore, anyone convicted after January 1, 2012 will have the new penalty provision applied against them, whether or not the DUI incident occurred before January 1st.  Previously, there was a mandatory one year license suspension for first time DUI convictions.  The DMV is allowing drivers with a one year suspension under the previous penalty provisions to opt into the 45 day suspension period, provided they install an IID for one year.   

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Home Ownership Incentive Program Offers Grants to Purchase Homes in Hartford

Five Hartford corporations have begun offering grantassistance to their employees for use in purchasing single, two- or three family homes or condominiums. The grants are part of a Home Ownership IncentiveProgram created by MetroHartford as part of its LiveHartford initiative, a plan to promote city living and transform the surrounding area to benefit both the companies and employees. Modeled after similar programs developed by Yale University and MassMutual Financial Group, the Home Ownership Incentive Program allows companies to award grants to eligible employees on a first come, first serve basis to buy a home in Hartford. Although the grants will be forgiven over a five year period, if the employees quit their jobs or sell their homes before that time period has expired they will be required to pay the amount that is still outstanding.

So far five Hartford corporations have signed on including Aetna, Hartford Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Trinity College, but program leaders are hopeful more will follow. While each corporation currently participating has agreed to award five $10,000 grants, small and medium sized business are also encouraged to participate and may offer grants of any amount. Aetna began accepting applications in March and has already chosen one participant for a grant. The other corporations expect to begin their programs soon.