The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

March 15, 2013

State attorney general talks on federalism, death penalty

ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt spoke to Enid Noon AMBUCS Friday, sharing his thoughts on federalism, workers’ compensation fraud and the death penalty.

Pruitt opened his remarks on the expansion of federal power — particularly executive power — with a quote from John Adams: “The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking and writing.”

“Too much power concentrated in the hands of too few people directly affects your liberty,” Pruitt told the AMBUCS.

He centered his comments on federalism on federal health care mandates under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; centralization of American banking under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act; and the possibility of Environmental Protection Agency regulation of hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas industry.

Health care mandates

Pruitt joined attorneys general from 27 other states in filing lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act after he took office in January 2011.

According to a press release from Pruitt’s office, he challenged the health care act’s constitutionality under the Commerce Clause, specifically whether the federal government had the power to mandate individuals to buy health insurance.

A June 2012 Supreme Court decision held the federal government had exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause, but granted the federal government authority to implement the individual health care mandate as a tax under Congress’ taxing power.

Pruitt said Friday the lawsuit “bore dividends” for Oklahoma and the other states, even though the ACA was upheld.

“Governors, before last June, didn’t even have the ability to say ‘I’m in’ or ‘I’m opting out of Medicaid expansion,’” Pruitt said.

He said the lawsuit gave Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and other governors the ability to make decisions for their states on whether or not to expand Medicaid services.

Pruitt said Friday his office still is opposing the ACA through a revised version of the state’s original lawsuit.

Last September Pruitt’s office amended the state’s complaint to challenge the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to collect taxes for the individual health care mandate.

According to a September 2012 OAG press release, Oklahoma is “asking the Court to recognize that because the Supreme Court deemed the health care act’s individual mandate a tax that it no longer conflicts with Oklahoma’s constitutional provision that no law or rule can ‘compel any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system.’”

Pruitt said having the IRS collect taxes for the ACA individual health care mandate violates both the Administrative Procedures Act and conflicts with the ACA.

“The law must be followed the agencies charged with carrying it out,” Pruitt said. “Federal agencies should follow the laws Congress has passed. After all, that’s their job.”

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