New Jersey

This article is part of the State Status and News series related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

On 29-Mar-2010, one report 1) stated that “State Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren/Hunterdon, on Friday joined at least one other state GOP associate urging Gov. Chris Christie to join 14 other states in lawsuits challenging the reform's constitutionality” and noted that the PPACA “was opposed unanimously by area Republicans.” The New York Times published a similar report2) citing a different pair of lawmakers.

While not directly related to the PPACA, New Jersey is considering a recall election of one of its Senators.

Calling it an “attack on the Constitution,” a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez today said the Democrat has appealed to the state Supreme Court to stop a recall effort.

“Mainstream New Jerseyans believe deeply in the U.S. Constitution that for more than 200 years has made ours the greatest form of government in world history,” said Afshin Mohamadi, a spokesman for Menendez (D-N.J.). “This attack on the Constitution undermines our uniquely American system of democracy and will be contested.”

Mohamadi said it would be “deceiving to the electorate” to pursue a recall the senator and his lawyer say ultimately will be ruled unconstitutional.

[…]

Menendez's attorney and the state Attorney General's Office have argued the U.S. Constitution trumps both the state constitution and state law, which permit the recall of federal officials. The federal Constitution neither permits nor prohibits such recall efforts.

But the Constitution's silence is a signal the state's law and constitution are valid, according to the Committee to Recall Senator Menendez, which is backed by the New Jersey chapter of the conservative Tea Party movement. The groups say they want Menendez out because he votes for too much government spending.

[…]

Ackermann, Peggy. “U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez Appeals to N.J. Supreme Court to Stop Recall Effort”. NJ.COM. April 5, 2010. Available online as of 2010-04-06.

New Jersey's public employee labor unions, long seen as a potent political force and often depicted as an 800-pound gorilla looming over the Statehouse, are running short of friends in Trenton.

Gone is Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who regularly sided with unions. In his place stands Gov. Christie, a Republican who has sharply criticized labor's influence, leadership, and benefits.

Public labor unions have found no refuge among Democrats, their traditional allies. Democratic labor leaders in the Legislature have been among the most vocal supporters of cuts to government benefits, saying taxpayers can no longer afford the perks.

[…]

“Political alliances come and go, and you work with people who share your values, but certainly you don't back down on your values just because somebody lets you down,” said New Jersey Education Association spokesman Steve Baker.

He said labor's strength came not from political allies, but from its membership.

Sweeney dismissed the idea of a Democratic split from labor. He said he and other Democrats had supported many union priorities, notably pushing through a paid-family-leave bill in 2008.

He said public benefits needed to be brought in line with the private sector's, adding that ironworkers in his union paid for 100 percent of their health coverage.

If unions abandon Democrats over these reforms, Sweeney said, the groups will not carry much weight.

“If you're going to abandon your friends over a disagreement, and it's one disagreement? So be it,” Sweeney said.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D., Middlesex), chairman of the Democratic State Committee, played down the idea of losing support from a key piece of the Democratic base.

“We understand as Democrats the needs of the middle-class working men and women that many of these labor organizations represent,” he said.

Tamari, Jonathan. “Organized labor losing ground in N.J. legislature”. Philadelphia Inquirer. April 6, 2010. Available online as of 2010-04-08.

New Jersey conservatives are trying to ratchet up the pressure on Gov. Chris Christie and Attorney General Paula Dow to join a number of other states in challenging the constitutionality of the recently signed federal health care bill.

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Christie has been reticent on the lawsuit, last month saying he’ll consult with Dow and Health Commissioner Poonam Alaigh before deciding whether to join. His spokesman declined to comment tonight.

Some Republican lawmakers have proposed putting a state constitutional amendment on the ballot that would bar requiring residents to purchase insurance, but the measure is not expected to advance through the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

State advocates of the reform the bill took issue with Cuccinelli's interpretation of the constitution.

New Jersey Appleseed Executive Director Renee Steinhagen, a lawyer who is a member of the NJ for Health Care coalition, said the federal government already requires hospitals to provide care to those without insurance.

“I think the argument that they have to defer to the state’s right to regulate health care is simply not the case,” she said.

Steinhagen also said the federal government is not forcing people to buy insurance by fining them if they refuse.

“There’s no forcing here. This is the equivalent of a tax,” she said. “It’s not like they’re putting you in jail.”

Friedman, Matt. “N.J. conservatives pressure Gov. Christie, Attorney General Dow to challenge U.S. health care bill”. NJ.COM April 12, 2010, 8:35 PM ET. Available online as of 2010-04-13. Emphasis Added.

1) Novak, Stephen J. “New Jersey area Republican legislators state Sen. Michael Doherty and Congressman Scott Garrett contesting health care bill”. Express-Times (New Jersey). March 29, 2010. Available online as of 2010-04-05.
2) Associated Press. “2 Lawmakers Urge NJ Governor to Join Health Care Suit”. New York Times. March 29, 2010, 6:38 PM ET. Available online as of 2010-04-05.