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Toledo Legal News - News Bill calling for restrictions on state agency court settlements targets Kasich administration

 

An Oakwood lawmaker is going after the health care industry and Gov. John Kasich's administration with the bill he's proposed to require the Ohio Legislature sign off on any consent decree or court-approved settlement involving a state agency that would alter or prohibit enforcement of state law.

Republican Rep. Jim Butler has in mind, specifically, the Healthcare Price Transparency Law passed by the 131st General Assembly.

The legislation was meant to require meaningful transparency in the pricing of healthcare, the lawmaker said.

What's resulted, however, is a more-than-yearlong temporary injunction because implementation of the law is enjoined in a case brought by several healthcare industry groups which argued the law is unconstitutionally vague on the basis that the Ohio Department of Medicaid never drafted and adopted rules to govern price transparency.

"Of course, as with many laws we pass, the rulemaking process related to the Healthcare Price Transparency Law was an important part of the law's implementation because technical issues and definitions were supposed to be hammered out there, after input from healthcare stakeholders," Butler said during testimony last week. "For example, rules would have defined 'emergency' which the transparency law naturally exempts from the requirement to provide a good faith estimate."

The lawmaker recounted that counsel for the Medicaid director and the state immediately agreed to the temporary injunction, which was not seen as a surprise in light of the Kasich Administration's refusal to draft rules pursuant to the duly enacted law.

"If there was any doubt the Kasich Administration was working with the healthcare industry plaintiffs to try to judicially repeal the law, the Kasich Administration later jointly proposed extending the injunction for more than six months so (the governor) could repeal the law in the budget, which he duly attempted in his introduced version of the 2017 budget bill," Butler blasted.

House Bill 301 would require a state agency, public official or public employee sued in a civil action, to submit a consent decree or settlement that would alter or prohibit the enforcement of state law to the General Assembly for approval before the agency or official may agree to the consent decree.

Any consent decree or settlement that would alter or prohibit the enforcement of state law in such a way and not approved by the legislature would be deemed void.

The lawmaker noted that while House members seated for Government Accountability and Oversight Committee may not be as interested in the Healthcare Price Transparency Law standoff as he, the circumstances could be applied to any law.

"Imagine such a scenario unfolding in the future when the legislature is controlled by one party and the executive branch is held by the other," Butler said. "Do we really want a governor to be able to unilaterally circumvent the legislative process?

"I believe the peoples' duly elected lawmakers ought to have more say regarding what the law is or is not than a select few, possibly unelected individuals, potentially working together to the benefit of a particular special interest."

Under HB 301, the General Assembly would have 90 days after the state agency or public official applies for approval to enact a bill approving a consent decree.

If the General Assembly passes a bill approving the consent decree within 90 days, the state agency or public official may agree to it.

"The legislature is the peoples' branch of government," the lawmaker concluded. "House Bill 301 will prevent the further erosion of the power and standing of this body, and it will ensure that the General Assembly, as representatives of the people, remains an equal partner in running our government as proclaimed in our constitution."

Eight fellow House members joined Butler to cosponsor the measure, which had not been scheduled a second hearing at the time of publication.

KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer

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