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Capitol Chatter: Health care dispute keeps on giving

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ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House minority leader declared that the U.S. Supreme Court settled "once and for all" the federal health-care law dispute.

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The state's senior U.S. senator said the court put "the law above politics."

Yes and no. It is a complex issue, and one that is far from over, especially in the political arena.

"Settling this issue once and for all in court means real progress and security for families and children..." House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

Health care politics will continue. Soon after the high court ruled, it became obvious that leaving the Democratic-backed Affordable Care Act fully intact only invigorated Republicans to fight even harder for its repeal.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., issued the statement saying the court put priority on the law. That is true, but for good or bad, politics will dominate the discussion.

"We do not consider whether the (law) embodies sound policies," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. "That judgment is entrusted to the nation's elected leaders."

Here are other Supreme Court ruling tidbits:

-- Former U.S. Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota, a Mitt Romney presidential campaign advisor, said the decision should send Americans a message, "We now know this is the new law unless we elect a new president."

-- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and President Barack Obama both voted against John Roberts' confirmation as chief justice when they were Democratic senators. Roberts, backed by Republicans, was the key vote in favor of the Obama-pushed and Dayton-supported health care law.

-- The Obama administration said Minnesotans will receive $9 million in rebates from insurance companies this year under the new law. The law requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care, and those that do not meet that figure must provide rebates.

-- U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told CNN that allowing the health are law to remain on the books will turn the United States into an economic Greece.

-- A panel led by Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson faces a Dec. 1 deadline to present recommendations to Dayton and legislators about what the state should do to implement the federal law.

Marriage divisions

If there wasn't enough controversy with the marriage amendment, there is a new reason to argue.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie decided that because of a governor's symbolic veto (governors cannot stop a constitutional amendment from going in front of voters once the Legislature approves it) stripped the proposal of its title, the Constitution required him to decide what it should be called.

"Limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples," Ritchie decided, backed by a deputy attorney general.

Backers of the amendment, to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, wanted: "Recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman."

Fake court texts

Court officials warn Minnesotans that some people have received fake text messages claiming they could pay $500 to quash a warrant.

The text messages are fake, the officials say, and anyone who gets them should contact their local sheriff's office.

The texts were being sent in Steele County, in southeastern Minnesota.

Courts have not used texting or emailing for serious matters, usually relying on the mail or, rarely, the telephone.

In 2005, the courts received reports of people calling Minnesotans about allegedly failing to show up for jury duty, a ruse to get information such as Social Security and credit card numbers.

Minnesotans conserve

Energy conservation programs work, the Minnesota Commerce Department reports.

The department says state-mandated conservation resulted in gas and electric utilities implementing measures that will save $2.6 billion over 15 years.

The conservation also resulted in cutting nearly 820,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

E-health increases

More than half of adult Minnesota Internet users go online for health-related issues, Connect Minnesota says.

Known as E-health, those visits may involve researching medical information or communicating with health care professions.

Said Connect Minnesota State Program Manager William Hoffman: "Health care providers and consumers are relying on the Internet for an increasing array of services and information and this trend will likely increase as more Minnesotans have access to higher speed broadband service."

Septic help available

More than 5,000 Minnesota landowners with inadequate septic systems have received loans through the Minnesota Agriculture Department.

The loan program is designed to help rural landowners improve septic systems to reduce water pollution.

"These 5,000 loans covered the necessary upgrades to septic systems used by approximately 15,000 people," Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said. "These were septic systems on farms and rural lands where the owners bear the cost of making the upgrades."

Kirk appointed

Judge Michael L. Kirk, who serves in Moorhead, moves to the state Appeals Court soon.

Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Kirk to fill a position representing western Minnesota. He replaces Judge Roger M. Klaphake, who is retiring.

"Judge Kirk has an outstanding record of public service, as seen through his 23 years of service on the bench in the 7th Judicial District," Dayton said. "His passion for justice, and his years of experience will make him an excellent Appellate Judge in the 7th Congressional District."

Some Appeals Court judges are appointed based on congressional districts.

Kirk has served as the chief district judge and now is one of two Judges presiding over Domestic Violence Specialty Court in Moorhead. Before becoming a judge, he was Otter Tail County attorney and earlier maintained a private law practice in Fergus Falls.

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