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Supreme winners and losers

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The US Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding the constitutionality of President Obama’s national health care law has something for nearly every one. There were obvious winners and losers, but the spin masters are suggesting the decision has the potential to transform some of today’s winners into eventual losers.

President Obama and Mitt Romney -- The president is a big winner. His signature piece of legislation was saved from being declared unconstitutional by the surprise swing vote of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. The ruling hinged on the court’s interpretation of the individual mandate that forms the centerpiece of the law. The court held that the mandate, which requires individuals to obtain insurance or pay a penalty, violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. But the court ruled the penalty is actually a tax, and therefore constitutional. The Boston Herald and its Truth Squad columnist, Joe Battenfeld, say the tax-based ruling is “just what the doctor ordered” for Mitt Romney, but that seems a partisan stretch. More likely, Romney, the architect of the Massachusetts law on which the federal one was patterned, will now try to make the case that the best way to get rid of Obamacare is to elect him.

Uninsured -- As Time points out, the Affordable Care Act will extend health insurance to 30 million Americans and guarantee coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Anyone earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level will get free coverage through Medicaid while those who earn between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level will be eligible for subsidized coverage. Young people, who often don’t buy insurance because they believe they are unlikely to get sick, will now be herded into the system, with their premiums used to cover the cost of treating those who are sick.

Chief Justice John Roberts --The take on Roberts depends on your politics. Those on the left seem to think Roberts saved the court from slipping into political irrelevance by giving deference to the actions of the executive and legislative branches. The court’s decision, written by Roberts, said as much: “We do not consider whether the act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the nation’s elected leaders.” Those on the right took a different view, with Gov. Rick Perry of Texas saying “the Supreme Court has abandoned us.”

Federal vs. state powers -- At first blush, the ruling seems to suggest the feds can dictate policy to the states. But the ruling in many ways put a limitation on the reach of the federal government. In essence, the court held that the government cannot compel people to buy health insurance but it can require them to pay a tax if they don’t. Joshua Green, in a Globe op-ed, reaches much the same conclusion.

Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren -- This is largely a replay of the Romney-Obama fight. Brown, who voted for the Massachusetts health care law, argues in a Globe op-ed that the federal law doesn’t help Massachusetts, hurts the nation, and should be repealed. He makes a pretty good case, but it would have been better for him politically if the court had found Obama overstepped. Warren said she welcomed the court’s decision and, like Obama, said now is not the time to fight again the battles of two years ago.

Massachusetts -- The Berkshire Eagle says Massachusetts is a winner, as do Sen. John Kerry, Attorney General Martha Coakley, and others. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber says Massachusetts must remain a model for the nation on health care.

Republican governors -- Many states with Republican governors put off implementation of the Affordable Care Act thinking it would be deemed unconstitutional. Now they have to play catch-up, and if they miss deadlines federal regulators may step into the breach. The Supreme Court’s ruling leaves uncertainty surrounding the massive expansion in state Medicaid spending the law envisioned, with the court calling the expansion an option, not a mandate.

Media -- CNN and Fox News initially reported the decision incorrectly, mistakenly assuming Roberts’s decision on the Commerce Clause would be the final word. CNN had to endure taunts from others and staffers were furious about the mixup.

                                                                                                                                        --BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

A loosening of the gift ban restricting what doctors may accept from pharmaceutical companies is included in the state budget that now goes to the governor’s desk, the Globe reports.

Auditor Suzanne Bump plans to raise the salaries of several key positions in order to attract and keep qualified people.

Former Worcester County sheriff (and state auditor also-ran) Guy Glodis is facing an ethics investigation for allegedly putting an inmate on work release as a favor to a campaign contributor.

Peter Lucas, in a column for the Sun, generally praises Gov. Deval Patrick and says his future lies in the business sector.

The Republican doesn’t like the new scanner-only pricing bill.

The Legislature’s compromise budget keeps the Taunton State Hospital open.

Lowell teens rally at the State House for the right to vote at age 17, CommonWealth reports.
MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Hingham officials, who have insisted for more than a decade the town should be exempt from Chapter 40B because it meets the minimum affordable housing requirements, turned down a permit for a mixed development which should trigger a state audit on the housing stock to finally make the determination.

The state Appeals Court ruled Weymouth fire officials wrongfully passed over a female firefighter for a lieutenant’s position and ordered the town to promote her and give her four years in backpay. The firefighter is on suspension for unrelated criminal charges.

The Custom House Tower clock in Boston is ticking again.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Greater Boston parses the Supreme Court ruling on health care, including its impact on the presidential race with observations by Mitt Romney’s former lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, who was by his side when he signed Massachusetts health care reform into law. Keller@Large offers his take on the political fallout. Radio Boston hosts local health care officials, including Jonathan Gruber, the MIT professor behind the individual mandate. The National Review tries to make lemonade out of the decision and has a piece by Tea Party darling Sen. Rand Paul who insists the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, the fact that was just ruled constitutional notwithstanding. The American Spectator says it is no longer called Obamacare; it’s now Obamatax. According to the National Journal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tells Vicki Kennedy, “Now Teddy can rest.” The Pioneer Institute labels the ruling a “lose-lose,” and decries the fact that a sweeping decision was made by a one-vote margin on the court.

Overlooked in the crush of coverage over health care was the court’s ruling that the Stolen Valor Act, which criminalizes false claims of having military awards and honors, is a violation of the First Amendment.

The Daily Beast’s Eleanor Clift dissects the vote holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire override six of 13 vetoes of Gov. John Lynch, the Concord Monitor reports.

ELECTION 2012

The brother-in-law of US Rep. John Tierney is sentenced to three years in prison and afterwards says the congressman knew all about his gambling activities. He calls Tierney “the biggest liar in the world,” reports the Salem News. A Tierney spokesman calls the comments “bizarre, unsubstantiated, and false,” reports WBUR.

There are other congressional races in the state beyond Senate and they, too, will have debates, including next Thursday, when US Rep. William Keating squares off with his primary opponent for the new 9th District seat, Bristol District Attorney Sam Sutter, on NECN’s Broadside.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

NPR (via WBUR) reports on why the taste of tomatoes has deteriorated.

Casino magnate/GOP super PAC sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson personally approved a “prostitution strategy” for his casinos in Macau, a former employee alleges in a federal court filing.

JPMorgan’s $2 billion trading loss is now a $9 billion trading loss.

Paul McMorrow looks at what Mass Eye and Ear is doing to head off opposition to its parking garage plan in this week’s Back Story.

EDUCATION

Freetown voters approved a proposal to borrow nearly $1 million to fund their share of technology improvements in the Freetown-Lakeville regional schools. Lakeville will vote on it later next month.

The MetroWest Daily News argues that  Marlborough officials need to figure out what went wrong with the decision to hire an out-of-town town school superintendent and learn from it.

HEALTH CARE

The New Bedford City Council has voted to order the state Department of Public Health to respond to a study that showed an alarming number of cancer-related deaths among neighbors and workers at the high school, which had been built over an old waste site for PCBs.

TRANSPORTATION

IBM engineers have devised an app that may help untangle Boston’s notorious traffic tie-ups.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A newly formed New Jersey company is expected to buy Salem Harbor Station and convert it from coal to natural gas, the Salem News reports.

President Obama is to blame for the Colorado wildfires. Of course.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Abington police have refused to release any information, including the name of the driver, in an April incident in which a 78-year-old Brockton man was struck and killed while walking to a nearby WalMart and no charges were brought.

MEDIA

The Nieman Journalism Lab reports on how the SCOTUS blog prepared for its biggest day ever.

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