A summary of governmental action from around the Gulf Coast.
U.S. Circuit Court upholds health care reform
CINCINNATI — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordability Act (PPACA), as amended. In issuing the first federal appellate opinion regarding the constitutionality of the act, the Ohio court held that “the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause ...” To support its ruling, the court found that “virtually everyone” will require health care services, but the “uninsured cannot avoid the need for health care, and they consume over $100 billion in health care services annually.” As such, “the practice of self-insuring substantially affects interstate commerce by driving up the cost of health care as well as by shifting costs to third parties.” The court concluded that the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of Congress's ability to regulate commerce.
Both the Fourth and the 11th Circuits are expected to rule on the constitutionality of PPACA in separate ongoing lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court may take up the case as soon as its next term, which begins in October.
Distracted driving bill filed
TALLAHASSEE — Motorists seen using a cell phone or other handheld device while driving could be fined according to legislation filed by Rep. John Patrick Julien, D-North Miami Beach. House Bill 39 calls for citations for moving violations for people caught driving while talking on a cell phone. “It is my hope that this traffic safety legislation will help keep our youth and all drivers free from driving distracted, which might save lives and prevent unnecessary harm on our roadways,” Julien says in a release.
CFO Atwater files for re-election
TALLAHASSEE — State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, the only statewide official to file so far for re-election in 2014, has set up his campaign account. Atwater filed his paperwork July 5. Nancy Watkins of Robert Watkins & Co. CPA's in Tampa is listed as Atwater's campaign treasurer.
Three to challenge Beckner for seat
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY — Republican Steve Cona, III, 39, chief operating officer of Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., filed July 1 to run for the countywide District 6 county commission seat held by Democrat Kevin Beckner. Margaret Iuculano, 44, also a Republican, and former owner of a Microsoft training business from Apollo, also filed the same day to run for the seat. Republican Brad Faircloth, 40, an ordained minister at Tampa's Palma Ceia Primitive Baptist Church, filed in May to challenge Beckner in the 2012 elections. Elected to the county commission in 2008 when he defeated incumbent Brian Blair, Beckner, 40, is a financial planner.