Unless you’ve crawled under a rock only to emerge today, you should already know that last week a federal judge threw out the so-called “Fair Share Health Care Act” (aka the Wal-Mart bill.) Gunpowder Chronicle and fellow MBA blogger Maryland Conservatarian have excellent posts on the matter.
But while I agree with their takes for the most part, I did want to add my two cents in because in the early days of monoblogue and my former blog ttown’s right wing conspiracy, Wal-Mart was one of my pet issues. It was the first thing I ever spoke to Norm Conway about back when the override vote was going to happen in January.
What I told Norm was that I disagreed with the purpose and punitive nature of the act, however, I did have to begrudingly concede that to me the Maryland General Assembly was the proper venue for it. And this is what bothers me about Judge Motz’s ruling last week. There he cited that Fair Share is trumped by federal ERISA laws and also that it would be unfair for Wal-Mart to have to track its Maryland costs differently than it would in the rest of the country.
But Wal-Mart already has to suit its business to fit in 50 different states, not to mention a byzantine system of local laws. In some states they have design their stores with space to accept returned bottles, for example. Other localities prohibit Wal-Mart from having a grocery component. I doubt that you could walk into a Wal-Mart and find that it’s precisely the same as another Wal-Mart anywhere in the chain. So to me the cost tracking issue is a weak argument.
In fact, Motz notes, “In light of what is generally perceived as a national health care crisis, it would seem that to the extent ERISA allows (emphasis mine), it is strongly in the public interest to permit states to perform their traditional role of serving as laboratories for experiment in controlling the costs and increasing the quality of health care for all citizens.”
It seems to me that a true follower of the Constitution would have to say that ERISA was the problem and not the “Fair Share Health Care Act.” That’s certainly not to say that I’m a supporter of the Wal-Mart bill, but to me the proper way to eliminate it (short of legislation rescinding the bill) is to have a state court decide the matter on whether it violates Articles 16 and 17 of the Constitution of Maryland. And if they say it’s not forbidden by those Articles, we work to elect a General Assembly more amenable to the interests of businesses and other private job providers.
Akin to the Reds “winning” the 1919 World Series over the “Black Sox”, the result I wanted came out of this, but for the wrong reasons and in the wrong arena.