Illinois Supreme Court to hear case against elimination of cash bail

The Illinois Supreme Court will hear arguments next month on whether the far-reaching SAFE-T Act and its elimination of cash bail are unconstitutional, as a Kankakee judge ruled at the end of last year.

The court set a date of March 14 as the office of Illinois Atty. Gen. Kwame Raoul filed a motion Monday urging the court to reject the “grab bag of constitutional theories” raised by the law’s opponents.

Kankakee County Chief Judge Thomas Cunnington sided with those opponents just days before the bail reform provision were to take effect, ruling in favor of a group of state’s attorneys and sheriffs who brought more than 60 lawsuits challenging aspects of the law.

Cunnington ruled that part of the act violated a requirement in the state Constitution that requires defendants to be bailable “by sufficient sureties,” except for certain offenses. He also found that it violated the separation of powers between the judiciary and Legislature.

“The appropriateness of bail rests with the authority of the court and may not be determined by legislative fiat,” Cunnington wrote in his ruling.

Legislators who wrote the bill, and reform advocates who support it, have argued that cash bail is inherently unfair and doesn’t benefit public safety when some defendants accused of crimes are released ahead of trial while others are held in jail because they lack the financial ability to post bond.

Opponents to the law argued lawmakers violated the state’s constitution when they failed to seek approval from voters through a constitutional amendment, and they said they would “strongly support” such a system if the state had done so.

“This did not occur,” opponents argued in a motion before the state Supreme Court earlier this month. “In so doing, the General Assembly has illegitimately attempted to amend the Illinois Constitution.”

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Maine’s ACLU urges lawmakers to increase funding for indigenous legal defense

A representative from a group that is leading a class action lawsuit against the state is urging lawmakers to commit even more money to create public defender’s offices around the state.

The ACLU of Maine filed suit one year ago this week, claiming the state is failing in its constitutional obligation to provide attorneys to low-income criminal defendants. Since then, lawmakers created a small, public defender office to take cases in rural Maine. And the administration of Gov. Janet Mills has proposed expanding that office.

Zach Heiden, chief counsel for ACLU Maine, told lawmakers on two committees on Monday that’s progress and he also criticized the recent decision to increase the hourly reimbursement for private attorneys who take on clients through the Commission on Indigent Legal Services. Earlier, the outgoing executive director of the commission, Justin Andrus, told lawmakers that the higher reimbursement rate – from $80 to $150 an hour – has led to a significant jump in interest among private attorneys willing to take on independent cases.

But Heiden also said a hybrid system of private attorneys and public defenders should have been adopted years ago rather than its standing, until recently, as the only state in the country to rely entirely on private attorneys. And he said additional reforms – such as increased training and supervision as well as for statewide offices to handle appeals and post-conviction reviews – will cost money.

“These investments are, as you are no doubt aware, considerably more than the state is accustomed to spending on indigenous defense,” told members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee as well as the Judiciary Committee. “Please do not mistake them for luxury “This is the bare minimum of funding required to have a functioning independent defense system in this state and by extension

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Insurance capital can’t figure out health insurance

Like a lot of people in middle age, I have some health issues that occasionally require seeing a specialist. The “good” aspect of my insurance is that those visits are covered.

But it’s not that simple, because nothing is ever that simple.

Getting coverage to see a specialist means I need preapproval from my primary care doctor, despite having never met my primary care doctor. What it really means is someone in the office has to check a box on an electronic form.

It’s not even required in advance. The preapproval can be postdated. All that’s required is that the box be checked by someone, at some point.

Sometimes that step gets missed, at which time I’m charged for visiting the specialist. News that I owe money to my provider arrives somewhere in the blizzard of correspondence that comes to a family of four, each of whom is receiving care at some level, the vast majority of which says “This Is Not A Bill,” which at some point means you stop paying attention.

Anyway, if someone forgets to check the box, I get charged, and if I miss the bill, it goes to a collection agency, which has happened twice in the past year. Suddenly I’m having to explain to some chatbots that I really don’t owe $495, and that my doctor’s office knows that I don’t owe the money, but it requires all kinds of back and forth and long phone calls to get it sorted out.

This is, as mentioned, good insurance. Many people are in a far more prestigious position. It’s hard not to think we could do better.

Maybe, for example, we could have insurance that covers people’s health needs but doesn’t put a private company’s profits as its top priority? It sounds crazy, but

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300,000 Oregonians at risk of losing state health insurance. Here’s why.

An estimated 300,000 Oregonians could lose state health insurance in the next 16 months because they no longer qualify for state coverage made more widely available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All approximately 1.5 million people receiving coverage through the state will soon need to be financially eligible for the program to keep their state health insurance, following a three-year federal reprieve from normal requirements due to the pandemic.

That reprieve is soon coming to an end, giving state officials just over a year to make sure everyone who qualifies for coverage keeps it.

“Our real goal is to make sure that we preserve all the benefits that we can,” interim Oregon Health Authority director James Schroeder said in a presentation to lawmakers Tuesday. “But at the end of the day, people are either going to be eligible or not.”

Under federal rules put in place soon after the pandemic started, Oregonians did not have to prove financial hardship or work status in order to qualify for Medicaid coverage, which in Oregon is called the Oregon Health Plan. Coverage expanded dramatically in the last three years, from about 1,080,000 Oregonians before the pandemic to about 1,470,000 today, according to state data.

But on April 1, Oregon will start a 14-month process to verify that people do not make too much money to qualify for the low-income health insurance program and meet other requirements. The state will follow up with those who no longer qualify to help them transition to coverage through the health insurance marketplace, officials said.

The Oregon Department of Human Services, which is responsible for checking eligibility for its own programs and for the health authority, called the volume of work ahead “historic.”

“We are serving the highest caseload we’ve ever had in the history of our

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Individual and small business health insurance plans must cover abortion care in NJ, new state rules

New Jersey will require individual and small business health insurance plans to cover abortion care starting Jan. 1, the state Department of Banking and Insurance announced Friday.

The new rules will take effect for large businesses later in 2023, state officials said in a news release.

New Jersey is already among the states with the strongest abortion rights protections, and most insurers in New Jersey’s individual and small employer markets already provide some type of coverage for abortion. But until now, the requirement has not been explicit, and insurers could limit abortion coverage to cases of rape, incest, or threat of death, according to a study on access to reproductive health care by the department, released in November.

The state boards that govern insurers in the individual and small business markets unanimously approved the change Thursday. Insurance carriers estimate the change could raise premiums by, at most, 0.1%, state officials said.

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New Jersey is among a minority of states that have ramped up protection for abortion rights following a US Supreme Court ruling that overturned the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in June said it is up to states to decide whether and when to permit abortion.

Abortion is legal at any stage of pregnancy in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in early 2022 codifying the right to abortion, and in June, New Jersey added protections for out-of-state patients and doctors treating them.

New Jersey is one of several states where abortion is covered without restriction by Medicaid, the publicly funded health program for low-income residents.

In Pennsylvania, abortion remains legal up to the 24th week of pregnancy, but rules such as a 24-hour waiting period, mandatory consultation to review alternatives, and blood tests that

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Arizona Republican lost lawsuit over attorney general race

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge has thrown out Republican Abraham Hamadeh’s challenge of election results in his race against Democrat Kris Mayes for Arizona attorney general, concluding that Hamadeh didn’t prove the errors in vote counting that he had alleged.

The ruling on Friday by Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen came after Hamadeh’s attorney, Tim La Sota, acknowledged his client had not gained enough votes during his litigation to change the outcome of the race. Mayes finished 511 votes ahead of Hamadeh out of 2.5 million in one of the closest elections in state history.

“You haven’t met the burden,” Jantzen told La Sota shortly before ruling against Hamadeh.

As part of the litigation, the parties in the case were allowed to inspect a sample of 2,300 ballots. Through the inspection, Hamadeh said he gained a net six votes, while Mayes maintained he netted three votes.

“If you extrapolate the numbers, they are not going to get us to 511 votes if you take the sample we have,” said La Sota, who had pushed for a larger sample size.

Hamadeh, whose race is the subject of a separate automatic recount conducted by the state due to the close results, complained in a tweet about election operations in Maricopa County and said his team “will await the results of the count before deciding our next steps.”

Andrew Gaona, an attorney representing Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, said the lawsuit was a “spectacular waste of everyone’s time.”

Under the Arizona law, Hamadeh faced the high bar of proving not just that election officials wronged but that he would have won without their misconduct.

In his lawsuit he alleged that problems with printers in Maricopa County led to a series of issues that disenfranchised voters. He also alleges his

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Legislators to address property insurance, tax relief, financial assistance in a special session next week

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature will hold a special session on Monday to tackle property insurance issues in the state.

State officials could take some major steps in stabilizing the insurance market following this session. However, it isn’t an easy problem to fix, especially since two hurricanes hit the state and caused significant damage.

Local residents have explained their property insurance rates have skyrocketed

“My property insurance went up 30%,” one News4JAX reader commented.

Another said their insurance doubled in 2021.

With the session, lawmakers plan to address reducing litigation costs, fostering reinsurance, improving claims, increasing oversight of property insurance market participants and more. The session will also discuss tax relief and financial assistance for Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole-related damages.

Lawmakers will also look to create a statewide toll credit program for frequent Florida drivers as well.

A special session was held back in May to try to address the insurance market, but not much was accomplished.

Even after next week’s special session, it’s likely residents won’t see immediate relief.

The Office of Insurance Regulations established a temporary market stabilization arrangement in July through Citizens Property Insurance or Citizens.

As of September, Citizen, which is a state-created insurer, had over a million policies.

News4JAX also learned that policies under United Property and Casualty Insurance will be canceled by May 2023, making them the seventh company to leave the state, which could push their policyholders to Citizens.

The proclamation says it will try to improve the financial stability of Citizens, reduce assessments with the company, and foster a transition of Citizens’ policies to the private property insurance market.

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Kris Kobach, who has made unfounded claims of voter fraud, wins the Kansas attorney general’s race

WASHINGTON — Republican Kris Kobach has won the race to be Kansas’ attorney general, NBC News projected Thursday.

With 97% of the expected vote in, Kobach defeated Democrat Chris Mann 51% to 49%.

Kobach has long been viewed as a hard-line figure on immigration and voting laws. As attorney general, Kobach will have the power to prosecute voter fraud and enforce other election laws.

He lost a 2018 bid for governor and a 2020 primary bid for the US Senate. From 2011 to 2019, he was Kansas’ secretary of state, and from 2007 to 2009, he was the chairman of the state’s Republican Party.

Kobach was also involved with a Texas lawsuit that asked the Supreme Court to intervene in the results of the 2020 presidential election. He told The Associated Press last month that “there’s no question” voter fraud occurred in 2020 and that Americans will never know “how many fraudulent ballots were cast.”

As the vice chair of former President Donald Trump’s election commission, he was charged with investigating claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election. The panel found no major evidence of voter fraud, and the committee was dissolved in 2018.

Kobach has also been a major proponent of voter ID laws and other election restrictions. In 2018, he unsuccessfully defended in court a state voter registration law that required people to provide documents such as birth certificates or passports at motor vehicle offices to register to vote. At the time, he argued that the law prevented 1,000 to 18,000 noncitizens from casting ballots. The law was struck down. As a candidate for attorney general, he said he would support efforts to kobach-topeka-kansas-a34504e587cc5efcf7f01219b89f03e1″ballot drop box tires in Kansas.

Meanwhile, Kansas voters re-elected Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to a second term. She

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Governor John Bel Edwards looks to London for answers to Louisiana insurance crisis

Gov. John Bel Edwards is traveling to London Wednesday, where one of his meetings will be with executives from the premier global insurance market Loyd’s to discuss Louisiana’s growing homeowner’s insurance crisis.

Edwards will lead a delegation of business and political leaders who will also seek economic expansion opportunities as well as attend the New Orleans Saints game against the Minnesota Vikings in London on Sunday.

Louisiana is in the midst of an insurance crisis triggered by Hurricanes Laura and Ida in consecutive years that threatens the affordability of homeownership in the state’s coastal areas, where the cost of property insurance and federal flood insurance can exceed monthly mortgage payments.

Among the planned topics of discussion with Loyd’s executives Thursday: current factors affecting insurance and reinsurance protection for companies doing business in Louisiana; legislative and regulatory changes that would improve the state’s attractiveness to insurers and reinsurers; and how the risk modeling is utilized in Lloyd’s insurance marketplace impacts the state.

“Few states are more directly impacted by the insurance underwriting and energy markets than Louisiana, which is why it’s so important to maintain an open dialogue with global leaders in those sectors,” Edwards said in a statement. “Thousands of Louisianans are not only still recovering from damage caused by devastating storms, but they are also dealing with unpaid claims, insurance companies folding, and problems finding new insurance coverage.

“We must find a way to solve this crisis. I’m also looking forward to establishing new partnerships and increasing awareness about Louisiana’s energy transition leadership and rapidly diversifying economy.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards during the Opening ceremony and Ribbon cutting for The Veterans Memorial at Moncus Park in Lafayette, LA.  Tuesday, Sept.  6, 2022.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards during the Opening ceremony and Ribbon cutting for The Veterans Memorial at Moncus Park in Lafayette, LA. Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

Edwards, who will return to Louisiana Monday, will be joined on the trip by representatives

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Sarpy County resident tapped to run Legal Aid of Nebraska

Legal Aid of Nebraska announced its new executive director, who’ll take the reins of the largest statewide nonprofit civil legal aid provider in Nebraska on Oct. 10.

Laurie Heer Dale, a resident of north-central Sarpy County, had been the director of the Nebraska State Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project, where she helped attorneys provide volunteer services to state residents.

“Her experience, knowledge, and passion to ensure equal justice for all Nebraskans will continue to move our already strong organization forward as we enter our 60th year of service,” Legal Aid of Nebraska’s board president Amy Van Horne said in a release.

Heer Dale previously worked for Legal Aid of Nebraska as director of client and community engagement services, director of access, managing attorney for AccessLine and coordinator of the private attorney involvement program. She started her legal career with the nonprofit in 2002 and is a graduate of the Creighton University School of Law.

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“Providing access to legal assistance and representation is essential to ensuring fairness and justice for low-income individuals and families. Legal Aid is here to make that happen across our state,” Heer Dale said in a release.

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