Kentucky Democrats may soon turn against ObamaCare in the interests of self-preservation.
If Kentucky's state-run health insurance exchange survives a legal challenge headed now to the Commonwealth's Supreme Court, it will then face a stiff immediate challenge in January.
Under KRS 12.028, the 2014 General Assembly must ratify Governor Steve Beshear's Executive Order 2013-0418, which belatedly "created" the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange to run ObamaCare here. The Republican majority in our state Senate is not at all likely to give the health reform scheme their stamp of approval. We know that because Senators faced the same opportunity in 2013 with Gov. Beshear's Executive Order 2012-0587, which first attempted to create the Exchange. The House and Senate both refused to ratify that request. Beshear's insistence on continuing with ObamaCare implementation without proper approval sparked the lawsuit to stop him. His subsequent move to reissue the expired earlier executive order showed contempt for the legislature (the people's representatives) and also violated state law KRS 12.028(5).
If the Kentucky Supreme Court does not clean up this constitutional mess and legislative opponents of ObamaCare do not effectively reassert their improperly silenced voices, Democrats may soon wish they had. By subverting the legislative process in reorganizing state government without the legislature's imprimatur, Beshear set precedent for the next governor to do the same. And our next governor just might be a Republican.
Imagine the uproar on the left if in early 2020 a second-term conservative Republican governor filed executive orders making Kentucky a right to work state, repealing prevailing wage laws and seriously addressing pensions. If he then dared opponents to file lawsuits confident that his appointees to the state Supreme Court would back him up, today's Democratic leaders would have no one but themselves to blame.
If the legislature does not provide a new ObamaCare tax in the 2014 budget for the Exchange to continue in existence in 2015, it won't be able to operate. Most members of the legislature in both parties will have no incentive to bail out Obama in an election year. Frankfort Democrats seem to not yet have considered this.
Frankfort Republicans appear not to have thought much about it, either. At a recent luncheon in Lexington, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer pondered an imminent state budget stalemate over ObamaCare funding by suggesting erroneously that under such we would risk "letting Steve Beshear run the government," referencing a Kentucky Supreme Court decision which actually states "the mere existence of a law does not mean that it must be implemented if doing so requires the expenditure of unappropriated funds."
Once this legal misunderstanding is worked out among Republicans, it's clear ObamaCare will be struck down by the General Assembly for the second year in a row. If Beshear refuses yet again in 2014 to shut down ObamaCare as the people's representatives demand, such action would generate conditions favorable for another lawsuit. That suit would be distinct from the first in undisputedly involving expenditure of unappropriated funds. Beshear's only pathway forward at that point would be to issue yet another executive order, setting the stage for another legal fight in another year -- his last in office. The 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial race would then be substantially about ObamaCare, another prospect Democrats might relish now in their health reform utopian denial, but which reality just might bring home colored differently by then. So for now, Kentucky Democrats should decide if they want to misuse authority to hold power they can't keep or reject the abuses of one of their own in order to prevent creation of a nasty turnabout forged by their own hands.