Herbert Hopes Supreme Court Will Provide Clarity on Medicaid Expansion

In the next two weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will announce what could be a historic decision – will part of Obamacare be struck down?

Speaking at his monthly KUED Channel 7 press conference Thursday, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert said he hopes the Supremes side with King in King v. Burwell, for then maybe Congress and President Barack Obama – to save parts of Obamacare – will give states block grants and the flexibility to develop their own Medicaid expansion/citizen exchanges.

The nine justices heard the case in the spring – late in their annual session – and King could be the last decision announced before justices take the summer off, returning in October.

A federal block grant back to the states would really help implement Herbert’s Healthy Utah – the Medicaid expansion plan Herbert devised and was passed in the 2015 Utah Senate.

Republican House members refused to go along with Healthy Utah, came up with their Fair Utah alternative.

A stalemate led to no Medicaid expansion in Utah, and Herbert putting together a “Gang of Six” – GOP legislative leaders, himself and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox – to come up with some compromise this summer.

“Give us (the federal matching funds), we come up with our own plan, and our solution will be better,” than anything coming from the federal government, said Herbert.

On another issue, Herbert said he is not yet ready to – and may never – favor paying legal appeal fees for San Juan County Commission Phil Lyman.

Lyman was convicted in federal court recently of violating federal law when he sponsored and rode in an ATV protest on a dirt road – Recapture Canyon – closed by the BLM for general use.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, and other Utah legislators want the state’s Constitutional Defense Council (chaired by Cox) to pay for Lyman’s appeals, maybe even his attorney fees in trial.

Lyman will be sentenced in July and faces $100,000 in fines and two years in jail.

Noel says “up to” $100,000 in state taxpayer funds, now held in CDC accounts, should be spent in helping Lyman.

But Herbert said while he is sympathetic to frustrations by Southern Utahns concerns about overbearing federal land managers, he is not talking yet about helping Lyman directly.

Rather, Herbert said there is a connection between federal land road closures, environmental issues and wilderness – and those things are to be studied by the CDC and perhaps finically supported.

How that fits into the Lyman case is still undecided, said Herbert.

“I want to look at the law and make decisions” based on the law, the governor said.

There is a connection – or nexus – with rural roads, land and wilderness and state interests, Herbert said.

What that may be in the Lyman case is still undetermined, he added.

“I’m saying there is a state purpose; we’ll follow good legal advice, consult the attorney general, and see where that leads us,” he added.

Finally, Herbert said he has not yet decided if he will support Utah State Republican Party Chairman James Evans in Evans re-election run this summer.

Historically, the governor is the nominal leader of his political party in the state and has a say in who the party chairman is during the governor’s election years.

Herbert is running for re-election in 2016 for his second, full four-year term.

Herbert said others may yet get into the chairmanship’s race, and he will make an endorsement sometime before the August 15 state GOP convention where Evans stands for re-election.

Herbert said he is not out recruiting someone to run against Evans – likes Evans personally and appreciates the difficult job Evans has done – Herbert adding he has spoken to several people who, behind the scenes, are interested in running for chairman this summer.