Unions ask S.C. SC to hear case over increased premiums

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 20, 2012, 2:00pm


COLUMBIA, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - The leaders of two South Carolina unions last week filed a petition in the state Supreme Court over a 4.6 percent increase in health insurance premiums for public employees.

South Carolina Education Association President Jackie B. Hicks and Vice President Bernadette Hampton, along with South Carolina State Employees Association Executive Director Carlton B. Washington, asked the state's high court Wednesday to take up its case.

Earlier this month, the state's Budget and Control Board, under the leadership of Gov. Nikki Haley, along with Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom and State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, voted to increase premiums.

The SCSEA contends the action was taken without notice to any of the various organizations representing public employees and retirees.

It also argues that the measure appears to violate the duties and responsibilities of the newly established Public Employee Benefit Authority, whose members are still being nominated and appointed.

As it stands, the increase will amount to an increase of about $7.24 per month for employees and retirees.

Haley, a Republican, says it is "unfair" for officials to ask taxpayers to totally pay for the increase in benefits when it can be shared.

However, both the SCSEA and SCEA say they are "confident" they will prevail.

The state constitution, they argue, "clearly states" that only the state's General Assembly is empowered to adopt a budget and direct the expenditure of funds.

"Since this action is blatantly unconstitutional, it seems the only reason Gov. Haley could have taken such an ill-advised step is for political reasons," Hicks said in a statement Wednesday.

"Once again, the governor seems determined to aggressively climb the political career ladder at the expense of teachers and school employees."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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