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SC Supreme Court asked to hear benefits suit

  Law Center  -   POSTED: 2012/08/16 18:21

The leaders of groups representing teachers and state employees asked the South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday to take up its lawsuit against a panel led by Gov. Nikki Haley, whom critics accuse of voting against employees to score political points ahead of her speech at the Republican National Convention.

The lawsuit challenges the Budget and Control Board's decision last week to raise health insurance premiums for public workers despite lawmakers agreeing to foot the bill in the state budget. It is the second such lawsuit. A University of South Carolina professor filed a class-action lawsuit Monday in Richland County court.

The latest suit represents two teachers who are officials in the South Carolina Education Association, as well as the executive director of the State Employees Association.

Their attorney, Allen Nickles, asked the state's high court to hear the case directly, rather than start in the lower courts. He believes that provides the best opportunity for the case to be resolved before the hikes take effect Jan. 1.

"This is a matter of constitutional law," Nickles said. "The Supreme Court is the final authority on constitutional law."

He did not seek class-action status, saying that's unnecessary. If the board's vote is deemed invalid, the ruling would automatically apply to the more than 234,000 public workers and retirees who have health insurance through the state health plan, he said. A total of 415,310 residents are covered through the plan, when including spouses and children.

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