Imperial Valley Coalition for Sustainable Healthcare Facilities

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The 14th Amendment

In April 2024, Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District (PMHD) filed a writ of mandate in Imperial County Superior Court, seeking declaratory relief from Assembly Bill 918, which the district claims has adversely affected its operations and threatens to undermine healthcare in the Imperial Valley. AB 918 resulted in a set of special laws applicable only to the Imperial Valley where more general laws governing creation, dissolution and reorganization of healthcare districts already exist and should be used instead, according to the writ filed by the Pioneers district. In mid May, PMHD amended that litigation to include significant change to include claims that AB 198 denies equal protection clause of the California Constitution (Article 1, section 7) and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution such that it “requires that classifications of those to whom the state accords benefits and those on whom it imposes burdens must be reasonably related to a legitimate public purpose.”

The litigation states:

“Under AB 918, the assets acquired with the taxes assessed against PMHD taxpayer would be transferred to the new county-wide IVHD, even though the PMHD taxpayers have not voted to transfer those assets to the new district as required by Health & Safety Code section 32121(p). More importantly, since the taxes paid by PMHD voters would no longer be available, without a funding mechanism for IVHD, there would be no revenue available to IVHD to continue the operations of the hospital.

“AB 918 also denies equal protection of the laws to the 85.4% of Hispanic residents of Imperial County by creating a new healthcare district without allowing them the right to vote, whereas residents in other counties with a much smaller percentage of Hispanic residents would be allowed to vote on the creation of a new healthcare district as is required under the CKH Act and LHCD Law. This disparate impact on the 85.4% of Hispanic Imperial County residents constitutes a violation of their rights under the equal protection clauses of the California Constitution and the 14th Amendment.“

Based on these statements, over 20% of the registered voter in Imperial County have been denied the right to vote on a district they voted to create and have funded for over 70 years. While the litigation address only PMHD, the same rights have been denied to those voters in Calexico, which is over another 24% of the voters in Imperial County. Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District (HMHD) like PMHD, under AB 918 will be dissolved and the taxes paid to the two districts will be diverted to Imperial Valley Healthcare District to manage its administrative responsibilities. The voters of PMHD and Heffernan each have one seat on the IV-HD board, rather than the five they have as their own entity. So the five board members of each, once dissolved, will go away in favor of seven county wide seat. The taxes do not go away.

However, until approved by the vote of the entire county, only the property owners in the PMHD and HMHD will pay taxes to support IV-HD. So property owners in Holtville, Imperial, El Centro, Seeley, Ocotillo, Heber and even those 4000 members of the Quechan (KwatIậan) Tribe in California are not subject to a tax to support the administrative operation of IV-HD.

Based on this amendment, almost half of the voters in the County of Imperial have been denied rights provided under the California Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As stated many times, AB 918 is flawed. My team now is aware even more so of the flaws and this one is biggest of all. If the California legislature and Governor can so easily over turn rights quaranteed by two Constitutions, what other rights will they in their collective “we know what is best for you” and “we make the laws” attitudes wipe away. This type of governance by the State becomes an autocracy not a democracy. Ronald Reagan once stated that there are five words that Americans should fear when the Government speaks: WE ARE HERE TO HELP.

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