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Does Amended House Bill Nullify S.C.’s Efforts to Nullify Obamacare?

Some grassroots activists in South Carolina are angry that the attitude of “doing-something-is-better-than nothing” has trumped all of the rallies and work that have gone into “nullifying” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.”

“We’re not only fighting our legislators, we’re also fighting the Tenth Amendment Center,” said Talbert Black of Lexington County and state coordinator for Campaign for Liberty.

“I’m a little angry. We’re not in a stronger position at all. I’m extremely disappointed with the Tenth Amendment Center,” Black told The Nerve Wednesday.

The Tenth Amendment Center is a Los Angeles-based group that is trying to get states, including South Carolina, to pass bills to stop Obamacare. The organization did not respond Wednesday to an email request from The Nerve.

Black, who also is a citizen reporter for The Nerve, doesn’t hold out much hope for the S.C. Senate, noting it would be “difficult at best” to get Obamacare “nullified.”

Black’s comments came after a House Judiciary subcommittee Wednesday stripped out the enforcement provisions of a bill (H. 3101) aimed at “nullifying” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg, who approved of the amendment, he told The Nerve Wednesday.

The hearing - the second one on the legislation - attracted a crowd of at least 300. It also sparked unintended controversy afterward: Some lawmakers are questioning Chumley's authorization of the use of a state plane to bring Walter Williams, a George Mason University economics professor and a guest host of Rush Limbaugh's national radio talk show - to testify at the hearing, The State newspaper reported.

Reps. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, and Tommy Pope, R- York, both of whom are members of the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee, amended Chumley's bill by dropping proposed penalties for federal or state employees who attempt to implement Obamacare in the state.

Under the legislation, federal employees who implemented Obamacare in the state would face a felony charge that would carry a $5,000 fine or five years in prison, or both. A state employee who implemented Obamacare would face a fine of $1,000 or two years in prison, or both, if convicted of a misdemeanor charge.

Although the amended bill contains no enforcement mechanism, Quinn and Pope said the state “reserves the right that it deems appropriate” to impose penalties later.

“We want to move forward in a way that we can best oppose Obamacare,” said Quinn, a former board chairman of the South Carolina Policy Council, the parent organization of The Nerve.

Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville and the subcommittee chairman, joined Quinn and Pope in voting for the amended bill, while Democratic Reps. James Smith of Richland County and Walt McLeod of Newberry County opposed it.

The amended bill’s preamble contends that Congress exceeded its authority in passing Obamacare.  

“No agency of the state, officer or employee of this state, acting on behalf of the state, may engage in an activity that aids any agency in the enforcement of those provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and any subsequent federal act that amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 that exceed the authority of the United States Constitution, the bill reads.

“The General Assembly of the state of South Carolina is empowered to take all necessary actions to ensure that the provisions of (the section of state law noted above) are adhered to by all agencies, departments and political subdivisions of the state.”

Pope said he had a problem with the original version of H. 3101 because it called for arresting federal officials. Pope and Quinn compared their amendment to California choosing not to obey federal laws related to marijuana.

They also want to cut off triggers in Obamacare that would compel the state and other public entities to implement the law.

One ACA mechanism would allow states to establish health-care exchanges aimed at providing consumers more options for health insurance, though critics have questioned the effectiveness and cost of the proposed exchanges. The exchanges are targeted in H. 3473, sponsored by Quinn and Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester and the House Judiciary Committee chairman. That bill would prevent a county, municipality or special district from establishing or participating in a health-care exchange.

Another controversial part of Obamacare is a provision allowing Medicaid expansion, which the S.C. House rejected last week during debate on the proposed 2013-14 state budget, but funded a smaller version of it with a combination of state reserves and federal funds.

“I like it (H. 3473) very, very much,” said Kent Masterson Brown of Kentucky, a constitutional law attorney and author who testified at Wednesday’s hearing. “At one time I was talking to Bill (Chumley) about merging the two (bills).”

Brown called the H. 3101 provision to arrest federal and state officials “problematic.” He worked with Chumley, Quinn and Pope on drafting the amendment up to 15 minutes before the packed hearing. The meeting room in the Blatt Building on the State House grounds was quickly filled, and there was an overflow room for other attendees.

It was the second hearing on H. 3101, with four hours of testimony allowed for the bill, though it was cut well short because the subcommittee ran up to the start of Wednesday’s House floor session. Delleney’s bill will be taken up at a later date.

Chumley remained positive after the hearing.

“It’s fine. We’re in good shape,” he told people who traveled to Columbia to support his bill.

Chumley said Obamacare in South Carolina will be examined on a “case-by-case basis.”

“It’s all new. It’s a massive bill,” he said. "We’ll respond to whatever happens.”

“When we pull out, it (Obamacare) will collapse on itself,” Pope said.

Guest speaker Williams, a syndicated columnist, called on the subcommittee to pass Chumley’s original bill.

"I think that state governors and legislators ought to summon up the kind of courage of our founders,” he said, asking subcommittee members to consider the question: "Should we obey all laws?"

Williams said to give the U.S. Supreme Court final say on every law would create “an oligarchy.” As an example, he said the high court sanctioned the fugitive slave law from the 1800s, which required the return of runaway slaves to their owners.

Williams said “moral and decent people” must oppose laws if they believe the federal government has exceeded its authority. He said James Madison, an author of the U.S. Constitution, declared in Federalist Paper No. 45 the limited powers of Congress.

“If you turn that vision upside down, you have what we have today,” he said.

Williams said 600,000 Americans died the last time there was an effort to “nullify” a federal law, referring to slavery at the time of the Civil War. He added, though, the difference this time is that Americans who oppose Obamacare and the federal government likely would not succeed in convincing the military to take action against fellow citizens who refused to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

Some S.C. lawmakers believe that Congress exceeded its authority in passing Obamacare. Pope, for example, said he’s troubled by “home inspections’ authorized by the Affordable Care Act.

Another ACA provision states businesses and individuals can be taxed if they refuse to purchase health insurance.

Brown told the subcommittee that the “profusion of regulatory activity” surrounding Obamacare is now more than 20,000 pages.

Brown said the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report recently that said people age 30 and younger will see their health-care premiums rise 186 percent.

“What is it for the rest of us?” Brown asked.

Olson can be reached at (803) 254-4411 or curt@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_curt and @olson_curt. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and on Twitter @thenervesc.

Accountability General Assembly Healthcare Exchange Legislation Transparency

Rep. Rick Quinn House Judiciary Committee Rep. Tommy Pope Rep. James Smith Rep. Bill Chumley Walter Williams Rep. Greg Delleney Rep. Bruce Bannister Rep. Walt McLeod