Fifteen states reportedly have current moves to “nullify” the impact of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in their states.
South Carolina citizens had their turn Wednesday to start that process with testimony in a House Judiciary subcommittee on two bills. The three-hour time limit for the crowd of 200 to 300, however, was not long enough for everyone to be heard.
Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville and chairman of the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee, said he would schedule a second hearing, though a date wasn’t set then.
H. 3101, which is sponsored by Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg, would fine, imprison, or both, any federal employees who attempt to enforce Obamacare in South Carolina; and a state employee who tried to enforce it would also be subject to a fine, imprisonment, or both, but to a lesser degree.
Under Chumley’s bill, federal employees would face a felony charge that would carry a $5,000 fine or five years in prison, or both. A state employee would face of a fine of $1,000 or two years in prison, or both, if convicted of a misdemeanor charge.
“This bill is not about hate. This bill is about love – love of liberty, love of freedom and love for our way of life,” Chumley said during Wednesday’s hearing after a rousing applause from people of all ages who sported stickers that read “Nullify Obamacare.”
H. 3473, which is sponsored by Reps. Greg Delleney, R-Chester and the House Judiciary Committee chairman, and Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, would prevent any county, municipality or special district from establishing or participating in a health care exchange.
Also, any resident of South Carolina who would be taxed by the federal government for not having insurance would be eligible for a tax credit in an amount to offset the taxes paid to the federal government. However, it’s unknown if a funding stream has been identified for the tax credits.
The final aspect of H. 3473 says the state attorney general may pursue a temporary restraining order or injunction if implementation of Obamacare harms a state resident.
The constitutional questions had professors locking horns during Wednesday’s hearing.
University of South Carolina law professor Thomas Crocker said the state lacks the power to “nullify” a federal law, and that state lawmakers would be violating their oath of office if they attempted to “nullify” the Affordable Care Act. He also testified upon questioning that it would be unprecedented to fine or jail a federal employee who fulfilled their duty to implement the law.
“You really can’t define Obamacare. It’s just a monstrous thing you can’t define,” said Delleney.
Delleney contended that instead of threatening fines and jail time, South Carolina can resist Obamacare under the law’s known aspects. He concentrated on the mandate to purchase health care and the recommended state health care exchanges.
“There’s a right way to resist things, and there’s a wrong way to resist things. You have to determine what you’re resisting,” Delleney said. “I choose to resist Obamacare the legal way. I choose to uphold my oath of office.”
However, Donald Livingston, a retired Emory University professor of philosophy of law, said the final authority on laws doesn’t rest with the U.S. Supreme Court or the federal government. Rather, he said, that authority rests with the people and the states that created the federal government.
“If you think Obamacare’s bad, wait till you see what happens later,” said Livingston, who also called the Obama administration “the regime.”
Dr. Tom Kendall of Greenville, a physician who also is president-elect of the Association of American Surgeons and Physicians, said there is a “war on doctors”; the Affordable Care Act is bad for South Carolina; and the federal law stifles much-needed innovation in the health care industry.
Kendall contended that Obamacare “does not protect patients nor is it affordable.”
He described the federal government as an “unruly and arrogant child,” and pleaded with state lawmakers, “Do all you can to protect our liberties.”
Jesse Graston of Fort Mill told the subcommittee that when the federal government oversteps its constitutional boundaries, states should have strong recourse. But H. 3473 doesn’t achieve that in its current form, he said.
He criticized giving sole power to the attorney general to define the term “harm” in Delleney’s and Quinn’s bill relating to Obamacare’s implementation. He also said the bill should be reworded to say the attorney general “shall or must” intervene in those situations, rather than “may” intervene.
Gov. Nikki Haley has said South Carolina will not implement a state-based health care exchange allowed, though not required, under the federal law, joining other states in that effort.
“The evils of Obamacare far surpass the health care exchanges,” said Graston, emphasizing that if state lawmakers fail to do the right thing, citizens will elect new state lawmakers who will.
“This is the most important issue in the state of South Carolina,” Brit Adams of Seneca, who also is a citizen reporter for The Nerve, told the subcommittee.
He said his health care costs as a business owner have risen 30 percent because of Obamacare.
“Someone has to stand up to this. If not you? Who?” Adams asked.
Adams also said if Obamacare isn’t implemented in South Carolina, doctors and businesses would relocate to the Palmetto State because they wouldn’t be financially handcuffed by the Affordable Care Act.
Adams and Graston stressed to lawmakers their vote on the issue could make them famous no matter how they decided the issue.
Dr. John Cook of Aiken told the subcommittee that South Carolina had “to draw a line in the sand.”
Olson can be reached at (803) 254-4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_curt and @olson_curt. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and on Twitter @thenervesc.