Three proponents of a state bill calling for South Carolina to resist, or “nullify,” the federal health-care law known as “Obamacare” say the legislation remains alive despite the Senate’s failure to pass it before the end of this year’s regular legislative session.
Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg and the sponsor of H. 3101; grassroots activist Jesse Graston of Rock Hill; and Michael Maharrey, national communications director at the Tenth Amendment Center, a California-based organization that promotes states’ rights, said Monday that they will press ahead with H. 3101 in January 2014.
That became necessary when the Senate interrupted debate on the bill for adjournment last Wednesday before taking a vote on second reading. A bill requires three readings to pass; H. 3101 will remain on the Senate calendar when lawmakers return for the next regular session in January.
“They (senators) had a golden opportunity, and they’re going to look back on it and realize they should have done something,” Chumley told The Nerve Monday.
When the House passed H. 3101 on May 1, it put the Palmetto State in the national spotlight to reject compliance with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“This is historic that we took a bill of this magnitude through the House,” Chumley said Monday, noting the work of citizens who supported H. 3101 and House members who passed it.
Chumley said he believes when Obamacare is implemented later this year and in early 2014, more South Carolinians will realize the need to support his bill.
Chumley also said he was disappointed with two organizations that he contends should have supported the bill but didn’t, adding, “I do want to name names, but I won’t.”
H. 3101 puts state lawmakers on record whether they support efforts to not comply with – or “nullify,” as some have called it – Obamacare. It mandates that no state agency, officer or employee “may engage in an activity that aids any agency in the enforcement of those provisions” of Obamacare.
The bill also would prevent the state and any political subdivision, including special districts, from establishing health-care exchanges. The exchanges are aimed at providing consumers more options for health insurance, though critics have questioned their effectiveness and cost.
Besides prohibiting the creation of health-care exchanges, H. 3101 also would:
- Give South Carolinians a tax break for any Obamacare tax penalty levied against them. Upon request of the Senate Finance Committee, the S.C. Board of Economic Advisors estimated on May 17 that the tax deduction would cost $2.6 million in 2014-15; and
- Empower the S.C. attorney general to take action if the implementation of Obamacare harmed a resident or business.
Chumley’s original bill proposed creating a felony offense for federal officials who attempted to implement Obamacare in South Carolina, punishable by jail time and a fine. The offense would have been a misdemeanor for state employees, under the original bill version.
However, Republicans on a House Judiciary subcommittee told Chumley that his bill would not pass with that provision. The panel deleted the criminal-enforcement penalties, and lawmakers added the health-care-exchange prohibition and the tax break for any penalty that state residents would have to pay under Obamacare.
Those decisions developed after hundreds of South Carolinians traveled to Columbia in support of H. 3101. The Nerve reported that here and here. Citizens also packed the smaller venue of the House Judiciary Committee for its vote on the bill, while another group attended the House floor debate.
Although it passed the House, H. 3101 remained stuck in the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, until senators recalled it from the committee on May 29 to get it on the floor calendar.
“The current language is already watered down lemonade, but as I have said before, it was definitely better than nothing, as no other state has made it this far in resisting Obamacare,” Graston, who has been a leader of the citizen response, wrote in an email to The Nerve Monday.
“It was a decent foundation to build on and shift the debate back to foundational principles of federalism,” Graston continued. “The debate and discussion will always precede solid legislation. I mean, the S.C. Legislature had to talk about nullifying Obamacare all year! That is a shift.”
Maharrey also responded to The Nerve by email on Monday.
“We’re excited about how far H. 3101 advanced, and the opportunity it’s provided to educate people on the proper state response to unconstitutional federal acts,” Maharrey wrote. “Obviously, we still have work to do and we don’t plan on letting up one bit. We’ll be working in the next (few) weeks to formulate strategy going forward so we can get this passed.”
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.