Obamacare ‘Nullification’ Bill Has No Teeth; Passes House Judiciary Committee

April 10, 2013

Investigative Reports

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4f3bf131a43c96b5ebafe7ceaa9da2e5The S.C. House Judiciary Committee voted 14-9 along party lines Tuesday to send an amended Obamacare “nullification” bill to the full House without any enforcement mechanism.

“This bill (H. 3101) will not stop the (federal Patient Protection and) Affordable Care Act at the border of South Carolina at all,” Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, reminded Republicans. “It will not change anything about whether the Affordable Care Act will be accessible.”

A standing-room-only crowd of about 50 people filled Blatt Building Room 516 on the State House grounds. The prior two subcommittee hearings on the bill, which were held in a larger room, attracted a few hundred citizens each time.

Committee Republicans on Tuesday amended H. 3101 sponsored by Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg, to prohibit the creation of health-care exchanges by the state and any political subdivision, including special districts. The exchanges are aimed at providing consumers more options for health insurance, though critics have questioned their effectiveness and cost.

That amendment was sponsored by Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester and the committee chairman, who has a bill proposing the same thing.

A spokesman for the Tenth Amendment Center, a California-based organization that promotes states’ rights based on the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, told The Nerve Tuesday that passing the amended bill is “something to build on,” even without a provision authorizing the arrest of officials who tried to implement Obamacare in South Carolina.

“‘It will not pass. It will not get out of committee. It will die,’” Michael Maharrey, the center’s national communications director, said has been the response by most state lawmakers nationwide to “nullification” bills with the arrest provision.

In Chumley’s original bill, 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 the federal law would face a misdemeanor with a smaller penalty.

But two subcommittee members – Reps. Tommy Pope, R-York, and Rick Quinn, R-Lexington – opposed throwing federal officials in jail and pushed through, while in subcommittee, an amendment dropping the arrest provision, which the full Judiciary Committee accepted Tuesday.

“Put these guys on the record calling this unconstitutional,” Maharrey said. “With no further step (toward enforcement) it’s much easier to hold them accountable.”

Talbert Black of Lexington County and state coordinator of Campaign for Liberty, a grassroots organization, contended that the power to jail and fine federal officials who implemented Obamacare in South Carolina needed to be in the bill. Black also is a citizen reporter for The Nerve.

“The people of South Carolina spent the last three months fighting off fake nullification bills from Republican Representative Delleney and others,” Black wrote in an email to supporters to alert them to Tuesday’s meeting.

“These fake bills had no penalties against anyone who tried to inflict ObamaCare on us,” Black said in his email. “These bills give us lip service rather than real protection. On the other hand, H. 3101 as it was originally written outlined specific meaningful penalties for anyone who forced you to participate in ObamaCare.”

Besides prohibiting the creation of health-care exchanges, Delleney’s amendment to H. 3101 also would:

  • Give South Carolinians a tax credit for any Obamacare penalty that they would have to pay. Delleney said the state fiscal impact of the credit would be $2.6 million a year; and
  • Empower the S.C. attorney general to take action if the implementation of Obamacare harmed a resident or business.

The Judiciary Committee Tuesday also amended H. 3101 to prohibit any state employee or agent from participating in any involuntary search of a citizen’s home.

Along with Delleney, Pope and Quinn, the other 11 Republican representatives who voted for H. 3101 as amended were:

  • Bruce Bannister of Greenville County;
  • Don Bowen of Anderson County;
  • Alan Clemmons of Horry County;
  • Derham Cole of Spartanburg County;
  • Dan Hamilton of Greenville County;
  • Jenny Horne of Dorchester County;
  • Ralph Kennedy of Lexington County;
  • Chris Murphy of Dorchester County;
  • Wendy Nanney of Greenville County;
  • Weston Newton of Beaufort County; and
  • Eddie Tallon of Spartanburg County.

Along with Smith, the other eight Democratic representatives who voted against H. 3101 as amended were:

  • Laurie Funderburk of Kershaw County;
  • Joe McEachern of Richland County;
  • Walt McLeod of Newberry County’
  • Elizabeth Munnerlyn of Marlboro County;
  • Todd Rutherford of Richland County;
  • Bakari Sellers of Bamberg County;
  • David Weeks of Sumter County; and
  • Seth Whipper of Charleston County.

Republicans Peter McCoy of Charleston County and Anne Thayer of Anderson County were absent from the meeting.

Caption: The photo at the top of this article shows the audience of the House Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday in Blatt Building Room 516. The photo was taken by Curt Olson, reporter for The Nerve.

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.