Protesters, SC Democrats fight bill blocking Obamacare

jself@thestate.comMarch 12, 2014 

Civil disobedience citations are handed out to Truthful Tuesday activists that blocked the entrance to the State House parking garage, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The protestors are advocates for Medicaid expansion.

GERRY MELENDEZ — GMelendez/thestate.com

State and local government employees would be instructed to give up their “bias” toward the Affordable Care Act if a bill banning use of state resources to assist the federal program becomes law, a state senator said Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, activists opposed to the legislative effort to impede the federal health-care law did some blocking of their own.

For the second week, the protesters stood in the driveway to the State House parking garage and were issued a dozen citations, mostly for disorderly conduct, when they did not quickly move back to the sidewalk. The tickets followed last week’s protest, when 11 protesters were hauled off in Columbia police patrol cars and charged with blocking the roadway.

Efforts to block the federal law in South Carolina started last year, when the GOP-controlled House passed a bill that would outlaw its provisions in the state. Now, that bill, which critics say is unconstitutional, is up for debate in the Senate.

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, author of a Senate rewrite of the House bill, said Tuesday that he wants to narrow the proposed ban on state agencies aiding Obamacare to exempt those required to carry out parts of the law. Davis said Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s legal staff and members of her Cabinet agencies, which deal with health care and insurance, have given input into his bill’s language.

While a frequent critic of Obamacare, Haley has not publicly endorsed the bill moving through the Legislature or Davis’ amendment.

Asked whether Haley supports Davis’ amendment, spokesman Doug Mayer would not comment specifically, saying Haley is not “in the habit of wedding herself” to bills that could change before reaching her desk. (However, Haley has weighed in on bills moving through the Legislature before.)

But, Mayer said, Haley “will continue to support any effort that legally works to offset (Obamacare’s) clear negative consequences on our state and citizens.”

Democrats, the Senate’s minority party, railed against Davis’ proposal Tuesday, saying a public employee who a South Carolinian asks for guidance on the federal health-care law would risk losing his or her job by simply giving out a phone number to call for more information.

“There have to be behavior changes among our state employees,” Davis said, responding to the Democrats’ concern.

The state Senate adjourned in the middle of its debate Tuesday of Davis’ proposal. That debate is expected to continue Wednesday.

The pro-Obamacare protesters, organizing under the banner of Truthful Tuesdays, say Davis’ proposal would hurt efforts to extend health-care access to South Carolinians who need it. It would, for example, ban public employees and officials from lending public space to organizations working to sign people up for health insurance through existing federal programs or the insurance marketplace.

Lexington’s Daniel Deweese, 26, said a study predicts 1,000 people in South Carolina will die without access to expanded health care. “This is not ethical, and there are people who will not stand for this.”

The disorderly-conduct charges filed Tuesday carry a fine of up to $465 or 30 days in jail. Protesters arrested last week were charged with being in the roadway, which carries a fine of up to $100 and 30 days in jail. The protesters charged last week have a March 28 court date.

Reach Self at (803) 771-8658.

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