Why SC Chamber opposes ‘anti-commandeering’ bill

Posted by Cindi Ross Scoppe on March 18, 2014 

Tea-party supporters urge SC lawmakers to pass a bill that would make it harder for people to sign up for insurance under Obamacare.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

As the Senate heads into Week Three of its Obamacare nullification/anti-commandeering debate, the anti-Obamacare S.C. Chamber of Commerce is maintaining its drumbeat of opposition to the state legislation.

In its latest weekly eblast, the chamber once again reminds its subscribers of its vain attempts to block the implementation of the federal health law and sums up its opposition to the effort led by Sen. Tom Davis to derail it in our state: “Unfortunately, the legislation aimed at essentially nullifying the PPACA will only increase hardships businesses face in providing health care for employees and implementing what is now federal law. If passed, the legislation will also cost the state millions in legal fees to defend it at the federal level. As South Carolina continues to grow its business presence, especially in manufacturing related fields, the General Assembly must focus on initiatives that will improve the business climate, not muddy the health care regulatory arena any further.”

Here’s the full text:

SENATE CONTINUES ANTI-COMMANDEERING DEBATE

For the second week, the Senate continued debate on H.3101, legislation aimed at stopping the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in South Carolina. Amendments have been drafted containing an “anti-commandeering” section, which is a constitutional principle that forbids the federal government from mandating states to regulate or govern in a certain way. Late Thursday, the Senate voted to set an end time for debate on all amendments to H.3101, a procedural motion called cloture. The motion failed by a vote of 21 to 20.

Unfortunately, the legislation aimed at essentially nullifying the PPACA will only increase hardships businesses face in providing health care for employees and implementing what is now federal law. If passed, the legislation will also cost the state millions in legal fees to defend it at the federal level. As South Carolina continues to grow its business presence, especially in manufacturing related fields, the General Assembly must focus on initiatives that will improve the business climate, not muddy the health care regulatory arena any further.

Much of the Senate’s discussion this week centered on an amendment that requires all federal health care related grants be approved by the South Carolina General Assembly. Businesses that work with health care agencies, state agencies and research universities would be restricted from federal research funding and grants. Entities would have to obtain legislative approval after a lengthy application process. The proposed section is filled with unintended consequences as it addresses research dollars that have been in existence well before the federal law’s passage in 2010. For example, more than 30,000 South Carolina employees depend on federal grants for wellness programs in companies.

Another widely debated section of the proposed amendment would prohibit state agencies from answering any questions or helping businesses with provisions of the PPACA. South Carolina businesses and individuals would have to go to the federal government for answers to questions as local and state agencies would be barred from helping them understand and comply with the law. H.3101 will make it unlawful for state agencies to answer pertinent questions asked by businesses regarding labor issues, tax issues and a host of others. The increased uncertainty created for businesses and individuals is only the starting point of the negative costs of this amendment. State employees who answer questions or discuss the PPACA could face termination under the drafted language.

If H.3101 were to pass the General Assembly, it is estimated that the state would have to spend at least $6 million to defend the anti-commandeering proposal in federal courts. It would be irresponsible of the South Carolina Senate to pass this legislation knowing that the state would have to expend millions to defend a case it is almost certain to lose. Consider how the state could better spend those millions of dollars as infrastructure crumbles and we work to transform education and workforce development, just to name two important proposals.

In 2012, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce challenged PPACA implementation, filing an amicus brief with 14 other state chambers and business organizations. The court ruled that the law was constitutional. Instead of unconstitutionally attempting to void a federal law that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, H.3101 continues to muddy the waters and increase uncertainty around health care regulations. This legislation does nothing to protect South Carolinians from the harmful provisions of what is now law. It will not stop the federal government from imposing and collecting penalties from businesses for failure to comply with the PPACA. Businesses will be put in an unwinnable situation of choosing to comply with state law or federal law.

Here, meantime, is a link that Sen. Davis sent out Monday to a video in which he explains his proposal.

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