Federal officials could face fines and jail terms under proposed legislation
December 17, 2012
Nullification is yet again picking up steam in Dixie.
Pursuing an archaic legal theory that punctuated pre-Civil War disputes between the federal government and states, South Carolina state Rep. Bill Chumley last week pre-filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would criminalize implementation of President Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform law.
If his bill becomes law, any state official caught enforcing the healthcare law would be guilty of a misdemeanor and “must be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”
Federal officials caught enforcing the law, however, would be given stiffer punishment under the proposal.
Any federal employee or contractor enforcing the law “is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five thousand dollars, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both,” the bill proposes.
“I think we’re within our rights to do this,” Chumley explained to U.S. News. “It’s an obligation, I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect the people.”
The bill was drafted after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the healthcare law in June, a decision that Chumley strongly disagrees with. In response, says Chumley, “we put a little study committee together to look at the possibility of nullification.”
The study group included local lawyers, retired political science professors, and medical doctors, Chumley says. Another attendee was state Sen. Lee Bright, who is proposing similar legislation in the legislature’s upper chamber.
“If we don’t do something now, when do we?” says Chumley. “It’s a sad situation that the government put us in… an unpleasant task you have to do from time to time.”
“I feel very, very good about support,” he adds. “I don’t think it’ll be a really hard sell.”
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, also a Republican, has made no public statement on the bill. Chumley said he has seen Haley just once since setting up his study group and “didn’t want to bother her with this.”
Among the items in the healthcare law that irk Chumley are the individual health insurance mandate, “the establishment of 150 or so more agencies,” “the addition of many thousand new IRS agents,” and “home visits to come out and see how you’re living.”
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, however, told U.S. News the proposed law “would be clearly un-enforceable, because the federal law – upheld by the Supreme Court – trumps state law.”
“But I assume it’s meant to make a political statement, not to have a direct legal effect,” adds Volokh.