State’s Rites


Eileen Smith

The House Select Committee on State Sovereignty—created in part to appease ardent secessionists, anti-government conspiracy theorists and Alex Jones groupies—began hearings last week on legislation that could save us from the clutches of such overreaching federal mandates as health care reform. 

Claiming that the new health care reforms are unconstitutional, Republican lawmakers have authored bills and constitutional amendments opposing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (why, it even sounds oppressive!).  House Bill 297 by Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, would render PPCA invalid in Texas and make it a criminal penalty for anyone trying to implement federal health care reform. Physicians and health care providers who attempt to enforce the federal measures could face up to five years in prison, a fine of $5,000, or both. (What, no life without parole? And I thought Texas was tough on crime.)

According to the bill’s language, health care reform “interferes with the right of the people of this state to regulate health care as they determine is appropriate, and makes a mockery of James Madison’s assurance in Federalist Paper Number 45 that the powers delegated to the federal government are ‘few and defined’ while those that remain in the state governments are ‘numerous and indefinite.’” Invoking the name of one of our most beloved forefathers always makes for good reading, but obviously Berman isn’t familiar with the Eighth Amendment, authored by Madison, which states that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” He must have skipped over that one in his haste to highlight the Tenth Amendment, the battle cry of states’ rights activists. 

Meanwhile Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, is proposing a constitutional amendment in House Joint Resolution 24, or the Health Care Freedom Act. The amendment would specify that individuals have the right to choose, or decline to choose, health insurance coverage without penalty or sanction. (Penalties and sanctions will be reserved for rogue physicians and state agency employees.) It would also prohibit a state agency from imposing a penalty on anyone who declines to purchase health insurance coverage.

House Bill 5, by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, seeks to supplant federal health care programs with an interstate health care compact which, ironically, must be approved by Congress. Almost all health care programs for which there is federal funding—Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP—would be run by the member states. The fiscal note attached to the bill states that it will have a “significant impact on the agencies that provide Medicaid services within the state of Texas.” It adds that the extent of costs or cost savings, “which could include a potential significant loss of federal funds,” cannot be determined at this time.

What are the odds that these bills will pass the select committee? Take a look at the chairman, Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. Creighton sponsored a resolution  HCR 50 to “claim sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment…over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government…serving notice to the federal government to cease and desist from certain mandates, and providing that certain federal legislation be prohibited or repealed.” Rest assured that Texas’ anti-health reform legislation is in excellent hands.