SJR 45 is bad. But HB 1534 is worse. Without waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress to resolve the issue, HB 1534 unilaterally declares that the Affordable Care Act is, in fact, bad law. Roaring off the
cliff, the proposed state statute then makes it a crime -- punishable by up to one year in prison -- for any federal official to enforce the health-care
law. And then the proposed measure gives private citizens a right of action to sue state or federal officials -- for money damages! -- for enforcing the
Affordable Care Act. Silly you, you thought Republican lawmakers were against frivolous lawsuits.
Here is the pertinent language of HB 1534, Introduced in the state house by GOP Rep. Kurt Bahr, and co-sponsored by another Tea Partier, GOP Rep. Andrew Koenig:
This bill declares that the General Assembly finds the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama exceeds the powers
granted to Congress under the United States Constitution. Therefore, it is not law and is altogether void and of no force. It is the General Assembly's
duty to enact any measure necessary to prevent its enforcement within this state.
No public officer or employee of this state has any authority to enforce or attempt to enforce any aspect of the act. Any United States official,
agent, or employee who undertakes any action within this state that enforces or attempts to enforce the act in violation of these provisions will be
guilty of a class A misdemeanor. Any person who has been subject to any action attempting to enforce the act within this state will have a private
cause of action for declaratory judgment and damages against any person violating these provisions.
What's wrong with this measure? The better question is: What's not wrong with it? First, a state cannot unilaterally declare a federal law to be void. Second, a state legislature cannot constitutionally enact legislation designed to prevent the enforcement of a federal law. Third, a state may not
criminalize official behavior that is authorized by federal law. Fourth, a state may not create a private right of action that permits its citizens to
sue federal officials for properly enforcing a valid federal law. I could go on, but you get the idea.
What's so disappointing here isn't just that one or two anti-government zealots are introducing these sorts of dead-end measures. Unfortunately, that
all the time all across the country. What's more disturbing is that so many other elected officials seem to be enabling these legislative fantasies by following
along. HB 1534 isn't just one man's twisted vision of the Constitution. It passed the Missouri House on April 19 with no fewer than 108 votes.
(The vote was 108-44 with 100 Republicans and eight Democrats voting for
the measure. Not a single Republican lawmaker voted against the measure. Not one).