Clock is ticking on Health Care Freedom Act

The North Carolina General Assembly’s protest of the national health-care act and its mandates is resting uneasily on the governor’s desk. The second bill to be introduced in the North Carolina House of Representatives for the 2011-2012 biennium, the Protect Health Care Freedom legislation (HB 2) would prohibit certain provisions of 2010’s federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — such as compulsory purchase of health insurance. And it directs the state’s attorney general to bring or join federal or state action to enforce the prohibition. The bill was ratified this past week and sent to the desk of Gov. Bev Perdue, who had previously indicated that she would neither sign nor veto it — which causes it to automatically become state law.

But the governor has now been informed by Attorney General Roy Cooper that HB 2 is “unenforceable” due to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, since it would “directly violate federal law.” His letter includes a legal analysis indicating that moving forward with the legislation could result in financial repercussions for the state’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance programs, as well as invoking the cost of extensive litigation. The ratified bill was presented to the governor on Feb. 24, and she ihas 10 days to sign or veto.

So expect her action — or inaction — soon.

HB 2 was co-sponsored by all of WNC Republican representatives: Phillip Frye of Spruce Pine, David Guice of Brevard,  Tim Moffitt of Asheville and Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville. Senators Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville, Jim Davis of Franklin and Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine were originally co-sponsors of a companion bill in the Senate.

Other bills adopted in the early weeks of the new session include two WNC-specific resolutions honoring the 150th anniversaries of Transylvania (see earlier report) and Clay counties, both carved away from Cherokee County a century-and-a-half ago. Clay County, as HB 88 recognizes, was named for Henry Clay, a former U.S. senator from Kentucky and Secretary of State for President John Quincy Adams. Clay was also nominated for president three times, losing each race. But he is historically remembered as the Great Compromiser for his work in gaining passage of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and his success in finding a compromise during what was known as the Nullification Crisis in the 1830s. Ironically, the nullification question had to do with the refusal of the state of South Carolina to accept a federal mandate — a question that is now playing itself out with N.C.‘s above-mentioned health-care nullification act.

Also adopted was the Veterans Park Dedication resolution (HB 148/SB 85), co-sponsored by WNC’s Frye and Democrats Susan Fisher of Asheville and Ray Rapp of Mars Hill. On the Senate side, Republicans Doug Berger of Youngsville, Apodaca and Hise were co-sponsors. The resolution is in honor of the North Carolina Veterans Park being built in Fayetteville to honor the state’s veterans, and it designates July 4, 2011, as “North Carolina Veteran’s Park Day.” Among the park’s features are a Wall of Oath including hand casts of 100 veterans representing each of N.C.‘s counties, and soil from each county included in the construction of the park’s columns. Public art sculptures will be featured in the plaza.

New bills introduced last week of particular import to WNC included:

HB 120 (Establish Forgiveable Loan Fund): Create forgiveable education loans for service to qualified students committing to work in the state in response to critical employment shortages. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Education. Companion bill SB 137. Primary sponsor, Rapp; co-sponsor, Fisher.

HB 158 (Limit Legislators to Four Consecutive Terms): Constitutional Amendment limiting members of the House and Senate to four consecutive terms. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on rules, Calendar, and Operations.

HB 162 (Exempt Small Ag Processing from Wastewater Permit Requirements): Specific to no more than 1,000 gallons of wastewater per day disposed of by land application. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Agriculature. Co-sponsors Frye, Moffitt.

HB 168 (Zoning/Agricultural Annexation Exemption): Zoning exemption for any agricultural interest annexed by a municipality; exempts coverage in extraterritorial planning jurisdiction. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Government. Co-sponsor, Frye.

HB 175 (Students First/Local Control): Amends the school calendar law to establish local control and “put students first.” Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Education.
Primary sponsor, Rapp; co-sponsors, Fisher, Democrat Patsy Keever of Asheville, Roger West, Republican of Marble.

SB 129 (State Mineral Is Gold). Would declare gold as the state’s mineral. Filed. [Editor’s note: North Carolina may have more variety of minerals than any other state, including diamond, amethyst, sapphire, hiddenite, emerald, ruby, garnet, opal, feldspar, gold, mica and monazite — to name a few. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, in 2007 this state had a non-fuel mineral production valued at $1.2 billion; crushed stone accounted for 75 percent of that total.]

SB 132 (Interpreting Services in the Courts): Provides for equal access to court services and fully funds interpreter needs in the courts for anyone who does not speak or understand English.

by Nelda Holder, contributing editor


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