The world of politics throws quandaries especially at elected officials, and Louisiana Democrats are going to have to choose between voting to affirm constitutional government or playing partisan politics.
The Legislature is processing two bills by state Rep. Kirk Talbot, HB 94 a constitutional amendment that would declare a “federal law or rule shall not compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system,” and HB 1474 a statute which notes the citizenry "is and shall be free from governmental intrusion in choosing or declining to choose any mode of securing health insurance coverage without penalty or threat of penalty," which creates this dilemma for his Democrat cohorts. They are in response to federal health care legislation approved by the Democrat-controlled federal government despite large majorities of the public being against it.
If anything, the Louisiana public even more vehemently opposes the measure, but that’s only a political reason to oppose it. Constitutionally, at the state level and individual level the law is highly suspect and 21 states including Louisiana have filed suit to have it overturned. That provides the best reason to vote for both of these bills.
Democrats, of course, resist supporting these because, besides political calculations, it will become an open admission that they understand the illegitimacy of the federal law and implicitly censures their own unpopular national political leaders. Thus, they find spurious reasons to try to justify opposition to it.
One is that, particularly with the amendment, it would prevent payment of Medicare payroll taxes. However, this thinking confuses the purpose of that and the questionable law. In the case of Medicare, that is a tax for a service provided that is compelled for hiring and paying people a certain minimum salary. The individual insurance purchase mandate from the private sector or else paying a penalty clearly differs.
The other, expressed by state Rep. Sam Jones, is that this represents “nullification” by states of a federal law that “We settled nullification in this country with the Civil War” – which only goes to show that Jones knows neither history nor understands what it means. The “nullification doctrine” to which he apparently refers was the belief that states could declare unconstitutional federal laws they felt were illegitimate uses of federal power. Neither of these bills do that – they simply clarify state powers enumerated in the Constitution known as the general police power.
Understand that at an intellectual level these kinds of reasoning simply are attempts to cover that these Democrats want to permit unconstitutional exertion of federal power without the state asserting its own constitutional power to regulate in this area. However, that appears to bother perhaps none of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus (and includes two no-party members) which means (also assuming Republican unanimity) it would take only five white (or four of them and a no-party) in the Senate and 15 white (or 14 of them and a no-party) Democrats in the House to defeat the amendment. Thus, passage of this will be difficult to achieve with the number of knee-jerk white liberals like Jones in the Legislature.
At the same time, the statute facing a simple majority of those seated as opposed to two-thirds, HB 1474 has a great chance of passing with its almost even partisan balance the House. But the Senate, with only 15 Republicans, would need at least five (or four of them and a no-party) Democrats to get it passed. That makes it about an even-money proposition.
If legislators concentrated on doing the right thing from a legal and moral standpoint, both of these measures would pass. But because many will focus on doing the politically correct thing, HB 94 passage looks unlikely and HB 1474 passage appears uncertain.