The Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and Health Care Reform

It’s not every day we get to talk about the Founding Fathers in our work at the Legislature.  But, yesterday we had a rare opportunity to do just that as the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on LB 515, a bill that would attempt to nullify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ACA) – the health care reform law – and create criminal penalties for state and federal officials that try to implement the Act. 

Appleseed testified in opposition to the bill.  As we have mentioned on this blog before, the ACA has already put into place consumer protections that are helping tens of thousands of Nebraskans, so we are opposed to any efforts to nullify its effect and take away those benefits in Nebraska.  But, furthermore, the bill itself is unconstitutional and would not survive judicial scrutiny.

As we detailed in our testimony, state laws cannot nullify federal laws.  Article VI of the United States Constitution makes clear that federal laws at the supreme law of the land.  This does not mean states can’t challenge federal laws.  Rather, in the democratic system created by our Founding Fathers, the proper avenue for a state to challenge federal laws is through the courts.  And Nebraska is doing just that by using taxpayer dollars to challenge the ACA in a lawsuit in Florida.  While we think the courts will ultimately uphold the ACA, the courts are the appropriate venue for the conversation.

Perhaps even more concerning is that the bill would impose criminal penalties on workers who are just following the law.  We should not endanger state and federal workers with criminal penalties, and all the attendant consequences of a criminal conviction, for following the law.  It is antithetical to the basic principles of our system of laws that encourage and require adherence to the law.

We believe in the ACA.  And we believe in the farsighted and lasting government structure that our Founding Fathers created.  LB 515 goes against those core constitutional values and is not the right avenue for challenging the law.

You can see press coverage of the hearing here: 10/11 News | KHAS News

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