In case you were wondering whether Gov. Butch Otter's executive order blocking Obamacare and simultaneous veto of anti-Obamacare legislation should be considered good or bad, here's a clue: Most of the folks in the media are upset. Most view Otter's action as nullification of the federal government's healthcare law. Clearly, Otter's done good.
When we started the 2011 legislative session, my No. 1 priority was to prohibit the operability of Obamacare in the state of Idaho. Sometimes, that effort was called "nullification." Our effort was originally embodied in House Bill 117, which flew through the House and failed in the Senate State Affairs Committee. After House Bill 117 failed, I suggested that Otter sign an executive order to do what House Bill 117 set out to do. In the meantime, we pursued a lighter-touch version of our anti-Obamacare measure, House Bill 298, which sought to block just the discretionary portions of Obamacare and put in place a strict validation process for any part of Obamacare implemented by state agencies. Otter vetoed House Bill 298 in favor of his even tougher executive order, which uses the language of the defeated House Bill 117. Additionally, Otter kept the validation portion of House Bill 298, in the event agencies complain they have no choice but to enact certain Obamacare provisions.
While I would have preferred a statutory solution to the Obamacare crisis, the fact is, Otter used the language from our two anti-Obamacare bills to write his April 20 executive order. Under his mandate, Otter prohibits executive branch agencies from establishing new programs, amending programs or promulgating rules to implement Obamacare. Executive branch agencies are also forbidden from entering into agreements or from accepting or expending federal funds to implement Obamacare, or from rendering assistance to the federal government to implement the federal law.
Compare my satisfaction with Otter's action against the apoplectic response from my friend Kevin Richert, an editorial writer at the Idaho Statesman. Richert bemoans the fact that Otter used the word "Obamacare" 16 times in his press release announcing his action. Gasp!
Writes Richert, "Sure sounds like nullification. And an aggressive form of it. For all intents and purposes, Otter gave the nullifiers everything they sought at the Statehouse: State government will refuse to comply with federal health care law. State agencies and employees can seek a waiver to comply with the feds’ health care regulations — but Otter will review those requests and he must sign off personally. Good luck with that."
In this regard, Richert has it right. Everything we asked for, we got. Naturally, we'll be watching to make sure agencies don't come up with silly excuses to implement Obamacare. But for now, the reality is that Otter has done, by executive order what Sens. Monty Pearce, Steve Vick, Russ Fulcher, Chuck Winder and Sheryl Nuxoll and Reps. Vito Barbieri, Judy Boyle and I originally set out to do: prevent the operability of this unconstitutional federal law here in Idaho.
Call it nullification. Call it a proper exercise of the state's Tenth Amendment authority. But most importantly, call Obamacare mostly dead in Idaho.