The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken and declared nearly the entire Affordable Care Act constitutional.
But conservative Utah lawmakers aren’t giving up the fight — even if the battle, at this point, is largely rhetorical.
The first of another year’s batch of anti-health reform message bills, HCR10 was quickly shepherded through committee on Tuesday. The non-binding resolution spotlights the health law’s financial harms, including hikes in insurance prices, penalties for employers that don’t offer health benefits and taxes on drug companies and medical device makers.
“It anticipates likely impacts on our children and funding for education, on employers and seniors, businesses and manufacturers,” said its sponsor Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan.
Two more anti-reform bills await public airing, mirroring measures to curb the federal government’s power over public lands and gun laws.
HB354 would have Utah work with other members of an interstate compact to nullify federal health reform.
HB391 would simply declare the law unconstitutional and null and void in the state. The bill itself, however, was flagged by legislative attorneys as likely unconstitutional.
The measures might not make it to the finish line considering the Legislative session wraps up next week.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have yet to decide weighty matters, such as whether to expand Medicaid to cover more of the state’s uninsured.
Still, though message bills are of limited value, they’re not a complete waste of breath, said Quin Monson, associate political science professor at Brigham Young University. “I don’t think they are spending a lot of time on this. As a ratio of time spent to attention garnered, there’s a benefit to doing these things because they get written about and get noticed by a constituency that’s unhappy with health care reform.”
Michael Lyons, associate professor of political science at Utah State University, believes message bills, an increasingly popular tool of the ideological right and left, also can sway public opinion.
“Just look at the tone of the debate over gay marriage,” he said. “In 10 years what was clearly a minority view on that issue has become the majority view.”
But he said, “I wonder if we wouldn’t have these message bills if we didn’t have a caucus system” which empowers an ideologically motivated few to pick party candidates and decide who everyone else gets to vote on.