BOISE – If Idaho lawmakers can’t nullify the federal health care reform law in their state, “then we might as well just get rubber stamps,” freshman Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, declared Wednesday.
Barbieri persuaded the House State Affairs Committee to introduce his nullification bill on a straight party-line vote, with all 15 Republicans on the panel voting in favor and all four Democrats voting against. But several committee members said they had serious concerns about the bill.
“Are you … aware that no court in the history of the United States has ever upheld a state effort to nullify a federal law?” Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, asked Barbieri.
He responded that he was aware.
“The difficulty is that the federal courts are an arm of the federal government,” he said, “so it would be very difficult to imagine an arm of the federal government ruling against itself.”
Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, an attorney, said he’d vote to introduce the bill to allow a full hearing, but said he’s “troubled about the concept of nullification.” He said the bill could undermine the state’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of health care reform, a move he backed.
Barbieri, a California-licensed attorney who’s never been a member of the Idaho Bar, said, “The question becomes, is the Legislature going to become a rubber stamp of everything that the government decides to do, or is the Legislature going to be able to interpose between onerous laws that the federal government decides to implement and its citizens? That’s the question before us.”
Asked about an Idaho attorney general’s decision that said nullification bills like his would violate both the state and federal constitutions and lawmakers’ oath of office, Barbieri said he’d read it, but couldn’t summarize it because “it’s a 3 1/2 page kind of rambling.”