Legislative sessions always include a measure of silliness. Frivolous bills are filed, debated and ultimately spiked. Too often, the silliness is attached to serious issues such as health care.
We're seeing that again this year with measures related to Obamacare. One idea, from two conservative Republicans, would make it a felony for a federal official to enforce the Affordable Care Act in Oklahoma. Another, from a Democratic leader, would force the state to participate in an optional Medicaid expansion. Both have elements of pandering, but are they also silly? Yes.
Bills by Rep. Mike Ritze and Sen. Nathan Dahm, Republicans from Broken Arrow, would nullify Obamacare in Oklahoma and subject federal officials to a prison term and fines if they attempt to enforce the law. State officials would also face sanctions if they cooperate with the feds in implementing Obamacare.
Federal courts, not the Legislature, are the proper venue for Obamacare challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld most of the law. It said states have the option of expanding Medicaid. What makes a bill by Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, so silly is that it would force an expansion that Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has so far rejected, as is her prerogative.
Judging by election results, most Oklahomans don't like Obamacare. They voted in 2010 to opt out of it. They put state government and the congressional delegation under Republican control. What point is there is debating a bill that would mandate Medicaid expansion? The same question can be asked of another Democrat's bill to force creation of a health care exchange, another idea nixed by Fallin.
Like it or not, Obamacare is advancing toward implementation. States have some options, as they should. These are serious matters that require serious deliberations — not sideshows that either have no chance of passage or that wouldn't withstand a court challenge if they did pass.