To dream the impossible nullification-proliferation dream
BY FRANK WOOTEN
The U.S. Supreme Court can overturn federal law.
The S.C. General Assembly can't.
But that constitutional distinction has somehow escaped some of our state lawmakers' notice. So, driven by delusions of powerful grandeur, they imagine that they can nullify the blatantly unaffordable federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
Rejecting unsustainable Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, which the law allows states to do, according to the Supreme Court, makes sense.
Starting a losing court fight by presuming that our state can annul the law of the land does not.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed over those hotheads Thursday as the legislative session ended in Columbia. The S.C. Senate, acting as a death panel of sorts, allowed the Obamacare-voiding bill passed by the House last month to expire without a vote.
Unfortunately, the Senate also didn't vote on a long-overdue ethics reform bill passed by the House.
But the latest recurrence of a traditional South Carolina malady — nullification fever — does spark intriguing speculation. Ponder the possibilities if we could simply scrap laws — and rules — we don't like.
We could override:
■ Proliferating anti-gun school regulations that, though aimed at making students and teachers safer, make education administrators look like jittery ninnies.
For instance, last week brought the revelation that a Maryland sixth grader was suspended for 10 days (later reduced to one day) late last year for saying “gun” while talking to buddies on a school bus. Their conversation was triggered by the shooting slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a few days earlier.
The boy's dad told Washington's WMAL radio: “He said, 'I wish I had a gun to protect everyone.' He wanted to defeat the bad guys. ... The principal told me that with what happened at Sandy Hook, if you say the word 'gun' in my school you are going to get suspended for 10 days.”
Another example of misfired school-official logic, also in Maryland: A 7-year-old second-grader was suspended for two days in March for eating his Pop Tart into the shape of a pistol. Maryland state Rep. Nicholaus Kipke (you guessed it — a Republican) presented that budding sculptor with a lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association last week.
■ An ordinance passed in April requiring every head of a household in Nelson, Ga., to own and maintain a firearm with ammunition “to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants.”
Hey, guns don't kill people, but people do often use guns to kill people. So why encourage more people to have more guns?
Nelson grants exemptions for those who can't afford a gun, can't handle one due to disability or “conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms.”
At least back on our side of the Savannah River, the S.C. Senate didn't vote on — and thus, didn't pass — the House-approved bill to allow concealed-weapon-permit holders to pack heat in restaurants and bars. Our senators do a lot of not voting on bills passed by the House.
■ The Patriot Act. Fresh revelations about sweeping federal surveillance of regular folks' computer and phone records show that Big Brother can dig up way too much dirt on way too many private individuals.
■ Houston's law against “disturbing the contents of a garbage can.” It deprives investigative journalists of a time-tested way to dig up dirty details on public figures.
■ Assorted bans in these coastal parts against bringing dogs to the beach. Man's Best Friend deserves better.
■ Baseball's Designated Hitter. This appalling abdication of fielding responsibility for batters and of batting responsibility for pitchers sadly mirrors a rampant dereliction of old-fashioned duties throughout modern America.
And while we're in a nullifying mood, let's nullify the silly notion of the General Assembly trying again next year to nullify Obamacare.
Recall the vivid 1832 warning from President Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson when his native state appeared primed to finally back up its threats of nullifying federal tariffs.
From “The Reign of Andrew Jackson” by Frederick Austin Ogg:
“Tell them that they can talk and write resolutions and print threats to their hearts' content. But if one drop of blood is shed there in opposition to the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man I can get my hands on to the first tree I can find.”
Gee, no wonder John C. Calhoun and the rest of his nullification-fixation bunch backed down.
But we still must dump the DH.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.