The South Carolina House of Representatives passed the Freedom of Health Care Protection Act earlier this week, declaring President Barack Obama's 2010 health care reform law "null and void" in the state.
Republican state Rep. Bill Chumley, the bill's primary sponsor, told U.S. News Friday he's unsure if the bill, which passed 65-39 in the House, will be approved by the state Senate.
Chumley predicted that the bill stands a "51-49" chance in the state's upper body. "I'm not trying to be cute, I do think we have a decent chance," Chumley said. "I knew it would be an uphill struggle to get it out of the house. It's been one step at a time."
When Chumley pre-filed the bill in December it included stiff criminal sanctions for government employees caught implementing the federal law.
Under the original bill, federal employees or contractors caught enforcing the national health care law would be "guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five thousand dollars, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both." State officials would have faced two years in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The criminal sanctions were dropped in committee, Chumley said. "We were anxious to get a bill that we felt good about and I don't think we could move it forward" with the criminal sanctions included, he said.
"They're gone for good," he added.
One generous section of the pending bill would allow South Carolina taxpayers to "receive a tax deduction in the exact amount of the taxes or penalty paid [to the IRS]" for not purchasing health insurance, as mandated by the 2010 law.
The bill would also specifically ban state authorities from taking part in "an involuntary maternal, infant, and early childhood in-home visitation."
The legislation declares Obama's health care reform law "unconstitutional" despite the June 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring it such. It's unclear what exactly the federal government would do to address the contradiction if the bill becomes law.
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh told U.S. News in December that the proposed law "would be clearly unenforceable, because the federal law – upheld by the Supreme Court – trumps state law."
A similar nullification bill passed the Oklahoma House in March by a 72-20 vote. The bill hasn't been approved by the state Senate, which like the South Carolina Senate is Republican-controlled. Chumley said he's heard of some Republican opposition in the upper chamber, "which is to be expected," he said.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican who keeps a high national profile, hasn't taken a position on the bill. Haley's spokesman did not immediately respond to a U.S. News request for comment.