House panel blocks state funds for federal health care law

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX (AP) -- A Republican-dominated House committee approved four bills Wednesday designed to block state spending on federal acts, regulations and executive orders, including President Barack Obama's health care law.

Backers said the bills help establish and protect state sovereignty- a phrase that peppered the hearing.

Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, said the proposals embody the spirit of voter-approved Proposition 122, which allows the state to opt out of federal laws deemed unconstitutional by the voters or the Legislature.

Olson sponsored House Bill 2643 that stops state and local governments from using financial resources to enforce and implement the Affordable Care Act.

The proposal passed the same day federal officials announced that more than 200,000 Arizonans had signed up for health insurance during the just-ended open enrollment period, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

The bill will not affect those enrolled in the program, but is designed to prevent future legislation that would establish a state exchange, Olson said. "We want to make sure that state dollars are not used to enforce the Affordable Care Act," he said.

The Federalism and States' Rights Committee voted 5-3 along party lines to pass the legislation Wednesday. The bill is set to move to the House floor after a routine constitutional review.

Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson, said he voted against the bill despite having his own reservations against the Affordable Care Act.

"I don't see how anybody can question its constitutionality, its applications and its function in the state of Arizona," he said.

Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, sponsored three bills preventing the state from funding executive orders and policy directives.

"Our president and the departments under the president have no direct authority over the states," he said.

One bill, House Bill 2368, blocks state funding for executive orders and policy directives from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Rep. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, said the president has the constitutional authority to issue executive orders and Arizona would be better off sending a message of unity rather than state sovereignty.

"It's not our place to pick and choose what we want to follow," she said.

-House Bill 2058 blocks state funding for any federal rule, policy or regulation that has not been voted on by Congress or signed into law.

-House Bill 2055 stops state and local governments from using any resource to enforce or implement changes made to U.S. waters on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Senate public safety committee also passed a bill that prohibits state and local governments from enforcing or funding future federal laws regarding guns.

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