JEFFERSON CITY - One Missouri state representative has sponsored legislation that would give voters a choice when it comes to the national health care bill.
Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, has sponsored legislation that would allow voters to effectively put a halt on the national health care legislation. Davis said her intent was to give voters a way to protect themselves.
"We (Missourians) don't like it when people try to take away our freedom. We will maintain the right to purchase health care however we chose," Davis said. "This national health care debate is not about health care as much as it is about redistribution of the wealth. This resolution allows voters to say don't redistribute our wealth here in Missouri. We have the ability to make choices, and we want to preserve that."
Davis' bill would allow people to purchase insurance from whoever they want and also protects people from being penalized for not having insurance.
But this measure to preserve the status quo may not be constitutional.
If Davis' bill passes both houses of the Missouri General Assembly, Missourians would not have the opportunity to vote on the measure until November 2010, presumably after a federal health care bill will have passed.
"This attempts to annul or invalidate any federal provision to require people to buy health insurance," said Greg Casey, professor emeritus in MU's political science department and a constitutional law professor. "It's unconstitutional based on supremacy clause."
The supremacy clause, in Article 6, Section 2 of the Constitution, keeps states from encroaching on the federal governments powers. "If there's a conflict between federal and state law, state law falls," Casey said.
"A state can't, on its own, invalidate federal law," Casey said.
But Davis points to the 10th Amendment as justification for legality.
"First of all, we can do anything we want to do because it says in the U.S. Constitution that the states have the right to pass any rules they want so long as there's nothing else in the Constitution that it conflicts with. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution whatsoever that constitutionally authorizes this national monster to encroach on the way we do health care in Missouri," Davis said.
Rep. Don Calloway, D-St. Louis County, a civil litigation attorney with a specialization in constitution rights cases, disagrees.
"The 10th Amendment absolutely doesn't change that (the unconstitutionality of the bill). It just says that powers not reserved to the federal government are reserved to the state," Calloway said. "So the 10th Amendment doesn't give state the right to effectively block or nullify those laws from taking place in Missouri, absolutely not."
Calloway said Republicans are challenging the health care bill in the wrong venue.
"I understand that a lot of conservative opposition is saying this is usurpation of state powers, that health care reform doesn't find its basis in the Constitution, and the way to challenge that is in court, not through state law with the attempt of subverting federal law," he said.
The crux of the idea is one that may sharply divide House Democrats and Republicans.
"I would be in favor of having the state make decisions on health care and not the federal government," said Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, a doctor and committee chair of the Healthcare Transformation Committee.
"No. 1 they (Republicans) don't want to expand health care options, so however that resolution is worded, I'm sure it would help them prevent the extension of health care options," said Mary Still, D-Columbia. "They've used everything possible: scare tactics, bad information, and now this to prevent progress.The public has clearly said they want change, they want health care options. It's good for people, good for the country, and good for the economy, but they have done nothing but put up road blocks," Still said later.
Similar legislation is being sponsored in the Missouri Senate.