House hears bill to require Attorney General Chris Koster to sue federal government on health care reform plan
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House hears bill to require Attorney General Chris Koster to sue federal government on health care reform plan

Date: April 13, 2010
By: Brian Krebs
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's Attorney General was absent from a House General Laws committee hearing which discussed a resolution that would call on him to sue the federal government for violating the constitution with its passage of health care legislation.

Attorney General Chris Koster previously had said he would look into the matter. But at the hearing on Tuesday, resolution sponsor Rep.Ward Franz, R-Howell, said Koster has said he will not pursue a lawsuit against the federal government.

The attorney general was not available for comment on Tuesday.

The resolution would encourage Koster to make Missouri a party to existing lawsuits by more than a dozen other states against the new federal health care law.

Franz said the debate isn't on policy, but on the size and scope of the federal government.

"Whether you support or oppose the recently-passed federal health care bill, I think it's important that we make a stand and say 'enough is enough,'" Franz said.

In addition to what Franz called the mammoth price tag of federal health care legislation, he also said it will bring new taxes and fees on the health care industry. He said the bill required the state to spend more money than it has. He also said many individuals and small business employers will choose to pay the annual fine for not having health care as opposed to getting coverage because it's cheaper than actually paying the premiums.

Rep. Beth Low, D-Kansas City, said asking Koster to file suit against the federal government seemed unnecessary since Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder already pledged to take up the issue. Adding another elected state-wide official, she said, would be a poor usage of taxpayers' resources.

Franz said Koster's involvement with the suit would make it a more well-rounded effort on the state's behalf.

Rep. Michael Frame, D-Eureka, asked how many  hours attorney general staffers would put toward the suit and how much the work would cost the state. Estimated costs of a resolution or bill are placed into bills and resolutions in the form of a fiscal note, which Franz's resolution does not have.

Low said to Franz, "I respect and trust you, but I do not trust that fiscal note."

Some Democrats on the committee said the resolution was a manifestation of the state sovereignty struggle.

Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, paraphrasing letters and e-mails he received from his constituents, said, "That crew lost the battle in the civil war. They loss the battle in the courts. And they lost the battle in D.C. with health care reform."

Colona said his constituents have also led him to believe that spending the state's time and money on fighting health care legislation would lead to massive grassroots movement--larger than the current Tea Party movement.

"At what point are we going to allow that portion of history to rest and move on as one nation?" Low asked Franz. "I thought the answer was received in 1865, but 150 years later, apparently, we're still having it." 

Franz said, "I'm looking at this from a financial standpoint. We as a state, as an individual state, are being required to spend more money than we have." 

Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, said the comparison of the two eras in the country's history wasn't valid.

"I think this analogy with states' rights dealing with the civil war is incredibly flawed," he said, "because the federal government before the pre-Civil War era didn't mandate that everyone purchase a slave."

At one point, the state sovereignty discussion evolved into a discussion of state secession.

Rep. Don Calloway, D-St. Louis, questioned what merit Franz saw belonging to the Union.

"What do we get out of being in the Union?" he asked. "Would you be in favor of seceding?"

Franz inti tally responded that he would be interested in succession if things continue the way they are, but then focused on the need for Missouri's voice to be heard.

"I'm not saying we need to leave the union," Franz said. "I just want us to be heard, and this is the only way that I feel like we will be listened to."

No action was taken on the resolution.