JEFFERSON CITY — By a near party-line vote, Missouri's House voted to call upon both the state's governor and attorney general to join a lawsuit by 20 other states challenging the federal health care law passed by Congress last year.
"[If] the provisions of this act are determined to be unconstitutional, then the citizens of Missouri will not have an unfair and penalizing mandate forced upon them and states' rights will be preserved," said Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains, who sponsored the resolution.
The resolution is not legally binding, but simply a call to action for the state's executive leaders to either join the existing lawsuit or begin their own.
Neither the state's governor nor attorney general — both Democrats — were immediately available for comment on the resolution. The Democratic attorney general's office offered a one sentence statement on the issue: "The Attorney General's Office is aware of the vote in the House and we are monitoring the issue in both chambers."
Last April, the attorney general failed to attend Franz's legislative hearing about the resolution. Attorney General Chris Koster had first said he would look into suing over health care reform, then later said he would not pursue a lawsuit against the federal government, according to previous MDN reporting. In July, Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder sued members of the Obama administration who enforced the provisions of the health care reform law.
Rep. Jean Peters-Baker, D-Kansas City, argued the only effect of the resolution is the state's cost in helping pay for lawsuit that she said will proceed regardless of Missouri's participation.
"So while we are here in this chamber today, we are not creating a job, we are not impacting unemployment. We are voting on a resolution that is legally non-binding and that has an actual, real cost to taxpayers," Peters-Baker said.
The resolution passed 155-46; no Republican voted against the resolution and Democrats split by a margin of four-to-one against it.
The resolution argues the constitutionality of the federal health care reform, citing:
The lawsuit also contains a general statements about the unconstitutionality of giving "excessive authority" to the federal government and ignoring the rights of the states and citizens.
The resolution is in part a response to Proposition C, the ballot measure Missourians overwhelmingly approved in August, declaring that no law can require them to have health insurance or be penalized for a lack thereof. The measure sought to remove Missouri's obligation to participate in Pres. Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23.