The fight to stop what some legislators call the federal government's intrusiveness into Oklahoma's and individuals' rights is raging in a small state Capitol meeting room.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives States' Rights Committee, taking up its first bills Tuesday, approved a resolution to let voters decide whether some parts of the Affordable Care Act can be implemented in the state and also a bill that prohibits Oklahoma doctors from asking patients about gun ownership, which the measure's author says is required by the national health care law.
House Joint Resolution 1026, by Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, would send to a vote of the people a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit any person or entity from being forced to provide coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization in a health plan if doing so is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the person.
Committee member Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, argued against the measure, saying a lawsuit filed by Hobby Lobby already is challenging a mandate that is part of the health care law that requires the company to cover the cost of emergency contraceptives such as the morning-after pill for its employees through its employee health plan.
Floyd said lawmakers should wait until the lawsuit is settled, and that the U.S. Supreme Court last summer ruled the Affordable Care Act, called Obamacare by critics, is constitutional.
She reminded lawmakers they took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which recognizes rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court as the law of the land.
Blackwell said it's time to tell the federal government it is not in charge and that it cannot violate the Constitution.
“I will not take it anymore,” he said. “Here, right now, for Oklahoma, we will do what is right, and in my opinion that is saying, ‘Federal government, the Constitution does not allow you to intervene in our personal lives.'”
HJR 1026 passed 9-4.
The committee also passed House Bill 2022, by Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, which would prohibit doctors, except psychiatrists and counselors, from asking patients whether they own or possess a gun.
She said the Affordable Care Act requires doctors to ask patients about gun ownership. Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, a physician, told committee members doctors and medical students are being trained to ask patients whether they own guns.
But committee member Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, told the panel that, according to the Media Matters for America website, nothing in the Affordable Care Act changes long-standing law and that doctors still are free but not required to discuss with their patients any health hazards, including a lack of gun safety at home or elsewhere.
HB 2022 passed 7-6.
Both measures go to the House Calendar Committee, which will decide whether they should advance to the full House.