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Oklahoma Senate backs public vote on federal health care opt out

BY JULIE BISBEE Published: May 6, 2010
A proposed ballot measure would allow Oklahoma voters to decide if the state’s constitution should forbid regulations that force people to buy health insurance.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 30-13 in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 59, which asks voters to decide if the state’s constitution should include a provision that forbids forcing people to participate in a health system.

Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, the author of the bill, said a change in the state constitution is an additional way to block the federal health care plan in Oklahoma.

SJR 59 now goes to the House. If the House approves the measure, it will appear on the November ballot. The governor does not have to sign a joint resolution.

A measure passed on Tuesday gives the Senate president pro tem and the speaker of the House the authority to file a lawsuit challenging the recently approved federal health care plan. That measure is being held on a motion to reconsider and could be sent to Democrat Gov. Brad Henry in the next few days if no action is taken.

That lawsuit would challenge the federal health care plan on provisions in the U.S. Constitution meant to limit the federal government’s role in how states operate.

If that fails, then the state could challenge the federal health care plan on the grounds that it’s against the Oklahoma constitution if the amendment passes, Newberry said.

"Let’s give the people an opportunity to vote on this,” said Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, during debate on the bill. "At least the people will have a voice.”

Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne, quizzed lawmakers on why SJR 59 was needed when Republicans passed a measure a day before that sought to change state law to do the same thing.

"This is going to allow us to bypass the governor and go to a vote of the people,” Lerblance said.


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