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Parliamentary move keeps health care bill from Oklahoma’s governor, for now

BY JULIE BISBEE Modified: May 5, 2010 at 4:39 am •  Published: May 5, 2010
Legislative leaders would have the authority to file a lawsuit against the federal government and Oklahomans could opt out of the federal health care plan under a measure that now heads to the governor.

After nearly two hours of discussion and debate, Senators voted 25-17 to approve House Joint Resolution 1054. An emergency clause that would have allowed the bill to take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature did not pass.

The bill is being held in a parliamentary move but will head to the governor’s desk in three days if no other action is taken.

HJR 1054 would prevent people or employers from being forced to participate in a health care system. The measure also says Oklahomans can’t be fined if they choose not to participate in a health insurance plan. Doctors would still be allowed to accept payments from patients without facing a penalty.

Under the bill, Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City and Speaker of the House Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, could file a lawsuit challenging the national health care plan that requires people to have health insurance coverage.

The lawmakers decided to file a lawsuit after Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat seeking his party’s nomination for governor, said the state would likely lose a legal challenge on the bill.

Several Democrats who debated against the bill wondered how Oklahoma could pay for the legal fees of such a lawsuit when the state is facing a $1.2 billion budget hole. Only two Democrats, Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, and Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, voted in favor of the bill.

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