Prop C remains on ballot

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Friday a judge denied a lawsuit filed to stop Proposition C, the Healthcare Freedom Act, from appearing on ballots for the Missouri primary election Aug. 3; on Tuesday, the Associate Press reported that the people who challenged the ballot issue that takes aim at a key provision in the new federal health care law have decided not to appeal the judge's decision.

Attorney Chip Gentry told the Associated Press Monday that his clients don't plan to take the case to the Missouri Supreme Court, because -- even if they were successful -- it would be too late to halt the printing of ballots for the Aug. 3 election.

If passed by voters, Proposition C would deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe on the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful health care services. It also modifies some of the laws relating to liquidating certain domestic insurance companies.

The lawsuit was filed in Cole County Circuit Court with Judge Paul Wilson, and challenged whether the ballot item was Constitutional, saying it could not include two items. He ruled late Friday evening that the ballot could go forward as written.

Prior to the judge's decision on Friday, Vernon County Clerk Tammi Beach said that she couldn't recall having a ballot issue removed but that her office would be guided by the Missouri Secretary of State. Laura Egardal, communications director for the Missouri Secretary of State's office responded to a question with "If there is a court order issued regarding Proposition C, our office will follow the court order."

Missouri State Senator Jane Cunningham, who sponsored Proposition C, said. "They ruled in our favor, Judge Wilson ruled in our favor for it to stay on the ballot."

Cunningham said if the ruling had gone the other way some people would have voted on the measure while others couldn't.

"Not only is it on the ballot but some people have been voting since June 22, and that includes all the military ballots that have been sent out, too," Cunningham said. "It would have been a real chaotic situation to have gone backwards after voting started."

Cunningham said Wilson's ruling showed the issue was Constitutional.

"I just know that Judge Wilson, who ruled on this case, clearly saw the Healthcare Freedom Act language met Constitutional muster," Cunningham said. "As hard as we worked during the legislative session with legal experts at the capitol to ensure compliance I was not surprised by his decision. We dotted all our I's and crossed all our T's during the legislative session on all technicalities.

"We did that because we knew we had an issue that people may really scrutinize so we made sure during the legislative process so I wasn't surprised he agreed with our determination. When this lawsuit came up we also sought outside legal counsel and they assured us that the legislature had acted appropriately. Obviously I'm elated."

Cunningham said the issue had caused a large response by citizens who pushed the legislature to put the issue on the ballot.

"There was a tremendous uprising of citizens across the state on this issue, who engaged all of us as legislators at the capitol, and it was tremendously important to me to allow them to have their voice at the ballot -- they desperately wanted that," Cunningham said.

The Associated Press noted that Missouri's ballot measure essentially would be the nation's first statewide popularity vote on the health care law backed by President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress. But its legal affect is questionable, because federal laws generally supersede those in states.

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