State Republicans fought back against new federal health-care laws Thursday, as the GOP-dominated House and Senate sent a constitutional amendment to voters that would allow Floridians to opt out of health insurance.
With new laws threatening individuals who refuse to buy health insurance with penalties from the IRS, supporters of the proposed amendment said this would allow Floridians freedom and choice with their health-care decisions. Attorney General Bill McCollum has filed a lawsuit against the new federal laws.
The amendment will be added to the state constitution if it gets 60 percent of voters' support come November.
The House passed the measure 74-42 on a vote that closely mirrored party lines. Leonard Bembry, D-Greenville, and Debbie Boyd, D-Newberry, joined Republicans in backing it.
With this vote, the Florida House has empowered the citizens of this great state to vote in November and make their voice heard on whether medical freedom is a fundamental right that must be protected in our state constitution, said Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, who was the bill's chief sponsor.
In the afternoon the resolution was raced to the Senate floor, where it passed 26-11, also along party lines.
Carey Baker, R-Eustis, fought off claims that the amendment was unhealthy for Florida and was simply a slap in the face to the Obama administrations federal health-care reform act.
The amendment does not deny the benefits of the federal health care reform act to anyone, Baker said.
There will surely be people lined up for the benefits, and they have a right to them, he said. This amendment simply prevents Floridians from having their health insurance decisions forced upon them.
Floridians, Americans, have the right to decide for themselves, he said.
In a speech that prompted applause from the guest wings of the floor, Democrat Dan Gelber of Miami Beach said the Legislature has spent more time trying to stop the expansion of health care for Floridians than fixing the states broken system.
The House had discussed the legality of the measure on Wednesday and Thursday morning, with Republicans insisting the bill passed constitutional muster.
We have the right to put basic rights in our constitution, insisted Longwood Republican Plakon.
The supremacy clause does not say the feds control the states, said Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne. Invoking the Tenth Amendment, Workman said, The Constitution of the United States is a limiting document.
This bill is more about the American people than anything else, said Workman, adding that his father left Canada because of socialism. For the first time in American history, you have to buy a product to live here.
Democrats attacked Republicans for undermining the federal government and for playing politics.
The supremacy cause says the state of Florida cannot overrule a federal law, said incoming Minority Leader Ron Saunders of Key West, who added that McCollums lawsuit had little chance of going anywhere.
We should not re-litigate health-care reform, said Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee. It passed.
Republicans stressed that the amendment would allow voters to express their opinions on health care.
The citizens of Florida will get to make the decision, said Sandy Adams, R-Orlando. Thats all this does.
Were just voting today to listen to our voters in November, said Plakon.
Alex Tiegen contributed to this story.
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