We’re looking into the last of three legislative referenda appearing on the November ballot. These are measures referred to the voters by the state legislature.
The full first clause of LR 122 says, “an act prohibiting the state or federal government from mandating the purchase of health insurance coverage or imposing penalties for decisions related to the purchase of health insurance coverage.”
I don’t know if this rings any bells, but it should. It’s probably the most controversial element of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare.”
This referendum has run into a little bit of a hitch though.
“It really has no impact whatsoever,” said Helena Democratic State Senator Christine Kaufmann.
LR 122 was drafted before the US Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Affordable Care Act. That June ruling declared the US Constitution does allow the federal government to mandate the purchase of health insurance coverage. And a law passed by the voters of Montana cannot overrule that.
So in some ways, LR-122 would effectively be a statement from the people.
Republican Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives Mike Milburn says it’s an important one to make. He says the Federal Government mandating to states is becoming more common.
“States should have certain rights and when we see those being encroached upon, we need to push back,” Milburn said.
Democratic State Senator Christine Kaufmann does support the Affordable Care Act, so she wouldn’t want to make that statement. But she says this kind of gesture is pointless anyway.
“It’s an exercise in futility,” she said. “Why should we spend all this emotional energy saying ‘get out of the way federal government, we can handle this ourselves’ when we’ve never been able to handle healthcare ourselves and it’s going to be a meaningless solution.”
LR 122 would be unconstitutional the moment it passes. But, a lawsuit would need to be filed against this new Montana Law and the law would need to be declared unconstitutional by a judge. That ruling could then be appealed, so on and so forth. These things take time.
Meanwhile, if Mitt Romney wins the Presidential election, he has vowed to do everything he can to repeal ObamaCare. Say Romney wins and gains enough Republican support in the House and Senate, repeal is possible. If that repeal happens before LR 122 is declared unconstitutional, then it would no longer be unconstitutional.
MILBURN: “So, it’s still very applicable and we’re hoping it will pass just to send that message,” Milburn said.
Another indication that the fight over health care reform is far from over.
This story uses excerpts from my Montana PBS special on the ballot measures, “From the People: Montana’s 2012 Ballot Measures”