By Chris Wright, The News On 6
TULSA, OK – When Oklahoma voters head to the polls in November, they will now decide whether or not the state will follow new federal health care guidelines.
The sponsors of the legislation say it will let voters decide if they want to amend the state Constitution to prohibit Oklahomans from being forced to participate in the federal health care law. The sponsors say the amendment would exempt state residents from being penalized for failing to purchase health insurance.
Opponents say Oklahoma can't pick and choose which federal laws it obeys, so passing it would set the state up for an expensive legal battle it can't win. But supporters say they're on firm legal ground, because they believe the federal law is unconstitutional.
J.W. Berry founded a Tea Party chapter and helped lobby lawmakers write the opt-out measure that was passed Tuesday.
The amendment would also allow doctors to continue to accept direct payment. If voters approve it, the measure would avoid a possible veto by the Governor.
"So we basically got the people's houses, the Senate and House of Representatives to pass this and get it on the ballot so we can bypass Governor Henry," Berry said. "He can't veto this, this comes right to the people."
On the other hand, Mark Manley of Moveon.org says regardless of your opinion, a health care opt-out simply won't hold up in court.
"Federal law trumps state law," Mark Manley, Moveon.org, said. He believes it will be a waste of taxpayer dollars.
"It's pointless because we're laying off teachers already because we don't have the money, so we're going to spend more money on a frivolous lawsuit," Manley said.
But Berry, who always carries a copy of the Constitution, believes the health care reform bill is unconstitutional. And he's confident voters will agree with him.
"I think what we have done is we have woken up," he said. "I think the people of Oklahoma will wake up and when this comes up on the ballot, it will have overwhelming support and we'll pass it."
Governor Brad Henry vetoed an earlier measure that would have allowed the state to opt-out of federal health care reform.