The Aug. 2 ballot issue will ask voters to decide whether to amend state statutes to “deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance.”
House Republicans had pushed the vote as a protest of the federal mandate to purchase insurance that is part of the legislation passed by Congress earlier this year. Democrats argued that the August vote will be meaningless because federal law generally trumps state law.
But during debate Tuesday, lawmakers agreed that at least one byproduct of the vote would be that it would likely spur a lawsuit challenging the federal legislation.
“This will set up a constitutional showdown,” said state Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka.
Jones had sponsored the original version of the bill, which would have asked Missouri voters to amend the state’s constitution to basically opt out of the federal mandate. But the Senate changed the bill to make the August vote merely a statutory change.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, has threatened to file a lawsuit on behalf of the state to challenge the federal health care legislation. Kinder is raising money in a private corporation to fund such a lawsuit.
Democrats referred to the bill as an “election-year stunt.”
“The moment everybody figured out this is an election year, things seemed to get a lot sillier,” state Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, said about the legislation.
The bill also has a provision that allows for insurance companies to be dissolved with the approval of the state insurance department. Because it’s in the same bill as the health care proposal, it will also be voted on in August. Because the bill calls for a referendum, it bypasses Gov. Jay Nixon and goes directly to voters.