Oklahoma legislators have become rather accustomed to receiving emails and calls from those who are intensely worried about ongoing federal overreach. Many of these contacts are from those who want state officials to do whatever is possible to stop the federal government’s attempted expansion into the healthcare venue. Based on this input, I know it is important to provide continuous updates regarding the most recent actions of state officials to do what they can in this regard.
These concerns from our constituencies have found a home in the House States’ Rights Committee where we have considered a series of varied proposals that attempt to block federal overreach.
I can’t ever recall a more polarized committee environment during my time in the Legislature than during these discussions. As the minority members of the committee aggressively opposed many of the states’ rights proposals, the debates seemed to crystallize the differences between our state’s two largest political parties.
One of the proposed states’ rights bills declared that Oklahoma will not implement the healthcare law. Substantive parts of the health care proposal rely on state officials to voluntarily comply with the proposal. Last summer’s Supreme Court decision affirmed the right of state government to have a significant say in the way the proposal is applied. The legislation approved by the States’ Rights Committee creates a state law to ensure Oklahoma policy makers exercise this right and do not comply.
A version of this proposal was later approved by the entire House and now awaits consideration in the Senate, along with several other states’ rights proposals that were approved by our new States’ Rights Committee. The fact that these measures have advanced should not be taken for granted. House leadership has stood up to real pressure from those who are eager to kowtow to the federal government.
States’ rights actions have not been limited to the legislative branch. The state’s Attorney General is playing an incredibly important role in this regard. Last week, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt spoke to members of the House Republican caucus and described his effort to defend Oklahomans from the punitive tax penalties of the healthcare act. A plain and clear reading of the act details that tax penalties should not be applied unless health insurance isn’t purchased from the state’s health insurance exchange. Oklahoma is not creating a state-based exchange. Pruitt is contending that because of this, the IRS cannot penalize Oklahomans. This places into perspective the importance of Governor Fallin’s decision to not create a state-based health care insurance exchange.
Last week Governor Fallin’s office released 50,000 pages of documents related to the health care proposal and in response to an open records request of the local press. These documents show that thousands of calls and emails were received by the Governor’s office from those opposed to the federal plan. This includes emails and Web form submissions from a number of House District 31 residents. The open records request clearly demonstrates the overwhelming sentiment of Oklahomans. Governor Fallin listened to your input and acted accordingly.
It can be hoped those in other states will take similar action. If enough states stand together they will force the federal government’s hand and significantly impact the implementation of the federal proposal.
There is recent and encouraging precedent for this approach. Oklahoma and other states successfully refused to implement the federal government’s plan for a national ID card system by proxy known as REAL ID even though federal officials asserted that there may be dire consequences for those who refused. The states did not give in and to date the federal government has been unable to successfully implement this plan.
The actions taken by those who took the time to call and write, the Oklahoma Legislature, Attorney General, Governor and others highlight the importance of states’ rights and the founding fathers’ view that power should be concentrated at the local level. When the federal government aggressively overreaches, those at the local level are right to slow things down.
Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.