By CHRIS BLANK and WES DUPLANTIER
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office filed a brief Tuesday calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to reject an individual health insurance mandate but uphold other parts of the federal health care law.
Koster, a Democrat, said his office filed a written argument in support of a lawsuit by Florida and other states. The federal law requires most Americans to obtain health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties.
Koster says the mandate goes beyond what courts have ruled is the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. Koster also says the federal law conflicts with a voter-approved Missouri law barring the government from requiring people to have health insurance and penalizing those who do not.
Republican attorney general candidate Ed Martin said Tuesday that Koster should oppose the entire federal health care law.
Koster filed his argument on the same day that a Missouri Senate committee heard testimony about a proposed amendment to the state constitution that aims to block the federal mandate from taking effect in Missouri.
The proposed amendment, sponsored by Sen. Jane Cunningham, would essentially codify into the state's constitution a ballot measure that state voters approved in 2010 prohibiting the government from requiring people to have health insurance.
"American citizens should have the right to pay directly for health care services with their own money," said Cunningham, R-St. Louis County. "The freedom to buy or decline to buy a product is a basic right, and should be protected."
If approved by both the House and Senate, the proposed amendment would go before voters in November.