Even though a divided U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the federal Affordable Health Care Act, Missouri lawmakers continue looking at ways to block its implementation in the state.
Freshman state Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, asked the Senate's Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee Tuesday afternoon to support his proposed law that would prohibit the Missouri Insurance department and other state agencies from applying for, accepting or spending federal moneys relating to the implementation of the federal health care act - unless authorized by state law.
"I think that we in the Legislature do not like end-runs by some of the (state) departments," Sater explained.
"What this bill does - it says that any grants from the federal government for particular programs would have to go through the Legislature - either through statute, or through the appropriations process."
Sater's bill also says that any taxpayer - or any member of the General Assembly - has legal standing to sue the state or any official, department, division, agency, or political subdivision for violating the provisions of the proposed law, "in any court with jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of" the proposed law.
And, if the court agrees with the plaintiffs, Sater's bill also would require the court to award "attorney's fees, court costs, and all reasonable expenses incurred by the taxpayer or member of the general assembly" for filing and pursuing the lawsuit.
The department or agency that was sued and lost would have to pay those awards, Sater's bill says.
No one testified Tuesday afternoon for, or against, Sater's proposal.
State Sen. Shalonn "Kiki" Curls, D-Kansas City, was the only committee member to comment.
"I don't even know if it's worth getting into this long debate," Curls told Sater. "The federal health care law is a federal mandate which, of course, we can't supersede. ...
"I do wish, of course, that there was less time spent on some of these issues that we know are required by the federal law, at this point."
She promised to hold her other thoughts until the bill is debated by the full Senate.
The committee took no action on Sater's bill Tuesday.
After the hearing, Sater told the News Tribune there's no conflict of one branch of government trying to tell another branch how to do its job.
"We deal with the appropriations, and we deal with the budget," he explained. "I realize it is our function to analyze those programs, to see if they're efficient, to see if we need them for the state of Missouri, and to make sure the appropriation is going to the right place."
Sater said passing his bill would help with the checks-and-balances built into the state Constitution.
"It's a process that works out for the best," he said. "That way, not any particular branch has the absolute power."
Sater said there are "hundreds - maybe even thousands - of different programs within the Affordable Care Act, and it's our job to analyze those programs and see what's best for Missouri."