Senate approves health care amendment 29-10by Dara Kam | March 9th, 2011
On the second day of the legislative session, the Florida Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment allowing Florida to opt out of the federal health care law, the chamber’s President Mike Haridopolos’ top priority.
The Senate approved the measure, (SJR 2) by a 29-10 vote, with just one Democrat – Bill Montford of Tallahassee – voting in favor.
The amendment, which would go before the voters next year, bans the federal government from forcing Floridians from having to purchase health care coverage, the “individual mandate” that is the subject of several federal court cases, including one in Florida. A Pensacola federal judge struck down the law as unconstitutional. President Obama’s administration appealed that ruling yesterday, and the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide on the case.
Lawmakers attempted to put a similar measure on the ballot last year, but the Florida Supreme Court struck it down saying it was confusing to voters. Haridopolos tweaked the language to try to meet the court’s muster this time around.
Haridopolos, a Merritt Island Republican, is running for U.S. Senate, and could possibly on the same November 2012 ballot as the amendment.
“This is about freedom. This is about federalism. This is not a unitary government where everything just comes on down high from government,” Haridopolos said before the vote. “This is about choice. This is about freedom and respecting the U.S. Constitution and…mostly, respecting individual rights.”
Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston argued that the federal law already allows states to opt out if they come up with another way to make sure its citizens are insured.
“The fact remains that this is the law of the land and it is our duty to take the appropriate steps to implement this law,” Rich said. “Whether you like it or not, we have a federal system of government…Federal law remains the supreme law of the land.”
The proposed amendment would require 60 percent approval from the voters to pass. The House has not yet voted on the measure.
Arguing against the bill, Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, took umbrage at Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, calling the law “Obamacare.”
“Sen. Gaetz mentioned Obamacare,” Hill said. “At least somebody care.”