Senate Republicans urge action on Tennessee Health Freedom Act to put the state on front lines of supporting the rights of citizens not to participate in the federal health care plan

Contact:  Darlene Schlicher (615) 741-6336 or email:  [email protected]

 (NASHVILLE, TN), March 24, 2010 — Fueled by the recent passage of  federal healthcare legislation in Congress, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) and members of the Senate Republican Caucus held a press conference on Wednesday urging the state’s House of Representatives to take immediate action to pass the Tennessee Health Freedom Act.  Passage of the bill, which is pending action in the House Industrial Impact Subcommittee, would put Tennessee into position to join the Virginia and Idaho legislatures on the front lines in filing legal action to support the rights of citizens within their boundaries not to participate in the massive government takeover of the nation’s health care system.

The Tennessee Health Freedom Act was approved in the State Senate on February 18 by a vote of 26 to 1, with 5 members abstaining.  

“This legislation has become vital to challenge the massive unfunded mandate that has been passed down to the states,” said Senator Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, who is sponsor of the bill.  “Never in history has the federal government mandated that Tennesseans buy anything.  This is kind of equivalent to the federal government saying you have to buy a General Motors car because we bailed ‘em out and we have an interest in it. If the people of Tennessee don’t want federal health care, then this will be the way for them to choose other avenues.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 3498, prohibits the federal government from imposing fines or penalties on a person’s decision not to participate in the federal plan.  Due to constitutional restraints, the bill does not “nullify” the federal law, as it would still allow individuals the option to participate in a federal program. However, it acknowledges the right of Tennesseans to refuse to participate in a government-run health insurance program.  It also calls on the state’s Attorney General to take action in the defense or prosecution of rights protected under this legislation.

Earlier this week Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey renewed his efforts to get Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper to join his colleagues in at least 13 other states in legal action on the matter.  Ramsey had already asked Cooper to make preparations for protective legal action when the federal health care bill was approved by the United States Senate in December.

“The United States Constitution does not give the federal government the authority for this massive power grab that will reduce individual liberty and strangle state government finances,” Ramsey said. “Politicians in Washington may have temporarily lost their minds but we still have our sanity out here in the states and we need to take action to protect our citizens from these mandates.”

“The federal healthcare law is an unprecedented encroachment on the personal liberty of  our citizens, added Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville).  “Tennessee cannot sit idly by and allow the rights of our citizens to be violated by this mandate.”

The federal action is expected to cost Tennessee more than $200 million annually.  It comes at a time when the state is in its 21st consecutive month in which sales taxes have recorded negative growth.  

“Tennessee is suffering great financial hardship in these economically challenging times,” added Norris.  “We cannot print money like the federal government.  This federal mandate will be devastating over the long run, eating up any expected growth money we might be able to gain upon economic recovery.  This means we will not be able to make any future improvements in critical state needs like education and public safety because Congress has tied our hands with their massive healthcare program.”

The Industrial Impact Committee amended the bill with a procedural amendment and delayed further action on the measure until next week. 

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