“Health Freedom Act” Ready For State House Vote

The push against a federal health care overhaul continued Tuesday in the state legislature. A proposal that seeks to overturn the federal law is now ready for a vote in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

The “Health Freedom Act” has already passed the state Senate.

Yesterday, the House Commerce Committee approved the measure, with mostly Republican votes, and sent it to the House floor.

The bill directs the state Attorney General to file suit against the federal health care law. The Attorney General has said he won’t take the case to court.

During the debate Tuesday, Ripley Democrat Craig Fitzhugh waved a cost estimate for the bill in the air. The estimate says since the attorney general doesn’t intend to do anything, there’s no expense to the state.

“So the bottom line, I think, is … there is no fiscal cost to this bill because it will have no effect. Nothing will happen if it is passed.”

The estimate, from the legislature’s Fiscal Review staff, also says that if lawmakers hire private counsel, the cost would go up to an estimated $50,000. Senate speaker Ron Ramsey has threatened to hire an independent lawyer if the Attorney General won’t sue.

Monday night, the state Senate and House approved two different resolutions – both opposing the new federal health care law.

After Democrats quoted the AG’s opinion – that the state bill is likely pre-empted by two clauses of the U.S. Constitution – Bell said the attorney general simply sent back the opinion that was prompted by the way the question was worded.

“He responded to what I think was an ambiguous, poorly worded question, intended to get the response that it got. It said, ‘Are Senate Bill 3498 and House Bill 3433 and House Joint Resolution 745 ‘likely’ pre-empted by federal law?’ …Now, I read nothing in here about it being unconstitutional. I read it that it is ‘likely pre-empted.’ ”

The bill is HB 3433 Bell/SB 3498 Beavers.

The bill passed in the Senate Feb. 17.

This is the controversial fiscal note, which presumes that the bill would have no effect.

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