Over the past weeks and months, I continue to receive e-mails from constituents who are frustrated by the debate over the expansion of the federal government's role in the health care industry. These constituents feel their voices are not being heard and are extremely frustrated because they feel helpless to effect change. This frustration has only increased over last weekend as part of the legislation was approved by Congress.
In light of these events, I felt it would be important to provide an update about the progress we are making in the Oklahoma Legislature to combat the federal government's power grab.
I have been a strong advocate for the idea that Oklahoma must aggressively assert its role as a state under the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Our founding fathers designed our system of governance so that the power of government was localized as much as possible. This means that an individual's voice makes a difference because an individual citizen is more likely to be heard at the local level of government.
For example, the helpless feeling that many constituents are currently feeling would not be so prevalent if this issue were under consideration by state government instead of federal government. Their calls for action would make a big difference because local legislators would be responsive to the level of citizen outrage expressed about this issue. This is why the Tenth Amendment delegates so much authority to state governments.
In order to assert Oklahoma's rights under the Tenth Amendment, several legislators filed states' rights legislation during this session. The Oklahoma House of Representatives recently voted by a 77-10 vote to approve House Joint Resolution 1054. If HJR 1054 is approved by the Legislature, it will allow you to have an outlet to express your opposition to the federal expansion. The proposal would allow Oklahoma citizens to vote in November to amend the State Constitution so that no law or rule will require an Oklahoman to purchase health care insurance and no penalties or fines could be imposed on someone who chooses not to purchase health care insurance.
The Senate has already approved a sister resolution to HJR 1054, known as Senate Joint Resolution 59. SJR 59 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 30-16 and is also designed to amend the Constitution in order to counter some of the possible new mandates from the federal government.
I believe this is one of the most important issues to be considered by the Legislature during this year and I am co-sponsoring both of these efforts. If these proposals are approved, Oklahoma will join a number of other states who are also exercising their rights under the Tenth Amendment.
Shortly after I joined the Legislature, we approved a measure to let Oklahoma join with a number of states in opposing the federal government's effort to enact a REAL ID (national ID card). I believe it was this opposition that forced the federal government to back down and remove the proposal in its original form. I am optimistic that the states can force a similar reaction on this issue as well. The refusal of Oklahoma and other states to cooperate with this latest expansion could be vital to defeating the effort to move towards a socialized health care system.