Opinion Columns & Blogs

Mary Pilcher-Cook: Senate leadership resisted health care vote

It is crucial that Kansas citizens receive correct information about legislators’ voting records and not just rhetoric and platitudes. There are many issues the Legislature deals with each session, so it may be possible Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, doesn’t recall what actually took place (July 19 Opinion). Therefore, I am giving the actual history backed with official links to Kansas Senate journals listing the votes on the federal health care bill.

All of this information and more is available at http://www.kansashealthcarefreedom.com./. The links to the proposed concurrent resolutions also list the senators actively supporting the measures.

Before the federal health care bill became law, it was clear there was an urgent need for Kansas legislators to propose a constitutional amendment on the ballot so citizens could vote for it and continue to act freely concerning their own health care decisions.

State sovereignty, as guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution, expresses the primary duty of state legislators to protect the liberty of the people of Kansas in regard to their health care. Our country was founded on principles of liberty and freedom – not command-and-control government.

From the beginning, there was an effort to prohibit the Health Care Freedom Amendment from coming to a vote in the Senate. In 2010, the measure was referred to two committees and a subcommittee (usually a bill is only referred to one committee). One committee passed it without a recommendation, and the second committee referred it to a subcommittee. Finally, the second committee chairman voted against the legislation to cause a tie vote. That resulted in the failure of the measure, so the legislation could not make it to the floor for a vote.

In the final hours before adjournment, I made a motion to move the measure out of committee with my description of what had taken place. Morris voted against this motion (Senate Journal April 28, 2010 – http://www.kansas.gov/government/legislative/journals/2010/sj0428.pdf).

In the 2011 session, I kept working to get the measure passed as quickly as possible to strengthen our state’s position in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. However, roadblocks kept being constructed, so I amended the language of the Health Care Freedom Amendment into an existing prescription health care bill on the Senate floor, which made it a law instead of a constitutional amendment.

Morris voted against it. Only when it was obvious the measure was going to pass did “every” Republican in the Kansas Senate vote for the legislation. One influential senator even stood up and argued against it, yet voted for it on the final vote (Senate Journal March 22, 2011 – http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2011_12/chamber/documents/daily_journal_senate_20110322123458.pdf).

In the 2012 session, time was running short. It was clear Kansas citizens wanted to vote their views about their health care freedom. However, the Health Care Freedom Amendment was defeated in the Senate on Feb. 23 after a series of political maneuvers designed to prevent citizens from having a say in the voting booth.

Interestingly, seven senators who voted for final passage first voted to send the measure back to committee and/or voted to deny citizens the right to vote if the U.S. Supreme Court approved the federal health care law. Please see http://www.kansashealthcarefreedom.com./ to see how the process played out. One can also view the many organizations that have endorsed this page because they witnessed the voting gymnastics on the floor (Senate Journal Feb. 23, 2012 – http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2011_12/chamber/documents/daily_journal_senate_20120223195610.pdf).

There is much that can be done on the state level to make our health care system better, and we should work hard next session to make changes. However, government control should not be one of them.