State Rep. Pat Ownbey feels so strongly about the federal health care bill that was signed earlier this week by President Barack Obama that he used some of his time during the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon Friday to speak out against the new law.
“If we want more government, we are getting ready to have it,” he said. “I know we are state legislators, but we are doing what we can to stop this.”
Ownbey hopes Attorney General Drew Edmondson will join other attorneys general to challenge the bill’s constitutionality.
“Thirty-eight states said they were going to sue the federal government,” he said. “At this point, Oklahoma’s attorney general has not made a decision.”
Edmondson, who is running for governor, said earlier in the week he asked members of his staff to study several constitutional concerns raised about the bill, including unfunded mandates on states, mandatory participation in private insurance and possible violations of the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Republican leaders in the Legislature are supporting a measure that would send to a vote of the people a proposed amendment to the state constitution designed to allow the state to “opt out” of key provisions of the health reform plan.
Rep. Sam Buck said he voted to send the issue to a vote of the people to allow Oklahomans to voice their concerns. He predicted the matter would eventually be resolved in federal court.
Buck said the House Common Education Committee passed a bill this week that would require copies of annual school audits to be sent to the state Auditor and Inspector’s office in addition to the state Education Department. He and the other committee members approved the bill 13-0.
Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield said voters may have more than 10 state questions to consider on the November ballot, which is a much higher number than normal.
“Please don’t get voter fatigue,” he said. “Read all of them and vote.”
Crutchfield said Senate leaders are working on next year’s budget.
“I think after this week, at least in the Senate side, we do realize we have a bill hole and we will not be able to raise taxes,” he said.
He said the Senate leadership was examining if the state can delay implementing the final part of previously approved tax cuts for two years as well as eliminating some special tax breaks.
The senator was also critical of Gov. Brad Henry’s budget request, which Crutchfield said contained “imaginary” money.
The next Legislative Luncheon is scheduled for April 9 at the Ardmore Convention Center.