Give Liberty a Chance!

God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies…

And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgement of faith in God and His works.

- Frederic Bastiat, The Law, 1850

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Health Care Freedom Act Passes House

This week Missouri citizens got the upper hand for a change due to House action on two proposals.

The first win occurred on Tuesday when the House passed the Health Care Freedom Act,
which is essential in securing the rights of patients to make their own health care choices.

As I have written before, the question of patient rights has been bubbling to the surface as an issue important to those interested in keeping the relationship between patient and doctor in tact.

The essence of the proposed constitutional amendment is this, “To preserve the freedom of citizens of this state to provide for their health care, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly or through penalties or fines, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system.”

The proposed amendment ensures that:
  • Each Missouri citizen has the right to pay for health care services with their own money,
  • Health care providers may accept direct payment for services rendered by Missouri citizens,
  • The purchase and sale of health insurance shall not be prohibited by law or rule, and;
  • No person will be required to pay fines or penalties if they choose to purchase their own health care and accept payment for providing health care services.
In other words, an individual cannot be forced to participate in a health care system without their consent and that individuals have the freedom to participate.

The second win for Missouri citizens occurred Wednesday when the House passed the Missouri Patient Privacy Act (HB1382). This legislation extends federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy protections to any entity that stores your personal health information ensuring that your personal health information cannot be disclosed to anyone without the written consent of the patient, except in cases where the disclosure is in connection with the performance of the official duties of the employee of such entity.

These proposals are now in the hands of the Missouri Senate. Their fate will depend upon their dedication to our fundamental liberty.

As I have said before, health care is personal, it is about us, each of us, and we deserve our rightful place in making health care decisions. The Health Care Freedom Act which I have sponsored keeps government in its place and the Missouri Patient Privacy Act which I also sponsored maintains the privacy of our personal health information in this new digital world.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Session Notes - Part 2

This week the Missouri House debated three separate proposed constitutional amendments.

HJR86 – Right to Raise Animals

Upon voter approval, this constitutional amendment, in order to protect Missouri's agricultural economy, affirms the right of Missouri citizens to raise domestic animals in a humane manner without the state imposing an undue economic burden on their owners. No law criminalizing or regulating crops or the welfare of domesticated animals will be valid unless based upon generally accepted scientific principles and enacted by the General Assembly. The resolution will not prohibit or limit the right of a city or county to enact ordinances and will not invalidate a state law that makes it a crime to grow a crop that has been declared a controlled substance.

HJR76 – Birds, Fish, Game, Wildlife, or Forestry Resources

Upon voter approval, this proposed constitutional amendment requires a four-sevenths majority for voter approval of initiative petitions relating to harvesting bird, fish, game, wildlife, or forestry resources. Initiative petitions that establish, amend, or repeal sales taxes for conservation purposes will still require only a simple majority approval.

HJR48, 50, & 57 – Health Care Freedom Act

Upon voter approval, this proposed constitutional amendment prohibits any person, employer, or health care provider from being compelled to participate in any health care system. Individuals and employers may pay directly for lawful health care services without being subject to fines or penalties, and health care providers can accept payment for health care services from individuals or employers without being subject to fines or penalties. The purchase or sale of health care insurance in private health care systems cannot be prohibited by law or rule.

Also, this week the dark cloud of declining revenues grew darker. The February revenue collections are getting worse, not better, with February collections being down from last year by 14.6% bringing our year-to-date revenue collections down to a negative 12.7%. I have written extensively on my doubts that Missouri’s revenue picture would improve and that the Governor’s recommended budget was too optimistic along with the consensus revenue estimate, which now appears will have to be lowered.

The significance of the shortfall in revenue that we face this year, and next, cannot be underestimated. This is the time when the Governor, the House, and the Senate must work together to fix the structural problems in our state budget. This will require very difficult decisions, courage, and realism – it is not a time for gamesmanship and politicizing. We can no longer hope that better times will come. State government must live within its means just like the rest of us.

Session Notes

Each session has a character of its own with this session having the slowest start of any session that I have been a part of since being elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2002.

The pace of this session is both a blessing and a curse.

While, as a limited government conservative, not passing a lot of bills is good for the long-term health of our republic - and that is a good thing - I am concerned about the possible missed opportunities for good legislation that has the potential to preserve Liberty and enable individuals to pursue prosperity without government hindrance.

The House and Senate have been slowly moving legislation through the process.

To date, only ten bills and two concurrent resolutions have been passed out of the House and sent to the Senate. The Senate has managed to send twenty bills and one concurrent resolution to the House.

The Senate concurrent resolution, which rejects the state tax commission’s recommended increase in the agricultural land productive values, has passed both chambers and has saved Missouri farmers from a property tax increase. On the other hand, both chambers have passed their own versions of an insurance mandate that supporters openly admit will hurt small business owners.

While few bills have been debated by the full House, committees have been at work hearing testimony on proposed legislation. The committee process dominates the early part of each session. No bill can reach the floor for debate until it has passed through a committee. Floor time should increase significantly over the next few weeks as committees pass their work on for the consideration of the full House.

To date, there have been 1034 bills, 65 concurrent resolutions, and 52 proposed constitutional amendments offered by the 163 state representatives in the House. There have been 423 bills, 19 concurrent resolutions, and 24 proposed constitutional amendments introduced by the 34 state senators.

While floor activity has been light, the state budget has commanded the majority of legislators’ attention. The House appropriations committees have completed their grueling hearing schedule and have passed their recommendations on to the full budget committee so that they can commence their grueling hearing schedule. The House typically takes until the last week of March to send the state budget bills to the Senate.

The state budget must be completed by May 7th pursuant to the constitution. The General Assembly will remain in session until May 14th – giving the General Assembly plenty of time for mischief.