VOL. 125 | NO. 63 | Thursday, April 1, 2010
Health Freedom Act Moves on to House Committee
KRISTIN M. HALL | Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Scores cheered as Tennessee legislation that would require the state attorney general to mount a legal challenge to the massive federal health care overhaul progressed in the House on Wednesday.
A subcommittee approved the bill to move to the House Commerce Committee for consideration, a small victory for about 100 people who came to the capitol to show their support for the "Tennessee Health Freedom Act."
Many who crowded the subcommittee room and watched from the hallway had returned after the panel delayed the bill last week when an amendment was added.
Gary Armstrong, a member of the Roane County Tea Party, said he was encouraged by the progress because conservative bills usually fail to make it out of House committees.
"Tennesseans are for freedom and today was a big step forward for freedom in Tennessee," he said.
Armstrong and several others who gathered to watch were wearing orange T-shirts that said "Don't Tread on Tennessee."
He said he doesn't know how the health care changes would affect his small business in Knoxville, where he says he can't afford to provide insurance for his five employees.
"I'm trying to figure out what the federal regulations are and what fines I would have to pay," he said.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Bell of Riceville would require Tennessee's attorney general to either file his own lawsuit or join about 14 other states that are suing the federal government over health care reform.
Armstrong said he doesn't believe it's constitutional to require people to buy health insurance or face a penalty.
The White House has said it's not worried about the lawsuit and several legal experts say the effort is futile.
Doyle Pritchard, a retired police officer from Cookeville, said it's the duty of the state attorney general to stop the health care overhaul, but he said he didn't know if it would succeed.
"I hope the citizens of this land rally in astounding numbers and I think some pressure can be brought from that," he said.
He also said he understands there might be a cost associated with suing the state. "It's entirely worth it to me," he said.
Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper Jr. has said in a statement that his staff is analyzing the health care legislation that was signed into law earlier this month. He said a decision to file a lawsuit will be made after consulting with the state government and after determining whether litigation is proper. He said the office was "conscientious to avoid engagement in ongoing political debates."
The activists also cheered when the same panel voted similarly for bills sponsored by Republican Rep. Susan Lynn of Mt. Juliet, including one that would amend the constitution to prohibit forced participation in the health care system.
In the hallway, members of the crowd booed loudly and shouted "Liar!" when Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, questioned Lynn's bill. Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, had to ask the standing-room-only crowd to "hold down the racket."
Pritchard said this was his fourth visit to the capitol in two weeks, and he plans to continue to follow the bill as it moves on to full committee.
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