MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

February 19, 2013

State panel approves rejection of health care law

— OKLAHOMA CITY — A state legislator called on his colleagues Tuesday to formally reject federal health care reform, arguing that Oklahoma should add its voice to a growing chorus of opposition to the law.

Legislation from Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, would essentially declare President Barack Obama's health care law unconstitutional and void in the state. Although it would carry little weight, Ritze argued that approval of the measure would add Oklahoma to the list of states showing they oppose the law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

"Basically it's a political message that's sent to Congress and this government that the states are the master, the federal government is the servant," Ritze said.

He added that his bill is directed at the law's mandate that employers provide birth control coverage in health insurance plans.

The legislation was approved 7-3 by the House Public Health Committee, though several members asked whether the bill was necessary.

Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, supported the bill but said a House Joint Resolution, which has less legal force, might be better. Other committee members said if the federal law is to be fought, this method wouldn't work.

"The only thing that this is going to accomplish is wasting the time of staff," said Democrat Rep. Mike Shelton, who voted against the proposal. "We need to figure out how to fight this battle a different way."

But Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, called the bill a matter of religious freedom. She referred to groups that have fought the birth control mandate, including Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby. The arts and crafts retail chain is owned by a Christian family.

"If we can, by making a statement of any sort, throw our support behind those people ... then I'm certainly going to support that," she said.

Ritze's bill originally tried to make enforcement of the federal law in Oklahoma a felony. An amendment removed that portion.

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