Citizens in the Show Me State overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure against the national health care law’s individual mandate.
As Democrats in Washington began their drive toward national health care last year, Jane Cunningham, a state senator from St. Louis County, could tell that something was stirring in Missouri.
“I started getting phone calls from constituents that were more concerned than I had ever heard before in my entire decade in the legislature,” Cunningham said in a Tuesday phone interview with TAS. “They were frightened and they were angry and they wanted us to find some kind of relief for them from what the federal government was proposing.”
In response, she got together with other state legislators, and, borrowing language from the American Legislative Exchange Council, sponsored a bill to put a health care ballot measure before voters.
Yesterday, by an overwhelming 71 percent to 29 percent margin, voters in the bellwether state approved the resulting initiative known as Proposition C, which is aimed at protecting Missouri residents from the mandate that will force individuals to purchase health insurance policies approved by the government, or pay a penalty.
“Missouri is the first public referendum on ObamaCare in the nation,” Cunningham said, noting that efforts to shield residents from the affects of ObamaCare are underway — at various stages — in 42 states. Oklahoma and Arizona have similar initiatives on their ballots in November.
Skeptics of these initiatives say that they lack real teeth, because ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court will have to determine whether the federal government has the right under the Constitution to dictate to individuals that they must buy a product.
On Monday, a federal judge ruled that a Virginia-based lawsuit against the mandate should move forward, rejecting an attempt by the federal government to have the case thrown out on procedural grounds. Without addressing the merits of the underlying arguments about the constitutionality of the mandate, the judge concluded that it represented a novel use of the Commerce Clause that no court has yet ruled on.
Cunningham dismissed those who tried to down play the significance of the vote.
“We feel in Missouri like we are fighting for citizens all around the country that feel like we must draw a line in the sand between what are state and individual rights, and what are federal rights and responsibilities,” she said.
Yesterday’s vote was a direct result of citizens demanding their lawmakers take action, and then implementing a campaign for the measure once the legislature approved putting it on the ballot, she said. Cunningham recounted that grassroots organizations had held five rallies at the capitol, gathered on street corners, marched in parades, and called radio shows.
One of those citizen activists was Annette Read, a stay at home mom from the St. Louis area who used to spend her time designing jewelry and selling items online. She told TAS that she hadn’t been politically involved until 2008, when she and her twin sister were so fed up with excessive government spending that they decided to do something about it.
They began to organize and started attending Tea Parties last year, and things really took off when Read put her information on the website of Glenn Beck’s 9/11 Project as a local contact. “We were found by a lot of people, this happened all on its own,” she said.
The organization that they formed last year, I Heard the People Say, now claims 3,000 members in their database, and has its own website.
“When we started gaining membership, the feedback was overwhelming that people were most concerned about what was happening with the potential health care changes,” she said.
Last August, she met with Cunningham and several other state lawmakers to talk about the Health Care Freedom Act, and joined the campaign to win passage through the legislature, and then to win approval by voters. A lot of the work has consisted of raising public awareness, an effort that included having volunteers send out mailings from their own houses.
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