Topeka — A proposed state constitutional change to block any federal requirement to purchase health insurance was knocked down to a non-binding resolution on Tuesday.
The action by a Senate subcommittee upset supporters of changing the Kansas Constitution, which would require a statewide vote.
“Why are you so afraid to let the people of Kansas have an opportunty to vote on this as an amendment to the constitution?,” asked Tom Ward, of Prairie Village.
But state Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, and chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee, said he didn’t fear a vote but said the proposed constitutional amendment was “in essence misleading.”
The dispute is over Senate Concurrent Resolution 1626. The measure would prohibit the federal government from requiring Kansans to purchase health insurance. Supporters of the measure say it is needed to protect Kansans from requirements of federal health care reform being debated in Congress.
Changing the state constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, and then a statewide vote.
In a hearing on the measure last week. Kansas University law professor Stephen McAllister said the amendment was essentially symbolic because any challenge of federal health reform will require a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. McAllister said the court would determine whether Congress has the authority to require health insurance, regardless of what any state constitution says.
Vratil and state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said they were unwilling to change the state constitution based on a health care reforms that haven’t been approved yet in Congress.
“It’s kind of like shooting in the dark,” Vratil said.
State Sens. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, and Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, however supported recommending the measure as a constitutional amendment.
The subcommittee then accepted Kelly’s motion to convert the constitutional amendment into a non-binding resolution. The recommendation now goes to the full Judiciary Committee.