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Press Releases

Rep. Bell Moves ‘Tennessee Health Freedom Act’ Forward

Press Release by Rep. Mike Bell, R-Riceville; March 31, 2010:

(March 31, 2010, NASHVILLE) – Representative Mike Bell (R-Riceville) today was successful in moving the “Tennessee Health Freedom Act” out of a House subcommittee, which is aimed at protecting the right of an individual to purchase—and the right of doctors to provide—lawful medical services without penalty. The bill would also require the state Attorney General to take the necessary steps to defend these rights.

“I have heard from people from Mountain City to Memphis who are in support of this bill,” said Rep. Bell. “They are tired and frustrated with Washington turning a deaf ear to their fears and concerns. ‘The ‘Tennessee Health Freedom Act’ will protect citizens from the heavy hand of the federal government,” explained Representative Bell.

Other states have passed similar legislation, and several have joined together and announced they will be filing a lawsuit against the federal government regarding the federal law.

“Ultimately, the bill signed into law by the President is a one-size-fits-all solution to a very complex system,” said Representative Bell. “This bill will allow people to make their own decisions about something that should be very personal: their healthcare.”

An amendment was adopted to put the bill in line with the Senate version, which has already passed with an overwhelming majority. Having now passed the House Industrial Impact Subcommittee, the bill will next be presented in the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday, April 6th at 9:15 a.m.

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Press Releases

Rep. Bell Pushes Health Care Anti-Mandate Bill

Press Release from Rep. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, March 23, 2010:

(March 24, 2010, NASHVILLE) – Representative Mike Bell (R-Riceville) today presented the “Tennessee Health Freedom Act” in a House subcommittee, which is aimed at protecting the right of an individual to purchase—and the right of doctors to provide—lawful medical services without penalty. The bill would also require the state Attorney General to take the necessary steps to defend these rights.

“This government takeover of our healthcare is an unprecedented move by the federal government. Never in the history of our great country has the federal government required each and every citizen to purchase a product from a private company. The ‘Tennessee Health Freedom Act’ will protect citizens from the heavy hand of Washington,” explained Representative Bell.

Other states have passed similar legislation, and several have joined together and announced they will be filing a lawsuit against the federal government regarding the federal law.

“Ultimately, the bill signed into law by the President is a one-size-fits-all solution to a very complex system,” said Representative Bell. “I have heard from people all across the state who are supportive of my bill and they are passionate about this issue. They do not want to see the government’s hand in their healthcare.”

An amendment was offered to put the bill in line with the Senate version, which has already passed with an overwhelming majority. In order to give committee members time to read and examine the amendment, the bill was deferred for one week. The committee is expected to vote on the measure next Wednesday.

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Business and Economy Health Care Liberty and Justice News

‘Health Freedom’ Bill Held Up In Committee

Tea Party protesters who converged on the Tennessee State Capitol to pour out some outrage against the federal health care package signed into law this week got an unwanted douse of legislative reality today.

A bill to direct the Tennessee Attorney General to defend state citizens against federal efforts to punish or prosecute them for failing to purchase or enroll in health insurance programs as mandated by the federal government was tabled for a week in a House subcommittee.

The “Tennessee Health Freedom Act,” which passed in the Senate last month on a 26-1 vote, is designed to protect Tennesseans from, in the words of Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, a “massive (federal) power grab that will reduce individual liberty and strangle state government finances.”

Rep. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, the chief sponsor of the House version of the act, told members of the Industrial Impact subcommittee Tuesday that the bill’s “intention is to be a tool to protect Tennesseans who do not want to participate in the new federal program.”

“This is an unprecedented move by the federal government to mandate that individuals purchase a product,” said Bell. “We’re not talking about another Medicare program, where people pay a dedicated tax to support a program. But what the federal bill does is mandate the purchase of a product.”

“This has never been done in the history of our country,” he said.

Anti-ObamaCare protesters who packed the hearing room and the hallway outside greeted Bell’s introduction of the bill in the subcommittee with jubilant cheers.

Their mood soured when a short time later Bell announced he was attaching a “severability clause” amendment to the bill — declaring that if any or all the parts of the act are declared unconstitutional by a court, then that part would be automatically removed from law.

Bell said he decided to offer the amendment after earlier talks “with several members of the committee who were concerned about the possible constitutionality” of the act. That amendment quickly passed without opposition.

However, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, subsequently declared that in keeping with traditional practices of the Industrial Impact subcommittee, he would delay a vote on the actual proposal.

“This is not a rule that we just started,” explained Curtiss. “Because, historically, we deal with so much insurance legislation and everything, when we amend a bill of any significance…we roll it for one week. It’s just a formality, and we’re going to roll this bill and it will layover for one week, and then we’ll be voting on it next week.”

Upon that announcement, the protesters’ excitement turned to groans of impatience and disappointment.

Many of the 75 or so demonstrators said they’d taken time off work or traveled considerable distances across the state to express themselves and witness a definitive, defiant first response from lawmakers in the wake of adoption of the federal health care legislation.

Bell and other bill supporters on the committee assured them the move was altogether proper and normal.

In fact, the amendment, as suggested by Bell, may help ensure the act’s ultimate passage in the House, predicted Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, who is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

The subcommittee is made up of six Democrats and six Republicans with a Democrat in the chairman seat, so it likely needs bipartisan support to move, which the amendment will help ensure, he said.

A separate bill sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, Mt. Juliet (pdf), seeks to amend the Tennessee Constitution to prohibit government from compelling “directly or indirectly, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system.”

That bill was also tabled Tuesday and is awaiting an attorney general’s opinion.

Mark Todd Engler can be reached at markengler@tnreport.com. Andrea Zelinski contributed to this story. She can be reached at andreazelinski@tnreport.com.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl_1XbRCjNM
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Business and Economy Health Care Liberty and Justice News

Health Care War in TN Going Nuclear

Tennessee Republicans demanded Tuesday that House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner apologize for implying that opposition to federal health care legislation may be driven by racist disdain for President Obama.

They could be waiting a while, however, because later in the afternoon Turner said he has “nothing to apologize for.” And House Democratic Leader Gary Odom issued a press release afterward accusing Republicans of “hypocrisy” and “intentionally (taking Turner’s comments)…out of context for the purpose of political grandstanding.”

The spat arose from Turner’s comments during a press conference at the state Capitol Monday, when, standing with Odom, Turner rebuked Republicans for pushing bills advocating “state sovereignty and all that.”

“They’ve done that on a lot of issues,” Turner told reporters. “All of the sudden, we have a black man elected president, and everybody wants to start acting like something’s wrong with our country. I think we need to go back and take a good, hard look at this. I didn’t agree with a lot of the things George Bush did, but I didn’t want to secede from the Union.”

Republicans took umbrage with Turner’s assessments of opposition to Obama and his health care agenda. Three House Republicans — Reps. Jason Mumpower, Glen Casada and Mike Bell — declared to reporters during a press conference they called at noon Tuesday that the Old Hickory Democrat’s comments were inaccurate and inappropriate, and called on other Democrats to denounce him.

“When someone disagrees with the president, all that Chairman Turner and Tennessee Democrats know to do is name-call — in this case, to call people racist,” said Mumpower, R-Bristol. “Democrats don’t have any substance to their discussions or their arguments, all they like to do is name-call and point fingers.”

Bell, R-Riceville, is the chief House sponsor of the “Tennessee Health Freedom Act,” which passed last month in the Senate 26-1. Bell said state residents “from Mountain City to Memphis” have contacted his office to tell him they oppose the federal health care legislation.

“They oppose (it) not because our president is an African American,” said Bell. They oppose it “because they are angry at an oppressive federal government that is overreaching its bounds.”

“We’re a free a country — at least I hope we still are a free country,” Bell added. “And people want to be free to choose to participate in a federal program, or to keep their private insurance. That is what the anger is about.”

Casada found Turner’s implication “offensive,” too, and said he’s getting calls and emails from Tennesseans angry that an elected public servant “would raise and wag his finger and call you racist and call me racist just because you don’t agree with his big government policies.”

“Chairman Turner needs to apologize,” said Casada. “This type of demeaning people to try to put them down has got to stop.”

TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney on Tuesday also joined the chorus, sending a letter to state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester to “immediately ask Rep. Turner to apologize for his personal attacks on the vast number of Tennesseans who do not agree with his Democratic Party’s agenda for our country.”

Responding to Republican calls for him to express remorse, Turner told TNReport he has no plans to retract his comments. Regarding those angered by his sentiments, Turner said “maybe they got a guilty conscience.”

“Anybody who would honestly say that some people are not against (Obama) because he is an African American, I think they’re living on a different planet,” said Turner.

In a press release that outlined a six-point list of what he called “examples of Republican political activities in our state (that) should never be forgotten,” Odom declared, “I find it remarkable that House Republicans would condemn the use of racial overtones in political debate, when you consider recent Republican activities in our state and our country.”

The list went on to point out instances of alleged racism within Tennessee’s Republican party, including a former GOP Party Chairman “sending out Christmas music entitled “Barack the Magic Negro'” and a Republican Senate staffer sending out a “photo composite that pictured all of the U.S. presidents but depicted President Obama in a black background with only two white eyes.”

Andrea Zelinski contributed to this report. She can be reached at andreazelinski@tnreport.com. Mark Todd Engler can be reached at markengler@tnreport.com.