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Original ‘Health Freedom Act’ Champion Endorses Beavers

Press Release from Sen. Mae Beavers for Senate; June 16, 2010:

MT. JULIET, TN – Senator Mae Beavers is proud today to receive the endorsement of one of the country’s state sovereignty champions, Representative Jim Clark of Idaho. Representative Clark is the current Idaho House of Representatives Judiciary Chairman, as well as being Idaho’s state chairman to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“I am proud today to announce my endorsement of a lady with strong convictions and who has worked tirelessly to combat an unprecedented over-reaching of the federal government throughout the years,” said Representative Clark. “Senator Beavers sponsored and passed the Firearms Freedom Act last year, and this year sponsored and passed the Tennessee Health Freedom Act twice in the State Senate. The state of Tennessee and the people of Senator Beavers’ district are lucky to have someone with such steadfast and consistently conservative principles and credentials.”

Representative Clark is the original author of the Idaho Health Freedom Act – joining with Virginia and Arizona as being one of the three states with statutorily-enacted laws directly challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s national healthcare legislation. Clark worked with Senator Beavers in drafting of the Tennessee Health Freedom Act, acknowledging that language offered by ALEC’s version of the bill was inadequate and did nothing but issue a statement of intention regarding what the state legislature can and cannot do.

“The ALEC version of the Healthcare Freedom Act was similar to a resolution,” said Representative Clark. “I decided to use language in my legislation that made the law in Idaho a direct confrontation with the unconstitutional federal healthcare bill. We also put into law a remedy to such an unprecedented violation of our rights in that our Attorney General would protect the state of Idaho from these federal fines and unfunded mandates. I applaud Senator Beavers for passing this bill in the Tennessee Senate, and I wish the Tennessee House of Representatives would have been able to pass this legislation and stand up to the federal government as well.”

Representative Clark graduated from Tampa University in Florida in 1973. He received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, and later served his country proudly for twenty years stationed in Germany, South America, Vietnam, and throughout the United States. Clark also has a Master of Science degree in International Relations from Troy State University in Alabama and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Idaho. Clark has served in the Idaho House of Representatives since 1996.

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Blame-Game Time for ‘Health Freedom’ Failure

It’s all over but the finger-pointing.

All session long, Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Tennessee Legislature have been trying to link the state up with more than 20 others in the country that have committed to challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care reform package passed by Congress and signed by the president in March.

Their efforts were resisted by Democratic Party leaders, especially in the House. But Republican in-fighting — particularly between two lawmakers competing against one another in the upcoming primary — assuredly played at least some part in the effort’s failure.

“Was politics involved? Undoubtedly, politics was involved,” said Rep. Susan Lynn, a Mt. Juliet Republican who carried one such bill this spring. “And it’s a shame. It wasn’t politics on my part.”

Lynn and Sen. Mae Beavers, also from Mt. Juliet, both pushed legislation in their respective chambers this year to counter the federal health care reforms.

Notoriously hostile adversaries, Lynn and Beavers are running for the same state Senate seat — the one Beavers now occupies — in the Aug. 5 GOP primary.

This session, Beavers carried the “Health Freedom Act” in the Senate. Rousing only one Senate vote in opposition back in April, the bill directed the state attorney general to both challenge the new federal health care legislation and defend Tennesseans who choose to ignore its mandate that everyone acquire health insurance should the feds come calling to collect on tax penalties for lack of compliance.

Lynn’s bill, “The Health Care Freedom Act,” which made its way through the Tennessee House of Representatives, took a less confrontational stance toward the federal government. It said that “the legislature” can’t require citizens to purchase health insurance and said nothing about the federal government.

Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper declared that the Beavers bill was unconstitutional, but Lynn’s HB2622 was not.

Cooper’s opinion gave opponents of the effort to resist the federal health care overhaul the political ammo they were looking for to try and derail her bill. After weeks of Beavers’ legislation languishing in the House, the Budget Subcommittee killed it on a 7-7 vote, with Speaker Kent Williams casting the deciding vote against it.

After the House version of the bill — HB3433 — died,  the Senate, employing a rarely-used legislative maneuver, retrieved Lynn’s bill from a closed committee where it had stalled. They revised it by cutting-and-pasting in Beavers’ bill-language, then passed it on the Senate floor, 22-9 — thus setting up the conference committee collision that occurred late Wednesday night.

The three senators and representatives assigned to the conference committee debated for about 20 minutes — with Lynn and Beavers seated across from each other, but making little eye contact.

The conference committee voted to delete portions of Beavers’ bill requiring the attorney general to defend citizens who are penalized for lacking health care, which the House conferees said was the most objectionable element to their side. The rest of her bill they left intact, except for a new severability clause, and presented it as the conference-committee compromise.

“I wish the Senate had simply adopted the House version. The House version was constitutional, and if they had adopted that version, we’d have the Health Care Freedom Act,” said Lynn, who initially voted against the compromise.

Lynn said she had no problem personally with the language of the original Beavers bill. In fact, Lynn said she supported it — and also that she believes the attorney general’s opinion declaring it unconstitutional was erroneous and unfounded.

Still, a number of House supporters of Lynn’s bill had expressed their unwillingness to take action directly contrary to the attorney general’s advice. And furthermore, members of the governor’s staff had indicated he’d likely veto the compromise legislation if it contained provisions the AG had objected to.

“Voting for the Senate version was basically voting for a veto,” said Lynn. “Basically, they put up a bill that was not passable.”

Nonetheless, Lynn formally endorsed the Senate-backed conference committee version of the legislation — in order, she said, to “bring it before the body, because otherwise we would have no agreement.”

It failed later on the House floor, needing another  six votes to achieve a constitutional majority — 44 “ayes” to 43 “noes.”

For her part, Beavers said she was never particularly concerned about the governor vetoing the bill. It was more important to stick to her principles, she said.

Lynn’s bill was ineffectual and ambiguous, said Beavers. In order to achieve desired results, the state needed to pass a measure that outlined specific actions and defined its terms — namely, those which the Senate had initially and overwhelmingly passed.

“The weaker bill had a lot of problems and there’s no remedy for Tennesseans (who buck the federal mandate). It simply made a statement, ” said Beavers. “The stronger bill provides a remedy for Tennesseans should the government fine them.”

Beavers blamed the bill’s defeat on the House, mostly on Democratic opponents and Speaker Williams, but also those likely GOP supporters who’d gone missing before the floor vote.

“I think, simply put, too many members left the House floor and they did not have the votes. There were 16 people who were either not there or didn’t vote,” she said. “I think it would have passed the House if the members had been there.”

In a statement released Thursday, Beavers also said “political games” and “side deals” in the House caused problems. She promised to introduce the legislation again next year if she’s reelected.

“To me, it’s not a question of politics, it’s a matter of policy and principle… the Tennessee legislature needs to send a firm message to Washington that we do not agree with their unprecedented and unconstitutional national health care legislation.”

Another player in the dueling health-care bills mix was Sen. Diane Black, a Senate Republican running for Congress in the 6th District. She, too, is battling a fellow Tennessee lawmaker in the GOP primary — Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, who is himself trying to capitalize on anti-ObamaCare sentiment in Tennessee.

Black was the original Senate sponsor to Lynn’s bill — but she handed that responsibility over to Beavers when the new language was inserted on Tuesday. Lynn said she now regrets asking Black to sponsor the Senate version of her bill, saying the Gallatin Republican wasn’t energetic enough in pushing for its passage much earlier in the session.

Like Beavers, Black blamed the failure of the Legislature to initiate a formal challenge to the federal health care package on “the Democrats who did not support the bill” — as well as the absence of Republicans on the House floor at the time of the vote.

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Press Releases

Beavers Offers Statement on Health Freedom Act

Press Release from Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet; June 10, 2010:

State Senate Revives Tennessee Health Freedom Act to Attempt to Challenge National Healthcare Bill; However Bill Fails in House

Below is a press release explaining how last night played out in terms of trying to pass legislation that attempted to combat what I believe to be unconstitutional provisions of the national healthcare bill…after working hard with Representative Clark from Idaho on this issue since last winter, it is a shame that political games and votes – mainly by House Democrats, but also Speaker Kent Williams – allowed this bill to be defeated in the State House last night. I appreciate my Senate colleagues for helping pass the Tennessee Health Freedom Act on two separate occasions, and I pledge to continue filing this bill every year until it passes. I will also continue to push for the Attorney General to represent the people of this great state against unconstitutional federal intrusion! – Mae

Last Friday, June 4th, Senate leaders enacted a procedural method that revived the Tennessee Health Freedom Act. The original Health Freedom Act, SB 3498, was sponsored by Senator Beavers and passed the Senate Floor overwhelmingly last February. Yet, due to parliamentary maneuvers and side-deals being struck by House members and the House Speaker, that bill was killed last week in a budget subcommittee.

“The House Speaker cast a tie-breaking vote to kill that bill in committee last week,” said Senator Beavers. “The House committee then decided to pass out a similar, but substantially weaker bill to cover their tracks; however, all of the members knew that bill had not moved in the Senate. Their attempt to only advance the version that was dead in the Senate was their attempt to kill the Tennessee Health Freedom Act.”

The legislature was then left with a predicament in that there were two different versions of a bill that sought to protect Tennesseans from unconstitutional provisions of the national healthcare bill; however, both of their companion bills were stalled in the opposite legislative chamber. Therefore, SB 2560 was recalled from committee and brought straight to the Senate Floor. The only way the Senate agreed to recall the bill was to have an amendment that would put Beavers’ version of the Tennessee Health Freedom Act onto the bill since that was the only amendment that had been through the Senate committee process. If the Senate had not adopted that version of the bill, the bill would have been dead.

“This was an unusual procedural motion,” acknowledged Senator Beavers. “However the difference between this motion and others that have failed in the past is that this amendment has been vetted in committee and passed overwhelmingly in February. To me, its not a question of politics, it’s a matter of policy and principle…the Tennessee legislature needs to send a firm message to Washington that we do not agree with their unprecedented and unconstitutional national healthcare legislation.

Senate Bill 2560 passed the State Senate by a large margin on Wednesday afternoon. The bill was then sent to the House floor Wednesday night, where the sponsor of the House version of the bill non-concurred with the amendment, sending the bill to a conference committee where a compromise was reached. The House then voted to adopt the Tennessee Health Freedom Act by a vote of 44-39. Yet, the bill did not receive the necessary 50 votes to pass in its final form in the House of Representatives.

“I was incredibly discouraged that House Democrats voted to kill this bill,” said Senator Beavers. “The Senate did every maneuver we could to resurrect this bill – even passing the Tennessee Health Freedom Act once in February and then again last night.”

Many Democrats cited the reason for their vote being that Tennessee’s Attorney General said it was likely unconstitutional, yet Senator Beavers argued that such a statement was merely his opinion. “The only way you could say that my bill is unconstitutional would be if you believe Obamacare is constitutional – and the State Senate said loud and clear last night that we do not think it is…it’s the Attorney General’s job to defend the policies of this state, and there is no way that an unconstitutional federal law should trump a constitutional state law!”

To read the two different versions of the bill, as well as the compromise that was reached you can go to the following links:

Tennessee Health Freedom Act (SB3498):

http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/106/Amend/SA0829.pdf

Tennessee Health Care Freedom Act (SB2560):

http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/106/Bill/SB2560.pdf

Compromise Reached (Conference Committee for SB 2560):

http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/106/CCRReports/CC0027.pdf