OKLAHOMA CITY - The tea baggers and other reactionaries who swept the Oklahoma elections placed an especially confusing element before state and national politics by passing, 65 percent in favor, "State Question 756," which is aimed at blocking the new national health care laws by allowing residents to opt out of any insurance mandates. The measure was called the Oklahoma Health Care Freedom Amendment.
The measure, brought before the people of Oklahoma as a protest of the federal law, would in effect amend the state constitution and prohibits making any person, employer or provider participate in the new health care system established by Congress.
However, State Question 756 will be useless. It cannot negate the federal laws or rules. The United States Constitution has a supremacy clause which makes federal law the supreme law of the land. Under that clause, Congress has the power to preempt state law. When Congress intends it, constitutionally enacted federal law would preempt some or all of the proposed measure.
Clearly then this is symbolic protest from the far right which controls the Oklahoma State Senate. With the election of Republican Mary Fallin as governor, more symbolic protests are sure to follow.
The authors of the Oklahoma law are Sen. Dan Newberry, and Rep. Mike Thompson, both Republicans.
To this writer's knowledge, " Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise" was the only group in favor.
Governor Brad Henry opposed it. He stated that the measure would only lead to lawsuits against the state, and that the proposed constitutional amendment conflicts with federal law. No other groups stepped up in opposition, but several news publications voiced their opinions. The Oklahoman recommended a "no" v ote, stating, "The constitutionality of a federal health care mandate already is being challenged in court, and passage of this question won't be a factor. It would be an unnecessary addition to the state constitution."
The Enid News and Eagle recommended a "no" vote as well, saying, "this is more of a political statement against the current presidential administration than anything else. The constitutionality of the matter already is being debated in court and passing this won't make any difference in the outcome of that case."
The Tulsa World voiced similar concerns: "The measure was intended to nullify federal health care reform in the state, but probably violates the U.S. Constitution's supremacy clause and should be rejected."
The Oklahoma Daily was against the measure, stating, "Don't let the ideological fear mongering sway you to vote for a questionable opt-out measure"
The only news publication to favor the measure was the Tulsa Beacon.
photo: Jim Lane