Judge Rejects Legislature's Health Care Amendment
July 30, 2010 - A circuit judge in Tallahassee has blocked a constitutional amendment, written by the Florida Legislature, from appearing on the November ballot. The proposal sought to block the state from enacting a health care plan similar to what the federal government passed earlier in the year.
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In his ruling Thursday, Circuit Judge James Shelfer said the summary language of the legislature’s health care proposal was so confusing a person reading it could be led to think they’d never be put on a waiting list in a doctor’s office.
“I think that the three phrases the plaintiff has pointed out in the ballot summary are manifestly misleading” the judge said “There is nothing in the amendment itself that references those matters.”
The ballot summary says the proposal would “ensure access to health care services without waiting lists, protect doctor-patient relationship, and guard against mandates that don’t work.”
The state Attorney General’s office defended the measure saying the lawsuit against was an attempt to keep the issue away from voters.
After Judge Shelfer made his ruling, Florida Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum expressed disappointment.
“Amendment Nine relates to an effort we wanted Florida to join in across the nation to make it very clear that we didn’t approve of the big ‘Obama-care’ bill and Florida was going its own way, and it didn’t happen. So I’m very disappointed.” McCollum said.
Republican Representative Scott Plakon of Longwood sponsored the amendment proposal in the House. He says he hopes a higher court will see things differently.
“I think it’s another example of how far the opponents of health care freedom will go” Plakon said, “Now they are using activist judges to fight their case so we’re going to keep fighting on.”
Judge Shelfer was appointed by Former Governor Jeb Bush and re-appointed by Governor Charlie Crist.
On the other side of the aisle, Florida House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands said Judge Shelfer’s decision was sound and that the Republican backed proposal was a wrong-headed attempt to deny health care to Floridians.
The ruling does not interfere with the federal healthcare lawsuit Florida and several other states filed against the federal government. If the amendment did pass it wouldn’t have been able to block the federal healthcare reform bill. The Attorney General’s Office has said it will consult with lawmakers, but is not prepared to appeal at this time.