Legislator revives constitutional amendment opposing federal health law

Rep. Brenda Landwehr is trying again with a measure that stalled last year

0 | Legislature, Health Reform

— The chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee said she is close to reintroducing a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at blocking implementation of the federal health reform law in Kansas.

“It’s called the Health Care Freedom Amendment, it’s what we ran last year,” said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita.

Landwehr circulated copies of the proposal among fellow legislators on Tuesday seeking co-sponsors.

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Rep. Brenda Landwehr, the Wichita Republican who heads the House Health and Human Services Committee.

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“There are two versions,” she said. “One is statutory, which would get us through the next fiscal year. The other one is constitutional; it would be on the ballot during the next election cycle.”

Last year’s effort to pass the amendment stalled in the Senate after several experts, including Kansas University law professor Stephen McAllister, questioned whether it had legal merit or was merely a symbolic gesture.

The measure would put language in the state constitution saying that no Kansan could be compelled to have health insurance.

The federal reform law includes a so-called “individual mandate,” that would require those who could afford health insurance to have it beginning in 2014 or pay a tax penalty.

That provision of the Affordable Care Act is being challenged in federal court in Florida in a case that includes Kansas and several other states where Republican elected officials have vowed to fight the still-controversial law.

The U.S. House, with its new Republican majority, earlier this month voted to repeal the law. But the Senate and White House remain under control of Democrats. The reform law was passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote.

“This year is different,” Landwehr said of her proposal. “We got a lot of new members in the House and a lot of them supported the amendment in their campaigns.”

Landwehr said her committee would hold a hearing on the proposed amendment next week.

“We’re lining up our conferees now,” she said.