September 17, 2014

Attorney: opponents to health care ballot measure will not appeal judge’s decision after all (AUDIO)

Jefferson City Attorney Chip Gentry says his clients will not appeal Judge Paul Wilson’s decision to reject their legal challenge to a ballot measure being put before voters on August 3rd. The suit claimed Proposition C was unconstitutional as it appeared on the ballot. The state statute would try to prevent the federal government from penalizing Missourians that don’t take part in the federal health care program.

Despite telling reporters after the hearing last week that they would appeal to the state supreme court ‘immediately’ if they lost, Gentry says it just didn’t make sense.

“We thought about it and have decided not to appeal at this time; in light of the fact that ultimately what this case was about was to avoid voter confusion and the impossible choice of having two questions in one box. Even if we were successful on appeal, which we feel we would be; the ultimate remedy of actually removing that confusing language from the ballot wouldn’t happen and that the ballots simply would not be counted and would not be certified,” Gentry said.

He says the timing of the suit, so close to when the measure will be up for a vote, complicated things.

“Well, primarily time. In other words, if the legislature hadn’t put us in the position to where we had such a compact time schedule in order to effectuate the remedy we believe we’re entitled to, Then we might have been in a better position to protect the voters from that confusing question that they’re faced with,” Gentry said.

However, in his ruling the judge also said the challenge to the lawsuit should have come earlier. Judge Paul Wilson thinks it could have been filed as much as a month earlier to allow more time.

Gentry also says his clients didn’t want to cost the state any more money, as absentee ballots have already been cast, and the ballots have been printed.

“At the end of the day, while we think it’s critically important to protect the referendum process so that citizens that vote in this state cast meaningful votes, we just decided not to spend the state’s money on that potential risk of having to re-print those ballots,” Gentry said.

So now there is no doubt, the measure will be on the ballot in August, and the votes will be counted. However, Gentry says this does not mean there won’t be a challenge if the measure passes.

“My clients and I haven’t talked about that. We haven’t determined what we may do down the road, but just from an academic perspective there are other options out there,” Gentry said.

Meantime, proponents like State Senator Jane Cunningham agree it’s not the last time the challenge to the federal law will end up in the courts if it passes.

“Then it will set up a conflict with the federal law. Eventually it will work its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court as it will from other states through other court circuits and the Supreme Court will have to make the decision as to whether or not people can be forced by the federal government to buy a product against their will,” Cunningham said.

Missouri is the first state to put this issue to voters, but states like Arizona, Florida, and Oklahoma will take up similar issues later this year. After the Missourinet told her there would not be an appeal to the judge’s ruling, Cunningham called it a “great day for democracy in Missouri.”

“A few individuals tried to deny Missourians a vote on their own health care even though a super majority of the legislature voted for the health care freedom act. So now the people of Missouri will have their voice heard on Prop C,” Cunningham said.

Follow these links to see our original coverage of the case, and to read the judge’s ruling.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]