The arguments presented over a temporary restraining order give the first glimpse of attorney’s cases on whether or not the Secretary of State was biased in a ballot summary.

Cole County Courthouse, Jefferson City

The question is, is the language used by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan to summarize a ballot question about blocking state elected officials from creating a state healthcare exchange without voter or legislative approval, biased? 

It reads: “Shall Missouri law be amended to deny individuals, families, and small businesses the ability to access affordable health care plans through a state-based health benefit exchange unless authorized by statute, initiative or referendum or through an exchange operated by the federal government as required by the federal health care act?See our earlier story on the hearing on the temporary restraining order.

The attorney representing Carnahan’s side, Jeremiah Morgan, says that accurately represents the intent of the bill passed by the Republican-led legislature.

“There’s no question that efforts are being made to undermine the federal Affordable Health Care Act. Whether we as a policy matter or a political matter agree with or do not agree with, that’s what Senate Bill 464 attempts to do and this summary is attempting to do that.”

Attorney Jay Kanzler, representing several GOP elected officials, says Carnahan wrote “obvious” bias into the summary.

“Secretary of State Carnahan’s language, talking about denying families and individuals access to affordable healthcare, frankly doesn’t even come close to describing what the ballot issue would do.”

The attorney representing the Secretary of State’s Office, Jeremiah Morgan, says the Republicans’ lawsuit only looks at part of the ballot summary.

“They skipped this important language, as it says, ‘through a state-based health benefit exchange.’ So it says families, small businesses, so forth will not have the opportunity to have a formal health plan through a state-based exchanged, unless passed by the legislature or unless passed by referendum, or through a federally based plan, and that’s exactly what Senate Bill 464 does.”

Kanzler argues that when one looks at the ballot issue as a whole, it becomes more confusing.

“It says ‘deny individuals, families and small businesses the ability to access affordable healthcare through state-based health benefit exchanges unless authorized by statute, initiative or referendum … so you’re saying deny that or deny the second part. Mr. Morgan lays out there that this is in fact clear. It’s not clear.”

Kanzler maintains that the summary is misleading.

“This initiative does not ‘deny.’ It gives the voters … the people of Missouri a choice to either vote in state based health insurance exchanges or accept federally based healthcare exchanges.”

A summary judgement hearing in the case is scheduled for August 28. Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green has taken the motion for a temporary restraining order under advisement.