SB3498 passed the Senate 26-1 with 5 senators present but not voting. The only no vote came from Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga. After passage, the bill’s sponsor Sen. Mae Beavers stated “I think we’ve seen that the president is determined to get something done and we don’t want the citizens of Tennessee to be penalized in case they do.”
The Tennessee Health Freedom Act doesn’t attempt to nullify the pending federal health care legislation in full, but instead only seeks to nullify the onerous penalty provisions that would affect the freedom of Tennesseans to make their own decisions regarding health care and health insurance coverage. The bill goes further in requiring the state’s attorney general to defend Tennesseans from any federal agency that attempts to take action against them for not participating in a federally mandated health insurance program. The bill states:
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, it is the duty of the attorney general and reporter to seek injunctive and any other appropriate relief as expeditiously as possible to preserve the rights and property of the residents of this state, and to defend as necessary this state, its officials, employees and agents in the event that any law or regulation violating the public policy set forth in the Tennessee Health Freedom Act, compiled in Section 1 of this act, is enacted by any government, subdivision or agency thereof.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a cosponsor of the bill, called the bill a “stopgap” measure intended to protect Tennesseans from federal penalties if they choose not to participate in any federal health care plan. The ultimate goal is to pass an amendment to the state constitution such as HJR745 sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn. The amendment process in Tennessee could take up to two years, and Lt. Gov. Ramsey stated that “I think you want the stopgap in place before that happens.” This bill is intended to step into the gap to offer Tennesseans some protection until the amendment can be passed.
Lesley Swann is a Co-Host for Tenther Radio and the state chapter coordinator for the Tennessee Tenth Amendment Center. She is a native of Anderson County, Tennessee.
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