Another legislative session begins in Jefferson City and while in the interim I have maintained a keen interest in all things political, now we begin the process once again to replace good ideas with action and to meet bad ideas with opposition.
The legislative process began on Wednesday at noon as the House convened and we went through the required process to officially convene.
We adopted resolutions to inform the Senate and the governor that we were in session and ready to do business. We received similar messages from the Senate.
We read aloud in the House Chamber the Preamble of the Missouri Constitution and Article 1, the Bill of Rights. I was one of the participants, and I read “Section 8. Freedom of Speech—evidence of truth in defamation actions—province of jury.”
As I write this, I am sitting in my Capitol office and I went to the bookshelf and got down a copy of the Missouri Constitution.
I noted that it was not my prized copy which has the signatures of the Missouri Supreme Court justices, but a copy without any autographs.
Glancing out my window at the red brick building that houses the Missouri Supreme Court, and returning to the Constitution, I scanned the titles and content of the various sections of The Bill of Rights, including Section 1, that the source of political power is from the people and that government is founded on their will only, and Section 5 assuring religious freedom, Section 10 describing due process of law that states no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, and Section 15 that prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, and others that we are all familiar with.
Upon doing so, I was reminded of why I am here as we begin a new session. I have been entrusted by the citizens of the 121st District to represent them, to see that basic rights of people are preserved, and to see that government knows its bounds and limitations.
I have the duty to evaluate the many issues that will be discussed and to make judgments about what is good and necessary and what is poorly conceived and bad public policy.
Some decisions are straight forward, while others are difficult.
I must resist becoming overly philosophic in this first report of the session, but suffice it to say that I will work hard for the people of the 121st District, and follow the principles I laid out in response to a question from one of those in attendance in a debate (most often called “candidate forums” these days).
The question was asked “Will you just follow the party line or how will you decide how to vote in Jefferson City?”
Page 2 of 6 - I did not anticipate such a probing question, but my response was right there in my mind. I didn’t really have to think about it very much.
I said that I would seek to learn about the issue through my own research, seek the opinions of my constituents, and listen to the presentations and opinions of my colleagues, and listen to those with particular expertise in the field, and then make a judgment based on those factors.
I have tried to do that in my time in Jefferson City and I will continue to do so. I welcome input from the good people of Phelps and Pulaski counties in the 121st District and what you see and hear in my column is an invitation to tell me what you think.
A Meeting of the Minds on Healthcare
On the minds of many Missourians is the topic of healthcare, and so it is with me. For those of you who don’t know me, I am an orthopedic surgeon and I practice at Phelps County Regional Medical Center. I have made the analogy in the past that the Missouri House can be compared to an orchestra, and its various sections represent members who have expertise in a particular field. When law enforcement issues are front and center, there are Representatives who have life experience in that area, and I seek their opinions. Likewise with legal issues, I seek the opinions of our members who are attorneys. In matters concerning healthcare, I feel a duty to take these issues on and advocate for patients, just as I have tried to do in my medical practice. I have a number of proposals that I plan to put forward this year that will seek to improve the health care available to Missourians. I have learned by my past experiences, or shall I say bruises, that getting a bill passed in the House are a long way from it becoming state law. That same idea has to get through the Senate, before it ever makes its way to the Governor’s office, and even there it can die by a stroke of the pen. After we adjourned from the House on the first day, Wednesday, I met for a couple of hours with the only physician in the Missouri Senate, Senator Rob Schaaf. We discussed a great many proposals, ideas, problems and courses of action. We agreed on many common beliefs and we came up with plans of action on how to proceed. I also had lunch with the Missouri State Medical Association’s Government Liaison, Mr. Jeff Howell. Mr. Howell has been a great resource to me during these past three years regarding health care legislation and public policy as it relates to medical practice and patient care. After these discussions and a few others, I firmed up my agenda. I won’t lay all of those issues out for you in this report, as there will be plenty of time in the weeks and months ahead for me to describe to you what options exist and the pro’s and con’s of each. I can tell you that I will put forward proposals to improve our Medicaid program, and to increase access to quality healthcare in our underserved areas. I will also seek to protect Missourians from the over reach of our federal government when it comes to their health care.
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Bills Filed January 9, 2014
Abortion Waiting Period
Today, Thursday, January 9, I filed two bills. Currently in state law, a requirement for waiting period of 24 hours exists before an abortion can be performed after a woman is apprised of all of her options by her physician. The bill I filed today, HB 1313 changes that time period to 72 hours. As I mentioned, I am an orthopedic surgeon, and when I first meet a patient with severe arthritis of the knee, I recommend to that individual that they give the matter considerable thought. We discuss the potential problems that can occur and we discuss the anticipated rehabilitation, and what to expect. I usually recommend that they go home and give the matter some thought. Well, I believe that when considering a procedure that will result in the cessation of a human life, taking 72 hours to reflect on the decision is a reasonable thing to ask.
Health Care Freedom Act 2.0
I have followed the debate, enactment and implementation of ObamaCare these last three years, and I am convinced that this law is the singularly worst public policy that I have witnessed in my lifetime. Health care in our country is in the process of being dismantled, while we plunge our children and grandchildren into every more insurmountable debt that will hinder their pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Senator Lamping introduced in the Senate, SB 546 which opposes the federal government’s over reach into the lives of the private citizens of Missouri. Today I filed HB 1314 which is the House companion to his Senate bill. I have been evaluating the various approaches that have been taken in other states, as well as my bill last session that sought to nullify ObamaCare. I have looked at the proposals from South Carolina and Georgia. I believe there will be other states that will take what some will believe to be bold action. I believe however, that such action is the duty of the state legislature, acting as the last bastion of protection of the citizens against the overreaching federal government- a government that was created by the states and not the other way around. I believe that Senator Lamping’s bill is the best response for the situation we find ourselves in right now, and that is why I have filed the same proposal as a House bill. I have reproduced some excerpts from this bill for you to review:
1.334. 1. As a guide to the interpretation and application of
2 section 1.330 and this section, the public policy of this state is declared
Page 4 of 6 - 3 to be as follows:
4 (1) The power to require or regulate a person's choice in the
5 mode of securing health care services, or to impose a penalty related
6 thereto, is not found in the Constitution of the United States of
7 America, and is therefore a power reserved to the people pursuant to
8 the Ninth Amendment, and to the several states pursuant to the Tenth
9 Amendment. The state of Missouri hereby exercises its sovereign power
10 to declare the public policy of the state of Missouri regarding the right
11 of all persons residing in this state in choosing the mode of securing
12 health care services;
13 (2) It is hereby declared that the public policy of the state of
14 Missouri, consistent with our constitutionally recognized and
15 inalienable rights of liberty, is that every person within the state of
16 Missouri is and shall be free to choose or decline to choose any mode
17 of securing health care services without penalty or threat of penalty;
80 3. No public official, employee, or agent of the state of Missouri
81 or any of its political subdivisions, nor any law or rule, shall act to
82 impose, collect, enforce, or effectuate, directly or indirectly, any
83 penalty in the state of Missouri that violates the public policy set forth
84 in this section or section 1.330. It violates the public policy set forth in
85 this section for any such individuals, laws, or rules to implement or
86 operate a health insurance exchange under the federal Patient
87 Protection and Affordable Care Act.
88 4. If a health insurance issuer operating in the state of Missouri
89 accepts any remuneration that may result in the imposition of penalties
90 contrary to the public policy set forth in this section or section 1.330,
91 such issuer's license to transact business in the state of Missouri shall
92 be suspended by the director of the department of insurance, financial
93 institutions and professional registration immediately and until such
94 time as the issuer represents it has returned that remuneration to its
95 source and will decline any such future remuneration.
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Bad Ideas That Have Come My Way So Far
Every year, especially at the beginning of session ideas are floated and various people want you to jump on a band wagon. Not everything we do in Jefferson City is to promote some idea, sometimes it is just as important to oppose a bill. I was approached by a member of the minority party today to support his bill to legalize marijuana. Now, I am familiar with this issue and I know there is a growing tendency in our country to look on this as not such a bad idea. I was a pharmacist before I went to medical school and while I was in pharmacy school, I delivered a great many presentations to school groups pointing out the dangers of using street drugs. I saw the damage such drugs did in St. Louis back then, I have seen it in my medical practice for over 25 years, and I believe this is bad public policy. Basically the use of marijuana is a fleeing from reality, and I believe increased use of this drug will lead to less engaged and productive citizens, less motivation to excel or to even try. I like the efforts to legalize the drug in by state law, due to my strong belief in the 10th amendment, but this is just a bad idea. I told my colleague that I was not inclined to endorse his bill nor was I inclined to give it a hearing in the Committee on Health Care Policy if it means that other more promising pieces of legislation are put back in line.
Another proposal that came my way was from a colleague that I know and have respect for. It was a proposal to require that doctors feed data into a state created data base regarding the immunization status of patients. Doctors are being hampered in their daily care of patients by more and more requirements for data submission and handling, and it is hurting their productivity which means it is reducing access to medical care. The bill being proposed included sanctions to the physicians license to practice if he or she failed to perform these data entry tasks as prescribed in the statute. I oppose this due to the increased burden that it would place on doctors when they are already dealing with a mountain of data requirements, with more coming as ObamaCare is further implemented. I also oppose it since I believe databases have the potential to be misused. (I will again this year seek to prevent our medical records from being used as a back door method to establish a national gun registry)
Page 6 of 6 - That is all I have for this first week of the 2014 Missouri legislative session. If you come to Jefferson City during the session, let us know and we will try to help you get the experience you are looking for. My legislative assistant is Joyce Bush, who really helps keep things running smooth in my Jefferson City office.