This week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Florida vs. United States Department of Health and Human Services (for an excellent recap, please see this write-up by the Texas Public Policy Foundation), the lawsuit filed by the State of Florida against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare.”
Florida’s previous Attorney General, Bill McCollum, filed the complaint on March 23, 2010. The litigation was joined by attorneys general in numerous other states, and some states filed separate lawsuits, but Florida’s case has been the linchpin in moving this challenge forward all the way to the Supreme Court.
ObamaCare and its unconstitutional power grab have galvanized conservatives across the country and united them in their opposition to the Obama administration. What many people don’t know is the back story behind how Florida’s lawsuit came to be. I recently came across some interesting information when I was doing some research for one of my last Florida clients before I leave for Massachusetts.
Back in late 2009, conservatives watched with alarm as ObamaCare headed for a vote. Two Florida State Representatives, Scott Plakonand Steve Precourt, were especially concerned about the constitutional infringements of the individual mandate and the disparate impact that the bill’s Medicare changes would have on Florida taxpayers.
Representatives Plakon and Precourt were among the key legislators who consulted with McCollum as his office debated the merits of filing a complaint against ObamaCare and analyzed the potential causes of action that could be alleged. In late December 2009, Plakon and Precourt sent a letter to McCollum’s office urging him to take legal action against ObamaCare:
State Representatives Scott Plakon (R – Longwood) and Steve Precourt (R – Windermere) asked Florida State Attorney General Bill McCollum this afternoon to investigate and to prepare to take appropriate legal action against the federal government in the event the controversial federal healthcare takeover legislation passes into law.
The legislators requested this action in order to pursue relief for Floridians from the unfunded mandates contained in the bill should Florida be forced to comply with the expansion of the federal Medicaid program and to seek relief from the individual mandates proposed which could ultimately result in large fines and/or prison sentences for Floridians based on their good faith healthcare choices.
The Representatives noted that under the bills, Florida would be forced to radically expand the state’s Medicaid program costing the citizens of the state billions of dollars. Floridians would be forced to pay for people permanently exempted from paying the costs, such as in the case of the infamous sweetheart “Cornhusker Kickback” where Nebraska Senator Nelson voted for cloture with the promise that his state could be exempt from Medicaid expansion while Floridians would still pay.
“Such an expansion would place a horrendous burden on the citizens of this state, requiring huge tax increases and/or cuts in critical priorities such as education and public safety,” stated Representative Precourt. “It is also clear by the wording of the legislation that not every state would benefit equally nor face a similar burden. Floridians deserve to be treated fairly under any plan put into law.”
In addition, the Representatives expressed concern over the constitutionality of the unprecedented individual mandates proposed. Under the proposed legislation, the newly created “Health Choices Commissioner” would use the Internal Revenue Service as its enforcement agent to make sure that Floridians purchase an approved policy from a federally approved entity or pay penalties for not doing so. Failure to do so could result in Floridians being subjected in fines of up to $250,000 and/or prison sentences of up to 5 years.
A major issue for all 50 states is that the states are not controlling how these programs are run, but ultimately must find a way to fund them.
“We can’t print money like they do in Washington and it’s important to make sure that our citizens are protected,” stated Precourt.
“Obviously the overwhelming fiscal impact on the states that are already struggling with their budgets is something that the Democrats in control of the levers of power in Washington just don’t seem to care about,” stated Plakon.
Plakon and Precourt noted that since the potential passage of the Senate Bill appears imminent, it’s important that the Attorney General prepare to take immediate action.
“Collectively, we see these actions as a brazen attack by the federal government on our civil rights, our sovereignty, our individual freedom and the Constitution of the United States,” Plakon added.
Plakon and Precourt were among the first in Florida to publicly attach their names to a call for formal action in opposition to ObamaCare, and less than a month after their letter, McCollum sent a letter on January 19, 2010 to the Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Minority Leader John Boehner, with his analysis of the constitutional issues in the ObamaCare legislation, stating that he was “call[ing] [their] attention to these legal concerns so that constitutional issues may be remedied before a final bill is negotiated.”
McCollum’s January 2010 letter also included a clear warning: “I will continue to work with my Attorney General colleagues to pursue appropriate legal action should these provisions be in a bill that becomes law.”
That is precisely what happened: McCollum prepared a complaint and filed it in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida mere hours after the president signed ObamaCare into law.
I’m not entirely sure who first came up with the idea to file the lawsuit, but it is clear that Plakon and Precourt’s encouragement came at a crucial point in McCollum’s decision making process. I have confirmed that both Plakon and Precourt engaged in frequent discussions with both McCollum and key staff members in his office during this time period.
Everyone who opposes ObamaCare and its unconstitutional intrusion on our private health care decisions owes a debt of gratitude to Bill McCollum, Scott Plakon, and Steve Precourt for taking the lead on this issue, and of course to Florida’s current Attorney General Pam Bondi for continuing the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.
That being said, Plakon and Precourt are both up for reelection this year. They have earned my enthusiastic endorsement for their commitment to constitutional principles and fiscal conservatism, and I would encourage you to consider supporting them as well.
We are coming up on the end of another fundraising quarter. Please consider sending a contribution to Scott Plakon and Steve Precourt to thank them for their efforts in defense of Florida’s taxpayers, as well as taxpayers across the country:
Disclosure: My consulting company has provided political consulting services for Representative Plakon and Representative Precourt, and I have supported them both since the first time they ran for election to the Florida House back in 2008. I am very proud to have supported these two conservative leaders and encourage you to do the same. This blog post is my own work and opinion, and the content should not be construed as being approved of by either Plakon or Precourt. This is not a political advertisement and is not done with the approval of any other political candidate, elected official, political party, or organization or business.
[Cross-posted at Sunshine State Sarah]