A bill has been introduced to amend the Texas state constitution with a provision to protect health freedom in the state. Senate Joint Resolution 16 (SJR 16), introduced by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) on Nov. 18, would prohibit any agency from compelling Texans to participate in any health care system, or from penalizing them or taxing them for choosing not to participate.

The amendment language reads in part:

Each individual in this state has the right to choose or decline to choose to purchase health insurance coverage without penalty or sanction or threat of penalty or sanction….A state agency, public official, employee, or political subdivision of this state may not act to impose, collect, enforce, or effectuate a penalty or sanction intended to punish or discourage the exercise of the right.

Passage of this amendment into the state constitution is a powerful second step towards a nullification of Obamacare within the state of Texas.  Michael Cannon of the CATO institute has noted how this law would prohibit the state from supporting Obamacare in any way that helps the mandate:

In order to operate an exchange, state employees would have to determine eligibility for ObamaCare’s “premium assistance tax credits.” Those tax credits trigger penalties against employers (under the employer mandate) and residents (under the individual mandate). In addition, state employees would have to determine whether employers’ health benefits are “affordable.” A negative determination results in fines against the employer. These are key functions of an exchange.

Ergo, if the state passes a law establishing an exchange, then that law would violate the state’s constitution by indirectly compelling employers and individual residents to participate in a health care system. That sort of law seems precisely what the Constitutional Amendment exists to prevent

Additionally, tax liens from the IRS for failure to pay the mandate’s “tax” penalty are filed with your local county registrar or the secretary of state. Passage of this amendment would legally prevent Texas localities from participating in this action, lessening the effect of the mandate by allowing home owners, for example, to reduce the risk of refusing to comply.

While Texas has not implemented an exchange for the Affordable Care Act, this rejection was done by former Gov. Perry in an executive act. Adding this prohibition to the state constitution ensures that a future governor cannot use that same executive power to do the opposite.

SJR16, if passed, would bypass the governor and go directly to a vote of the people on the Nov. 3, 2015 ballot with an option to choose in favor or against the following proposition:

“The constitutional amendment providing individuals the right to choose or decline to choose to purchase health insurance coverage without penalty or sanction or threat of penalty or sanction.”

The next step for Texas would be to take additional actions right now.  Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano noted that such actions were not just legal, but effective. “If enough states do this, it will gut Obamacare because the federal government doesn’t have the resources…to go into each of the states if they start refusing,” he said.

Based on the long-standing principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine, the legislation is on strong legal grounds. In four major cases from 1842 to 2012, the Supreme Court has consistently held that the federal government cannot “commandeer” states, requiring them to enforce or expend resources to participate in federal law or regulatory programs.

SJR 16 would provide a solid foundation for further action. However, Texas won’t be fully safeguarded until our more comprehensive four-step plan is in full effect. That means that there is still much work that needs to be done to save the health freedom of Texans from federal intrusion.


For Texas: To help SJR 62 through the legislature, contact your state senator and urge them to support this bill.  Contact info HERE.

For Other States: To help fight Obamacare in your state, click HERE

TJ Martinell

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