UPDATED: An innocuous bill about life insurance is now carrying a major provision to let Attorney General Bill McCollum sue the federal government on behalf of individuals who want to challenge the health care mandate. The language (read it below) also would declare the federal reforms illegal under Florida law.
Republicans added a provision to House Bill 885 to consolidate individual lawsuits against the federal government with the lawsuit already filed by McCollum against Obamacare.
"This amendment is about the attorney general defending the rights of individuals," Rep. Bryan Nelson said in introducing his amendment. "It enhances the ability of individuals to be protected fro the unconstitutional individual mandate."
Democrats felt hoodwinked. "I am honestly borderline disgusted that we allowed this bill ... to be hijacked, all to give our attorney general political cover," Rep. Alan Williams said.
The minority party tried to derail the effort questioning the relation to the original bill by Rep. John Tobia, which deals with life insurance and annuities, but failed in the GOP-dominated committee. The first amendment -- approved before Democrats knew what was even happening -- changed the title to add the disparate McCollum provision.
"I don't like the way the process went on this," said a confused Rep. Kevin Rader, who noted that Majority Leader Adam Hasner stood on the side calling the shots. "This is an enormous political hot potato."
Deputy Attorney General Joe Jacquot told members it wouldn't cost any additional money to add individuals to the litigation. He also said state estimates put the cost of implementing the federal health care overhaul at more than a billion dollars.
The amendment was late filed, so we are just now getting a look at the actual language. Outside of the attorney general provision, it would add this major statement to Florida law:
"It is hereby declared that the public policy of this state, consistent with our constitutionally recognized and inalienable rights of liberty, is that every person within this state is and shall be free from governmental intrusion in choosing or declining to choose any mode of securing health insurance coverage without penalty or threat of penalty.
"A resident of this state, regardless of whether he or she has or is eligible for health insurance coverage under any policy or program provided by or through his or her employer, or a plan sponsored by the state or the Federal Government, may not be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual health insurance coverage."