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BATON ROUGE, La.
An attempt by a Republican Louisiana lawmaker to nullify a federal health care overhaul before it's approved by Congress would be ridiculous and premature, the Democratic leader of the state House of Representatives said Tuesday.
Rep. Karen St. Germain, head of the House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday that it was too soon for state lawmakers to issue a "blanket no" to federal legislation that hasn't even been completed.
"I find it kind of demeaning to the Legislature to automatically say 'no' before we even know what it's about or the people that it helps or the people that it hurts," said St. Germain, D-Plaquemine. "I'm a little tired of the people who are there to criticize but have no solutions."
A bill filed by Republican Sen. A.G. Crowe asserts states' rights to refuse the federal mandates proposed in the congressional Democrats' health care legislation. State lawmakers will consider the proposal, called the Louisiana Health Care Freedom Act, in the regular session that begins March 29.
Crowe's bill mirrors similar legislation proposed in more than 30 other states. Virginia was the first state to enact such a proposal when a bill that says no state resident shall be required to get health insurance became law last week, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A similar measure awaits a decision from Arizona voters in November, according to NCSL.
The health overhaul championed by President Barack Obama and led by congressional Democrats remains stymied in Congress in the face of staunch Republican opposition. Democratic leaders are trying to pull together a compromise plan that can get final passage.
Crowe, R-Slidell, said the federal government doesn't have the right to require a state to enact proposals opposed by the state's residents.
"We want to make the fundamental argument about the power of the federal government," Crowe said. He added, "This is about states' rights, which in turn mean individual rights."
St. Germain said state lawmakers should wait to see what emerges from Congress, determine its effects on state citizens and businesses and discuss the final health care legislation with constituents before deciding how Louisiana's Legislature should proceed.
"A blanket no before we even see what it is, that's ridiculous," she said. "Before we say no and lose something for our citizens, we need to look at it."
Crowe's bill references U.S. Supreme Court rulings and the U.S. Constitution. The bill says health care and insurance are not issues delegated to the federal government under the Constitution. It contends the federal government can't force states to pay for unfunded mandates and that the federal government can't require people to buy insurance.
Gov. Bobby Jindal hasn't taken a position on Crowe's proposal, but a Jindal spokesman said the governor would consider the idea if the congressional health care legislation is approved.