The Associated Press July 2, 2010, 5:06PM ET

4 voters challenging Fla. health care amendment

A lawyer for four voters challenging a proposed Florida constitutional amendment on health care called it a "bait-and-switch" Friday.

The ballot summary for Amendment 9 promises things not even mentioned in the amendment itself, Mark Herron said in an interview.

He filed the Circuit Court lawsuit in Tallahassee a week earlier. It seeks to remove the amendment from the Nov. 2 ballot.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the proposal in reaction to passage of Democratic President Barack Obama's national health care overhaul.

The amendment would block Obama's plan in Florida if it could, but legal experts and even one of its sponsors have said it can't do that because federal law is supreme over state law.

Instead, the amendment would prevent the state from passing a similar law by prohibiting Floridians from being forced to obtain insurance coverage or be penalized if they don't.

Herron noted the ballot summary says in part that the amendment would "ensure access to health care services without waiting lists, protect the doctor-patient relationship, guard against mandates that don't work."

"None of those subjects are specifically addressed in the amendment," Herron said. "It appears if the amendment is a bait and switch or flying under false colors and using political rhetoric to engender votes."

State law requires ballot summaries to be clear and accurate.

The Department of State, which oversees elections, is named as defendant and its own lawyers are handling two similar lawsuits challenging three other ballot proposals, all dealing with redistricting.

In this case, though, Attorney General Bill McCollum, also a Republican candidate for governor, has agreed to defend Amendment 9. McCollum, who has filed his own lawsuit challenging the federal health care law, has not yet filed a response.

The Yes on 9 Campaign, a group backing the amendment, has issued a news release praising McCollum that includes statements of support from the measure's sponsors.

"Attorney General McCollum is upholding a right that Floridians and people across the nation continue to demand in the face of big-government mandates," said Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood.

Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, said the proposal reflects "the people's deep distrust of the federal government's health care plan."

Herron said he expects to get a court hearing by the end of July. He said the case likely will be appealed no matter which way the decision goes, eventually reaching the Florida Supreme Court.

Herron also has done legal work for the Florida Democratic Party, but it is not a plaintiff in this case.

Two of Herron's clients are from Palm Beach County, Diana Demarest and Louisa McQueeney. The others are Mona Mangat of Pinellas County and Gracie Fowler of Orange County.


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