Two state lawmakers seek to nullify part of health care

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A petition drive to nullify a key component of the federal health care law by amending the Mississippi Constitution has been filed with the Secretary of State’s Office by a state lawmaker from Vicksburg and a Biloxi representative running for Congress.

Initiative 32, or a Healthcare Initiative, filed by freshman Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg, and Steven Palazzo, R-Biloxi, seeks to create a right for Mississippians to purchase private health insurance and bars compulsory participation in any health care system or plan.

Monsour, who has been in insurance sales, has been an outspoken critic of federal health care legislation, especially mandatory coverage requirements.

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Under Mississippi’s initiative and referendum process, the potential exists for the public to amend the state’s constitution, although the process, with more than 25 precise requirements, has never been accomplished.

At least 89,285 certified signatures must be gathered statewide for the initiative to appear on the 2011 ballot, when state and county offices are up for election. At least 17,857 must come from each of the state’s five congressional districts as they existed in 2000. A bill Monsour filed to same effect at the start of this year’s regular session died in committee. Palazzo, another first-term member of the House, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for the 4th Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, a Democrat.

Thirteen states have filed suit in federal court challenging the health care reform law signed by President Obama in March. Mandates contained in the bill have driven favor and opposition to it, such as its call for the end of pre-existing medical conditions for determining coverage and penalties for not purchasing insurance, both effective by 2014. Mississippi plans to join the lawsuit in May, Gov. Haley Barbour has said.

The initiative is a separate process from the lawsuit.

Two other petition-driven initiatives have been approved for the 2011 ballot — the “voter ID” amendment that would require people present photo identification at polling places and the “personhood petition” that seeks to define the word “person” the point of fertilization, cloning or equivalent thereof.

Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at