No appeal on suit against Mo. health care measure

Tuesday, July 20, 2010 | 9:32 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The people who challenged a Missouri ballot taking aim at a key provision in the new federal health care law have decided not to appeal a judge's decision against their lawsuit.

Attorney Chip Gentry said Monday that his clients don't plan to take the case to the Missouri Supreme Court, because — even if they were successful — it would be too late to halt the printing of ballots for the Aug. 3 election.

The Missouri ballot proposal would bar governments from requiring people to have health insurance or from penalizing people for paying their health bills with their own money. If passed, it would conflict with a requirement of a new federal law requiring most people to have health insurance or face fines by 2014.

On Friday, Cole County Circuit Judge Paul Wilson dismissed their lawsuit seeking to strike the ballot proposal on grounds that legislators violated the state constitution in the way they drafted the measure. The judge rejected all the arguments raised by the two women who had sued in their taxpayer capacities.

"While we feel strong about the case, and we've got a shot at the Supreme Court reversing Judge Wilson's decision, at the end of the day, if we hit that home run, the money has already been spent by the state," Gentry said.

Missouri's ballot measure essentially would be the nation's first statewide popularity vote on the health care law backed by President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress. But its legal affect is questionable, because federal laws generally supersede those in states. The election coincides with Missouri's party primaries.

Supporters of the ballot measure have been raising money in hopes of mounting an advertising campaign in the final two weeks before the vote.

As of the end of June, the committee backing the ballot measure had raised less than $23,000.

But Republican state Sen. Jane Cunningham, of Chesterfield, one of the sponsors of the measure, said fundraising had picked up after Friday's court decision upholding the legislation that placed the measure on the ballot. She said fundraisers received a $25,000 contribution pledge Monday.

"We did have some of our major donors who were reluctant to donate to something if they thought it would be pulled from the ballot," Cunningham said Monday. "So this gives us an open road to the election."

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