(CN) – The Ohio Supreme Court cleared the path for a constitutional amendment to reach the November ballot that would let Ohioans opt out of the federal health care overhaul. The justices agreed with a Tea Party coalition that the proposed amendment should be treated as a single issue, not two.
One day before President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a Tea Party coalition known as the Ohio Liberty Council gathered 3,000 signatures to put the issue of health care choice before Ohio voters.
The proposed amendment would bar any federal, state or local government from compelling Ohioans to participate in a health care system.
But the Ohio Ballot Board, on the advice of Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, split the issue in two and certified a pair of ballot proposals to the state attorney general.
Brunner and the ballot board said the section barring the government from fining anyone without insurance should be separated, because it would “fundamentally rework the way Ohio regulates the insurance industry.”
The board proposed two amendments instead: “one that deals with the freedom to choose health care and health care coverage; and the second that deals with the governance and oversight of the health care and health insurance industries.”
The Ohio Liberty Council appealed this decision by asking the Ohio Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus compelling the attorney general to accept the proposal as a single ballot amendment.
The Ohio Supreme Court agreed and ordered the proposal to remain intact as one ballot issue.
The section prohibiting fines “reasonably relates to the general purpose of freedom of choice by prohibiting the government from imposing a penalty or fine from the sale or purchase of health care or health care insurance,” the justices wrote.
“As the Secretary of State acknowledged at the ballot board meeting, persons’ and employers’ choice of health care and health-care insurance would be impaired if their choice of certain providers would be subject to a substantial penalty or fine,” the court concluded.