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Cunningham, allies launching final push for voter approval of Proposition C

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 29, 2010 - State Sen. Jane Cunningham expects to be quite busy over the next five weeks promoting the Aug. 3 passage of what started out as her bill, the Health Care Freedom Act (Proposition C), which would allow Missouri to reject parts of the federal health-care changes that Congress and President Barack Obama recently approved.

Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, said Monday night that she already has been speaking to various groups, and helped set up the campaign committee, Missourians for Health Care Freedom. Patrick Tuohey, founder of the Missouri Record -- a conservative blog and aggregate site -- is to be the campaign manager.

The campaign may include TV and radio ads, she said, if enough money is raised. But she also expects her side to benefit from all the national publicity, since Missouri is the first state where voters will actually weigh in on the new federal health-care law, which Republicans and other critics have dubbed Obamacare.

The Missouri Republican Party's state committee endorsed Proposition C on Saturday.

As of Monday, Missourians for Health Care Freedom had reported raising $15,000.

Today, Cunningham and a number of other legislators -- including state Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, and state Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country -- are holding a news conference in Jefferson City to discuss the legal issues.

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Cunningham said she's not concerned about the assertions by some critics that Proposition C is unconstitutional. "I'm married to a lawyer, and the only opinion that will matter is the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court,'' she said.

Cunningham explained that she expects a legal battle to ensue, if the Health Care Freedom Act (Proposition C) passes because "it will cause a conflict between the state and federal law,'' particularly the mandate that people buy health insurance.

Her side expects to be assisted by Attorney General Chris Koster, who Cunningham said has "assured me personally that he will defend whatever statute we pass."

(Cunningham said she didn't interpret Koster's involvement as costing taxpayers additional money because his office has a set appropriation and any legal work is covered by that state money.)

However, Cunningham said she is somewhat concerned that Koster has declined to join the lawsuit that some other states have undertaken to challenge the new federal law. Their key argument is that the federal law runs afoul of the federal commerce clause giving Congress certain powers over interstate commerce.

Cunningham said that if voters approve Proposition C, she and others may seek an independent counsel to represent Missouri in the legal fight. Her campaign already has designated the attorney: Clint Bolick, director of the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.

Bolick is known for his previous legal work defending state school-choice programs, during his tenure of the Institute for Justice and the Alliance for School Choice.

Cunningham said that Bolick will be paid by "donations from people who believe in this," and that no tax money will be used.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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