Health Care Constitutional Amendment
Court Lacks Power to Check Legislature
On March 10, 2008 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued its opinion on the Health Care Constitutional Amendment.
After all this time it's a huge disappointment to get an opinion that doesn't provide the remedy we were looking for.
It's a loss for the Amendment's supporters.
But it's a much bigger loss for the citizens of Massachusetts. We just lost one of our constitutional rights to a Legislature that holds itself above the law. It's a decision that will leave us all thinking about things for a long time to come.
Unfortunately, the SJC felt it lacked the power to protect the voters' right to use the initiative process to amend the state constitution.
The Legislature has effectively been permitted to repeal whole sections of our constitution without the consent of the governed.
We are deeply concerned that the SJC seems unable to hold their elected officials accountable to the constitution they are sworn to uphold.
Thank you all for all your hard work, support and patience.
Health Care Amendment's Day In Court
On November 5,2007 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments in a citizen suit involving the Health Care Constitutional Amendment.
The suit asks a basic question that goes to the heart of what it means to live in a constitutional democracy. When the Legislature ignores the constitution and violates the voters' rights can the Court provide a remedy?
The future of the Health Care Amendment depends on the answer. But, more important, so does the future of the initiative amendment process. The People's right to put a constitutional amendment before the voters if they can get the signatures and the approval of 25% of two consecutive legislatures is a fundamental part of democracy, Massachusetts-style.
It can be controversial as we all know. But if there is no remedy in this case, the Legislature, over the forceful objections of nearly a majority of its members, will have been allowed to usurp powers that the People have specifically reserved to themselves. The Legislature will have for practical purposes re-written the constitution without the consent of the People. We think that's a very big deal.
Oral arguments start at 9:00 a.m. in Boston at the Adams Courthouse in Pemberton Square (Government Center) on the 2nd floor, Courtroom 1. Please join us if you can. If not, you can also watch the webcast live or later in the day at this link. Go to our law library if you would like to read the briefs for oral argument.
With the SJC's help we may have a chance to see if a constitutional right to affordable, comprehensive and equitably financed health and mental health care coverage will create the leverage we will all need to finish the job so many worked so hard to begin with the 2006 reforms.
Denies the Health Care Amendment a Final Vote on Its Merits
January 2, 2007, the Legislature meeting in the final Constitutional
Convention of the 2005-2006 legislative session denied the Health Care
Amendment its second and final up or down vote on its merits as required
by Article 48 of the Constitution (Click
here to read the State House News story).
Before the HCA
could be put to a vote on its merits it first needed to be discharged
from the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing where it has sat untouched
since the July 12, 2006 Constitutional Convention.
The motion to
discharge the HCA from committee needed a 2/3 vote to be successful
and failed 92-101 (Click
here to view the roll call vote).
the ConCon ducked a vote on the HCA it did give an
up or down vote to the other initiative petition on the calendar - the
gay marriage ban. By deciding to vote on one initiative petition
but not the other less than a week after the Massachusetts
Supreme Judicial Court issued a unanimous
opinion that the Legislature must vote up or down on the merits
of every initiative it violated the people's constitutional rights and
ignored the ruling of the Court..
The people of
the commonwealth should be genuinely outraged that its Legislature feels
it can pick and choose when to obey the Constitution as it pleases them.
It usurped the people's right to amend the constitution and having
declared itself above the law turned its back on the voters by choosing
to vote on a same sex marriage ban opposed by 2/3 of the public and
ducking a vote on the HCA which enjoys the support of over 75% of the
The Health Care
Amendment's 3-year legislative journey is over. Now we will start
reviewing our legal options.
campaign is a citizen-led initiative to ensure that every Massachusetts
resident has access to affordable, comprehensive and equitably financed
coverage for medically necessary health and mental health care services.
proposed Health Care Constitutional
Amendment requires the Commonwealth to enact laws to accomplish
tells us that legislation by itself is not enough. The employer
mandate in the 1988 Massachusetts Universal Health Care Law was repealed
before it was ever implemented. History also tells us that even a ballot
initiative for a law may not be enough. The people enacted the
Clean Elections Law only to be stalled and eventually repealed by the
Legislature. The only major, progressive reform that has been
fully implemented - education reform - has a constitutional anchor
backed up by the Supreme Judicial Court.
Health Care Amendment creates that constitutional anchor for affordable,
comprehensive, equitable coverage. It will make sure that
the promise of today's reform is fulfilled and that if additional reform
is needed tomorrow, we'll have the political and legal tools we need
to get the job done.
We ALL Equal Before the Law?
Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe has his doubts.
So does the
Boston Herald editorial staff.
And the Worcester
Telegram & Gazette.
And the Patriot
If you believe your constitutional
rights are worth fighting for please help! Make a contribution
to the Article 48 Defense Fund, 649 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite
8, Cambridge, MA 02139. Our goal is to raise $50,000 to cover
the anticipated legal cost and every dollar will make a difference.
Of course we're
trying to get the Health Care Amendment on the ballot in 2008 to create
a right that will enhance the health and financial security of
every Massachusetts resident.
But we're also
protecting the right of each and every one of us to petition our state
government. We all may need it down the line.
With your help,
citizens across Massachusetts have done the job set out by Article 48
of the Massachusetts Constitution to get (collecting signatures, building
support, lobbying legislators) the votes needed to put the Health Care
Amendment on the ballot.
that the Legislature does their job. Article 48 MANDATES an up
or down vote on the merits of the proposed amendment.
Two things you can do to help. First, send
a check to the Article 48 Defense Fund, 649 Massachusetts Avenue,
Suite 8, Cambridge, MA 02139.
Second, call your State Senator
and tell them they still have a chance on January 2, 2007 to do the
right thing and vote on the Health Care Amendment. Not sure who your
state legislators are click
. Thank you.
Takes No Action on Amendment Committee and Voters File Suit
November 9, 2006, the Constitutional Convention reconvened for the sixth
time this Session and once again failed to vote on the Health Care Amendment
sent to them by the people.
constitutional amendments were discussed, debated and voted on as required
by Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution, but the Legislature
recessed on a 109-87 vote before the Health Care Amendment could be
ConCon was recessed until January 2, 2007, the last day of the Session.
Health Care Amendment Campaign and its supporters believe the prospect
of obtaining a second and final vote on the Health Care Amendment before
the end of the Session is slim.
press release) ten Massachusetts voters joined the Committee for
Health Care for Massachusetts in a suit to put the Health Care Constitutional
Amendment on the 2008 ballot.
most important issue for all the plaintiffs is that the Legislature
fulfill its constitutional duty to vote YES or NO on every constitutional
amendment sent to them by the people.
suit (view complaint)
asks the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to order the Secretary
of State to put the Amendment before the voters unless the Legislature
gives it the second and final up or down vote as required by Article
48 of the Massachusetts Constitution.
2003 the Amendment's supporters gathered over 71,000 signatures. In
July 2004 the Legislature approved the Amendment by a 153 to 41 vote
- over three times the 50 votes required for a citizen petition. Over
the objection of 76 legislators, the July 2006 Constitutional Convention
ducked a vote by sending the Amendment to a "special" study committee.
That committee has not met.
are still hopeful that the Legislature will do the right thing and
vote on the Health Care Amendment on January 2, 2007.
If you care about your
constitutional right for initiative petition and/or want to see the
Health Care Amendment placed on the 2008 ballot please send a contribution
to: Article 48 Defense Fund, 649 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite
8, Cambridge, MA 02139.
Reconvenes on November 9th:
Chance to Set Things Straight
Did Your Legislator
Do the "Right Thing" at the July 12th ConCon?
Health Care Heroes did. Who?
They cast a courageous vote to bring the Health Care Amendment to the
floor for the up or down vote the Massachusetts Constitution requires.
If your legislator
was one of our Heroes please call, write or email them today and thank
them. (List of Senators
We'll need each and every one of them to take another tough vote on
November 9th to get the Health Care Amendment on the 2008 ballot.
If your legislator
isn't one of our Heroes please call and ask them to do
the "right thing" on November 9th and vote to bring the Amendment to
the ConCon floor for an up or down vote. It's a vote to respect
the Constitution and a vote to respect the voters of Massachusetts.
And of course ask them to make their vote "YES".
May Be the Last Chance to Set Things Straight!
Our Health Care
Heroes took a courageous vote on July 12th in the face of strong pressure
from leadership. Many of our supporters from the 2004 ConCon
(Who?) were forced
to choose how best to serve their constituents - cast a vote of principle
on one issue or vote against leadership at the price of an entire legislative
agenda. While we wish every legislator who supported the Health
Care Amendment in 2004 had voted to force an up or down vote on the
Amendment last July it is important to understand they were between
a rock and a hard place.
You can convince
them that bringing the Health Care Amendment up for a vote and voting
"YES" is the best way to serve their constituents.
We need your
help! November 9th may be the last chance to create a right to
affordable, comprehensive health coverage for every Massachusetts resident.
email, or ask you legislators at the next rally or fundraiser you attend
"Will you do the right thing at the November 9th ConCon?"
of the Commonwealth depends on it.
List of state
Senators and Representatives.
here to find your state senator and representative.
Please take a
minute to help make history!
Votes to Send Amendment to
Committee for Study
On July 12th
the Legislature meeting in Constitutional Convention voted 118 to 76
(roll call for Senate
and House) to send
the Health Care Amendment to a special committee for study. Click
here for a transcript of the July 12th ConCon.
We are extremely
disappointed that an amendment that had overwhelming popular and legislative
support and only needed 50 votes to be placed on the ballot this November
was put into a study.
We are confident
that if we get a timely report, after a prompt study of the Amendment
on its merits, the special committee will present its findings to the
members of the convention when it reconvenes on November 9, 2006.
the Amendment will then receive its second and final vote. If it receives
50 votes or more it will be placed on the November 2008 ballot.
Shows 4-1 Support for Amendment
July 10, 2006 - New
released today by the Campaign shows overwhelming public support for
the Health Care Amendment.
The new poll
shows that by an almost 4-1 margin, 76.2%-20.2%, over three-quarters
of Massachusetts residents favor a Health Care Amendment to the Massachusetts
State Constitution. Click
here to read the executive summary.
of this poll present clear signs that Massachusetts adults continue
to maintain their solid support for a state constitutional amendment
mandating health insurance coverage and strongly favor placing that
amendment on the ballot this November, according to the pollster, Gerry
making up this proprietary poll were asked as part of The State House
News Poll, a telephone poll conducted by KRC/Communications Research
for The State House News Service from June 26-28, 2006, using standard
random-digit-dialing techniques. The poll of 410 Massachusetts adults
carries an overall margin of error of +/-4.7%.
This poll confirms
the findings of the recent Channel
7/Suffolk University poll showing
overwhelming support for the Health Care Amendment.
1: The People of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts hereby declare
it necessary and expedient to alter the Constitution by the adoption
of the following Article of Amendment:
ratification of this amendment and thereafter, it shall be the obligation
and duty of the Legislature and executive officials, on behalf of the
Commonwealth, to enact and implement such laws, subject to approval
by the voters at a statewide election, as will ensure that no Massachusetts
resident lacks comprehensive, affordable and equitably financed health
insurance coverage for all medically necessary preventive, acute and
chronic health care and mental health care services, prescription drugs
2003: Collected 71,385 certified signatures from Massachusetts voters
in 8 weeks requesting that this citizen initiative be put before the
Legislature for its consideration.
14, 2004: Approved at the 2003-04 Constitutional Convention by a
vote of 153-41 (more than three times the number of votes needed - 50)
to refer the Amendment to the next Constitutional Convention.
2, 2006: Need approval by 50 out of 200 legislators at Constitutional
Convention to advance the Amendment to the ballot.
2008 Statewide Ballot:
Ratification requires a majority of voters to vote in favor of the Amendment
at the ballot.