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House subcommittee passes opt-out amendment

Moving toward a 2012 ballot fight, a House subcommittee on Tuesday approved a proposed constitutional amendment that might allow Floridians to opt out of a key part of the federal health overhaul signed into law a year ago.

The House Health & Human Services Quality Subcommittee voted 10-4 along party lines to approve House Joint Resolution 1. The full Senate has already passed its version of the measure.

The proposed amendment says, in part, that "a law or rule may not compel, directly or indirectly, any person or employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage."

Supporters hope that would allow Floridians to opt out of what is known as the "individual mandate" -- the part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that eventually will require almost all Americans to have health insurance.

The Florida Supreme Court rejected a similar proposed amendment last year because of misleading ballot wording. Sponsors removed the disputed wording from the new version and want to ask for voter approval in November 2012.

Sponsor Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, told the subcommittee that the individual mandate is "against what our country was founded on.'' But Democrats have long contended that Floridians can't opt out of the federal health law because of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said he thinks the proposed amendment "frankly is philosophical rambling.''