May 10, 2011
Senate Bill SB11-200, better known as “Amycare,” or the bill that would bring Obamacare to Colorado, was passed in the House last Tuesday, May 3rd. However, the hours leading up to the passing of the bill, including the last-minute committee hearing and blatant silencing of free speech, leaves some opponents of the bill with questions that demand answers.
Last Monday, a day before the hearing, the El Paso County Republican Party passed a resolution that would restrict county leaders from speaking out against the bill. Liberty groups in opposition to the bill held a press conference early on Tuesday. Organizations in attendance included the Freedom Action Coalition Team (FACT), 9-12, El Paso County Tea Party, Grassroots Radio, Liberty Watch, and We Are Change Colorado Springs.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Amy Stephens, sponsor of the bill, is also the House majority leader, and in that capacity dictates the committee hearing schedule. The hearing was announced eighteen hours in advance, forcing the opponents of the bill to scramble in order to prepare their testimony for the committee. In the hearing, testimony was first heard from proponents of the bill. Largely presented were paid lobbyists and representatives of the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries, most notably Glaxo-Smith Kline and Kaiser. However, after an hour and a half of testimony, the House was scheduled to reconvene at 3:30 in order to vote on the bill. Stephens moved to adjourn the hearing without allowing the opposition to present their side of the testimony.
In an outrage, members of We Are Change Colorado and We Are Change Colorado Springs immediately took action. One member stood up and shouted at the committee in an effort to bring attention to the “Legislative Theater” purporting itself as a fair hearing. Other members emerged outside with a bullhorn and protested to draw attention from the public as to what was going on inside at the hearing. Four state police officers as well as a marshal attempted to intimidate the protesters and limit their free speech on public property. When Chris Nixon of We Are Change Colorado Springs refused to be suppressed, the Sergeant-At-Arms quickly moved to mitigate the situation. As a result, the opposition was finally allowed to be heard.
The committee passed the bill, and it passed again in both the second and third readings of the bill in the House. As it awaits approval by Gov. Bill Hickenlooper, liberty groups are left wondering just how much bending of the rules Amy Stephens is allowed to do. Furthermore, the suppression of free speech once again has shown to be an ever-present threat that supporters of freedom must continually defend on a daily basis.