JEFFERSON CITY -- Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder followed through Tuesday on his threat to sue Secretary of State Robin Carnahan over the language voters will see on a measure dealing with health care exchanges, a key element of the federal health care overhaul.
Kinder flew around the state to announce he had filed the lawsuit in Cole County and that it had been joined by the state's top Republican legislative leaders. He is challenging Carnahan's description of a measure sent to voters by lawmakers. If approved, it would bar the state from establishing a health insurance exchange without direct legislative action.
Last week, Carnahan announced that voters would be asked whether Missouri law should be changed "to deny individuals, families, and small businesses the ability to access affordable health care plans through a state-based health benefit exchange unless authorized by statute, initiative or referendum or through an exchange operated by the federal government as required by the federal health care act?"
Kinder said that language, especially the provision saying voters would be denied the right to buy affordable coverage, was unfair and would prejudice voters against the measure.
"In my 19 years in Jefferson City, I have seen no ballot language proposed by any secretary of state of either party that even approaches this in outrageousness and its loaded nature and its obvious bias," Kinder said during a news conference at the Jefferson City airport.
Health insurance exchanges are supposed to be web-based marketplaces where consumers can compare policies and make decisions about what their insurance should cover. In Missouri and many other states, Republicans opposed to the federal measure are refusing to establish the exchanges under state authority, which means a federally controlled exchange will be established instead.
Kinder's lawsuit was criticized as an election year stunt by both Carnahan and Kinder's Republican primary opponent Sen. Brad Lager of Savannah. "This isn't a lawsuit about trying to advance the ball," Lager said.
Lager noted that Kinder asked all state lawmakers to join his lawsuit, which Kinder said at the news conference would be privately funded. Lager said that when he called to talk to Kinder about the lawsuit, he was told to consult Kinder's political consultant, David Barklage.
"If I am having to talk to this political operative to talk about the lawsuit, this is the campaign," Lager said.
House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville; House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka; Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter; and Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, joined Kinder as named plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
As he used campaign funds to fly around the state, Kinder offered up his description of the proposal before voters. A poster he used as a prop said the bill really "prohibits unelected bureaucrats from implementing certain Obamacare provisions unless specifically authorized by the legislature or a vote of the people."
"We understand it's election season and some people will do anything to get in the news, but it's hard to take Lt. Gov. Kinder seriously when this is what he calls fair ballot language," Carnahan spokesman Ryan Hobart said in a prepared statement. "It's our obligation to make sure voters have a fair, accurate summary of what they're voting on, and our summary provides that."
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Don Shrubshell | Buy this photo Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder on Tuesday is flanked by staff members holding signs with ballot language written by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, left, and Kinder's interpretation of the ballot language, right, for a November proposal that would bar the governor from using his executive powers to set up a health insurance exchange. Kinder has filed a lawsuit against Carnahan and Attorney General Chris Koster in Jefferson City and is holding news conferences across the state to promote it.