A legislative committee in Arkansas on Tuesday blocked an attempt to reject a key portion of the federal health care overhaul, while another group of lawmakers passed the first appropriation bill in the third week of the legislative session.

A legislative committee in Arkansas on Tuesday blocked an attempt to reject a key portion of the federal health care overhaul, while another group of lawmakers passed the first appropriation bill in the third week of the legislative session.

The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee voted down a proposal by Republican Rep. David Meeks of Conway that would ban any law requiring Arkansans to buy health insurance.

The committee's 12-7 vote against the proposal included five Republicans and two out of 15 Democrats — Rep. Jeff Wardlaw of Warren and Rep. Sheilla Lampkin of Monticello — who voted in favor of the bill. The committee's chair, Rep. Linda Tyler, D-Conway, did not vote.

"I really thought that . the members of the committee would vote to protect the citizens of Arkansas from the federal government," Meeks said. Instead, "they decided to really ignore what the citizens of Arkansas wanted to do."

Meeks' proposal came up in the Arkansas Legislature less than a week after Republicans in Congress cast a largely symbolic vote to repeal the federal health care law. The federal attempt is almost sure to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate and faces a certain veto should it arrive on the president's desk.

In Little Rock, a parade of legal authorities and health care heavyweights including the state surgeon general spoke out against the bill.

"Health care is not something that you can just opt out of," said Arkansas Hospital Association's president Bo Ryall. "Health care is not a consumer good like a car or cell phone. You can choose not to buy a car, but eventually you're all going to need health care, whether you choose it or not."

Plus, assistant Attorney General Jean Block said, Meeks' bill would all but guarantee a lawsuit against the state.

"The passage of HB1053 would not be in the state's best legal interest," Block said. "We believe this is a federal issue to be decided in the federal courts using federal — not state — dollars." Still, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel would defend the bill if it were to become law, she said.

Tea Party member Glenn Gallas said the fear of lawsuits shouldn't stop the state from doing what is right.

"The arguments I hear are based on whether or not we go to court," Gallas said. "We should base our decision on what is right or what is wrong."

The Republican Party of Arkansas's executive director, Chase Dugger, said the Democrats who voted against Meeks' bill did so to oppress Arkansans' liberty.

"Working Arkansans deserve the freedom to choose whether or not they wish to purchase health insurance," Dugger said in a statement.

Meeks said he's exploring potential next moves on health care legislation, including bringing a similar proposal as a House resolution instead of a House bill.

Some lawmakers had already deemed the failed bill a symbolic gesture at best. A resolution, a legislative move usually reserved for commemorating events, would set out to accomplish nothing more than sending a political message.

"We will look at all the options that we have on the table," Meeks said. "There's a possibility we could do it as a resolution. There's a possibility we could do it as an interim study. There's a possibility we could actually bring it back to committee."

Meeks said he had a fair committee hearing. "The legal questions were answered. A lot of the financial questions were answered," he said.

In the Senate, lawmakers approved the proposed General Appropriation Act, the first appropriations bill that must be passed during the legislative session. The House passed the bill — which sets funding levels for the executive, legislative and judicial branches — on Monday without any pay raises after several lawmakers complained about a proposed 1.86 percent pay hike for judges and prosecutors.

Also on Tuesday, the House passed legislation to require registered sex offenders to verify their registration in person at a local law enforcement agency and to require electronic filing of the verification. The House then approved a measure to allow veteran designations on driver's licenses and identification cards.

The House Public Transportation Committee on Tuesday also advanced a bill by Democratic Rep. Kathy Webb of Little Rock that would allow Arkansans to choose to receive notices by e-mail, rather than through regular mail. Vehicle owners currently have the option to renew their registration online.

Webb said that nearly 300,000 Arkansas residents renewed their vehicle registrations online last year. The state would save $100,000 if that many people received their renewal notices by e-mail, she said. The proposal now heads to the full House for a vote.

Associated Press writer Andrew DeMillo contributed to this report.