Topeka A House committee on Thursday approved a proposed constitutional amendment that its supporters said would allow Kansans to ignore the federal health reform law.
“States have rights, states have sovereignty,” said Health and Human Services Committee Chair Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, who pushed for the amendment. “If we did not, we would be under a dictatorship,” she said.
But opponents said the measure was inaccurate and deceiving to voters because it would lead them to believe that a state constitutional amendment could trump federal law.
“States don’t have the right to nullify federal law through their own constitutions,” said Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield. “States can no more nullify this law than they have in any situation, including civil rights.”
HCR 5007 states that any person, employer or provider cannot be forced to participate in any health care system or purchase health insurance. Under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most people must have insurance by 2014 or face fines.
The proposal was approved by the committee on a voice vote with only Democrats opposed.
Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, said most Kansans oppose the health reform law. “We are sent here to represent the majority of our constituents who are crying out and saying the federal government has stepped over the boundaries,” she said.
But Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, responded, “Passion is good, lying is bad. Most folks believe that they don’t like the federal health care bill, but to tell them they get to vote on it is a lie.”
Democrats argued that the U.S. Supreme Court will probably be the final arbiter on the law and its ruling will be on whether the law violates the U.S. Constitution, not state constitutions.
Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said the federal government is supreme in this matter over the states. “We had a Civil War to decide that issue,” he said.
Rep. Bill Otto, R-LeRoy, said the state needs to stand up to the federal government. “I frankly see this as a line in the sand,” he said.
The measure now goes to the full House. Proposed constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate before they can be placed on the ballot for voters to decide.
To pass in the 125-member House, the measure will require 84 votes, and 27 votes in the 40-member Senate. If approved it would be on the ballot in November 2012.
Last year, the amendment fell short of getting a two-thirds margin in the House, but Landwehr said with a larger Republican majority in the House this year, its chances are better.