Topeka Republicans argued Thursday that voting for a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at rejecting federal health reform was one of the most important actions legislators could take this session.
But Democrats said the measure was meaningless and somewhat deceitful.
The proposal was advanced in the House on a 93-26 vote with final action expected today.
The proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution says that no law or rule shall force an individual or employer to buy health insurance. A provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to purchase health insurance starting in 2014.
Speaking to the House GOP caucus earlier Thursday, House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, said a vote for the proposal “is one of the most important statements that the House can make in 2011.”
O’Neal said Republican success in the 2010 election was a “referendum on the restoration of state’s rights” against Washington, D.C.
Many Democrats opposed the amendment, saying the state can’t nullify a federal law.
“I think we are misleading people,” said state Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield. He said the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually rule on the validity of the law based on the U.S. Constitution and not any changes to state constitutions.
State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, defended the federal health reform law, saying that repealing it would have a devastating effect on millions of people who will be provided benefits.
She said sweeping reforms always generate opposition after they are passed, such as Social Security and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“If we had not passed that, where would our country be today?” she said.
But state Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, and a former federal administrative judge, said the proposal was needed to protect the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says that powers not granted to the federal government are reserved for the states.
“If anyone in Washington or Topeka can order a Kansan to buy anything, then the 10th Amendment is meaningless,” he said.
He said the federal government was dictating too much, including what kind of light bulbs can be used and how much water a toilet can flush.
Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate — 84 votes in the 125-member House and 27 votes in the 40-member Senate — before they can be placed on the ballot. Supporters of the provision want it on the ballot in November 2012.