Lawmakers opposed to President Barack Obama's plan for national health care reform are hoping to spur a nationwide "civil disobedience" that can derail Obamacare.
State Rep. Brian Calley, R-Portland; State Rep. Justin Amash, R-Kentwood; and State Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, have each introduced similar constitutional amendments that seek to trump the national health care bills.
For example, Sen. Kuipers' bill would prohibit a federal law from compelling any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system. It also prevents anyone from being penalized for ignoring the federal law.
"Where this is going, I don't know," Kuipers said this week. "You don't know until the states try to do it."
According to a 10th Amendment think tank, 26 states have attempted their own versions of Kuipers' bill. Arizona has had its version passed by both houses of Congress, and it will be voted on by residents in November. Virginia also had both houses of Congress pass a similar bill, and it is awaiting the governor's signature.
Constitutional law experts say state law does not take precedence over federal law.
"This would violate the U.S. Constitution if challenged," Frank Ravitch, a professor of law at Michigan State University College of Law, wrote in an e-mail.
Kermit Roosevelt, a professor at the University of Penn Law School, wrote in an e-mail that the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the Constitution gives federal law power over state law.
"States cannot say no to a federal mandate," Roosevelt wrote. "Any state law or constitutional provision that conflicts with a federal law is void."
Michael Boldin, founder of the 10th Amendment Center — a public policy think tank in Los Angeles — said there are cases where state resistance has stymied federal law.
The REAL ID Act of 2005 is a U.S. federal law that was to impose new security standards for a state's driver's licenses. Many states opposed it with their own state laws, and the act has not been implemented, Boldin said.
"Basically a bunch of people all across the country are saying, 'No. We aren't going to go along with it,' and getting state government to back them," Boldin said. "They (federal government) didn't threaten to take away funding. They didn't send in armed guards. They just repeatedly delayed implementation. In fact, it (REAL ID) is null and void.
"The real success in these actions is 'we the people' saying we are in charge and the federal government is not going to force things down our throat."
Boldin said medical marijuana could also be a route that the states go in their battle against Obama's health care plan.
In California and Michigan, the state law is in conflict with the national law on marijuana. In both states, the federal government can prosecute for medicinal marijuana use even though the state allows it.
"You can have a situation where federal law prohibits something that states permit," Roosevelt said. "That means that the state won't arrest or prosecute you for it, but the federal government still might. State law can't protect you from federal law. But enforcement of marijuana laws is a low priority for the federal government, so effectively you might be safe — I think the Obama administration actually had a policy statement about how they weren't going to devote resources to this in California."
Boldin said that is why it is important for as many states as possible to join the other states if they want to make Obamacare realistically unenforceable.