Updated: August 27, 2010 at 12:00 am
A great idea became certainty Thursday. Colorado residents will have the opportunity in November to vote on Amendment 63 . It will decide whether state authorities are allowed to force Coloradans to buy health insurance, in the event President Barack Obama’s health care bill survives a judicial challenge by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and 19 other attorneys general who say it’s unconstitutional.
Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher announced Thursday that a petition for Amendment 63 had more than enough valid signatures to make it onto the ballot. Citizen activist Jon Caldara , who heads the pro free-market, pro limited-government Independence Institute , began writing the petition in December, after Congress passed health care reform. Petitioners needed 76,047 signatures of registered voters to succeed; they turned in 135,029.
Amendment 63 would protect the right to health care choice in Colorado, saying “no statute, regulation, resolution, or policy adopted or enforced by the state” may force a person to buy into any public or private health-insurance plan, or to “deny, restrict, or penalize the right or ability of any person to make or receive direct payments for lawful health care services.”
Critics say states are powerless to defend themselves against federal authority. Denver Post reporter Jessica Fender reiterated that belief Thursday, in her blog “The Spot for Politics & Policy”: “A November victory may be largely symbolic since federal law supersedes state law.”
Fender reports the conventional wisdom accurately, but it is mythology. This is not a country in which might makes right. It’s a country designed to protect minority interests against big government and mob sentiment. Therefore, the massive size of the federal bureaucracy alone does not equal legal authority to impose upon individuals and state governments. Congress has no authority to require individuals to buy private insurance, which is the basis of the lawsuit filed by states. It has no such authority because the Constitution does not grant it, not by any twisting of any phrase. That might not bother a majority in Congress, but it will most certainly matter to federal judges when they determine which rights belong to whom — based entirely on their interpretation of the Constitution.
Legal disputes don’t get simpler than this one, which should be settled by any honest reading of the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
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Those who say “federal law supersedes state law” cannot have studied the Constitution, as the law of the land says precisely the opposite.
In the unlikely event states lose their challenge to health care reform, Amendment 63 ensures that Colorado authorities have their own constitutional amendment to provide a basis for another challenge to health care by force. In the likely event Suthers and his colleagues win, Amendment 63 would bolster health care freedom in Colorado. Amendment 63 would make Colorado an attractive haven for health care development, competition, and medical tourism, thus improving the health care options of Coloradans and boosting the economy.
This country hasn’t prospered and flourished because of federal mandates. We have flourished because of freedom. Amendment 63 will be one giant step in protecting freedom for Coloradans.