by Michael Boldin
In response to what some opponents see as a Congress that doesn’t represent their interests, State Legislators are looking to the nearly forgotten American political tradition of nullification as a way to reject any potential national health care program that may be coming from Washington.
In 2010, residents of Arizona will be voting on a State Constitutional Amendment that would let them effectively opt out of any proposed national health care plan. Legislatures in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are also considering similar State Constitutional Amendments.
And now, Missouri is joining them. According to a report in The Missourian, “Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O’Fallon, pre-filed a bill Dec. 1 that, if approved by voters, would effectively put a halt on any national health care legislation. Davis said her intent was to give voters a way to protect themselves.”
The principle behind such legislation is nullification, which has a long history in the American tradition. When a state ‘nullifies’ a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or ‘non-effective,’ within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as the state is concerned.
Early nullification movements began with the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. These resolutions, secretly authored by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, asserted that the people of the states, as sovereign entities, could judge for themselves whether the federal government had overstepped its constitutional bounds – to the point of ignoring federal laws.
Virginia and Kentucky passed the resolutions in response to the federal Alien and Sedition Acts, which provided, in part, for the prosecution of anyone who criticized Congress or the President of the United States.
Nullification was regularly called upon by states all over the country in response to everything from higher taxes to the fugitive slave law of 1850.
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