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Published April 19, 2011, 05:00 PM

ND Senate Endorses Protest of Federal Health Law

North Dakota lawmakers were on the verge of approving a bill Tuesday that questions the legitimacy of the new federal health care law and directs them to consider "any measure necessary" to prevent its enforcement.

By: Associated Press,

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota lawmakers were on the verge of approving a bill Tuesday that questions the legitimacy of the new federal health care law and directs them to consider "any measure necessary" to prevent its enforcement.

"Just ask yourself this: If the federal government can force you to buy health insurance, what else can they force you to buy?" Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, said during Senate debate on the bill. "At what point do states have to stand up ... and say, 'Enough'?"

Critics argued that the bill was pointless because the state couldn't override federal law, though senators voted 32-15 to approve the one-page bill Tuesday. It now goes to the North Dakota House, which has already endorsed a similar version of the legislation. The bill's final details were recently worked out by House and Senate conference committee negotiators.

The federal health care law, which was approved by Congress last year, requires people who do not have health insurance to buy it or pay a fine starting in 2014.

Sitte is the principal sponsor of the state legislation, which says the federal law likely violates the U.S. Constitution and asserts that federal law cannot be used to "interfere" with North Dakotans' decisions on buying medical care or health insurance.

The 2011 Legislature has considered several proposals that were introduced to protest the federal health care law, although nothing has been approved that would explicitly block its enforcement.

Lawmakers have approved a resolution asking that the federal measure be repealed, while rejecting a state constitutional amendment that declared North Dakotans could not be compelled to buy health insurance.

Critics of Sitte's bill argued Tuesday that it was meaningless.

"We cannot, as a state, nullify federal law," said Sen. Gerald Uglem, R-Northwood. "I know we're all frustrated with the federal law, but to put this into our code — it's just to clutter it up, and I don't believe it will accomplish anything."

Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, said the federal law's legitimacy will be decided in the federal courts, rather than the North Dakota Legislature.

"For us to think that by passing this, we're going to be able to improve our standing and our status, I am not convinced that that's the case," she said.

The bill is SB2309.

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