The Associated Press March 22, 2010, 3:54PM ET

Drive to exempt Mich. from fed health care starts

A group of activists, legislators and community leaders launched a petition drive Monday to put a measure on the Michigan ballot asking voters whether they want to exempt the state from the federal health care overhaul.

State Rep. Tom McMillin was joined in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak by a few dozen opponents of the U.S. health care bill at a kick off for the petition drive.

The rally came as Michigan Republican attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Mike Cox said he would join other states in a lawsuit challenging the health insurance legislation's constitutionality. Democratic critics call such lawsuits frivolous.

The effort to amend Michigan's constitution is patterned after other states' efforts.

Last week, a Republican-backed resolution to put a similar amendment before voters failed to advance in the Michigan Senate.

Experts say federal law trumps such changes to state constitutions.

McMillin, a Republican from Rochester Hills, said he expects the issue to ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wendy Day, president of Common Sense in Government, a group advocating limited government and lower taxes, said "Washington has overstepped their authority," and the people of the state must fight back.

"Our state legislature has also fallen down on the job," Day said at the rally near William Beaumont Hospital. "They were given an opportunity to stand up and be brave and fight on our behalf against Washington, and they have not done that.

"So we have decided ... that we're gonna take this issue into our own hands."

The hospital has said it doesn't endorse the campaign.

McMillin said organizers will seek the needed 381,000 valid signatures by July 5, are shooting for half a million and hope to begin gathering signatures as soon as this week.

A couple of GOP congressional candidates attended the rally, where some participants carried signs reading "Repeal The Bill" and simply "No."

The group chanted "Kill the bill" as cars passing by honked their horns.

The federal legislation in question -- a health care bill that would provide near-universal medical coverage -- cleared the House on a 219-212 vote late Sunday and is headed to the desk of President Barack Obama. It would extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, reduce deficits and ban insurance company practices such as denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

GOP lawmakers attacked the legislation as a government takeover, and none voted in favor.

Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said some state residents could be harmed if the petition drive succeeded and the ballot measure passed.

"That's what this petition drive is all about. It's about denying people health care," Brewer said.

Bernie Porn, an independent pollster with Lansing-based EPIC-MRA, said he wouldn't be surprised to see the anti-health care bill measure make the November ballot.

But what happens after that, he said, is anybody's guess.

"I would say it would be a close election, but Democrats may very well be able to prevail and particularly if the economy improves," Porn said Monday. "So much depends on what the economy is like. If the economy doesn't improve and the view of voters remains as it is today, Democrats are gonna lose and they would probably lose that ballot proposal as well."


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