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Can a Federal Actor, through the use of coercion, or by the omission of information, force a U.S. citizen to waive a state-given Constitutional right?

Specifically: On the date of March 19, 2010, an amendment to the Ohio State Constitution was passed. Article 1 Section 21, "Preservation Of The Freedom To Choose Health Care and Health Care Coverage:"

21 (A) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system. (emphasis mine) (B) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance. (C) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

(D) This section does not affect laws or rules in effect as of March 19, 2010; affect which services a health care provider or hospital is required to perform or provide; affect terms and conditions of government employment; or affect any laws calculated to deter fraud or punish wrongdoing int he health care industry.

The American Healthcare Act, or "Obamacare" did not go into effect until March 23, 2010. All Ohioans have this right. The problem is that all Ohio federal taxpayers must use Form 1040 to file their yearly taxes. Form 1040 for the years of 2014 through 2018 have Line 61, which requires the proof of acceptable health insurance coverage, a valid exemption from the coverage, or assess oneself with a penalty. If Ohioans have a right NOT to have to be compelled to acquire health insurance, then how could this form be constitutional in the State of Ohio? The use of force in this situation would be threats of fines for not filing taxes, while one is refusing to waive a state-given right.

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    @brhans In the US, states tend to model themselves on the Federal government, and I believe most have constitutions which may have additional rights. – David Thornley Jan 31 at 22:13
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    @brhans: yes, every US state has its own constitution; several US states grant more and different rights than are granted by the Federal Constitution. For example, 11 states have explicit privacy protections written into their constitutions: ncsl.org/research/telecommunications-and-information-technology/… – sharur Jan 31 at 22:14
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    This question seems very broad and vague. It could cover lots of different situations, some of which might be legal and other not. It would help a lot if you could be more specific, maybe describe a hypothetical case. – Nate Eldredge Feb 1 at 1:55
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    In general, of course, federal law trumps state law, even state constitutions. Suppose your state constitution says "the right to sell heroin shall not be infringed". Well, if you exercise that "right", the federal government can certainly arrest and imprison you for violating federal law, and there is nothing unconstitutional about that. In that sense, a "federal actor" (say, the DEA) is "coercing" you into "waiving" that right, and it is perfectly legal for them to do so. Is that the sort of situation you have in mind, or something else? – Nate Eldredge Feb 1 at 1:59
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    @Mark Nate is closer to accurate than Mark. The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution means that any valid federal law trumps state law in the event that they conflict. – ohwilleke Feb 1 at 16:45
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Under Article VI of the United States Constitution,

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Affordable Care Act is a law of the United States which was made pursuant to the United States Constitution. It is therefore the supreme law of the land, “any Thing in the Constitution of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” Provisions that violate the federal constitution are invalid, but those are invalid no matter what state laws or state constitutions say. Federal power to preempt state law is basically absolute within the sphere of federal authority (and again, outside that sphere the federal action is unconstitutional no matter what states say).

This means the federal government isn’t really forcing you to waive a state-given right. That implies you have a right to waive, but states can’t give you rights enforceable against the federal government (there might be some narrow exceptions, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head). States do sometimes pass laws or constitutional amendments claiming to overrule the federal government. They can do this, but these laws have no effect. Things get more complicated when the federal government is interfering with the actual operations of state governments, but the ACA regulates individuals.

  • What if the federal law is struck down in court as being unconstitutional as the ACA recently was this past December by a judge in the state of Texas? He based his ruling on the fact that since the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act has been repealed, and essentially reduced to $0 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the whole of the ACA must be deemed unconstitutional. How does this ruling and current status affect the filing of taxes for the tax years in question? Or for that matter, filing for tax years in the future? BTW, thank you for editing the original question. – OHman Feb 2 at 6:07
  • @OHman That ruling has been stayed pending appeal, so the ruling does exactly nothing to any of those things right now. – zibadawa timmy Feb 2 at 10:13
  • @OHman That ruling is based on the federal constitution, and says the act is unconstitutional based on the federal constitution. The state right is still irrelevant, because the federal law stands or falls based solely on the federal constitution without even considering what state laws say. – cpast Feb 2 at 13:50

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