"Under NC law, a North Carolina citizen could not be compelled by the federal government to purchase any particular type of health insurance, nor to purchase health insurance at all," Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said.
State Republicans want to strip away that requirement by passing a page and a half bill aimed at the heart of the federal health care overhaul. But advocates for health care reform say they aren't buying it.
"It's something that's more political theater than actual politics," said Adam Searing, the director of NC Justice Center's Health Coalition.
He says the state can't supersede federal law.
"We have to follow what the federal government has said," Searing said. "We can't say to the federal government, 'Well, our state has decided that marijuana, for example, should be legal, so we're going to forget about federal drug laws.' We're still going to have to follow federal drug laws; I mean its how our system of government works. We can't just opt out."
But Berger says the drugs analogy doesn't hold up. In that case the law prevents you from doing something. The health care bill is different.
"The federal health care legislation is legislation that actually requires someone to affirmatively do something," Berger said.
However where Searing and Berger agree, is that there's no way to know who's right. And there won't be until the Supreme Court weighs in, which could take years. But already, there are cases making their way through the system.
The mandate that everyone needs to have health insurance doesn't kick in until 2013. So assuming the state bill passes, the courts have at least two years to sort out whether the feds or the state has the final word.