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President Barack Obama participates in a national tele-town hall meeting at the Holiday Park Multipurpose Senior Center with senior citizens to discuss the Affordable Care Act and ways to combat scams targeting seniors in Wheaton, Maryland on June 8, 2010. Secretary of Health and Human Service Kathleen Sebelius was on hand to moderate the questions from seniors. UPI/Gary Fabiano/Pool Photo via Newscom

It’s not just Montana anymore.

And folks at the Tenth Amendment Center, who monitor states’ declarations of independence from the federal government’s rules and regulations, suggest perhaps Washington should be paying attention.

Montana has earned fame for its legislative independence in recent years, authoring the original Firearms Freedom Act that now is law in 8 states and being considered in another 8. It also was among the first states to introduce legislation cancelling Obamacare’s effects inside its borders. It even considered a plan, tabled for now, that would require federal agents to check in with the local sheriff before attempting to enforce federal laws inside his jurisdiction.

Such ideas have been ridiculed by those in government power, as well as the old established media.

“Reaching into the dusty annals of American history” is how Associated Press described nullification, the idea that at least is suggested in the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

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Just exactly what are those powers given to the federal government? Mostly listed in Article 1, Section 8, they include the power to tax and pay debts, provide for the common defense and general welfare of the U.S., borrow money, regulate commerce with foreign nations and “among the several states,” establish a “rule of naturalization,” coin money, punish counterfeiters, establish post offices and courts, declare war, raise and support armies and a navy and others.

But over the years the federal government has mandated education procedures, even though education isn’t listed in the Constitution. It has established the Energy Department, even though that is not in the Constitution. There’s the EPA, even though that is not in the Constitution. And many others.

And now it has decided, under the federal Obamacare health care takeover, that not purchasing health insurance is an action that can be regulated by the federal government.

The result, explains Michael Boldin, chief of the Tenth Amendment Center, is that there are so many efforts to deny Washington the authority it claims, or refuse it the compliance it expects, that his volunteer staff of several dozen workers cannot even keep up with the issues.

He also explained that John Adams probably would consider it a revolution, since Adams one wrote the original was not about the war, but about the change years earlier in how people look at government.

The AP said such state efforts to “nullify” Washington’s actions are “completely unconstitutional in the eyes of most legal scholars because the U.S. Constitution deems federal laws ‘the supreme law of the land.’”

And those at the Tenth Amendment Center agree – as long as the federal laws are within the Constitution’s enumerated powers given to the federal government. But they cite the Tenth Amendment that other powers belong to the states and people, and just exactly what fits into which category is the crux of many of the current arguments.

Nullification itself goes far back into U.S. history, with references in the Kentucky Resolutions to that very term.

Jefferson once opined, “When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”

And Connecticut Gov. Jonathan Trumbull once said, “Whenever our national legislature is led to overleap the prescribed bounds of their constitutional powers, on the State Legislatures, in great emergencies, devolves the arduous task – it is their right – it becomes their duty, to interpose their protecting shield between the right and liberty of the people, and the assumed power of the General Government.”

Among the issues, according to Boldin, that have come to the forefront for literally dozens of states:

  • 10th Amendment Resolutions, which are intended to be statements of the legislature of the state to exercise those rights not given to the federal government.

  • The Firearms Freedom Acts, which are law in eight states and being considered in another eight. Started in Montana, they declare any firearms made and retained in-state are beyond the authority of Congress under its constitutional power to regulate commerce among the states.
  • State marijuana laws, which explain that the federal government has no constitutional authority to override state laws on marijuana, even though all three branches of the federal government have stated they do have that authority.
  • Health Care Nullification Acts, which state in some dozen plans already that “the federal law known as the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,’ signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, is not authorized by the Constitution of the United States and violates its true meaning and intent as given by the Founders and Ratifiers, and is hereby declared to be invalid, shall not be recognized, is specifically rejected, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect.” Twenty-seven states also have gone to court to overturn Obamacare.
  • REAL ID Act, which started in Maine and has been joined by more than two dozen states, denouncing and refusing the implement the Bush-era law which many expressed concerned about privacy, funding and more.
  • Defend the Guard, which reasserts governors’ authority over the National Guard units from their state. The Constitution allows the guard to be called into duty by the federal government to execute the laws of the union and suppress insurrection and repel invasions. Deployments outside the country do not appear to be considered.
  • Constitutional Tender, which advocates for the Constitution’s requirement that “No State shall … make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.”
  • Cap and Trade/EPA, which challenge the authority of the federal agencies to regulate agriculture, manufacturing, mining and land use.
  • The Sheriffs First Legislation, which would make it a state crime for any federal agent to make an arrest, search, or seizure within the state without first getting the advanced, written permission of the elected county sheriff of the county in which the event is to take place.

Boldin said it’s essential for citizens to know what to do when the federal government takes authority that it does not have under the Constitution.

“The standard viewpoint that we the people take in response to federal usurpation of our rights is, ‘Let’s vote some bums out and hope the new bums don’t do it again,’” he said.

But, “going to the federal government to fix problems created by the federal government doesn’t work,” he said.

“Nullification is a way to bypass the federal government and have our states do what they’re supposed to do.”

He cited some of the old traditional media reports on the dispute as proof that headway is being made.

“First, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you,” he said, pointing to AP’s characterization of the movement as of “dubious constitutional nature.”

He even explained that resorting to court action and other challenges is not always the best course of action. Instead, he said people should tell Washington:

“You don’t matter any more. We the people are going to exercise our rights no matter what you say. Get on board if you want to keep the power in the Constitution.”


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