On issues ranging from light bulbs and medical marijuana to health-care mandates and gun regulations, states in a rising tsunami are challenging the federal government’s authority to micromanage their affairs.
“Since 2007, more than two dozen states have passed resolutions or laws denouncing and refusing to implement the federal REAL ID Act, which imposes rigorous issuance standards for driver’s licenses and state ID cards,” wrote Suzanne Weiss in an analysis titled, “Sovereignty measures and other steps may indicate an upsurge in anti-federal sentiment in legislatures” at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
She also cited 14 states that have asserted their right to “permit and control” the medicinal use of marijuana, the rising surge of states – five so far – that have declared that firearms made, sold and used within their borders are exempt from federal rules, and efforts on the part of states to provide for their citizens an “opt-out” provision from federal health-reform mandates.
“Formal protests against federal encroachment on states’ authority and prerogatives under the 10th Amendment – in the form of sovereignty resolutions or memorials – were considered by legislators in 37 states (in 2009),” her report continued. “Although many of them never made it out of committee or failed on initial floor votes, roughly half were approved in at least one legislative chamber. And in seven states – Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee – the measures passed in both the House and Senate.”
Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, the self-described “godfather” of the state-gun-laws movement, described to the New York Times a “tsunami” of resistance to “an overbearing federal government.”
“That’s what all these measures indicate,” he said.
The report said in addition to Western states such as Montana and Wyoming, which traditionally have maintained a more independent attitude, the issues also are arising in more left-leaning states such as Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Vermont.
Those states have reviewed plans that either would authorize or require their governors to take control of their own National Guard troops under the premise that federal demands they report for active duty have exceeded the authority granted Washington in the Constitution.
Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat who previously was appointed by President Clinton as U.S. attorney and who endorsed Obama for president, is among those who say the feds have gone too far.
In a recent memo to his legislature on the issue of state sovereignty, he said, “For decades we have shared increased frustration dealing with the federal government and its agencies. What started out as a leak in the erosion of state prerogative and independence has today turned into a flood. From wolf and grizzly-bear management, to gun control, to endless regulation and unfunded mandates – the federal government has become far too powerful and intrusive.”
“Everything we’ve tried to keep the federal government confined to rational limits has been a failure, an utter, unrelenting failure – so why not try something else?” Thomas E. Woods Jr., a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Alabama, told the newspaper.
According to the Tenth Amendment Center, which builds its work around the constitutional provision, “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,” states actively are addressing the federal government’s power through 10th Amendment resolutions, the Firearms Freedom Acts, medical-marijuana disputes, REAL ID, the National Guard, Cap-and-Trade disputes, federal taxation, regulation of intrastate commerce and the concept that sheriffs are the highest law enforcement and federal agencies must work through them.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the protests even have involved Washington’s legislation that will ban incandescent light bulbs.
The newspaper reported state Reps. Dean Urdahl and Tom Emmer are on a campaign to allow Minnesotans to keep buying conventional bulbs after 2014, when the federal government has ordered those sales halted.
“We have the right to do this,” Urdahl told the newspaper. “If a lawsuit is the result, so be it.
“The real problem I have with this ban is it’s another instance of government creeping even further into our lives,” he continued. “Our Founding Fathers would be dismayed if they knew Washington is reaching so far into our lives as to control the light bulbs we use.”
WND reported just few days ago when South Dakota became the fifth state to adopt a law that states guns and ammunition made, sold and used inside state boundaries are exempt from federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulations.
Just a few days earlier, Wyoming adopted a similar law that took the unusual step of specifying criminal penalties – including both fines up to $2,000 and jail time – for federal agents attempting to enforce a federal law on a “personal firearm” in the Cowboy State.
Other issues that have developed include Utah’s stated authority to take federal lands under eminent domain.
Detractors note that Article 6 of the Constitution says federal authority trumps state authority, and Ruthann Robson, a teacher at City University of New York School of Law, told the Times, “It’s pretty difficult to imagine a way in which a state could prevail on many of these.”
To which supporters respond with the 10th Amendment, citing the Constitution’s explanation that if “powers” are not delegated to Washington in that document, they are reserved for the states and the people. They simply question where in the Constitution authority is granted to Washington to impose health-insurance requirements or ban a type of light bulb.
According to the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Idaho officials are taking it one step further, calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would expand the rights controlled by states.
The resolution already has been moved to a fast track in the state House, officials said. It urges Congress to propose amendments that would tighten the Commerce Clause and expand 10th Amendment rights for states.
Steve Palmer, coordinator for the Tenth Amendment Center said in a commentary that it’s not that complicated:
“When I build a fence around my house with a gate in the front, this says to the potential guest that he may enter my property through the gate, but not elsewhere. Someone found crossing the fence at a different location would be considered a trespasser.”
He continued, “The main body of the Constitution establishes the front gate by which Congress was invited to act on our behalf. Most of the delegated powers are listed in Article I, section 8. When the Congress establishes laws on these matters, it is acting as an invited guest. However, when the Congress establishes laws on matters which have not been delegated to it, it is climbing over the Tenth Amendment fence, erected to secure our liberties. At those times, the Congress is trespassing against the states and against the people.”
The chief of the Tenth Amendment Center, Michael Boldin, elaborated on what’s developing now.
“Resolutions, guns, national ID cards, and weed might be just the early stages of a quickly growing movement to nullify other federal laws seen as outside the scope of their constitutionally delegated powers. In states around the country this year, bills have been proposed to defy or nullify federal laws on health care, use of national-guard troops overseas, legal-tender laws, cap and trade, and even the process of collecting federal income taxes,” he said.
“The final goal? It’s a long way off – a federal government that follows the strict limits of the Constitution, whether it wants to or not,” he wrote.
Even the National Conference of State Legislatures, which monitors state actions across the land, took note of the growing trend that is targeting specifically President Obama’s plans to nationalize health care.
“States have an extensive and complicated shared power relationship with the federal government in regulating various aspects of the health-insurance market and in enacting health reforms,” its new report said. “As part of state-based responses to federal health-reform legislation, individual members of at least 36 state legislatures are using the legislative process to seek to limit, alter or oppose selected state or federal actions, including single-payer provisions and mandates that would require purchase of insurance. In general the measures seek to make or keep health insurance optional, and allow people to purchase any type of coverage they may choose.”
The organization reports that in 26 of the states, the plans are for a state constitutional amendment, probably the most difficult change to make.