It’s only days, a few weeks at most, into the 2015 season for state legislatures, and already there are hundreds of bills looming that challenge the power of Washington on issues ranging from Common Core to marijuana and the National Security Agency, according to a new report.
The Tenth Amendment Center, which tracks legislation at the state level, has listed some 200 state bills “seeking to block or limit federal power.”
“Sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, these bills range from narrowly focused legislation that would allow terminally ill people access to experimental drugs and medical treatments despite FDA regulations, to bills that would deny resources and assistance from states to the NSA. Other legislation addresses the Second Amendment, the federal prohibition of hemp and marijuana, Common Core, the use of drones for surveillance, the Affordable Care Act, and even federal grant programs that arm local police with battlefield-ready military equipment,” the center said.
Center Communications Director Mike Maharrey told WND the observed “dissatisfaction level” in states is far higher now than the group has seen before.
Last year, he noted, there were half as many bills challenging federal power.
200 and counting
Maharrey said the rejection of Washington’s micromanagement is “broad-based” as well as “bipartisan.”
Many of the bills, he said, are going to pass.
And many, he noted, are a rejection not necessarily of federal laws but of the rules imposed by bureaucrats.
He suggested the marijuana issue as an example. Multiple states allow the legal use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and Washington and Colorado allow it for “recreational use.”
Maharrey noted when the federal government wanted to ban alcohol, it required a constitutional amendment and another amendment to repeal it. Yet the bureaucrats have created a framework now that could be used to punish states that allow marijuana use.
WND reported just weeks ago on the use of executive action and regulations to run Americans’ lives.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, described the problem posed by professional government managers.
“You can’t fire them every two years, as is the case with representatives, or every six years, as is the case with senators. But you can fire your representatives and senators. And so, the ultimate decision-making authority needs to rest with people who are elected,” he said.
The White House has stated it will not wait for legislation to implement so-called “net neutrality” rules because it the Federal Communications Commission can simply write new regulations.
The White House claimed the regulations would ensure Internet service providers treat all Web content fairly, but critics say it would give the federal government virtual control over the content of the Internet.
For instance, they say the government could effectively censor content it finds objectionable by simply slowing the delivery speed.
Additionally, broadband companies say the burdensome regulations would drive up costs and drive down investment and innovation.
The Obama administration is particularly fond of regulations:
- Nov. 24, 2014: The White House quietly released plans for 3,415 regulations ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday
- Dec. 23, 2014: It crammed in more than 1,200 new regulations just before the New Year
- Dec. 31, 2014: A report found 21,000 regulations so far under Obama with 2,374 set for 2015
The White House also has changed Obamacare with nothing more than Obama’s pen and is trying now to change immigration and amnesty laws through executive memos.
But Lee said that for every one page of legislation signed into law, there are 100 pages of regulations.
And he said those regulations are written by unelected bureaucrats with little, if any, input from the people’s elected representatives in Congress.
He said it’s because Congress has given virtually unhindered rule-making power to bureaucrats with little resistance.
Lee offered an even more graphic illustration, on display in the reception area of his D.C. office: a small stack of 800 pages comprising the bills passed in 2013, dwarfed by a cabinet full of the 80,000 pages of proposed regulations those bills generated.
“When you add up all the laws that give discretion to executive branch agencies, you have, for instance, many hundreds of instances of delegation of regulatory authority in Obamacare. And you likewise had many hundreds instances of delegation of authority in the Dodd-Frank act a few years ago,” Lee said.
“You add those two bills up with all others that have been passed in the last seven or eight decades since Congress has really started taking this approach, and you get a lot our law being made by executive branch bureaucrats.”
Sea change coming?
Maharrey says there will soon be a sea change in how states react to federal power.
If a citizen calls his member of Congress, Maharrey said, he might talk to an intern. But people are recognizing “they can go and make an impact in state legislatures.”
“People have enough power to move these bills along,” he said, calling it a “legal way to undermine the federal bureaucracy.”
The federal government, he said, soon will be following the lead of the states.
“It will change from the bottom up – this attitude is going to work its way up to Washington,” he said.
Regarding marijuana, he said, at some point Congress will decide to no longer prohibit it, based on pressure from the states.
The National Conference of State Legislatures, which couldn’t be reached immediately, tracks a number of bills that challenge federal power.
Michael Boldin, executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center, said the moves by states this year are stunning.
“This is unprecedented. From mass spying, to gun control, property rights, militarized police, the drug war and everything in between, we’ve never seen so much activity to push back on a state level,” he said.
“The great misconception is that this is a right-wing movement that is trying to oppose federal power, and with some issues, like the Second Amendment and the ACA, that’s certainly true,” he said. “But we’re tracking more than 200 bills, and many of the most successful – like marijuana, hemp farming, ‘right to try’ bills, and stopping NSA spying – lean strongly left or are totally bipartisan. Anyone claiming this is a partisan fad is either not paying attention, or lying.”
Feds can’t force states
Boldin said a key component of the movement is the recognized principle that the federal government cannot force states to expend resources or manpower to do its work.
That issue is before the U.S. Supreme Court in an Obamacare case that challenges the federal subsidies to people who obtain insurance from a federal exchange. The creators of Obamacare knew they could not force states to create state exchanges, so they wrote in the law that only those who get insurance through state exchanges would get subsidies, as an incentive.
However, when most states simply refused to do the federal government’s bidding, the bureaucrats opened up the subsidies to all, and the dispute now is before the Supreme Court.
Boldin said state governments are learning they can simply say to the feds, “You want this program, you do it, we aren’t going to help.”
“The beauty of this strategy is in many situations, the feds just don’t have the manpower or resources to get the job done without help from the states. They depend on the states for pretty much everything.”
He continued: “We generally call these acts nullification. Some disagree. But we don’t really care what you call it, though, as long as the end result is the same – stopping the federal government from doing things it shouldn’t be doing.”
The organization has created a page to track legislation on issues such as the NSA, Second Amendment, marijuana, right to try, hemp, police militarization, Obamacare, drones, Common Core and the Defense Authorization’s provision for indefinite detention of Americans.
The site includes links to descriptions of proposals and more.
WND reported two years ago when 39 states had passed various laws attempting to exempt themselves from implementing Obamacare.
In addition, Arizona and Alabama had passed controversial immigration laws aimed at regulating illegal immigration.
A Washington Times editorial then said supporters of nullification “see it as a necessary and effective tool to protect states and citizens from the every-growing power of the federal government.”
The Times noted the first advocates of the idea were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who drafted the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, which declared, “Whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”