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Five reasons Arizona is picking a fight with the feds

Health care

The federal health care law, perhaps more than anything, prompted a resolute response by Arizona lawmakers to lash out at the federal government.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Gray said frustration was building for years, even under Republican presidents, but it all came to a head under the Obama administration because of health care.

In March, the Republican-led Legislature authorized the governor to sue the federal government over the recently-enacted health care legislation.

In 2009, the Legislature passed a ballot referral to amend the state Constitution in a way that would give residents the right to choose their own health care or go without insurance. That measure is slated for the ballot in November, but it’s unclear whether it would have any impact because it conflicts with the federal law.

On top of that, Arizona lawmakers drafted four “postcards” to Congress in response to the health care discussion at the federal level. Two made it out of the Legislature.

HCM2002, introduced by House Majority Whip Andy Tobin, urges Congress, when considering federal health care reform legislation, to ensure an equitable distribution of Medicaid funding to each state and to consider granting states flexibility to adjust services if federal dollars were insufficient to meet requirements to expand Medicaid. The Legislature passed a similar resolution, SCM1001, sponsored by Scottsdale Republican Carolyn Allen.


Arizona lawmakers watched closely as Montana took on the feds by passing the Firearms Freedom Act, and this year they followed up by passing a similar law to restrict federal authority to regulate firearms.

Arizona’s version was signed into law on April 5.

The bill, H2307, prevents the federal government from regulating firearms and ammunition that are manufactured in Arizona and kept within the state’s boundaries. The law also requires that any guns manufactured and sold here be stamped with “Made in Arizona.”

The law also specifies that the anything-goes firearms policy does not apply to fully automatic weapons, firearms that require two people to move or operate or firearms with a bore diameter of more than 1 1/2 inches.

The law also includes language outlining the Legislature’s interpretation of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which reserves powers to the state that are not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government.

“Politicians in Washington should not attempt to get between Arizonans and their constitutional rights,” Gov. Jan Brewer said of H2307.

The other new law also sends a “hands off” message, except not to the federal government, but to the cities and counties of Arizona.

H2543 states that Arizona’s gun laws cannot be limited by any political sub-division of the state and nullifies any such ordinances or rules that already exist.

Light bulbs

In what is probably the most symbolic gesture of defiance, Arizona’s lawmakers passed bill on April 28 to challenge federal authority to regulate light bulbs.

The bill, H2337, declares that any incandescent light bulb made in Arizona and not exported outside the state would be exempt from federal regulations.

Sen. Frank Antenori, a Tucson Republican, said he hopes the bill will provoke a lawsuit with the federal government over its use of the U.S Constitution’s commerce clause.

The bill, if signed by the governor, would challenge the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which former President George W. Bush signed into law. That federal law sets energy efficiency standards for incandescent lamps. That federal law also requires the U.S. Department of Energy to set standards to reduce the energy consumption of light bulbs by the year 2020.

Senate Minority Leader Jorge Garcia, a Democrat from Tucson, said he doubts any company would want to come to Arizona to take advantage of the law to be able to manufacture light bulbs only for state use.

Antenori said the bill actually allows light bulbs made here to be exported all over the world — just not to other states. Still, Antenori has made it clear that his main goal was to establish precedent that limits the scope of the interstate commerce clause.

Carbon emissions

Arizona lawmakers bristled when Congress began talking about tighter regulations on carbon emissions, and in a sort of pre-emptive strike to cap-and-trade legislation, they produced a measure that would exempt Arizona from federal air-pollution restrictions.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Snowflake Republican, introduced SCR1050, which would give the Arizona Legislature sole authority to regulate carbon emissions in the state. The measure, which would require voter approval, has been named the Freedom to Breathe Act.

In March, the Senate passed SCR1050, which would have to be approved by voters. The House, however, did not advance it.

Last year, state lawmakers held hearings on the federal cap-and-trade legislation and explored what the state’s energy future would look like.

The federal legislation aims to reduce greenhouse gases by certain levels in the next few decades. It calls for a system that sets a limit on carbon emissions while allowing companies to buy, sell and trade pollution permits.

Meanwhile, Brewer issued an executive order to extricate Arizona from a regional cap-and-trade agreement aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Brewer said Arizona would remain in the Western Climate Initiative, a collaborative effort between seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, though she said the state’s economy would suffer if it didn’t pull out of the cap-and-trade program.

Arizona waterways

Arizona’s anti-federal government sentiment isn’t confined to the areas of health care or carbon emissions. Some lawmakers also want Arizona to have sole authority over its waters.

Backed by a group called the Orange Coalition, SCR1046 would be a preemptive strike against any attempt by the federal government to assert control over intrastate waterways such as streams, tributaries, lakes and ponds.

The measure, which was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Gray, was awaiting a vote in the House as of press time. The proposal says that all intrastate waters are regulated by Arizona and that other governments cannot claim jurisdiction or regulatory authority over non-navigable waters within its boundaries.

If the Legislature and voters approve the measure, it would amend the Arizona Constitution to declare that the state has sole jurisdiction over bodies of water that lie completely within state borders.

Orange Coalition leaders said the ballot measure was intended as a response to a congressional bill filed by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin that would amend the 1972 Clean Water Act by removing “navigable waters” from the federal law and replacing it with “waters of the United States.”
Mark Killian, a former House speaker who is the Orange Coalition’s campaign chairman, said Congress is trying to grab more control of waterways.

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