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Gowan: Make U.S. prove its mandates are constitutional

The federal government, state Rep. David Gowan says, is not showing Arizona the proper respect.

So Gowan, a Republican from Sierra Vista, is pushing a bill demanding that when the federal government requires Arizona to create a program, the mandate comes with “arguments” that it “will pass a constitutional challenge if contested in a court of law.”

HB 2471 on Feb. 1 won approval in the House Committee on Government. The vote was 6-3, with all the Republican members voting “aye,” and all the Democrats opposed.

After a check of its constitutionality in the House Rules Committee, the bill will be ready to be debated by the entire chamber.

“(The) federal government, in my viewpoint, likes to encroach upon the sovereignty of the states and the people, respectively,” Gowan said. “What I want to do is to make sure they get the message that the state of Arizona wants them to show us the constitutionality and the purpose of that mandate.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is responsible for ruling on matters of constitutionality, and in the usual course of business, such a ruling requires a lawsuit that may take years before a decision is rendered.

But Gowan isn’t backing down.

“The federal government is made up of co-equal branches,” he said, “so what precludes the Congress and the president from interpreting the constitutionality just as well as the Supreme Court?”

Under the bill, before the Legislature appropriates any money to pay for a mandate, the federal government would have to provide a document containing “reasonable and logical arguments” to prove the mandate will pass a constitutional challenge if contested in court. The document also would have to assure the state that the mandate does not violate the sovereign rights of Arizona.

“It is unclear to me how this would actually work without putting billions of dollars in federal funds at risk that we use for our schools, our highways, and our health care system,” said Rep. Eric Meyer, a Democrat from Paradise Valley, who voted “no” on the measure.

Gowan said an example of a mandate that would be affected by the bill is the health care overhaul Congress approved last year.

The bill is “not anything against the administration here and now — it would be the same for any administration,” Gowan said. “The federal government is taking enumerated power from the states.”

Gowan said he hopes federal officials provide justification for why they think mandates should be enacted.

“I’m going back to the principles of true civics and federalism, and the purpose of federalism is for checks and balances,” Gowan said. “If the states just did everything the feds wanted them to do without checking it, we wouldn’t have 50 states. We would be one state.”

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