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‘Birther’ bill fails in committee

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution:

“No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.”

A panel of Arizona senators on Monday rejected a proposal to require candidates for the U.S. presidency to prove that they are natural-born American citizens.

If approved and signed into law, the bill would have prohibited the Arizona Secretary of State from placing on the ballot the name of a presidential candidate if the candidate — and his or her political party — failed to submit documents proving his or her American citizenship.

Perhaps more significantly, SB1526 would require that a candidate swear, under penalty of perjury, that at the time of his or her birth, both parents were American citizens.

And so the legislation, in effect, similarly attempts to tie a child’s citizenship to the citizenship of the parents — the same question posed by the two birthright bills being considered in the Legislature.

The bill’s supporters said it would help clear up any confusion as to who is eligible to run for president.

“People are concerned that people could run for office without really being eligible,” said Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, the bill’s sponsor and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which voted 5-3 against the bill. Three Republicans joined the committee’s two Democrats in voting against it.

Supporters of the bills said states can clarify who can appear on the ballot in presidential elections.

“As long as the language of the bill that is being proposed is consistent with whatever the term ‘natural born citizen’ is, then the bill is absolutely A-OK,” said Sen. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, who backed the legislation.

But critics said the so-called “birther” bill goes beyond the requirements of federal law, since neither the U.S. Constitution nor federal rules mandate that a candidate show proof that both of his or her parents are American citizens.

Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, one of the three Republicans who voted against the measure, said the U.S. Constitution spells out the eligibility requirements to run for president.

“It is not the prerogative of state legislators to create additional requirements,” he said.

The bill’s failure on Monday is by no means its end. There are many ways to resurrect the legislation, and a bill is never dead until lawmakers have wrapped the session.

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