Senators on Wednesday said “no” to a bill that would have showcased Arizona’s displeasure at what states’ rights advocates regard as an overreaching federal government.
The measure, SB1433, failed by a vote of 12-18.
The proposal, which is one of more than a dozen anti-Washington, D.C., measures known colloquially as Arizona’s secession bills, would create a “Joint Legislative Committee on Nullification of Federal Laws” composed of lawmakers.
Under the legislation, the group’s task would be to review federal laws and recommend their nullification if they fell outside the scope of the enumerated powers delegated to the federal government. Once nullification is recommended, the Legislature would have to vote on the proposal within 60 days.
And once a majority of lawmakers voted “yes,” Arizona citizens would no longer be obligated to follow the federal law, rule or executive order.
In short, just because the Arizona Legislature declared so, a federal law would be negated.
Some Republicans who voted against the bill said the idea of a committee tasked to review federal laws and recommend nullification is too much of a reach. They argued that disgruntled states like Arizona have other ways to challenge the federal government, such as going to court.
Other Republicans were uneasy with the provision that says a simple majority vote of the Legislature means Arizonans don’t have to live under a federal law.
“It was a blink of sanity that happened,” said Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, referring to the Senate’s decision to reject the bill.
But Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said the bill’s failure to advance means “people don’t understand the (U.S.) Constitution.” He said states already have the right to nullify federal laws.
Earlier, Gould argued that measures such as SB1433 are meant to check the federal government’s tendency to concentrate power.
“There’s no one left to support states’ rights except for the states themselves,” Gould said.
Sen. Lori Klein, R-Anthem, the bill’s primary sponsor, changed her vote to “no” from “yes” so she can later ask the body to reconsider the measure. Under Senate rules, only those on the prevailing side of a vote may ask to reconsider an action, such as a bill’s failure.
The bill says that the nullification committee must see to it that only the U.S. Supreme Court is the arbiter of any dispute that may arise between Arizona and the federal government over a state’s decision to declare a federal law null.
Backers view the measure as necessary to help check the federal government’s abuse of its authority, which they say has become pervasive. They said federal regulations are costly, and states are better stewards of resources then the faraway government in Washington, D.C.
Something is wrong with the picture, they argued, when the federal government can regulate what people grow in their backyards, including produce that may end up at a farmers market but never actually cross state lines.
But critics of the secession movement said that lament ignores these facts: that Arizona is part of a union; that it doesn’t have the authority to simply nullify a federal law; and that the bills that have been introduced are pre-empted by federal law and, if litigated, are likely to be struck down as illegal.