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Senate rejects again bill to pre-empt federal policies

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The Arizona Senate has rejected a measure for the second week in a row that would have allowed the state to vote on bills blocking authorities from enforcing or financing any federal action not affirmed by Congress.

The proposal is one in a slew of state sovereignty bills Republican lawmakers have pushed since Proposition 122 passed in 2014 to block what they say is federal overreach. Critics say the state has no authority to deem federal policies unconstitutional.

Prescott Sen. Steve Pierce, one of the Republicans to vote against the measure, said he believes it’s a futile effort.

“I agree with the concept, but it isn’t going to do anything so why are we going through the motions?” Pierce said.

Senate President Andy Biggs said he supported the measure as a way to repair trust in government by restoring state sovereignty.

“The populous as a whole is very discontented and disenchanted with the direction that our national government seems to be pursuing,” he said when explaining his vote.

The measure would let the Legislature pass bills to prevent state agencies, cities and counties from cooperating with rules and regulations proposed by federal agencies or executive orders. It failed on a 15-15 vote Wednesday after coming back for a second and final time under rules that allow for reconsideration. Backers could find a procedural way to revive the legislation by tacking it on another bill, although that is unlikely.

Paul Bender, a professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, cited the Constitution’s supremacy clause, which grants the federal government legal precedence over states, as a reason why states lack the authority to challenge the constitutionality of a federal policy.

“The Arizona Legislature, all the time, it sort of puts itself in the position to determine if something is constitutional and it just doesn’t have the authority. That’s not its role,” Bender told the Associated Press earlier this year while speaking about another Proposition 122-inspired bill.

Republican lawmakers had their first chance to put Proposition 122 into action last session with bills that sought to block funding for the Affordable Care Act, demand the federal government transfer all public lands to the state before 2020 and block state cooperation with the Environmental Protections Agency over proposed changes to U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act. None were signed into law.

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5 comments

  1. The possibility of the ‘know nothing’ Governor, and Legislature making all decisions would be tantamount
    to assuring full on discrimination, and give a ways to the connected.

  2. Can you imagine Arizona with Biggs as its Supreme Commander? “Achtung!”

    I rather trust the feds.

  3. Professor Bender’s interpretation of the Supremecy Clause flies in the face of the view the founders took when they wrote it and the actual words of the clause, itself. Federal law supersede those of the states only when made in pursuance of the Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that unconstitutional acts by Washington are null and void from inception. But, who is to decide what is Constitutional and what is not?

    Many people have fallen prey to the idea that a decision by just 4 justices in Marbury v. Madison empowers the Supreme Court to be the ultimate arbiter of constitutionality but those men had no authority to establish such a precedent–the Constitution does not grant the court that role.

    What did Jefferson and Madison do when the federal government violated the 1st amendment with the Aliens and Sedition Acts just 7 years after it was ratified? Did they turn to the Supreme Court for a decision? No, they went to their state legislatures and convinced them to pass measures to declare the federal actions null & void.

    In Jefferson’s words, that was the “rightful remedy.”

  4. I don’t know history as you do, Mr. Gibbs, but the Constitutional Rights Foundation* — hardly a federal government tool — has this to say regarding the lengthy debate over the constitutionality of the Alien and Sedition Laws:

    “In the end, the people settled this debate in 1800 by electing Thomas Jefferson president and a Republican majority to Congress. In his inaugural address, Jefferson confirmed the new definition of free speech and press as the right of Americans ‘to think freely and to speak and write what they think.'”

    The President decided not to enforce the laws? That sounds about as federal as one can get. The article goes on to note that the question of what constitutes free speech and what is seditious is still undecided, even in our time. The states haven’t had much to do with it, except to clear the table for the real players.

    *Constitutional Rights Foundation, “The Alien and Sedition Acts: Defining American Freedom”
    http://www.crf-usa.org/america-responds-to-terrorism/the-alien-and-sedition-acts.html

  5. PS Per your comment, “The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that unconstitutional acts by Washington are null and void from inception,” the same has been stated about more state initiatives than grains of sand on the beach, “unconstitutional” in the states’ case meaning not just the US Constitution but state constitutions also. Seems the more local you go, the greater some governments’ propensity to gloss over constitutional rights in order “ta git the job done.” Lynchings, break-ins, and coerced testimony come to mind, not to mention every sort of corruption.

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