New panel to nullify fed laws?

2011-02-05T05:00:00Z New panel to nullify fed laws?HOWARD FISCHER Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Sun
February 05, 2011 5:00 am  • 

PHOENIX -- A new proposal at the Arizona Legislature will take the state's fight with the feds to a whole new level: It would let the state actually nullify federal laws that legislators believe are invalid.

The measure crafted by Sen. Lori Klein, R-Anthem, would set up a committee of 12 lawmakers to review federal laws and regulations to determine which are "outside the scope of the powers delegated by the people to the federal in the United States Constitution."

A majority vote that Congress or a federal agency exceeded its authority would trigger an automatic referral to the Legislature, which would have 60 days to make a final decision. Ratification of the panel's recommendation would mean the state and its residents "shall not recognize or be obligated to live under the statute, mandate or executive order."

But Klein said SB1433 is not challenging the fact that Arizona is part of the United States, at least not exactly.

"We're not seceding," she said. "We're looking at nullifying laws coming from the federal government that are mandates that are not constitutional."

The measure is just one of more than a dozen introduced this session to challenge or limit federal authority. Issues range from requiring federal agencies to register with local sheriffs before coming into a county to declaring the right of Arizonans to have guns, produce carbon dioxide and even create their own nuclear fuel free of federal regulation.


Klein acknowledged her idea, if adopted here and elsewhere, could result in each state deciding which federal laws are enforceable within their own limits. But she said that is necessary -- especially given the current administration.

"We have in Washington a particularly overreaching administration as well as regulations that are coming out of agencies that are not even mandated from Congress," Klein said. "The states have a right to stand up to these kind of onerous regulations."

The bottom line, Klein said, is states' rights.

"We have dual sovereignty," she said.

"Our constitution is on par with the federal Constitution," Klein explained. "But lately, there's been a creep over the last 20 years."

Klein said she's not presuming that Washington will simply accept Arizona's decision to nullify some of its laws and regulations, with any fight likely to wind up in court. But her measure says the only court ruling that Arizona will accept is that of the U.S. Supreme Court.


Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said Klein's legislation is based on a flawed premise that state constitutions and statutes are on par with federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

"The idea of nullification is to say that you can have a state statute or constitutional issue that then pre-empts everything above it," she said. "It just doesn't work that way."

Sinema said that doesn't mean Congress or the administration never oversteps its authority. But she said if the state has a problem with a specific law, the proper procedure is for the Legislature to vote to file suit on the specific issue and let the issue work its way through the courts, not to simply declare the federal law null and void.

"And the governor can file suit whenever she wants," Sinema continued. "And she can do it on behalf of the state."


Klein agreed that anyone who believes a federal law or rule is illegal already has the right to challenge it in court. But she said that is a cumbersome process.

"Very few states and individuals actually stand up for their rights when it comes to federal mandates," she said. "We need to look at how the federal mandates are being thrust upon our states."

She specifically singled out "Obamacare," last year's national health care law, and its requirement for individuals to obtain insurance or face a fine. If nothing else, she said, that flies directly in the face of a measure Arizona voters approved just last year providing state constitutional protections against such requirements.

"So it's really incumbent upon us in the states to define and look at Article I, Section 8 of what the purview is of the federal government," Klein said.

That section defines the powers of Congress, ranging from collecting taxes and defending the nation to regulating interstate commerce.

Not all of the mandates that have upset legislators have been unilateral. Klein agreed that Arizona is under certain obligations because it accepts federal money.

For example, Klein complained about the inability of Arizona to cut its Medicaid program. But the state could eliminate all mandates by not taking federal dollars, as was the case before the state joined the Medicaid system in 1982.

Klein said the answer for that would be for the federal government to simply give block grants to Arizona "and let us create our own rules."


Sinema said Klein is mistaken if she believes the nation's high court will side with states in their battles with the federal government.

She also said there is a real solution for Klein and others who don't like what's coming out of Washington.

"Elect new people to Congress," she said.

Other pending legislation seeking to challenge or limit federal authority:

-- SB1308 and HB 2562 setting up interstate compacts to honor each other's birth certificates segregating children who are considered U.S. citizens from those who are not;

-- SB1309 and HB 2561 defining Arizona citizenship, part of the move to deny U.S. citizenship to children of illegal immigrants;

-- SB1328 saying Arizonans do not have to comply with a federal law or rule if they allow a federal employee or member of Congress not to comply;

-- SB1391 creating an interstate firearms freedoms act guaranteeing the right of citizens to bear arms free of federal regulation;

-- SB1393 declaring the state has exclusive right to regulate carbon dioxide emissions;

-- SB1394 protecting the right to emit carbon dioxide from human-caused activity;

-- SB1545 allowing the production of nuclear fuel in Arizona free from federal regulation;

-- SCR1016 requiring approval from the legislatures of half the states to increase the federal debt;

-- HB2077 requiring any federal agency coming into a county to conduct official business to first register with the sheriff;

-- HB2471 barring the appropriation of any state funds to comply with a federal mandate unless the federal government provides a report to show the mandate is constitutional;

-- HB2472 allowing the state to acquire federal property by eminent domain unless the federal government first got legislative permission to obtain the land in the first place;

-- HB2537 permitting the House speaker and Senate president to sue over or defend last year's SB1070 imposing new state laws on illegal immigration;

-- HB2544 requiring presidential candidates to provide certain proof of citizenship before they can appear on the ballot in Arizona;

-- HCR2015 calling for a constitutional convention to adopt an amendment to require consent of three-fourths of the states to increase federal debt;

-- HCR2022 proposing a constitutional convention to require a balanced federal budget.

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(21) Comments

  1. Joe T
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    Joe T - February 09, 2011 3:39 pm
    look...there are a lot of constitutional considerations that often must be weighed, and jut because you read some specific rhetoric out of one of our founding documents does not nullify hundreds of years of case review and precedence, nor does everything go by a laymen's interpretation... the AZ legislature is trying to create a panel that severly imbalances our three branch system, this is plainly the job of the judicial branch, thanks for wasting time on a false political statement tsk tsk...
  2. GeorgeW724
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    GeorgeW724 - February 09, 2011 10:09 am
    With mj you can take it if a doctor approves but not if you got to state univerisity.
  3. GeorgeW724
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    GeorgeW724 - February 09, 2011 10:08 am
    Santurary Cities and medical majanua are not also a chanlege to Fed laws?
  4. Scott111
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    Scott111 - February 09, 2011 7:24 am
    This is probably the single stupidest idea that has ever been conceived. Imagine this: "hello, this is the Sheriff. I wanted to call and let you know that the DEA is going to bust you for meth possession tomorrow at noon. Have a nice day." Yeah, that will turn out well.
  5. ghostrider
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    ghostrider - February 08, 2011 4:38 am
    I support this effort and wish it success.
  6. joe
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    joe - February 07, 2011 7:54 pm
    When is our repub. legislature and governor going to work on building the az. economy? Az needs jobs. Stop worrying about the things that don't affect our lives.
  7. Proud Mom
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    Proud Mom - February 07, 2011 8:34 am
    Does any of these bills help the citizens of AZ? NO!! Looks to me like the state wants to waste my state tax money to try and prove something, though they don't know what it is. Why not use the money to help create jobs? The state legislature is looking for some kind of recognition to make itself feel more important than it is. I've said it before, if you don't like the rules, SECEDE!! AZ didn't have to become a state to begin with.
  8. longtimer
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    longtimer - February 07, 2011 7:53 am
    Thomas E. Woods Jr.'s book has been well received by pundits on the right and it is quite clever. He has elevated "Nullification" from the dark realm of the neo-Confederate, and racist past, but he fails to take into adequate account how Nullification and the 10th Amend. have been interpreted by the courts since the Civil War (Shoot, he advocattes for the Latin Mass). His is an old view. The AZ Legislature has just stepped out on very thin ice. I don't think we should join them there.
  9. longtimer
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    longtimer - February 07, 2011 7:40 am
    What makes this so-called collection of laws so troubling (beyond the fact a 7th grade Civics student can identify their failings), isn't their legality- they simply don't have any. Really, what is contained here in these bills is an emphatic "up yours" to our federal government and President. These bills say, "we are no longer part of you". For a party of patriotism, and "family values", what we really see here is foolishness, and treason. We grind AZ further into the dust...
  10. ridiculous2010
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    ridiculous2010 - February 06, 2011 9:32 am
    @melstrails: However, you'll how education is very much a state issue. The federal government influences education policy by proving additional funds and attaching strings to the money - however, the federal government has a difficult time regulating education specifically without state law superceding it...
  11. ridiculous2010
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    ridiculous2010 - February 06, 2011 9:26 am
    @melstrails: both the article you cited when viewed in it's entirety and the 10th Amendment make it pretty clear that unless the Constitution defined that power to the federal government their rule of law does NOT supercede state law on the same issue... However, if the constitution does delegate a responsibility to the federal government, the fed law supercedes state law... So for example, Arizona may run into problems if they try to redefine citizenship as it is protected in the 14th Amend.
  12. ridiculous2010
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    ridiculous2010 - February 06, 2011 9:19 am
    @melstrails... You missed, "..any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding" Remember, the legal duties of the federal government are defined specifically... and those powers not delegated to the federal government are addressed in the 10th Amendment, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
  13. melstrails
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    melstrails - February 05, 2011 3:28 pm
    they r wastin our tax $.
    Art VI, Cla. 2. asserts & establishes the Constitution, the fed. laws made n pursuance of da Constitution, & treaties made by the US w foreign nations as "the Supreme Law of da Land" The text of Art.VI, Cla. 2, establishes these as the highest form of law n the American legal system, both n da Fed courts & n all of the State courts, mandating that all state judges shall uphold them, even if there are state laws or state constitutions that conflict w the powers of Fed Gvt
  14. Mulder6
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    Mulder6 - February 05, 2011 11:19 am
    Soooo glad our overworked legislators have the free time to cob together a myriad of fluffy bills. Gee, I thought our state budget was a priority. Silly me.
  15. DanFrazier
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    DanFrazier - February 05, 2011 9:34 am
    If the Arizona legislators are so intent on nullifying all these federal laws, why don't they just secede from the union? Obviously, Arizona legislators are much smarter than those in the federal government because we don't have any problems here in Arizona -- except for the ones caused by the federal government. I'm sure Arizona would make a fine country on its own. Or maybe we could petition to become a part of Mexico. Next thing you know Russel Pearce will be the President of Mexico!
  16. Slorydr
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    Slorydr - February 05, 2011 9:20 am
    It is unfortunate that it has come to this, but the Feds have lost sight of their role in government or for who the government is "supposed" to be working. I love and support the idea of the "pioneer" spirit for the states to govern as is best for its citizens. Some of the bills sound too restrictive and will never get through the legislature but I like the "good fight" for states and citizens rights from unnecessary regulation by the federal government.
  17. longtimer
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    longtimer - February 05, 2011 9:13 am
    After all of the strange laws passed by the Leg. and Bov. already it is hard to thik they can get more extreme. This law, and the laws described in the side column are in fact secession, if not outright revolution. None of them will withstand federal scrutiny. Worse, while liberal gun laws or anti health care laws may kill the odd citizen or 2, these laws represent a certain rabid extremism that can and will cause injury, violence and perhaps death. These pols. have stepped away from the U.S.A.
  18. flagtrax
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    flagtrax - February 05, 2011 9:06 am
    The US constitution states: "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding." Making this a direct violation of the constitution. Maybe AZ should secede.
  19. jehosephats
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    jehosephats - February 05, 2011 8:41 am
    Ahhh, I sleep so much better at night knowing our legislature is doing everything they can to bring jobs to Arizona. NOT! These people are so out of touch it's almost laughable! Perhaps the fine citizens in the giant bedroom of Anthem will be protected from the masses using their own nuclear arsenal there is a worthwhile accomplishment. This state's government is a joke. Come on election day! No wait! The citizens of this state put them there...seriously, am I alone here?
  20. Flag Liberty
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    Flag Liberty - February 05, 2011 8:18 am
    Anyone interested in learning more about Nullification, please check out the book "Nullification" by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. A brilliant and well written argument.
  21. fdennstevereedt
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    fdennstevereedt - February 05, 2011 7:38 am
    Ms. Klein needs to read the history books: the "nullifyers" case was settled by the Civil War! As our legislators fiddle the state sinks deeper into economic despair.
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