States’ rights, the call to arms of secessionists during the Civil War, is making a comeback in state legislatures around the country as the Tea Party movement gains ground.
In Olympia, Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, has joined with other House Republicans in sponsoring several states’ rights bills invoking the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states, “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.”
The bills’ sponsors, led by Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, argue that the states must resist federal law on a broad range of issues, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to regulating firearms sales to implementing national health care reform.
Shea won national prominence within the 10th Amendment movement last year when he sponsored a House joint resolution declaring Washington a sovereign state and calling on the federal government to ”cease and desist, effective immediately, any and all mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated power.”
The resolution failed in Olympia, but the Idaho Legislature later adopted a version of it, Shea’s office said.
One of Shea’s 2010 bills, House Bill 2712, would require that all federal tax revenue collected in Washington come first to the state Department of Revenue and be subjected to legislative review. Under the bill, federal revenue would be redirected to the state general fund if, in the judgment of legislators, the federal government “imposes or mandates any financial sanctions or penalties or otherwise acts in a punitive manner toward the state of Washington and its citizens.”
Orcutt did not sign on to that bill.
But he does support House Bill 2708, the Washington State Energy Freedom Act of 2010, which prohibits the Department of Ecology or any other state agency from adopting or enforcing any state, regional, or national program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions or set fuel economy standards without permission from the Legislature.
He said he also supports House Bill 2709, which exempts firearms and ammunition manufactured in Washington from federal regulation, and House Bill 2713, which prohibits federal employees from making arrests or conducting search-and-seizure operations in Washington without the written permission of the local county sheriff.
“I tried to sign on to the ones where I felt I had a good understanding,” Orcutt said. “To me they are serious pieces of legislation that deserve to have hearings and deserve the full consideration of this legislative body.”
So far, none of Shea’s 10th Amendment bills have been scheduled for committee hearings, according to his office.
Orcutt, a conservative legislator who represents the 18th District, said he met with members of the Tea Party movement after they rallied in Olympia during the first week of the session.
“They are people who feel their rights are being eroded,” he said. “They wanted to know how to be involved, what they can do, how they can know what is going on here.
“I told them they can keep track of bills on the (legislative) Web site, and if they see a bill that is coming up for a hearing they have every right to come up and testify on these bills. We need to hear from ordinary citizens.”
He said the people he met with are concerned about taxes “and any piece of legislation that unnecessarily infringes on their rights.”
Orcutt said he shares those concerns.
“We have to push back on the federal government,” he said. “For some it may be the Second Amendment right, for some taxation, for some search and seizure. There’s a whole host of rights we enjoy in this country.”
As those rights are threatened, Orcutt said, “more and more people will come to the table and say, ‘We do need to push back on the federal government and bring the majority of the power back to the government that is closest to the people.’”
He noted that 10th Amendment bills are being introduced in other states and that states’ rights is a subject that has come up at national meetings of state legislators,
According to the 10th Amendment Center, a clearinghouse for states’ rights legislation, 14 states are now defying federal laws on marijuana and nearly two dozen states have rendered the Bush-era Real ID act null and void by passing laws or resolutions refusing to comply with it.
In 2007, Washington adopted a modified version of the federal ID card, agreeing to issue security-enhanced driver’s licenses that are accepted for crossing into the state from Canada.
Two states have passed laws to effectively nullify some federal gun laws or regulations within their borders, and more than two dozen others are considering similar legislation, according to the center.
More than a dozen states are considering legislation to nullify or effectively ban any future national health care plan. Other states are considering legislation to refuse to send their National Guard troops to wars deemed unconstitutional by state governors, and still others are looking at laws to resist cap-and-trade environmental legislation, according to the center’s tally.