A recent Press of Atlantic City article highlights the Atlantic County Freeholders’ vote urging Trenton to repeal legislation making New Jersey part of the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), in which all states involved agree to regulations of carbon dioxide emissions. While RGGI’s site claims that each state retains its sovereign authority in implementing greenhouse gas emissions, the same is technically said regarding federal mandates to the states in many areas. It should be noted that, for all the concern about the effect greenhouse gases are alleged to have, there is no mention by RGGI about regulation water vapor, THE most abundant greenhouse gas in the world.
Atlantic County, according to the article, was one of seven counties to pass resolutions opposing the RGGI scheme. This is one third of all the counties in New Jersey, plus resolutions from several City Councils, including one from Democrat-controlled Garfield City Council. Not a bad start, but still not enough to budge the immovable object known as the New Jersey State Legislature for two reasons.
First, New Jersey politicians overall tend to feel very secure in their jobs. In most Congressional Districts, we overwhelmingly re-elect our incumbents. The same is true of most State Legislative Districts. Even when New Jersey voters ousted Jon Corzine in 2009, we gave the new Governor the same State Legislature that created many of the problems the previous Governor faced.
State lawmakers who subjected our state to this grievous violation of our state, local and individual sovereignty need to feel our vengeance with a fate worse than death for them – the pink slip. When lawmakers know that their voters suffer from chronic MIARS (Mine Is All Right Syndrome) and won’t get a GRIP (Get Rid of Incumbent Politicians, hat tip Jim Gearhardt), they know they can do anything and have their job come November. Currently, only 47 State Legislators (31 Assemblypersons, 16 Senators) have come out in support of repeal; we need more. But just like at the federal level, “throwing the bums out” in Trenton is only part of the equation.
In the same way that Tenth Amendment Resolutions are more effective when followed up by legislation that nullifies specific unconstitutional federal actions, resolutions at the county and municipal level are only effective if more is done when the state government refuses to abide by them. Some local governments in New Jersey have shown they are actually beginning to take their first steps toward decentralization. In order to continue in that direction, they should perhaps take a page out of the books of some of their counterparts in Maine, where three different towns have passed food freedom ordinances (Personally, I wish some New Jersey municipalities or counties would pass those; I’d love a tall glass of raw milk right about now). Just as the states cannot afford to stand idly by waiting for the federal government to repeal its own repressive legislation, local governments have to realize that if they wait for the states to flex their muscle against the federal government, they may be waiting a long time. It must be understood that simply passing a resolution without giving it teeth would have been like the Continental Congress passing the Declaration of Independence, but lying down in surrender when the British troops arrived.
New Jerseyans, while you are contacting your State Legislators to persuade them to defend the freedoms of their constituents, be sure to enlist your county and municipal officials when possible. And be sure they know that resolutions declaring state and local sovereignty are not the end when it comes to restoring constitutional government, but only the beginning.
Benjamin W. Mankowski, Sr. [send him email] is a blogger with the Tenth Amendment Center. He writes from New Jersey.
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