A short piece of legislation recently passed by the Arizona legislature makes a big statement.

HB2434 affirms the sheriffs of Arizona as the supreme constitutional law enforcement officers in their counties and serves notice to the federal government that it must work through them to exercise their limited powers.

The bill simply states that:

A. Before taking any official law enforcement action in a county in this state, a federal law enforcement officer shall notify the sheriff of the county, unless the notification would impede the federal officer’s duties.

B. If a federal law enforcement officer does not notify the sheriff pursuant to subsection A. of this section, the federal law enforcement officer shall notify the sheriff of the county as soon as practicable after taking the action.

After the original version of HB2434 dealing with bail bond prohibitions passed the House unanimously last month, the Senate used a maneuver called “strike everything,” which allows lawmakers to substitute a new bill into an existing bill number. The Senate passed the federal law enforcement notification legislation 20-8 on April 4. The House took up the new bill and passed it 38-17 on April 9. The legislation now moves on the Gov. Brewer for her signature.

This bill may appear insignificant, but it does two important things. First, it serves notice to the federal government that its authorities operate in Arizona with oversight and reaffirms the sovereignty of the state. Secondly, it puts the county sheriff in the position to protect the rights and liberties of Arizona citizens from federal overreach.

“I think it’s important that it’s establishing the sheriff as the lead over the feds,” Tenth Amendment Center director Michael Boldin said.

The Constitution limits the authority of the federal government to specific enumerated powers, leaving all others to the states and their people. As a result, federal law enforcement officers may only exercise authority flowing from those powers. Any action taken by a federal law enforcement officer outside of those powers breaks the law. For example, the Constitution delegates no drug enforcement power to the federal government. Therefore, the DEA has no legitimate authority to conduct a raid on a medical marijuana clinic operating legally within a state.

The Arizona bill creates a check on federal power through the county sheriffs. With the feds required to notify the local authorities, the sheriff can conceivably exercise the option to stop unwarranted action before it happens, creating a layer of protection for the Arizona citizen.

“The idea that power should be checked and balanced serves as a cornerstone in the American political system,” TAC communications director Mike Maharrey said. “Federal law enforcement officers have acted with immunity, exercising unwarranted powers, for far too long. Just read the news  stories about armed agents raiding Amish dairy operations because some poor old farmer commits the horrible crime of selling raw milk. This bill reestablishes the primacy of sheriff  in Arizona and puts in place a mechanism to protect the average Arizonian. Who can argue that isn’t a good thing?

UPDATE 04-12-12 – Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed this bill

Saying the proposal made no sense, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed legislation Wednesday designed to let local law enforcement keep tabs on their federal counterparts.

“Rather than hinder the efforts of our federal law enforcement colleagues, we need to focus on collaboration,” she wrote. “Establishing arbitrary reporting requirements for our federal partners takes us in the wrong direction.”

Obviously, Brewer doesn’t understand – or maybe doesn’t mind – that most of what the feds do is unconstitutional, and that this measure is a small but important step to reasserting the proper chain of authority. What’s that? The people are the top of the food chain – not the federal government.


Contact Gov Brewer and let her know you oppose her veto. You can find contact information HERE.

Contact your representatives and senators and let them know you want them to override this veto and stand up for the Constitution.

Click HERE for Arizona legislature contact information.