In November, Arizona voters will vote on an amendment that would enshrine a process to resist unconstitutional federal overreach in the constitution of the Grand Canyon state.

In an effort to end the illusion that “everything the federal government does is constitutional must be submitted to without question,” SCR1016 places language on the ballot that would empower the state to pass referendums, bills or use other legal means to end cooperation with an unconstitutional federal act.

Article 2 Section 3 of the Arizona Constitution currently states, “the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land.” Voters will decide whether to add the following language.

Section 3. A. The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land to which all government, state and federal, is subject.

B. To protect the people’s freedom and to preserve the checks and balances of the United States Constitution, this state may exercise its sovereign authority to restrict the actions of its personnel and the use of its financial resources to purposes that are consistent with the constitution by doing any of the following:

1. Passing an initiative or referendum pursuant to Article IV, part 1, section 1.

2. Passing a bill pursuant to Article IV, part 2 and article V, section 7.

3. Pursuing any other available legal remedy.

C. If the people or their representatives exercise their authority pursuant to this section, this state and all political subdivisions of this state are prohibited from using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with the designated federal action or program.

Simply put, the amendment enshrines a process to refuse state cooperation with unconstitutional federal acts in the state constitution.

Supporters of the amendment say the provision allowing the people to vote to refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will prove especially significant.

“Basically, it will allow Arizonians to hold a state referendum on federal policy, something I don’t think has ever been done before,” one supporter said.

While the people of Arizona could hold a referendum like this now, by constitutionalizing the process, it will allow Arizonians to hold a statutory referendum on each issue instead of a constitutional referendum. A statutory referendum requires less signatures to get it on the ballot, something supporters say will allow grassroots groups to initiate the process.The money necessary to get a constitutional referendum on the ballot makes grassroots efforts difficult.

The amendment will allow the people of Arizona to deal with unpopular federal programs like Obamacare. Supporters say one of the first issues they plan to target involves federal rules that allow Arizona Child Protective Services to hide important information. This has become an issue in several investigations alleging agency misconduct in the deaths of children under their care. CPS used rules tied to federal funding to refuse to disclose information. Amendment supporters say they will use the new process to forbid state cooperation with any federal rule that shields transparency.

The U.S. Supreme Court views this as a perfectly constitutional state action. Known as the anti-commandeering doctrine, the principle rests primarily on four SCOTUS cases. Printz v. U.S. (1997) case serves the cornerstone.

We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case-by-case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.

Court opinion upholding the anti-commandeering doctrine places the proposed amendment on absolutely solid legal footing, even within the grossly expanded view of the federal government itself.

Refusal to cooperate with the feds can serve as powerful tool to stop federal overreach. James Madison included “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” in his blueprint on how to keep federal power within its limits.

Should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which my sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance, and perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would be added on such occasions, would oppose in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would for, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiment of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.

The proposed constitutional amendment opens to door to follow Madison’s blueprint in Arizona. It will direct the legislature to Introduce bills that prohibit the use of state resources for the implementation or enforcement of unconstitutional acts. SCR1016 brings governance back to the people and secures a check on federal powers. It also outlines legal means of protest to the citizens of the state of Arizona against unconstitutional federal laws.

Come November, Vote YES on SCR1016.

Mike Maharrey

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