CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Feb. 17, 2016) – A Wyoming resolution would place a measure on the ballot to enshrine the anti-commandeering doctrine in the state constitution. If ultimately approved by the voters, the amendment would set the stage for the state to review and reject federal acts.

Rep. Scott Clem (R-Gillette), along with nine cosponsors introduced House Joint Resolution 5 (HJ0005) on Feb. 10. If passed by 2/3 in both the House and the Senate, the resolution would place a measure on the ballot for the next general election to amend the state constitution to authorize the state to prohibit the use of state personnel and financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with any federal action not consistent with the constitution of the United States.

The proposed amendment would enshrine the anti-commandeering doctrine in the state constitution, and set the stage for the state legislature, or the people themselves, to make a determination on the constitutionality of any federal act. If they found the act inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution, the state and all of its political subdivisions would be “prohibited from using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with a designated federal action or program.”

Voters approved a similar state constitutional amendment in Arizona in 2014.

The measure passed the House Committee of the Whole 41-15 for initial introduction, and was assigned to Joint Minerals, Business & Economic Development Committee.


The proposed amendment rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program. Four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842 create the foundation for the anti-commandeering doctrine. Printz v. US serves as 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.”

The determination of constitutionality has no bearing on the anti-commandeering doctrine. It applies even to legitimate federal actions. Simply put, the state of Wyoming does not have to provide material support or personnel to enforce or implement any federal action – constitutional or not.


The proposed amendment follows the blueprint the “Father of the Constitution,” created for resisting federal power. In Federalist 46 James Madison outlined several steps that states can take to effectively stop “an unwarrantable measure” of the federal government, or “even a warrantable measure” that happens to be unpopular. Madison called for “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” as a way to successfully thwart federal acts.

For example, Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said in a televised interview that a single state refusing to help enforce federal gun control would make any such acts “nearly impossible” to enforce.

The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states can nullify in effect many federal actions. As noted by the National Governor’s Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”

“Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits,” Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin said.


HJ0005 will need to pass through the Joint Minerals, Business & Economic Development Committee with a majority vote before moving forward.

Wyoming residents, follow all the steps to support this bill at THIS LINK

Mike Maharrey

The 10th Amendment

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