HARRISBURG, Pa. (March 17, 2016) – A bill recently introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate would take a step toward nullifying indefinite detention under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) or any other federal act.

Sen. Mike Folmer  (R-Lebanon) introduced Senate Bill 1150 (SB1150) earlier this month. The legislation would prohibit the Commonwealth, its political subdivisions, and their employees acting in an official capacity, along with members of the Pennsylvania National Guard while serving under official state duty, from assisting the armed forces of the United States in the investigation, arrest, prosecution or indefinite detention without charge or trial of any person within the United States under the NDAA, the Authorization of Use of Military Force passed after 9/11, or any other federal law purporting to authorize the same.

If passed into law, Pennsylvania would become the fifth state to take steps to nullify indefinite detention, joining Alaska, California, Michigan and Virginia.Those states have passed similar legislation in the last three years. A bill even more expansive in scope is currently making its way through the Arizona legislative process.

“Justice Antonin Scalia said we would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t think the Supreme Court would approve another WWII, Japanese-American style, internment,” founder of People Against the NDAA Dan Johnson said last year. “Arizona has a chance to join several states to head this off and avoid repeating a dark part of American history.”

All of these states are following James Madison’s blueprint for stopping federal overreach. In Federalist 46, he argued that a “refusal to comply with officers of the Union” along with other actions at the state and local level would create a situation where the federal government would have an almost impossible time enforcing their acts. When several states join together and do the same, Madison said  it would “present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.”


SB1150 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. The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. US serves as the cornerstone. Language in the bill lays out the legal principle.

“The Commonwealth should preserve its sovereignty as upheld in the United States Supreme Court decision Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997). In Printz, the United States Supreme Court held that the Federal Government may not command the states’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce Federal law. Furthermore, the indefinite military detention of any person in the United States without charge or trial violates the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments and Article III of the Constitution of the United States.”


In Pennsylvania:  Take steps to support SB1150 HERE.

Other States:  Contact your state legislators today – urge them to introduce similar legislation.  Model bills and contact info HERE.

Mike Maharrey

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