Arizona legislatures continue to show that they have no real interest in being part of a growingly diverse and complex national and global community. First it was SB 1070. Then it was the birther bill. Now Russell Pearce, President of the Arizona State Senate and xenophobe behind SB 1070 is proposing legislation that would allow the state to nullify federal law.
Nullification measures are growing in popularity among hard-right legislatures and seen as a way to push the idea of secession without the messy business of actually having to secede, or without forcing the state to opt out entirely of generous federal funding.
The measure, SB 1433 creates a 12-member committee within the state legislature that could “vote by simple majority to nullify in its entirety a specific federal law or regulation that is outside the scope of the powers delegated by the people to the federal government.”
The committee would render their decision on, essentially, the constitutionality of a federal regulation and then pass their recommendation to the full Legislature who would then vote on the measure.
There’s a lot wrong with this measure, starting with the fundamental misunderstanding of the separation of powers. It is not up to the legislature to determine what acts are or are not outside the scope of power. That is the job of the judiciary.
It also fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the supremacy clause in the Constitution that quite clearly sets forth that when a state and federal law come into conflict federal law wins. There’s no room for “interpretation” on these measures and indeed, the framers made it clear, after the failed experiment that was the Articles of Confederation, that in order for this nation to function as a nation rather than a mere collection of independent nation-states, federal law would be the supreme law of the land.
Pearce and his co-sponsers would do well to re-take their high school civics class. It’s one thing to suggest the federal government is failing to do its job in enforcing immigration laws, for example. But its another thing entirely to anoint yourself and your sympathizers as constitutional decision-makers and usurp the role of the state and federal judiciary.
photo courtesy of Vectorportal via Flickr