Often, supporters of the 10th Amendment movement thatâ€™s been growing around the country say â€“ â€œI love all the discussion and the resolutions in support of the 10th amendment, but whereâ€™s the enforcement? These actions need some teeth!.â€
If teeth is what you want, you need to go no further than Georgia. House Bill 880 (HB880), introduced by Representative Bobby Franklin, is called the “State Authority and Anti-racketeering Act.”
Unlike the many 10th Amendment Resolutions that have been introduced around the country since 2008, HB880 is legally-binding legislation.
LIMITED: THE PROPER ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
Federal violations of the Constitution go far beyond anything the founders and ratifiers would have accepted.
James Madison, explaining the constitution, in Federalist Paper 45, said, â€œThe powers delegated â€¦ to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, [such] as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. â€¦ The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people.â€
Thomas Jefferson emphasized that the states are not â€œsubordinateâ€ to the national government, but rather the two are â€œcoordinate departments of one simple and integral whole. â€¦ The one is the domestic, the other the foreign branch of the same government.â€
The founders made quite clear that a vast majority of powers would remain in the states. If passed, this principle would be codified in state law by HB880:
The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees to the states and the people all powers not granted to the federal government elsewhere in the Constitution and not prohibited by the Constitution
The State of Georgia hereby reclaims authority under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the states in the Constitution of the United States.
The principles behind such legislation is nullification, which garnered first serious attention with the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798.
When a state â€˜nullifiesâ€™ a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or â€˜non-effective,â€™ within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as the state is concerned.
All across the country, activists and state-legislators are pressing for similar legislation, to nullify specific federal laws within their states.
A proposed Constitutional Amendment to effectively ban national health care will go to a vote in Arizona in 2010. Fourteen states now have some form of medical marijuana laws â€“ in direct contravention to federal laws which state that the plant is illegal in all circumstances. And, massive state nullification of the 2005 Real ID Act has rendered the law nearly void.
But nullification is much more than a mere rhetorical statement issued by a state legislature. At its very core, it’s mass civil disobedience to the federal government by the people of a state with the backing of the state government.
In the Virginia Resolution of 1798, James Madison wrote of the principle of interposition:
That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.
Here Madison asserts what is implied in nullification laws â€“ that state governments not only have the right to resist unconstitutional federal acts, but that, in order to protect liberty, they are â€œduty bound to interposeâ€ or stand between the federal government and the people of the state.
House Bill 880 includes strong language to assert this principle:
Any actions taken by the federal government through its agents or employees that are not authorized by the Constitution of the United States are unlawful; and being unlawful, they are criminal offenses against the affected parties
This bill would make it a crime – with imprisonment for up to 30 years for each offense – for “any judicial officer, law enforcement officer, agent, or employee of the federal government, any multinational government, any international government, or any global government” to attempt to “enforce any federal, multinational, international, or global law” reserved to the State of Georgia under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.
As of this writing, the bill has had two readings in the Georgia House.
Will such a strong piece of legislation go anywhere? Only time will tell. The reality, though, is this – it’s going to take some serious effort to push back against decades and decades of unconstitutional federal acts.
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Michael Boldin is the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center
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