This week, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal signed House Joint Resolution 2 (HJ0002), claiming “sovereignty on behalf of the State of Wyoming and for its citizens under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government or reserved to the people by the Constitution of the United States.”
Freudenthal, a long-time Democrat, was previously a US attorney for the Clinton administration, and is currently serving his 2nd term as Governor of Wyoming. He endorsed Barack Obama for president and is commonly referred to as one of the most popular governors in the country.
In a memorandum sent to the Wyoming legislature in late January, Freudenthal made clear his position that the federal government has gone beyond the limits of the constitution:
“For decades we have shared increased frustration dealing with the federal government and its agencies. What started out as a leak in the erosion of state prerogative and independence has today turned into a flood. From wolf and grizzly bear management, to gun control, to endless regulation and unfunded mandates â€“ the federal government has become far too powerful and intrusive.”
Once brought to a vote this year, the legislature showed little opposition to sending a notice to D.C. that the federal government is overstepping its constitutional authority. The Senate passed it by a vote of 26-4 and the House by a vote of 56-4.
NOTICE AND DEMAND
These non-binding resolutions, often called â€œstate sovereignty resolutionsâ€ do not carry the force of law. Instead, they are intended to be a statement of the legislature of the state. They play an important role, however.
For example, if you owned an apartment building and had a tenant not paying rent, you wouldnâ€™t show up with an empty truck to kick them out without first serving notice. Thatâ€™s how we view these Resolutions â€“ as serving â€œnotice and demandâ€ to the Federal Government to â€œcease and desist any and all activities outside the scope of their constitutionally-delegated powers.â€ Follow-up, of course, is a must.
House Joint Resolution 2 includes language to this effect:
That this resolution serve as notice and demand to the federal government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, from enacting mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers. The state of Wyoming will not enforce such mandates. [emphasis added]
Wyoming joins 10 other states that have passed similar resolutions since last year; Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Tennessee passed theirs in 2009, and Utah, Alabama, and South Carolina have joined Wyoming in passing resolutions this year.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
These resolutions are part of a growing grassroots movement in state legislatures across the country as a protest to the intrusion of the federal government into state government affairs, and is an essential first step towards efforts to push back, or nullify, unconstitutional federal laws and regulations.
Supporters of such legislation point to laws passed by other states that take the next step – and work to nullify specific federal laws seen as unconstitutional by the state. Fourteen states have now defied federal laws on marijuana. Two dozen states have refused to comply with the Bush-era Real ID Act, rendering that 2005 law virtually null and void today. The legislatures in both Virginia and Arizona have passed legislation effectively nullifying a national health care plan within their borders. Three states have already signed a “Firearms Freedom Act” into law, and Governor Freudenthal is expected to sign HB95 to make Wyoming the fourth.
Resolutions, guns, national ID cards, and weed might be just the early stages of a quickly growing movement to nullify other federal laws seen as outside the scope of their constitutionally-delegated powers. In states around the country this year, bills have been proposed to defy or nullify federal laws on health care, use of national guard troops overseas, legal tender laws, cap and trade, and even the process of collecting federal income taxes.
The final goal? It’s a long way off – a federal government that follows the strict limits of the constitution, whether it wants to or not.
Note: Thanks to Brenda of WyomingWatchdogs.com for helping with this report.
CLICK HERE to view the Tenth Amendment Center’s Legislative Tracking Page for Current Nullification Efforts
Michael Boldin [send him email] is the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center
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