The text and format got messed up when I transferred it over to here.
States Sovereignty: The States Rights Movement in Arizona
16 July 2010
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by
it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
Introduction to States Rights Movement
Recently, the conflict between the federal government and the individual states has
grown tremendously. The state of Arizona, in particular, has passed states rights
legislation that is in direct defiance to the federal government. The question of why they
are doing this is simple. Arizona legislators believe that the federal government has
overstepped it bounds and authority (HCR2001). Citing the tenth amendment above, they
are claiming the authority that is invested in the state is their responsibility, not
Washington’s. This movement that is spreading quickly among the states of America, is
called the Tenth Amendment Movement. This movement consists of states that are
declaring their sovereignty, by multiple pieces of legislation that has been introduced and
States Rights Movement in Arizona
Although there is not one single ‘leader’ state of this movement, the state of Arizona
has certainly made its impact across the country. From bills moving through the
legislature, like “AZ HCR-2001’ that is a ‘sovereignty declaration,’ to the controversial
HB-1070 that has passed, Arizona has done its fair share in the movement. What is
important to note, is that the federal government has resisted some of these measures that
have been passed by the states, and is in heated battle with them in the court system
(Preston & Savage). Nevertheless, states continue to pass and introduce bills that are
claiming back their rights.
History and Founders Intent
To understand the concept of states rights, and why Arizona is claiming their
sovereignty, we first have to have a review of how the United States government was
emplaced. An understanding of what the founders intent was and the function that
individual states had is paramount. In ‘The Federalist, No. 45’ James Madison wrote:
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution 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, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.... 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, and the internal
order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.
Arizona is interpreting the Constitution the way it was actually written and designed
for - that there are limited powers granted to the federal government by the states, and
that if that government usurps those powers the states can justly ignore them. The tenth
amendment is in the constitution for a reason, for the protection of the states against a
possible strong centralized federal government. Also, if that federal government passes
legislation that is supposed to be in the jurisdiction of the states, the states have a right to
‘nullify’ it. Thomas Jefferson wrote this on 10 November 1798 concerning ‘nullification’.
Resolved, that the several States composing the United States of America, are
not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government;
but that by compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United
States and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for
special purposes, delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving
each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and
that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are
unauthoritative, void, and of no force…
Note Jefferson referring to the federal government, “…Its acts are unauthoritative,
void and of no force…” This places the context between the jurisdictions of the Union,
and of the states. If one oversteps its boundaries, the other can claim it void and nullify it.
The fact is, the movement in Arizona is one of taking responsibility back that has slipped
into Washington’s hands over the years, which was rightfully Arizona’s. Among the
legislation that Arizona has passed are bills nullifying federal laws in their state, like
Senate Bill 1098, which will be discussed later.
Arizona’s Response: Real ID Act
Arizona in recent years, especially in 2010, has passed numerous bills that are
claiming their states rights back. This has only been to a response to what the federal
government has passed over time, legislation and laws that have infringed on individual
states like Arizona. In short, Washington has ignored the Constitution and has ignored
the states pleas to stop. In “The New American” Larry Greenley writes;
The very rapid growth of this Tenth Amendment Movement is being propelled
by the widespread dismay and disgust over the multiple trillion-dollar bailouts,
the nationalization of banks and other corporations, the accelerated creation of
money out of thin air by the Federal Reserve, and the continued buildup of power
within the federal government at the expense of the states and the people.
This is the very heart of what states are feeling, the feeling of the need to do
something, to act. Arizona has answered that call, and has acted. In 2005 Congress
passed the ‘Real ID Act’ and signed it into law, which would require states to
create driver’s license under federal standards. In response to this, Arizona passed HB
2677, the Real ID Act Prohibition in 2008, which stated Arizona was not going to
participate in the mandated program (HB2677). Because of many states passing similar
bills, the future of the Real ID Act is uncertain, and has been delayed in its
implementation (Dusenberry 3).
Firearms Freedom Act
More recently Arizona has passed into law The Firearms Freedom Act (SB1098),
which is even more controversial. The Arizona Legislature foresaw more federal
regulation of firearms, and they wanted to protect their state from it. The Firearms
Freedom Act of Arizona of 2010 states:
A personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition that is manufactured
commercially or privately in this state and that remains within the borders of this
state is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration,
under the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce and is not
considered to have traveled in interstate commerce (HB2307).
Altogether eight states have passed this act, which would be in direct violation of federal regulations that are enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or simply the ATF. Montana, being the first state in which the act has become law, faces a pending lawsuit with the federal government (Avulla). In Arizona’s law that passed, legislators cite the tenth amendment and state the powers that are retained by the state. Included in the bill is this language;
The Legislature finds: 1. The tenth amendment to the United States constitution
guarantees to the states and their people all powers not granted to the federal
government elsewhere in the constitution and reserves to the state and people of
Arizona certain powers as they were understood at the time that Arizona was
admitted to statehood in 1912. The guaranty of those powers is a matter of
contract between the state and people of Arizona and the United States as of the
time that the compact with the United States was agreed on and adopted by
Arizona and the United States in 1912 (SB1098 Sec 2.1).
This language shows that since 1912, the year Arizona became a state, that the federal
government has expanded its powers. And Arizona sees it as being an infringement upon
their contract of statehood with Washington. Senate Bill 1098 states that if a firearm is
made and kept in Arizona, it is excluded from federal regulation, including the
commerce clause. The commerce clause is for regulating commerce between states, but
not within a single state. The Firearms Freedom Act is more of a test case, to see how
hard the federal government will push against this declaration of a states right.
Health Care Freedom
Arizona led the way against any kind of health care mandate, being one of the first
states to pass a proposed amendment to their state constitution. The Arizona Health
Insurance Reform Amendment (HCR2014) will be placed on the 2010 ballot as
Proposition 106 (Healey). The amendment will protect the people and employers from
any healthcare or insurance mandate for them to participate in. This amendment is in
opposition to the recently passed health care reform bill signed by President Obama. The ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’ that became law will eventually require all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face a fine. Arizona passed this amendment to protect themselves from the federal government. They see this mandate as unconstitutional, violating Arizona’s rights. This is Arizona’s jurisdiction and a mandate that the federal government has no authority from the constitution. We saw this from what is delegated to the states and what is delegated to the Union of States. That is how the founders wrote the Constitution. Washington was not given authority to provide health care. Part of the proposed amendment reads as follows;
A. To preserve the freedom of Arizonans to provide for their health care:1. A law or rule shall not compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system (section 2.A. of HCR 2014).
Basically this amendment nullifies the mandate that was passed in Congress, as long as it applies to the people within the borders of Arizona. It is interesting to note that this was introduced in 2009 and was passed before the health care reform bill was passed (Healey). This means that states are actively looking out for threats to their sovereignty from the Government. The people of Arizona will have to decide if they want to face a federal mandate for health insurance this coming November in the elections.
Senate Bill 1070
The immigration bill recently passed in the Arizona legislature, has become a
firestorm of controversy. The Senate Bill 1070 would give Arizona law Enforcement the
authority to enforce federal and state immigration laws. This bill was passed by
the Arizona legislators to protect their states’ sovereignty. There is a widely known
issue of illegal immigrants coming through Arizona’s borders. Arizona acted against this
invasion of their state. Arizona Senator Russell Pierce, who authored the bill, stated;
States have the inherent right to enforce the laws of our country. Arizona
will set the pace. We will lead the charge in Arizona to defend the U.S.
The federal government has now filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona, citing
that they do not have a right as a state to enforce immigration laws. Although, according
to the Constitution, the federal government has to protect states from invasion. Article 4,
Section 4 of the Constitution states the following;
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican
Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion.
Washington has not done what it is supposed to do, so Arizona has the right to
protect itself, and are justifiably protecting the citizens of their state. Wooldridge from
It creates states rights to enforce federal law because the U.S. Congress
refuses to enforce its own laws (Wooldridge).
Despite this, the federal government still wants to sue them, when Arizona’s law
actually is an identical copy of federal law (Taylor). Stuart Taylor from the National
Journal also said;
To be sure, federal immigration laws do not specify that states may not do what
Arizona has done. Nor do they conflict directly with the Arizona law (Taylor).
By this lawsuit, it appears that the federal government does not want to lose any of the
power which it has illegitimately claimed. It sees Arizona’s lead role as a threat that can
cause other states to follow suit. The issue of states rights is clearly at the forefront in the
lawsuit ‘United States vs Arizona’.
Maybe one of the biggest messages that the state of Arizona is sending to the federal
government is in its two bills HCR2001 and HCR2024. These two, almost identical, bills
are Arizona’s Sovereignty Declaration. They have much support in the house and senate,
with one passing both. Although mistaken for secession bills, they are simply asserting
their rights and sovereignty. These bills are designed to be sent to Congress and the
President as a warning not to step on their rights. First passed in Oklahoma, legislators
from both states are speaking against the federal government. Oklahoma Senator Randy
Congress is supposed to serve the states. Instead, they're telling the states how to
conduct their internal business. We're going to reclaim our rights as a state, and
we're going to start governing accordingly (State Legislators 1).
Also Brogdon states how many federal laws, including the Patriot Act, No Child Left
Behind and federal homeland security requirements, are examples of how the federal
government has overstepped its powers. The federal stimulus program is a
particularly alarming example he also said (State Legislators). Arizona representative
and sovereignty resolution sponsor Judy Burges also gives her opinion;
It's telling the federal government, Guys, you really need to back off (Kathy).
One gets the most from this by reading the actual text of the bills. Here is an excerpt
1. Claims sovereignty for the State of Arizona under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government or reserved to the people by the Constitution.
2. Serves notice and demand to the federal government to immediately cease and desist mandates that are beyond the scope of powers delegated to the federal government.
3. Urges the prohibition or repeal of all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding (HCR2001).
These legislative bills are some of the most important that would pass in Arizona in the year 2010. Although these bills are not much more than a declaration, and no formal action is assigned in them, they still could cause more strife with the federal government. Michael Boldin from the Tenth Amendment Center said;
The resolution is 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… In 2009, 38 states introduced similar resolutions, and 7
states passed them, garnering some significant national media attention for these
efforts. Already in 2010, at least ten states, most recently Wyoming and Rhode
Island, have introduced sovereignty resolutions and “the next step,” nullification
of specific federal laws, has been gaining traction in states around the country, too
In his book ‘A History of the United States and its People’ Edward Eggleson points out the roles that both the State and federal governments possess and how each one is better suited for its task.
It is a great advantage of our system of government that lawmaking for the
regulation of morals and the ordinary business of life is left to the states, so that
each region can have laws suited to their necessities. It is also a great source of
strength that the general concerns of the whole country-the money, the foreign
commerce, treaties with foreign nations, and affairs of war and peace-are settled
by the central government of the whole country (203).
Simply, the Sovereignty resolutions try to put things back in order, the way they were originally meant to be - with the federal government doing its job, and the states doing theirs.
The future of the Movement
The next couple years will be very vital to the Tenth Amendment Movement, as many states, including Arizona, play catch up with reasserting their rights. Whether the federal government will take notice is important, and the outcomes of the Immigration lawsuit in Arizona and the Multi-state Firearms Freedom lawsuit will play key roles, as well. Possible legislation like Cap and Trade and Energy Reform have more mandates for the states. Arizona has already introduced bill SCR1050 to nullify Cap and Trade. Only time will tell if Arizona and their fellow states will make progress in this battle.
There may be legitimate concerns regarding the Tenth Amendment Movement,
such as Arizona and other states seceding, but clearly from the text of the bills above, the
states are not even thinking of seceding, but rather are just claiming their responsibility
and role in the United States as a whole (Kathy). Another concern is whether or not the
federal government will “back off” as Representative Judy Burges said. If the federal
government were to try enforcing laws that Arizona has deemed unconstitutional and
refuses to partake in, one has to wonder the outcome. As seen above, the first cases are
already resulting in lawsuits showing up in the court system. The future relationship
between the two governments is uncertain, but it is clear that there is indeed a growing
sentiment of dissidence.