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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Legislature ‘defends constitution’ by acting unconstitutionally

The Arizona Legislature has a tendency to pass some pretty senseless bills, so I’ve decided to get a group of friends together and form a committee. In this committee we’ll decide which laws are worth following and which ones aren’t. Law against murder? Sure, we’ll keep that one around. Law requiring me to register my car every year? Good as gone. It’s way too much work, and it intrudes on my privacy. Sound stupid? It is, but it’s not far off from what the Legislature is up to now.

Apparently with nothing better to do, Sen. Lori Klein (R-Anthem) recently introduced Senate Bill 1433, popularly known as the Arizona nullification bill. If passed, the Legislature would form a committee to verify the constitutionality of different federal laws, then decide whether those laws would be followed in Arizona. Supporters argue that this provides a necessary check on the broad overreach of the federal government, but this is simply another childish, meaningless and attention-grabbing move from our increasingly incompetent Legislature.

First of all, the federal government hasn’t done anything to warrant nullification. Advocates of nullification would point to the new health care law and claim that the federal government has no power to force people to buy health insurance. While I disagree, that’s a legitimate argument; but it’s currently being worked out in federal court, not in state capitols. Besides that, what other possible examples are there of the federal government acting unconstitutionally?  

Some people claim that any law passed by the federal government dealing with an issue not explicitly mentioned in the constitution is an overreach of power. These people rely almost entirely on the 10th Amendment, which states “”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.”” While the 10th Amendment is important and exists for a reason, it doesn’t validate claims made that the federal government is acting unconstitutionally. Even if the federal government was acting in violation of the 10th Amendment, it would be an issue to decide in the courts.

The most interesting part of this debate is that supporters of nullification claim to be defending the Constitution, but apparently haven’t read much of it. If they had, they would be familiar with the supremacy clause, located in Article VI, which establishes federal law as the “”supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby.”” States simply don’t have the power to override federal law.  

According to one of the most influential Chief Justices in Supreme Court history, John Marshall, “”if the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery.”” It’s ironic that a bill said to defend the Constitution only makes a mockery of it instead.

This bill is nothing more than a waste of time, designed to distract Arizonans from the very real problems our state faces. Even if it manages to pass the Legislature and make it to the governor’s desk, there is no doubt the courts will strike it down. So, this begs the question, when will the members of the Legislature quit playing dress-up and actually govern? It seems all they’re capable of is turning Arizona into the laughingstock of America.

— Andrew Shepherd is a political science senior. He can be reached at

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