Editorial: Denying federal authority costly, inconsistent
When it comes to federal-state relations, we suppose Arizona Republicans figure they have nothing to lose by posturing against the feds. After all, there’s a Democrat in the White House.
But the situation has clearly gotten out of hand. GOP legislators aren’t just wagging fingers, a la Gov. Jan Brewer. They’re requiring legislative staff to draft actual bills, then hold hearings that cost money as well as time.
And when some of the bills get signed by Brewer, taxpayers get stuck paying for legal defenses against claims of unconstitutionality — almost all of which the state has lost.
If the Republicans were consistent in their defense of self-determination, at least Arizona cities like Flagstaff could rest easier in the knowledge lawmakers would leave them alone. But just the opposite has taken place in recent years as the Republican majority has played Big Brother to municipalities in setting local election dates, gun laws and rules for traffic cameras.
As a result, it’s difficult not to conclude that Republicans are simply playing obstructionist politics with federal laws and programs they don’t like, including voter registration, health insurance, immigration and wolf reintroduction.
Attacking federal property, prerogatives
Some of the bills are a frontal assault on federal property and prerogatives. One that passed the Senate last year said Arizonans should have the right “to reject a federal action that the people determine violates the United States Constitution.” State Sen. Chester Crandell has long wanted Arizona to take over most federal lands within state boundaries — never mind how the state would pay to manage 25 million acres (minus military bases, national parks and Indian reservations).
The GOP has also wanted to take over immigration enforcement, a plan ruled unconstitutional (yes, the clause in SB1070 allowing police to ask about immigration status was upheld, but the law is still enforced by INS).
Now, there’s a bill to let ranchers kill an endangered Mexican gray wolf suspected of harming cattle — no questions asked. That’s also outside the Legislature’s purview — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service runs the wolf reintroduction program. (And don’t most Arizona ranchers have at least some of their grazing rights on federal lands?)
Sometimes, the GOP is content just to play obstructionist. If a federal agent wants to collect information or inspect a mine, Crandell wants him to check in with the local sheriff first, get a permit and pay a fee. We’d believe Crandell were sincere in his “Stay out of our business” claim if it also applied to a city that wanted, say, a state gas station or cash register inspector to check in with the local police chief first. Otherwise, could it be that Crandell simply doesn’t like the fines that federal mine safety inspectors have been handing out lately?
Many state legislatures simply don’t allow such bills to be drafted — they are transparently unconstitutional. Such assertions of state jurisdiction set up a conflict for political purposes — there is no policy outcome except a lawsuit. At the least, it hinders the effective delivery of government services while it is being litigated.
Worse, demonizing federal employees for the sake of making a political point — it’s the policies the state disagrees with — can endanger their safety, as we’ve seen in other western states.
Such attitudes also can endanger ordinary citizens. As Paul Bender, a constitutional law professor at Arizona state University’s law school, told the Associated Press:
“These kinds of statements that we’re free from federal law, don’t obey this federal law, can be really dangerous,” Bender said. “If they rely on what the Legislature says, they might end up committing a federal crime. If they want to express that feeling they should just pass a resolution — but when they’re telling people they don’t have to obey a federal law, that’s dangerous.”
Serving this week on the Daily Sun’s Editorial Advisory Board were Publisher Don Rowley, Editor Randy Wilson and citizen members Jean Richmond-Bowman, Ron Drossman, Janis Klinefelter, Susan Cooper and Roman Lewicky.
This editorial was published by the Arizona Daily Sun.
anti-wolf bills from moving forward!
- At last official count, only 83 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild, making them the most endangered wolf in the world. Only 37 wolves are in Arizona. Senator Griffin’s bill (SB1211) aims to push them closer to extinction by encouraging people to kill Mexican wolves, a violation of federal law.
- Sen. Griffin’s proposed legislation will waste taxpayer money on litigation to impede wolf recovery and embarrass the state by attempting to illegally override federal laws that protect endangered species.
- The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife. There are many tried and true methods to avoid conflicts between livestock and wolves. Funds are available to help livestock growers implement nonlethal deterrents, better animal husbandry practices, and other innovative tools that minimize conflict.
- Polling showed 77% of Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Legislation to impede wolf recovery is a slap in the face to the majority of voters who want wolves to thrive.
- Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.
- Wolves generate economic benefits - a University of Montana study found that visitors who come to see wolves in Yellowstone contribute roughly $35.5 million annually to the regional economy.
- Wolves once lived throughout Arizona and played a critical role in keeping the balance of nature in place. We need to restore this important animal that has been missing for too long.
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