Arizona in position to be federalism shield - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Arizona in position to be federalism shield

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Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 4:27 pm | Updated: 2:58 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

You asked, and yes, there is something you can do. But, it’ll take extra oomph to fight off the federal power grab. You never thought you’d become politically active. You’re busy taking care of your families and embracing gifts of American citizenship. But all that is threatened now.

In response, states’ rights are resurfacing, coming to the forefront for a dusting-off. Our visionary forefathers knew federalist laws would come in handy just about now.

In fact, Clint Bolick, litigation director for the Goldwater Institute, tells us, “Federalism will be the defining legal issue in the Obama era.” The good news: “The U.S. Supreme Court is the most pro-federalism court in our lifetimes.”

Now you know, but it won’t happen without citizens’ aggressive response against a Goliath that prints its own money at a whim and trades favors for votes. Time is short and key players urgently encourage states to be aggressive.

Interestingly, Arizona is emerging as a leader in this matter. Now, it’s not that our conservative Legislature has a sophisticated game plan in place. But, along with nearly a dozen other states, Arizona is beginning to flex its arsenal of rights to block the federal reach.

This is where we are. Last year, Arizona rejected the feds’ Real ID program, which would create national standards for driver’s licenses and identification. And, just recently, our lawmakers approved three initiatives to amend the state constitution, measures that go to the people in November 2010.

One will protect the rights of Arizona to determine its own, best health care system. The second is designed to give the secret ballot constitutional protection. That one, of course, comes in light of the evil (yes, evil) card check movement, which unions hope to push through Congress.

And the third measure would prohibit racial preferences in public education, employment and contracting, even when they are allowed under federal law.

One would think these issues are shoo-ins, but in last year’s election, opponents defeated a similar health care proposal (Proposition 101) by a miniscule margin. Look for extreme opposition to all measures by this time next year.

Author Michael S. Greve, the director of the Federalism Project at the American Enterprise Institute ( envisions possibilities in state responses. He counsels: “Federalism needs a constituency in order to re-establish constitutional constraints.” He points to examples in the 1960s of citizen passion, which successfully pushed civil and women’s rights into federal courts.

The constitutionalist even has a name for the constituency: He borrows it from political analyst and controversial activist Grover Norquist: It would be a “Leave-Us-Alone” coalition.

Greve suggests those in units of commonality — such as tax limitations, school choice, gun rights, property rights, health and voting rights, on and on — combine goals and resources to force issues into the U.S. Supreme Court.

He says: “The prospect of a federalist revival has come from being unthinkable to being plausible. That alone is grounds for hope.” Bolick would agree, calling Arizona’s measures part of a “federalism shield” to block “federal over-reaching.”

The Arizona Senate majority leader, Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, also sees that hope: “By coming out in front, we can give momentum to other states so perhaps they can follow. We would like to be the initiator of the groundswell from states.”

With a Republican governor who’s still figuring out where she stands in her own party, and a Democratic attorney general who anticipates winning the governor’s office next year, the Legislature is in need of a groundswell.

The TEA Party “swells” are a good start, but require sustained momentum and inspired leadership. We’ll see if conservative Arizonans are visionary enough, angry enough and have essential staying power. Or will they just wait for someone else to do it?

Linda Turley-Hansen is a syndicated columnist and former veteran Phoenix television news anchor who lives in the East Valley. She can be reached by e-mail at

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