There's a reason why Arizona is often dubbed the Wild West. Sometimes, it's an affectionate label, bringing to mind romantic images of cowboys on horseback and sing-alongs around the campfire, a still untamed frontier of canyons, mountains and desert.
But often, it's really just a jab at our state's tendency to enact wacky laws, including some that actually seem to promote lawlessness - such as the measure to allow just about anyone to carry a concealed gun - and leave even our own citizens shaking our heads and wondering: Why did we elect these people?
We didn't think anything could top last year's session when lawmakers avoided tackling the budget - despite the fact that we were teetering on the edge of a billion dollar deficit - so they could take care of more pressing business, such as passing a law that makes it illegal to breed a human-animal hybrid. This year's session seemed to be heading in a more responsible direction, with Gov. Jan Brewer and lawmakers pledging to focus on the single most important issue in Arizona at this time: the need to repair our broken economy and get hundreds of thousands of people back to work again.
Then last week as we were strolling down the dusty Main Street of "maybe they really will get it right this time," we were ambushed - the shot fired by Sen. Lori Klein, R-Anthem, who crafted Senate Bill 1433. Introduced by Klein and five other lawmakers, including the East Valley's own Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, SB 1433 is titled "federal legislation; state nullification." Basically, it would give the same elected leaders who fought so hard last year to bring back sparklers the power to strike down federal laws in Arizona. They don't like a law, they think it violates their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution - and our gun-totin', state rights-tootin' legislators will just shoot it down.
Some political observers believe the measure would actually allow Arizona to unofficially secede from the Union, rather ironic since in another eight days we will celebrate our statehood and begin a year-long countdown to Arizona's centennial. This is not a celebration of Arizona becoming its own independent nation, but rather one of the United States of America. We are Arizonans, but we are also Americans - something our state lawmakers are quick to point out when they want to deport the illegals among us or when they want to ensure that school children still recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
SB 1433 references the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights, which says: "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." It also cites the 9th Amendment which says: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
You will notice that nowhere in the 9th Amendment does the phrase "Anglo-American" appear. Yet, SB 1433 states: "The ninth amendment to the United States Constitution secures and reserves to the people of Arizona as against the federal government their natural rights to life, liberty and property as entailed by the traditional Anglo-American concept of ordered liberty and as secured by state law ..." Why they felt the need to insert "Anglo-American" should raise the eyebrows of all of us.
Like our elected state leaders, we also have some concerns about legislation coming out of Washington, such as the landmark health care law. But creating another layer of state bureaucracy, a legislative committee to review all existing federal statutes, mandates and orders for the purpose of determining their constitutionality and then recommending that the Legislature nullify those federal laws and orders - is definitely not the answer.
Arizona is a beautiful, diverse and proud state with a tradition of limited government, personal responsibility and new beginnings - a place that attracts Americans from all over our nation, and not just those who enter illegally from outside our borders seeking a better quality of life. But it also is a state with big problems: a huge deficit, thousands of unemployed people, too many homes in foreclosure, an education system that lags behind other states, and young and frail citizens who are at the greatest risk of bearing the brunt of brutal, but necessary budget cuts.
Our legislators need to stop thumbing their nose at Washington and focus on Arizona and the people who believed in their ability to lead us out of this dire economic crisis when we cast our ballots last fall. We don't need a Wild West shootout with the federal government. We need innovative ideas, collaboration and hard work to get Arizona back on its feet again.