Legislators Emphasize States Rights
By Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President
“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.”
Preceding is the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a part of the Bill of Rights adopted by our nation’s forefathers in 1791. The Idaho Legislature would like Congress to take note of these important words. Legislators expressed frustration with Congress and attempted to drive the point home recently by adopting numerous pieces of legislation warning Congress to clean its own house and butt out of state matters.
We applaud the Idaho Legislature for emphasizing several concerns about a federal health care plan, balancing the federal budget, opposition to changes to the Clean Water Act, opposition to Cap and Trade legislation and others. We hope Congress takes note, but history isn’t on our side. Only twice in the last 55 years has the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a portion of federal law for violating the 10th Amendment. However, the message is pertinent nonetheless.
Idaho fired a shot across the federal bow gaining national media attention by passing the Health Freedom Act, a bill that allows Idahoans the freedom to choose health care services and insurance without penalty or threat of penalty from the federal government. It also sets the stage for a legal dispute by requiring Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to defend the State against laws that violate the policy. Wasden’s task seems daunting. Idaho has joined with a handful of other states in challenging the health care mandate.
However, considering Idaho’s comparatively small population, lack of clout at the federal level, and history of getting steamrolled by federal agencies, we agree that it’s imperative to reiterate our concerns about state sovereignty. We agree with legislators and acknowledge the need for health care reform, but we don’t see justification for a federal takeover.
Another important resolution sent from Idaho to Washington, D.C., recognizes the scope and power defined by the 10th Amendment providing that the federal government was created to be an agent of the states. In the resolution, Idaho urges Congress to balance the federal budget, to prevent unfunded mandates, prohibit government from taking ownership of private sector enterprise and provide for the presence of “God” in the public domain.
Idaho legislators passed another measure calling for limiting the interstate commerce clause. The federal government has abused this constitutional clause to wrest authority from states.
In another message to Congress unrelated to the 10th Amendment, Idaho calls on the federal government to fix the Equal Access to Justice Act. This Act provides reimbursement of attorney fees to successful plaintiffs in lawsuits against the federal government. Environmental groups have exploited the Act by suing federal agencies over procedural issues and collecting taxpayer dollars to pay their attorneys. Environmental groups including the Western Watersheds Project have used EAJA to suck millions out of federal coffers to pay for frivolous lawsuits. In addition, when southwest Idaho cattle ranchers Tim Lowry and Paul Nettleton successfully sued the BLM to keep their state water rights, incurring more than a million dollars in legal fees, they found out EAJA did not apply to them.
Gov. Otter and Idaho legislators took a lot of criticism from all corners over the past few months. But in the end, they balanced the state budget, didn’t raise taxes and stood up for state’s rights. In our book that’s a job well done.