Ballot initiative would allow Ariz. to nullify federal laws
By: William Brown
This November, Arizonans may be voting on whether or not the state is allowed to determine what is constitutional despite what the federal government says.
A ballot measure known as the Checks and Balances In Government Act would add to a section in the state constitution, allowing Arizona to override federal law if deemed unconstitutional by a majority vote by the people or the legislature.
The act has reached the stage where the more than 300,000 signatures backing the initiative have been submitted to the office of Secretary of State Ken Bennett so any signatures improperly filed can be thrown out.
Matthew Roberts, director of communications for the state office, said the main job of the office is to ensure all signatures were properly filed.
“Our office makes sure that there is the information on the signature sheets in terms of, you know, Joe Smith, 123 Lane and then there’s a date and signature,” Roberts said. “If there isn’t then our office does remove those signatures or mark them so that they will not be counted towards the minimum qualification for the ballot.”
Jack Biltis, sponsor of the act, said a big reason he has been backing and funding this measure was his dislike of socialized medicine.
“Well, I’m originally from Canada and I’ve seen how socialized medicine affects everybody,” Biltis said. “I’ve seen my father-in-law die in a socialized medicine bed and I don’t want it to happen to the people of the U.S. Pretty straightforward.”
Part of the wording of the proposed act reads as follows.
“The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land and may not be violated by the Federal, State, or any local government.”
Despite the wide scope of authority this would lend to decisions made by the Arizona state government, Biltis said it would not upset the system of checks and balances.
“It doesn’t give a blanket veto power to any one branch but basically it just reaffirms what the state already has the power to do,” Biltis said. “The initiative really isn’t creating new power but creating a mechanism for power that already exists, just as the President has a duty to uphold the Constitution as the Congress does and the Supreme Court, the states have an equal duty to uphold the Constitution and all this does is create a mechanism to evaluate federal laws and if there’s a federal law that does violate the Constitution it gives them a mechanism to reject that and go through the normal legal mechanisms to determine the ultimate constitutionality.”
Biltis said while he was moved to back the act by his distrust of socialized medicine, he sees other issues in play that he believes are contrary to the Constitution.
“I think the federal government has gone past their constitutional limits in areas like the Dodd-Frank Act or their takeover of the student loan program and I think those are areas where the states have to push back and ultimately try to counterbalance against the federal government overreaching,” Biltis said. “Again, the Supreme Court hasn’t heard most of these cases, but they won’t hear these cases if the states aren’t acting as a counterbalance and plaintiffs in these situations.”
Biltis also said the initiative is intended to be used to combat serious violations of the U.S. Constitution.
“This is not an issue of states being able to willy-nilly make any type of law they’d like or push back against things they don’t agree with,” Biltis said. “This purely serves to reinforce the states’ power to push back against those items that violate the U.S. Constitution.”