Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Will The Center Hold, Part 1: Americans and States Fight Back Against An Overreaching Federal Government

I am 60 years old. I have seen the debacle and divisions in the country caused by the Vietnam war and the resultant anti-war violence and activities during the Johnson and Nixon administrations. I lived through the lifeless and ineffective Carter administration. Since Reagan, I have seen numerous and useless U.S. military invasions and economic hardships that have tried the country’s patience.

However, throughout the needless wars, the protests, the economic downturns, the lackluster, corrupt, and criminal leadership in Washington, I do not recall us ever being so close to a severe Constitutional crisis. This crisis threatens to substantially divide the country along the lines of state rights and individual freedom vs. overreaching Federal government power, an overreach that often and lately has crossed over the line of Constitutionality.

A number of factors are contributing to this fissure between the people and their state governments on one side versus the political class in Washington on the other side:
  1. Washington has tried to dictate to the states how a national health care program is to be run even though about two thirds of the states have opted out of the national program by not establishing their own state health care exchanges as stipulated by Osama Care’s tenets.
  2. Washington, via Obama Care, has violated the First Amendment’s freedom of religion protection.
  3. Washington has spied on every American and continues to do so, causing some states to rise up against this violation of the Fourth Amendment.
  4. Washington has tried to squash Second Amendment rights with a blitz of actual and proposed gun control laws and edicts that do not sit well with many states and with a vast number of citizens.
  5. Washington is trying to force every state, every school, and every citizen to adhere to a national Federal government mandated education curriculum called Common Core even though it has proven to be deficient in actually improving the education attainment in this country and has little flexibility regarding different needs of different students and states.
Washington is trying to force its control into states' areas of responsibility, as laid out in the Constitution, and into the states’ citizens’ lives. This is resulting in the following unique, severe, and aggressive actions being taken up by those states to protect their Constitutional rights and the rights and privacy of their citizens, a push back I have never seen in my lifetime:

1) The Education Action Group reported on January 29, 2014 that a Colorado state senator, Vick Marble, has introduced legislation that would push back the implementation of Washington’s Common Core education programs for one year. The purpose of the delay is create time so that a state task force would be able to study implementation of the Colorado academic standards, including the Common Core. The state task force would report its findings and make recommendations to state lawmakers and the Colorado State Board of Education by December, 2015.

Marble’s bill would also identify an outside group “to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of implementing the new standards and new tests.” What was Marble‘s reasoning behind creating the delay: “The bill is intended to give Colorado the time it needs to explore Common Core in all aspects instead of handing over our children to an experimental education program with no proven track record of success.”

Additionally, a member of the house of representatives in the state government is introducing similar legislation. Whether either effort gets anywhere remains to be seen but at least some people and citizens in Colorado are saying “slow down” before they blindly accept a program forced upon them by the Federal government.

2) In late January, Oklahoma state government Representative Mike Ritze introduced state legislation that would be similar to that of South Carolina's Obama Care’s “nullify” legislation. Both states’ legislation would essentially gut the Affordable Care Act in their state.

Ritze’s bill, HB2421, states that:
  • "An agency, officer, or employee of the state [Oklahoma] shall not…engage in an activity that aids any person in the enforcement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. [I.e. Obama Care]" 
  • The legislation bars Oklahoma from setting up a state-run Obama Care health insurance exchange to support Obama Care.
  • It prohibits the purchase of insurance from an exchange set up by a non-profit. 
  • It also blocks any state agency or personnel from conducting involuntary home inspections as provided for in the Obama Care legislation.
This attempt to “nullify” this Federal law is being done under the auspices of the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution:

The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, and not prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The purpose of this amendment was to do prevent exactly what the Federal government and the Obama administration are doing now in so many ways, intruding into the rights and lives of states and citizens. This is Oklahoma’s way of pushing back along Constitutional lines and openly defying a national law passed in Washington.

What is interesting is that Oklahoma is not a solitary “renegade” state. News sources identify other states including South Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, and Georgia having also put forth their own efforts to nullify Obama Care.

Which raises an interesting question: what if the Federal government enacted a law and no one, state governments and citizens alike, ignored it? Or nullified it? 

3) News reports out of South Carolina in late January, 2014 reported on another worthy state effort to protect its citizens and Constitutional rights. It is no secret that the Obama administration has shredded the Fourth Amendment rights and privacy rights of every U.S. citizen by blatantly collecting and storing information on every conceivable electronic communication that every American creates.

These collection and storage processes are done without probable cause and without a properly obtained warrant from a proper court of law. It is a gross violation of the Fourth Amendment no matter how viewed. Saying this massive data collection is needed for national security is a farce, the data and information collected is far more likely to be used for political gain and revenge.

Which brings us to another uncharted frontier regarding invasion of our privacy. The U.S. has been a major user of unmanned drone aircraft around the war, using them extensively to bomb suspected terrorist havens around the world. Which has given rise to an new fear and threat to the Fourth Amendment: what if this same government decides to deploy drones to spy on Americans?

Well, in another attempt to nullify Federal interference in our lives, the South Carolina state senate late last month began considering a bill to virtually ban the use of drones without a warrant in its airspace. A similar proposal (HR3514) recently passed the South Carolina state house unanimously, with a vote of 100-0.

Details behind this worthwhile effort includes the following:
  • House bill 3514 (H3514) would prohibit the operation of drones by any government agency unless it is “pursuant to a criminal warrant issued by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
  • Although all of the sponsors of the legislation were Republicans, the unanimous support shows a strong bipartisan effort to block the Obama administration’s drone program. The The ACLU has weighed in on this domestic drone issue on a national level as well, warning that “unregulated drone use could pose serious threats to our privacy.”
  • The South Carolina legislation does include some narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement to reduce the trepidations of state law enforcement entities who want to be able to act in emergency situations when a drone’s use might mean the difference between life or death.
  • Even so, the bill still retains strict standards governing the use of a drone when authorized. 
  • For one thing, the law would ban any sort of weapon from ever being mounted on a drone in South Carolina.
  • Once a drone was used, law enforcement would have to keep records on the results of their surveillance. 
  • Other sections of the bill would prevent law enforcement from retaining any drone-obtained personal information not relevant to a criminal investigation. 
  • Amanda Bowers of Tenth Amendment Center was quoted in news articles stating that South Carolina could join a growing number of states putting strict limited on drone usage within their state borders: “Already, a number of states have passed similar bills into law, and we are expecting more in the coming weeks and months. From California to Washington State, and from New York to Missouri, legislators and the general public from left to right want to see a dangerous future stopped before it happens.”
  • Similar laws apparently were signed into law in 2013 in Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
Interesting, dynamic stuff. States and citizens telling the overreaching Federal government to pound sand when it comes to dictating education standards, dictating health care standards and operations, and potentially violating the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens with the new technology of drones. All seemingly legal and above board according to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.

One has to wonder if Common Core had been a decent program, if Obama Care actually had a chance to work (it doesn't), and if the Federal government was not already grossly violating the Fourth Amendment and privacy rights of citizens if the state governments and leadership would have done anything as drastic as to invoke its Tenth Amendment rights.

Given that such action has not occurred to my knowledge over the past 60 years, I have to conclude that Common Core, Obama Care, and drone intrusions are really as bad as these states think they are.

Which gets us back to the basic question we proposed above: what if the Federal government enacted a law and everyone, state governments and citizens alike, ignored it? Do the ties that bind us together as one nation, as dictated by the Constitution, become the loosened and if so, to what degree? More on the rebellion tomorrow.

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