OLYMPIA -- The time has come for people who believe in states' rights to move from protest to political action, a Spokane Valley legislator told a crowd on the steps of the Capitol Building this afternoon.
Rep. Matt Shea, a first-term Republican, told a crowd estimated between 200 and 300 they need to rein in the federal government that's becoming too powerful and too intrusive.
"We will not suffer government any more telling us how to live our daily lives...buy our health insurance...buy our energy," Shea said.
He and other House Republicans have introduced a series of bills they say will allow Washington to reassert rights it has under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which essentially reserves to the states anything not mentioned in the Constitution.
Among his bills are proposals to nullify any national health care plan in Washington state, nullify any cap and trade system set up on energy, keep the federal government from regulating any firearm manufactured in the state and require federal agents to check with a sheriff before conducting an investigation in a Washington county.
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While he called the bills a way to reclaim state sovereignty, prospects of their passage are not good at this point because Republicans are in significant minorities in both houses. Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, a co-sponsor of many of the bills, said they represent issues important to many of the constituents in his rural northeastern Washington district, but may not get committee hearings, let alone floor votes, this year.
"Sometimes it takes three or four years" for issues to pass the Legislalture, Kretz said.
The rally, officially called the Sovereignty Winterfest, included elements of the Tea Party, the 9/12 Project and the Campaign for Liberty, and attracted two busloads of participants came from Spokane. If the different groups can work together, it could be "a little ripple on the surface that becomes a tsunami," said George McGrath, a Spokane resident who attended.
They gathered outside the Capitol in intermittent rain, carrying placards with messages like "Defend the Constitution" and "Bill of Rights for All Americans Only". Mike Fagan, a Spokane activist who ran unsuccessfullly for City Council last year, served as master of ceremonies. The portable toilets, he said had been renamed for the event in honor of Washington's two U.S. senators and governor.
Members of the group waved yellow flags with a coiled rattlesnake and "Don't Tread on Me" message. Tom Newcomer of Skagit County unfurled a Confederate battle flag, which he said was a symbol of the fight for states' rights, not slavery.
"It's just a battle flag, not a flag flying over a country," said Newcomer, a former high school English teacher who now works as a security guard. He came to the rally, he added, "to let the people in office know what we think of them."