March 3, 2009 in Idaho

Harwood: Idaho should tell feds to ‘back off’

By The Spokesman-Review

BOISE - One North Idaho legislator wants Idaho to tell the federal government to “back off” and let the state run its own affairs.

Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, proposed a non-binding memorial in the Legislature on Tuesday to declare Idaho’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment and warn the federal government not to violate it with mandates or regulations. Harwood said the state could save “millions of dollars” if the measure passed. The House State Affairs Committee, after some dissent, voted 13-4 to introduce the measure and allow full hearings on it.

Harwood, a fifth-term lawmaker, said, “One of the things the states did, they created the federal government as an agent for theirselves.” He cited the federal No Child Left Behind Act, federal regulation of air quality, and endangered species rules as examples of the federal government impeding the state’s sovereignty, and objected to the feds telling the state “you gotta do this or else.” He said, “We think they oughta back off and let the states govern themselves a little bit.”

Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, objected that Harwood’s bill, a non-binding memorial to Congress and the president, was “over-reactionary” and said, “It alarms me that we are taking a step to the far right at a time that we need to be working together.”

The idea that Idaho could save millions by being free of the federal government “is very inaccurate - that’s not the case at all,” she said.

Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, noted that Idaho receives federal funds for everything from Medicaid to highways. “We need to work with the federal government rather than stick a pencil in their eye,” she said.

But Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, said, “We don’t stand up for ourselves, who will? Our rights, our constitutional rights, are being trampled right before our eyes.”

Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, said, “I personally don’t see any harm in sending a message to the federal government that the state of Idaho respects the Constitution.” Harwood said he looks forward to the committee’s full hearing on his measure.

Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, D-Prichard, said Harwood’s right that sometimes the state has to comply with federal mandates or risk losing funding. She and Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, voted with the majority to introduce the bill.

One clause of the measure states, “Be it further resolved that all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions, or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding, be prohibited.”

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