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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

House Tells Feds To Keep Out But Vote On State’s Rights Is Essentially Toothless

The state House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution Friday claiming sovereignty from the federal government on all matters not specifically listed in the U.S. Constitution.

The measure, which passed 62 to 1, garnered support from all the North Idaho representatives who voted.

“Idaho can govern Idaho,” Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Coeur d’Alene, told the House. “We don’t need Congress to do that for us.”

The House resolution is toothless; it’s essentially just a formal letter to President Clinton and Congress. But the bill joins several similar measures working their way through the Legislature, including one bill to set aside a $1 million war chest to challenge federal regulatory authority in court. The bills all cite the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gives to states powers not specifically listed as federal.

“I think this is a step in the right direction,” said Mike Thatcher, spokesman for the Tenth Amendment Coalition in St. Maries. “It’s just making the statement that we’re claiming our states’ rights.”

Friday’s bill, House Concurrent Resolution No. 7, is now on its way to the state Senate.

“I feel like we have an opportunity now and Idaho can be in the forefront of this movement,” said bill sponsor Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby. She said her bill serves “as a courtesy to the federal government and a notice we intend to stand by our constitutional rights.”

“Idaho loses when Washington (D.C.) exercises control over our lives,” said Rep. Donna Jones, of Payette. “Government closer to the people is more responsible to the people.”

They and other proponents of such measures say they’re acting under a mandate from voters fed up with federal regulations.

Foes like Coeur d’Alene Democratic Sen. Mary Lou Reed, however, say some of the measures are extremist, revolutionary and are a thinly veiled attempt to subvert federal environmental protection.

The sole opponent to Wood’s bill in the House was Boise Democrat Ken Robison. Despite the pasting that federal mandates are now taking in the state legislatures and Congress, Robison said, many such mandates are things Idahoans support.

For example, he cited federal laws regarding civil rights, the minimum wage, airline safety, national parks, food safety, social security and voting rights.

“That’s my problem with this resolution,” Robison told the House. “I think it’s a little more radical than it needs to be.”

“I concur, I guess, in the spirit of this revolution,” he said. “But I do not concur in rejecting all those policies enacted since the Constitution was enacted.”