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Idaho lawmakers plan veto power over federal government

UPDATED: Wed., March 10, 2021

Republican Rep. Sage Dixon addresses the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday, in the Statehouse in Boise. The committee introduced legislation intended to give Idaho lawmakers veto power over federal government actions and federal court decisions.  (Keith Ridler)
Republican Rep. Sage Dixon addresses the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday, in the Statehouse in Boise. The committee introduced legislation intended to give Idaho lawmakers veto power over federal government actions and federal court decisions. (Keith Ridler)
By Keith Ridler Associated Press

BOISE – A House panel on Wednesday introduced legislation intended to give Idaho lawmakers veto power over federal government actions and federal court decisions.

The House State Affairs Committee approved a possible public hearing on the legislation brought forward by Republican Rep. Sage Dixon, co-chairman of Idaho’s Committee on Federalism.

The legislation allows any member of the House or Senate to make a complaint to the leader of the House, Senate and co-chairmen of the federalism committee concerning executive orders, acts of Congress, federal court rulings and other federal actions.

Within 15 days of receiving the complaint, the co-chairmen of the federalism committee would conduct a survey of the committee members to determine whether the complaint has merit.

If the Republican-dominated committee finds the federal action is outside what it considers federal authority, a public hearing must be held within 30 days of that decision.

After the hearing, the committee would prepare a report to the Legislature, creating an avenue allowing lawmakers to create and pass legislation backers of the bill say will make the federal action or court ruling “null and void.”

Additionally, the legislation says once the committee convenes, no state agency can take any action guided by the federal action or court decision until the committee makes a determination.

The legislation isn’t clear if that prohibition remains if the committee determines the federal government has overstepped its authority but before the full Legislature passes a law.

“I want to stress that this is not a reaction to the current change in presidential administration,” Dixon told lawmakers.

He said the U.S. has “experienced the gradual drifting away from the founding principles of a limited federal government that stayed within the powers granted to it in the Constitution to a place where states are often merely enforcement vehicles of federal policy.”

At an introductory hearing there is no public comment. It’s not clear when the bill will get a public hearing.

Jaclyn Kettler, a Boise State University political scientist, said by phone after the committee meeting that other states have put forward similar legislation.

“We’ve dealt with this nullification idea before, and it doesn’t really go very far, but we continue to see proposals,” she said. “There’s also now this political polarization that also seems to be playing into it a little.”“This was written to be the strongest possible legal stance that the state can take in pushing back against some of the authority that the federal government is trying to take away from the state,” he said.

Dixon is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, an organization comprised of conservative state lawmakers. ALEC develops model bills that its member lawmakers can introduce in their own state capitols.

Dixon is the public chair for the council’s Federalism and International Relations Task Force.

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