Proposed measure would allow Arizona voters to declare a federal law unconstitutional

April 02, 2012

Arizona voters may get to decide whether to give themselves the ability to declare federal laws unconstitutional.

The Checks and Balances in Government Act would amend the state constitution to include two ways to declare against federal laws. The legislature and governor could do it, or Arizona residents could put what they consider questionable laws on the ballot for a public referendum.  

Jack Biltis is chairman of the campaign, and he said this is not just about recent health care laws.

“It’s everything from small things like light bulbs to larger issues like the PATRIOT Act,” he said. “There’s just an ever-growing area the federal government is just stopping our ability to live our lives the way we’d like.”

Biltis said states should have a role, along with the U.S. Supreme Court, in determining what is constitutional, but procedures outlined in his initiative would be reserved for major federal over-reaches.

He doesn’t think it would be a problem for a state to not follow a federal law. He cites medical marijuana laws as one example where that’s already happened.

“What would happen in that situation? You’d have one state in an area, doing something that’s different than other states, and whether it’s the speed limit or light bulbs, or something like that,” Biltis said. “If one state ends up disagreeing and having a slightly different society than another state, is that a horrible thing that not everybody marches in the exact same lockstep?”

The campaign for the Checks and Balances in Government Act plans to spend around a million dollars to get the question on November’s ballot. It has until early July to collect more than 259,000 signatures, and Biltis said he will use a combination of paid petition circulators and volunteers.