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Otter-backed resolution on amending the U.S. Constitution heads to House

Otter-backed resolution on amending the U.S. Constitution heads to House

Dustin Hurst
March 15, 2010
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March 15, 2010

The House State Affairs Committee passed a resolution Monday that would call on the federal government to amend the U.S. Constitution in favor of increasing the rights of states.  The resolution, brought by Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, would ask the federal government to change some wording in the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights, as well as the Interstate Commerce Clause.

The resolution is backed by Gov. Butch Otter, who, in a letter dated Feb. 12, 2009, asked lawmakers to take up the issue to send a message to the federal government.

Otter writes:

Too often we find ourselves bemoaning the erosion of our state sovereignty because of the imposition and intrusion of federal programs.  This intrusion is the result of an expansive federal government without boundaries or discipline.  If we want change, we must change the very document from which the federal government derives its power – the United States Constitution.

As you know, the Framers envisioned a nation with states empowered to be the laboratories of the republic, for each state to be strengthened rather than depleted by their union, and for the federal government to act only in the areas where its power and authority was specifically and constitutionally delineated.

Otter is following the lead of Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming, who, in a memo to members of his own Legislature, decried the impeding force of the federal government.

Freudenthal writes:

We cannot stand for a government we see today in which special interests engage in sophisticated lobbying which results in the federal government monopolizing commerce, health care, land use, social welfare, education and many, many other programs.  We must do what we can to stop this avalanche of federal intrusion.

The result of Otter’s push for a resolution to the federal government is House Concurrent Resolution 64, sponsored by Roberts.  The resolution would have no force of law, but, if enacted, would be sent to U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Joe Biden, the entire congressional delegation for the state of Idaho, as well as presiding officers of legislatures across the nation.

The text of the resolution outlines the changes Otter and Freudenthal would like to see made.  On the 10th Amendment, language would be added to more clearly define the duties of both the federal government and state governments.

From the resolution’s text:

The Idaho Legislature urges Congress to amend the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution as follows: (Changes in bold): “The powers not expressly delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. This amendment shall be considered by all federal courts as a rule of interpretationand construction in construing any case involving an interpretation of any Constitutional power claimed by the Congress under either the“interstate commerce” or the “necessary and proper” clauses of Section 8, Article I.

As mentioned before, the resolution also calls on Congress to amend the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitution.

Again, from the text of the resolution:

The Idaho Legislature urges Congress to amend the Interstate Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, as follows: (Changes in bold): “To directly regulate commerce with the foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes, with no authority in Congress to regulate matters that are primarily intrastate with only an insignificant or collateral affect upon interstate  commerce.”

Both houses of the Wyoming Legislature have passed their state’s own version of the resolution.  Members of the Idaho House have already introduced Idaho’s own edition of the resolution, and the measure will receive a hearing Thursday in front of the House State Affairs Committee.

On Monday, Roberts said that the federal government is required to play by the rules of the Constitution, but has failed to do so, and is upsetting a "delicate balance of power."  Roberts decried government intrusion into wolf and grizzly bear management, as well as unfunded mandates, which cost the states millions while preventing local control of governmental matters.

Otter said in his letter to Anderson that he will work to push the resolution through other states’ legislatures by working with governors in the Western Governors Association.

The measure was approved by committee members.  Democrats on the committee, including Reps. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, Phylis King, D-Boise, Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, and Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, all opposed the measure.  The draft approved by lawmakers was the second version of the resolution.  Roberts said that the original document had a few technical errors, which were corrected in the new draft.

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