17th District Representative Lake Ray was one of my guests on The Jacksonville Observer Radio show yesterday, <plug>which is live on WBOB, AM 1320 Wednesday afternoons at 5:00, but if you missed it can be heard in its entirety on jaxobserver.com.</plug> And one of the folks who called in asked Representative Ray about the Florida Sovereignty Act. He said he was a co-sponsor of the House memorial on Sovereignty, but didn’t take the time to explain exactly what it was. I should have asked but we had other issues to discuss.
I’ll admit now I’d not heard of it before that call came in yesterday, which is what the Interwebs are perfect for. I’m now convinced we should probably do a show on the topic.
Both the Florida House and Senate have introduced what are called “Memorials” on state sovereignty. A memorial is a non-binding piece of legislation which conveys the opinion of the Florida legislature. In the Federal Congress, they’d call it a “Sense of the Senate” or “Sense of the House”.
In this case, “sovereignty” does not mean Florida wants to secede from the Union and become a sovereign state. What it does mean is that the Florida legislature, and apparently nearly half the other state legislatures, are telling the Federal Government to stop taking tax dollars out of their states, making a big federal money pool, and sending pack pennies on the dollar along with billions of dollars in unfunded mandates. And when there is federal funding, don’t attach a lot of strings, threaten civil or criminal penalties, or force states to pass legislation complying with the federal mandate.
That doesn’t sound unreasonable to me. Think back to the 55 miles per hour speed limit, and that the federal government threatened to take away federal highway funds if states did not pass the a 55 MPH speed limit law.
Now you remember.
The text of the memorial is as follows:
WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States proclaims: “The powers not 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,” and
WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment defines the scope of federal power as being that specifically granted by the Constitution of the United States and no more, and
WHEREAS, the limitation of power contained in the Tenth Amendment established the foundational principle that the Federal Government was created by the states specifically to be an agent of the states, and yet currently the states are demonstrably treated as agents of the Federal Government, and
WHEREAS, many federal laws are in direct violation of the Tenth Amendment, and
WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment ensures that we, the people of the United States of America and each sovereign state in the Union of States, now have, and have always had, rights the Federal Government may not usurp, and
WHEREAS, Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution of the United States begins: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government,” and the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declares: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and
WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court ruled in New York v. United States, 112 S. Ct. 2408 (1992), that Congress does not have the authority to simply commandeer the states’ legislative processes by compelling the states to enact and enforce federal regulatory programs, and
WHEREAS, a number of proposals from previous administrations and some proposals now pending from the present administration and from Congress may further violate the Constitution of the United States,
NOW THEREFORE, Be It Resolved by the Legislature of the State of Florida: That the Legislature claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the Federal Government by the Constitution of the United States.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this memorial serves as a notice and a demand to the Federal Government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, from issuing mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.
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 or repealed.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this memorial be dispatched to the President of the United States, to the President of the United States Senate, to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, to the presiding officers of each state legislature of the United States of America, and to each member of the Florida delegation to the United States Congress.
A lot of this movement has to do with the strings attached to federal stimulus money, and the "shovel ready” projects that are supposed to be funded. Ray said Wednesday that the state of Florida turned back about a half a billion dollars in federal stimulus money because of the conditions attached.
Where this will go is pretty much anybody’s guess. I’m not sure how likely it is that the Federal Government will just say “oh my goodness, the state’s don’t like what we’re doing, so let’s change it right away.” There’s an age-old adage of (distasteful material) running down hill, and to be fair, talk to any Florida Mayor or City Council representative about what the state legislature has pushed off onto local governments, which eventually winds up on the backs of you and me, your faithful taxpayers. But at least there is a push back, and a well recognized constitutional foundation from which to push. Municipalities don’t have that firm a footing from their City Charters. If there’s to be real change, perhaps this is where it will start.