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OPINION | NWA EDITORIAL: A new confederacy?

Anti-federal bills present some dangers by NWA Democrat-Gazette | April 20, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.

Nobody has made the Arkansas Legislator the final arbiter of what's constitutional and what's not.

If that were the case, none of the law passed at the state Capitol would ever be overturned as violations against the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. And there are no doubt state lawmakers who believe that's the way it should be -- that when they say something is the law, that's the final word.

Perhaps it's just too tempting at every level of government for the people's representatives to get grandiose ideas about their own infallibility.

It's in vogue for some counties to pass ordinances formalizing a position that any unconstitutional laws will not and should not be followed by local officials. In theory, it sounds reasonable. Who, after all, wants any unconstitutional laws to be enforced?

But who gets to decide? The local ordinances most presume that local officials can pick and choose for themselves what they believe to be constitutional or not. And that's a dangerous kind of cherry picking, a kind that promotes localized ideas of sovereignty. It's the notion that a quorum court makes the final decision about what's constitutional within the county its members represent, that the Legislation can pass laws and ward off any evaluation of them within state or federal courts.

From the nation's founding, the people's business has been done by three co-equal branches of government: the executive carries out the law; the legislative branch debates and establishes laws; and the judicial branch, which evaluates whether local, state and federal laws comport with constitutional standards that protect individual freedoms.

These days, though, local and state politicians find satisfaction in using their political offices to attempt to defy federal authority. One piece of legislation seeks to require that state agencies and public officers to disregard "unconstitutional overreaches of power." The bill declares disagreement among the states on the "principle of unlimited submission to the United States government." It declares the states have an equal right to judge itself on questions of constitutional matters.

Naturally, a lot of this centers on the Second Amendment's application.

The United States isn't so united, and measures like these suggest the nation has returned to the kinds of arguments that predated the Civil War and those made during the civil rights era as governors attempted to bar the integration of public schools.

How far will this line of thinking go? It's not difficult to imagine outcomes that could turn the United States into, what, a confederacy?

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What’s the point?

Laws that attempt to negate federal or judicial interpretations of the U.S. Constitution diminish the United States.

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