COLUMBUS, Ohio— The Federalism Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives convened its Wednesday session with an unusual goal: debate and discuss the 10th amendment, the limits of state sovereignty, and the greater philosophies that underpin the constitutional system.
The spirited session began with guest Michael Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center briefing the committee members, along with a crowd of roughly forty attendees, on his analysis that the federal government has grossly overstepped its constitutional limits, specifically the tenth amendment.
Per the center’s site:
The Tenth Amendment makes explicit two fundamental constitutional principles that are implicit in the document itself.
- The federal government is only authorized to exercise those powers delegated to it.
- The people of the several states retain the authority to exercise any power that is not delegated to the federal government as long as the Constitution doesn’t expressly prohibit it.
He asserted that the federal government, through a myriad of abuses, including warrantless monitoring of citizen communications and unrestricted warfare, has greatly violated the sovereign rights of the states. He claimed that the states have the right to combat these abuses by several measures, the most powerful of which is nullification. The organization outlines this process as follows:
Madison gave us a blueprint on how to do this in Federalist #46. He suggested four steps to take on counteract and stop federal programs – whether “warrantable” or “unwarrantable,” the most significant being a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union.” The federal government involves itself in almost every aspect of life, but depends on state assistance to do almost everything. If states refuse to help, it becomes nearly impossible for the feds to enforce their laws or implement their programs. We can use this strategy to undermine and nullify all kinds of federal acts in practice – from warrantless spying, to gun control, to plant prohibition and more.
After making these assertions, a series of questions were proposed by the committee, many of which focused on the question of a “slippery slope.” Republican Committee Chairman John Becker, Democratic Ranking Member Adam C. Miller, Democratic State Representative Bernadine Kennedy Kent, along with other colleagues, cited concerns of Civil Rights abuses. Specifically, they asked if, should the states disregard federal law, could local counties disregard state laws? One member even suggested that invoking nullification could effectively “open Pandora’s Box.”
Maharrey countered that, though he understood the concern, these results were unlikely. He summarized by noting: “if you [state legislators] believe the federal government is overreaching into a certain area you certainly have some things within the system as it exists that you can use” to protect the sovereignty of the state.
Furthermore, the greater point Maharrey wished to underscore was the importance of recognizing that “centralized power is a corruption force” and that localizing power gives citizens greater oversight to defend against abuse.
When asked in an interview later that day about the importance of such speakers and debates, Federalism Committee Chair Becker stated:
I think these are good open discussions to have. All of us are in an echo chamber to some extent, and I’m probably more guilty on certain topics than others, so its really good for us to be hearing the other side…I want to hear both sides. I want to give both sides equal time.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].
Photo “Michael Maharrey” by The Tenth Amendment Center. Background Photo “Ohio Capitol House Floor” by Joshua Rothaas. CC BY 2.0.