By TJ Martinell
A resolution reasserting the Tenth Amendment’s role in restraining the federal government was approved last month by the Ohio state Senate.
Sponsored by Sen. Larry Obhof (R) and Sen. Keith Faber (R), Senate Concurrent Resolution 15 (SCR15) serves as a “notice to the federal government to end federal mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated powers.”
“Recent enactments by the federal government exceed the scope of the federal government’s enumerated powers, and intrude on areas traditionally left to the States,” the resolution reads.“Today, in 2016, the States are often treated as agents of the federal government.”
The Senate approved SCR15 on May 25. It will now move to the House for consideration.
The resolution is chock full of references to statements by James Madison and United State Supreme Court cases like Printz v. United States. Together, they make it clear the federal government’s powers are “few and defined,” and “its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only” as Madison wrote in Federalist 45 and 39 respectively.
The resolution calls for an end to “compulsory federal legislation that directs States to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalty or sanction or that requires States to enact legislation or lose federal funding.”
“The Tenth Amendment defines the scope of federal power as being that specifically granted to the federal government by the Constitution,” the resolution declares. It goes on to state that the Tenth Amendment “assures that we, the people of the United States and each sovereign State in the Union of States, now have, and have always had, rights the federal government may not usurp.”
This principle of limited government was expressed when the Constitution was being debated over at the Virginia Ratifying Convention. There, delegate George Nicholas made the following remarks:
The state legislatures, also, will be a powerful check on them (federal government): every new power given to Congress is taken from the state legislatures; they will be, therefore, very watchful over them; for, should they exercise any power not vested in them, it will be a usurpation of the rights of the different state legislatures, who would sound the alarm to the people. Upon such an appeal from the states to the people, nothing but the propriety of their conduct would insure the Congress any chance of success.
While resolutions aren’t legally binding, they create a foundation for further more substantive action. Adoption of SCR15 establishes a precedent, and the Senate should now follow up with legislation refusing cooperation with specific federal mandates beyond the federal government’s constitutional scope.
TJ Martinell is a Seattle-based reporter and author of the Orwellian novel The Stringers. Visit his personal site at tjmartinell.com. He writes for The Tenth Amendment Center, where this article first appeared.