State nullification of Federal Laws

By Al Kuchinka

March 4, 2014

The article by Brandon Blackwell, “Ohio bill targets federal gun laws,” in the 7 Mar 2013 Dayton Daily News was very misleading. It suggested State laws in conflict with Federal laws were unconstitutional. Indeed, Democratic Senator Michael Skindell was quoted as stating, “Our U. S. Constitution provides that federal law is the supreme law of the land.”

Not true — and far from it. The States created the federal government and gave it limited powers. Article I, Section 8, Clauses 1 through 18 of the Constitution defines those limited powers in which the federal government is superior, with prime authority over the States. Section 9 specifies a few things the federal government could not do. Section 10 specifies those things forbidden to the States.

The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 to protect the rights of the people from infringement by the federal government. The 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights further clarified limitations on Federal powers.

It states, “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.” Those words are pretty clear. The States told the Federal Government what it could do; everything else was forbidden.

That brings us to the subject of State nullification. The individual States are sovereign governments, with the exception of the limited powers mentioned above.

In recent years, dozens of states have introduced nullification-type legislation to stop Real ID; affirm the Tenth Amendment; reject federal firearm laws; and reject a federal mandate to buy Healthcare insurance. The key provision of nullification legislation declares, “The Legislature of the State of ______ declares the federal law known as ______ (Public Law XXX-XXX) is not authorized by the Constitution of the United States and violates its true meaning and intent as given by the Founders and Ratifies, and are hereby declared to be invalid in this State, shall not be recognized by this State, are specifically rejected by this State, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this State.”

That State is in essence saying, “The power you claim to have in Public Law XXX-XXX is not mentioned in Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 1 through 18 of the Constitution written by the Founding Fathers and ratified by the States. Unless the Constitution is amended to include that power, Public Law XXX-XXX has no validity — at least, not in this State.”

The Wall Street Journal website published an article on Jan 17, 2014, in which the author noted the “trend” was “spreading.”

Al Kuchinka is a local resident and columnist.