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July 31st, 2009
06:08 AM ET

Where's our state sovereignty?

By CNN'S Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

The concept of states' rights is as old as America, but lately it's become a red-hot issue.

As Governor Sarah Palin left office this month, she signed a resolution asserting Alaska's sovereignty, referring to the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The amendment 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."

Alaska is one of seven states passing Tenth Amendment resolutions this year, according to the Tenth Amendment Center, which tracks such legislation.  More than 20 others are considering similar bills and have either passed one chamber of the legislature, or are being worked on in committees.  But why now?

For lawmakers like Republican Charles Key of Oklahoma, the federal government has overstepped its authority.  Case in point: Former President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" mandate. "There's nothing in the Constitution that says the federal government has the legal right and authority to tell the people in the various states how to educate the children," he says.

Many proponents of Tenth Amendment resolutions bristle at Washington's involvement in what they consider states' affairs – like gun laws, education, health care, and even personal privacy, with the Patriot Act.  It may seem like a new phenomenon, says Larry Kramer, dean of Stanford University Law School, but in fact the states' rights movement is deeply rooted in American history. "Federalism functions as a political competition between the states and the Federal government,” says Kramer. "[It's] how the system is supposed to work." 

Although proponents of the resolutions acknowledge they have no legal bearing, they say it is important to put the federal government on notice. "I'm not telling the federal government to butt out," says Nebraska State Senator Tony Fulton. "The Tenth Amendment exists and there is a gray line and that doesn't mean there is no line at all." In January, Fulton plans to introduce his own Tenth Amendment resolution in Nebraska's State Senate.

Filed under: Just Sayin'
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. cj

    I think that the federal government is flexing its muscles and will do anything in its power to override the state level. Our country was founded on unity not segregation.

    December 16, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  2. Mike Duvall

    To Wren: Presumption, preconceived ideas, rush-to-judgement, are characteristics of a larger disease called ignorance; proven destructive elements in any society striving to mature and prosper. Hans Reisling demonstrated in a recent study with 40 years of data that preconseived ideas are a major roadblock to a nation's progress (as measured by mortality- people dying sooner due to irresponsibility, and mortality- flat or declining year after year). So, presumption is very destructive. Then you said ,,,"No one cares if this President helps this country or the people, its his color that has everyone enraged." Presumptuous for sure. Obama's plummeting approval ratings are from his actions, not color, and I sense you know it. Obama has proven to be counter-American, and he's black. Indisputable facts, and thus natural for people to make that obvious connection. But it's the behavior first though that make people dislike, not the color.

    November 24, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  3. Mike Duvall

    This article, and all the recent talk, focuses on states shielding themselves from an intervening federal government. Sounds good. But, look at the flip side to political manipulation of the Tenth Amendment. Our Michigan governor Grandholm, an historically proud over-prosecutor, secretly and intentionally used state sovereignty interpretation to prevent Michigan citizens from their access to the U.S. Constitution for their rights. Direct fall-out from that was an indignant and gustapo-like police force that blossomed. Regular practice of lying in police reports, and unethical, immoral, and unconstitutional entrapments and invations of privacy, false traffic record-building upon good citizens, scareing the hell out of 70-year-old people just doing 5 mph over, Warren getting $750,000 just in tickets at 2 stop signs alone (many from cop told to lie by his managment, claiming the driver did a rolling-stop when in fact they stopped fully), and a skyrocketing inmate population with many very questionable incarcerations. And if the cops don't keep it up their performance reviews and retirements are threatened by their management. It's a nightmare, and a crime, how the good citizens of Michigan have been treated. But, there is also a movement starting to put a tether on it, thankfully. Very destructive having a schemeing woman prosecutor as governor. Learn from that mistake.

    November 16, 2009 at 11:01 pm |
  4. phil scott

    when did we start beleaving what the gov has been this way from the fiest person got here as a polition.

    October 30, 2009 at 6:54 am |
  5. Mike Duvall

    Too many people have allowed themselves to be conditioned into thinking that the Fed is the destructive enemy, divorced from the people. Yes, we are "fed up", and the way the Fed operates today leaves so many examples of how the Fed got to looking like some bad, self-serving animal not of our species. But we let it happen, and we need the Fed. It just needs to look different. If states start to secede, then how are they going to provide for our collective national defense against foreign threats? Or stay connected to solve AIDS, or do stem-cell research efficiently by getting some central source to help states share info through a national network across state lines, and so many other collective benefits of a much-needed glue to connect the states for the goals common to all? Also, pretend New York and Connecticut both secede. As nature would have it, the bigger state would form its own military and just take over the smaller one, or financially destroy its markets. Just remember the Civil War and the Middle East to see perfect examples of what would happen. A real danger. We just need to start thinking differently, and realize that the Fed is necessary, as our founding fathers were smart enough to realize through a Constitution. But it has become what we made it, by our own faults. And that by working together, with mutually-agreed-upon standards, we can get it back to working for us and with us instead of against us. "The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking." –Albert Einstein.

    August 6, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  6. Mary, Beaver, PA

    I've read the comments here, and most the people "get it," even if you fat cats in the media and in Washington haven't. This is a REPUBLIC, NOT a Democracy! (What is so great about mob rule?) This country was founded on INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY, NOT on group rights. The Constitution is everything. Its preamble begins "We the People..." NOT "We the government...."

    August 6, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  7. trynthia

    all i got to say is ITS ABOUT TIME !!

    August 6, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  8. Honest1inVA

    I truly believe America needs to regroup, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE! I think if every state chose to SECEDE FROM THE UNION, THAT WOULD BE CHANGE AMERICA CAN DEPEND ON!

    The TRUE power in America is with THE PEOPLE. When there are hard times, who rallies around to help? THE PEOPLE DO- with our hands, our hearts, and OUR TAX MONEY!

    Why do we need the Fed? Let the states govern themselves!!!!

    August 6, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  9. sharon

    little miss sarah had better be careful for what she is asking.........
    the indeginous peoples of Alaska are a Nation within a state.
    all people who are not a member of the indginous Nations are still considered sarah ready to go back to England? or whatever country "her" people came from?
    Think on this awhile sarah.
    The peoples of Turtle Island (the USA) have been waiting along time to get "their" country be very careful for what you ask for........sarah. This also goes to the Tx.Perry want to succeed from the union? realy? Where will you go? We had no state lines. we had no borders. we did have villages and hunting grounds.....on which do you live? which ones are you ready to give up?
    which ones do you want to pay the indeginous peoples for? How far back in taxes....?After all, you are just a realy do not own a thing.Creator owns all anyone can see. We are just stewards. How well have you taken care of the only planet we have to live on,given by the Creator? Have you kept the water clean to drink? Have you created no garbage? Have you cared for all the animals.....doing no harm to them?If not...................why not?

    August 6, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  10. Mike Duvall

    To Eliz Wolfgang, and the presumptuous comments back on August 1 starting with "doorknob". You speak in vague, totally uninformed, rush-to-judgement generalizations. The disease in all non-thinking voters. Let's get specific. Governors of certain states discovered this 10 Amendment loophole. Then it happened. Police were "approved" to DUI people with ZERO blood alcohol content, and put them through the system that stole thousands of dollars intended for things like their kid's college funds. And then mandated that only 50% of any of these innocent victims could even appeal to the next level of court, the Federal Government, restricting their rightful access to their rights under the U.S. Constitution, which later was further reduced to only 10% being allowed to appeal to the Constitution. Those poor victims are still chasing the damage done. I am sure they would want to thank you for embracing this crime by letting politicians run things. I seriously hope you read the 10th again, and the trailing words about the people getting some of that power too.

    August 5, 2009 at 9:54 pm |
  11. Mike Duvall

    To Ms. Jane Reisinger. Very well done. Many state governors have twisted interpretations to gain way too much power, for purpose of control through inaccess to our rights under the U.S. Constitution, and to me THAT is a crime, and I do not believe our founding fathers intended this. Lawyers are the cause of all problems in America today. Join The Institute for Legal Reform and help put a serious tether on this.

    August 5, 2009 at 9:16 pm |
  12. eliz wolfgang

    Well said Wren..

    August 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  13. Wren

    I find I really must set dear Bernice straight. I do not think I have come across such hatred and ignorance wrapped so tightly in one package before. I am going to take your WHOLE statement apart and address it where you might grasp it even if you are anger filled and racist.

    "WE THE PEOPLE, need to take our lands back" So I need to ask which people you are now speaking for? The original people that inhabited America prior to you and your ancestors invaded? Or the mongrel race that has been landing and planting their feet in the soil sense the early 1600’s?

    When you speak for a whole country you really must be much more specific you know?

    "This is why they fight in Iraq. This is why they fight in Afganistan! They do it for our FREEDOMS here" Oh really now? I really must point out to your narrow fear induced apparent brainwashed mind. Iraq was NEVER a threat to America and the people. The prior President went through a list of lies as to why we were going to invade and kill millions of Iraqis and thousands of American soldiers. I never saw a more gullible and a war thirsty country as this one as the majority sat and nodded and agreed to go in and take over Iraq on lies. Afghanistan a country that had finally gotten back up on its feet after Russia and found a better commerce than opium is now worse off, because a prior President could not locate an old business partner in a cave.

    America has turned into the very country and empire it fought back in 1775. Where we said we WOULD NEVER be like them we have, and that country has become our polar opposite, it cares for "THE PEOPLE". It no longer treats its people like cattle and mindless servants, where America since at least 1920 has assumed the American people can’t or shouldn’t think for themselves, took over both State wise and Government wise.

    Bernice I find people filled with hate and anger like you always tend to tell someone you dislike so much and cannot find "real" logical thought with phrases like “If the Obamas wish to deform our country, maybe he and his family should just go off somewhere else”. Please use that line on me, go on pull that one out of your limited vocabulary. How many generations American are you? Just what countries did you ancestors come from prior to taking an oath to this one? The only time the freedoms of this country have been at stake is from within, from States succeeding, America has occupied other countries and controlled them for their own wants and needs, but never for "OUR" freedom. But this does show how well you will blindly follow and not think for yourself, I am sure you would send your children and grandchildren to their deaths to protect freedom that was never at risk. Because you are a good little follower that does what it is told as long as the person speaking and ordering is white.

    I love this part you wrote….."! I would rather KEEP our Constitution in the order in which it was written!"
    Which time Bernice? Another President a white one to boot has rewritten it.

    Now you really should have kicked up a fuss and yelled and screamed and had ten different kind of tantrums when George W. Bush started rewriting the Constitution his first year as President of the United States of America. Or maybe you should have bellowed treason when in front of cameramen and a video camera he simply said "screw the Constitution". But then I am finding with you, you really do not care about that document that was so carefully put together by men from different countries, men who lived under different rules and rulers. What has you in such a state of riotous hostility is the color of a person's skin here. This present President is taking the Constitution back to its original content prior to George W; Bush’s slaughtering of it.

    "When you see someone doing something that you feel is against our rights, leave a blog and tell us allaabout it." Carrying on Bush’s invasion of privacy I see and playing Big Brother. You enjoy not having rights to privacy and knowing that your email, phone lines, regular mail and at times home was being bugged. I guess it is really hard letting go of the old regime, where your dictator went out of his way to deny you any and all rights and keep tightly under his thumb and control. But seeing as he was white you had not problem.

    Now I am going to speak for a race and color of people that you have over looked and have intentionally avoided. As a people that helped Whites and the mongrels from all other countries, you have stepped over them, overlooked them, and blatantly forgotten them as you herded them onto unlivable land and left them there to die. You so proudly claim how wonderful this country is and yet you and your prideful lust and those your promote never include or acknowledge the true Americans. America has thousands of treaties with the Native AMERICAN Indians only 101 said treaties honored and still to this day continue to ignore the Constitution and papers signed by former Presidents. That would grant them their rights. SO when it comes to rights and it comes to speaking for the "PEOPLE" as a whole do define just whom those people are and if you have their full permission. I do not indulge in people who speak for me from a point of hate, anger and racism like you do. If you had any valid point or logic going for you I might give you some credence, but all you have shown is a childish hate, fear and total RACISM.

    I really like people who know and understand the Constitution but do not use it as a weapon to gain some footing in a battle that cannot be won even with that article on their side. You should though try anger management courses and lose you color issues. You would be surprised at how much better everything is when you do that. But then who would you hate if you gave this up, yourself?

    August 3, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  14. eliz wolfgang

    Bernice..You certainly do not like change. The President is not the "Devil"..It is people like you who still want to maintain the status quo. No changes. How can we grow as a country without making changes? If you stay the same, it becomes stagnant and stale, just like you. Open your mind. See something other than what you see. The Constitution is an honorable piece of paper, written by Men. It is not written in stone. It can be changed or amended. It is your interpretation on what it means to you. It means something differently to everyone that has read it. Think.. or is that something that you can't comprehend? Yes, Bernice the Devil is truly walking and you are walking right next to him.

    August 3, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  15. Linda McCoy

    Anyone who believes that State rights should trumph over federal rights should live in Mississippi where if you get behind in paying your taxes, the state puts you in a "debtor's prison" They can garnish 100% of your wages without regard to your caring for dependent children or disabled family members. They may not accept a payment plan and your homestead exemption is denied, your house note goes up, interest and penalties are added to the taxes. If you file bankruptcy, our state says their taxes survive bankruptcy. You have to ask the federal government for help with our state which does not want to follow federal rules.

    August 2, 2009 at 9:19 pm |
  16. Linda McCoy

    I live in Mississipi. Our state can garnish 100% of wages belonging to some of our lowest paid state, city, and county employees if they owe taxes. When garnishing ALL of our wages our state does not take into account dependent children or the disabled. Our state may not accept installment payments. This reminds you of why America was founded in the beginning; to stop slavery, and get rid of debtor's prison.

    August 2, 2009 at 9:08 pm |
  17. George Johnson

    Thank God For MD Anderson Cancer center. I have had cancer five time.I am on Medicar and I walked into the front door and walked out the front door cancer free. If I had to pay the cost for the five cancer treatments including (one operation), I would be DEAD. I have paid social security from age 16 until age 71. My brother Died at age 66 and only used his medicare one time. My other brother died at 64 and never collected on his social security. Lets get real and get the same kind of program for everyone.

    August 2, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
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