PHOENIX — A conservative Arizona lawmaker wants to ban state agencies from
helping the National Security Agency collect phone and Internet “metadata.”
Another wants to require federal agents to register with the local sheriff,
show a warrant and force the government to hand over any fines they collect to
the state and county. And a third is pushing a bill allowing the state
agriculture department or a rancher to shoot any Mexican gray wolves they
believe have killed livestock regardless of any federal law protecting the
All three proposals show the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature’s
penchant for wagging its finger at the federal government is far from satisfied
despite rebukes from federal courts on the state’s efforts to control
immigration reform and push the limits of abortion restrictions. And they all
push up against the supremacy of the federal government, according to Democratic
lawmakers and a constitutional law professor.
The NSA bill, sponsored by Republican Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City, was set
for its first committee hearing Monday. The freshman tea party lawmaker said her
bill is needed to prevent the federal government from invading the privacy of
Arizonans without a warrant.
“The 10th Amendment allows states to stand up against unconstitutional federal
law,” Ward said Monday of her Senate Bill 1156. “It’s a state issue because
many times the NSA is turning that information over to our local and state law
enforcement and using that in cases that are basic criminal prosecutions, not
anything to do with terrorism.”
Senate Bill 1093 requiring federal agents to register with the local sheriff is
designed to put some check on federal agencies that show up at mines and other
businesses, demand to inspect them, said Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber.
“And nine times out of 10, or maybe should I say 10 times out of 10, they
always leave with a fine or a fee for their services,” Crandell said. “So what
this does is put the county back in charge of protecting his people from illegal
search and seizures, those things that are not necessary. Doesn’t limit them
from going in, doesn’t limit them from establish a fine or whatever.”
The bills targeting grey wolves was prompted by the reintroduction of the
animal in Arizona and New Mexico and a proposal to allow their numbers to
Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, said her push-back against the federal wolf
recovery efforts is needed to protect people and livestock in rural Arizona.
“We’re sending the wrong message,” Griffin said. “If a wolf is attacking you
or your property you should have the right to protect yourself, your livestock
or your property, that’s just the way it should be.”
All three bills are criticized by Democrats, who say they’re a distraction from
more important state business and are unconstitutional.
“The one thing they have in common is once again we are trying to tell the
federal government what they can and cannot do,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo,
D-Phoenix. “They’re not happy with President Obama or the federal government,
so what do they do, they introduce bills that are wasting our time, that are
causing us to be distracted (from) the real areas that are facing Arizona.”
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, agreed.
“One of these days I’m going to append a secession amendment to one of these
bills because that’s what they all seem to be about,” he said.
The bill requiring federal officials to register with the local sheriff and pay
a fee passed the Senate public safety committee last week. Griffin’s bill
protecting against violations of the Endangered Species Act passed the Senate
government committee Monday and Ward’s bill also passed despite testimony from
state agencies and law enforcement associations that it would affect their
ability to pass routine information to the federal government.
All three are likely unconstitutional, said Paul Bender, a constitutional law
professor at Arizona state University’s law school.
“The federal law is supreme and the state has to follow it,” Bender said.
“The proposals requiring federal agencies to register with local law
enforcement and telling Arizonans they can’t face federal prosecution if they
kill an endangered wolf are clearly outside the Legislature’s purview, he said.
And telling state and local officials that they don’t have to comply with a
federal officer’s demand for information if they don’t have a warrant is
especially troublesome, he said.
“These kinds of statements that we’re free from federal law, don’t obey this
federal law, can be really dangerous,” Bender said. “If they rely on what the
Legislature says they might end up committing a federal crime. If they want to
express that feeling they should just pass a resolution _ but when they’re
telling people they don’t have to obey a federal law, that’s dangerous.”