State Republicans lobbed more legislative spitballs at Washington, D.C., earlier this week, with measures calling to sue the federal government over gun rights and control of federal land and to replace standard American currency with gold and silver.
The bills join several other anti-federal government measures introduced in the Legislature, including a measure to preempt federal identification legislation that could affect state driver’s licenses and a resolution demanding leaders in Washington, D.C. eliminate the country’s deficit in 55 years.
And last week, the House rejected any federal health care law that would require people to buy insurance.
St. Maries Republican Dick Harwood told the House State Affairs Committee on March 2 that Idaho should approve a bill making guns manufactured and sold in-state exempt from national regulations – including background checks on people who buy the guns. Similar bills have cleared the Montana and Tennessee legislatures, and Harwood said passing one would show that Idaho is willing to stand up for its rights, too.
“If you don’t challenge what the federal government is doing, then business goes on as usual,” Harwood said, citing historical examples of Americans taking on the status quo. “They made a ruling years ago that a slave was not a human being. And that was changed because somebody challenged it.”
Lawmakers voted to delay action on his bill for now. The state attorney general says the measure could be unconstitutional if it regulates guns in ways that contradict federal law.
Idaho lawmakers aren’t alone in directing their ire at the feds. Lawmakers in dozens of states are warning Congress not to trample states’ rights with resolutions on issues ranging from gun control to health care.
But Idaho, one of the most conservative states in the country, is particularly fertile ground for fed-bashing. In an election year, merely introducing the bills can placate conservative constituents back home.
Minority Democrats often express frustration with such measures. Suing the federal government would be costly and unnecessary, Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, told Harwood.
“Would you really rather spend taxpayer money on litigation instead of on schools and jobs for the people who live in Idaho?” Higgins said.
Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, wants Idaho to consider legal action against leaders in Washington, D.C. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service manage about 61 percent of Idaho territory, and Anderson wants a state council to determine if Idaho can sue the federal government.
“If the federal government is negligent, there may be a possibility we could take over the operations of the land,” Anderson said.
With her measure to allow the use of gold and silver in addition to dollars issued by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, Challis Republican Rep. Lenore Barrett says she wants Idahoans to take control of their currency.
Similar bills have been introduced during previous legislative sessions in Idaho, where the state Republican Party platform recognizes “the failure of the Federal Reserve System to maintain a sound U.S. dollar and the dangers of private bankers controlling the issuance of our currency.”