| 03.20.2018

Unconstitutional constitutionalists — Idaho legislators waste time pursuing unconstitutional legislation


With the Obamacare debate rearing its ugly head in D.C. again, it’s time to consider how this debate trickles down to the state level. There are plenty of states opposed to the Affordable Care Act, which is great — political debate is healthy in a democracy. What’s not so great is the deadlock and political lollygagging. This is especially prevalent in Idaho, where the state legislature insists on pursuing nullification, an obscure and unconstitutional 18th century idea that has never  proven effective. Even garners opposition by some of Idaho’s top officials, yet it continually works its way into various debates and shows up year after year.

States rights are important and debate is a good thing, but fighting federal legislation on the state level and letting important state issues fall to the wayside is damaging and detestable.

The idea of nullification is as old as the United States.  Nullification  was first proposed in 1789 with the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. In an attempt to remove the Alien and Sedation Acts, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison proposed an idea they called nullification, where a state can nullify a federal law through the state legislature. However, it was not a popular idea at the time and was deemed unconstitutional and unnecessary by multiple state legislatures and even George Washington.

Nullification appeared again when many Southern states tried to uphold slavery and desegregation. In the end, it was officially deemed unconstitutional multiple times by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court cited the Supremacy Clause of Article VI, which states that federal law will always trump state law. What makes Obamacare the exception to this rule? Nothing, except pestilent perseverance.

Slavery, desegregation and now Obamacare. These are all issues Southern states have tried to nullify, obviously those ideas have stuck with us.

Idaho started down the path to nullify Obamacare in 2011 when the Idaho House of Representatives introduced House Bill 117, which would have effectively given Idaho the right to ignore the Affordable Care Act. The bill was eventually killed in an Idaho senate committee, but the unconstitutional constitutionalists are at it again. Talk of nullification has never really died in Idaho, and despite high-ranking officials such as Idaho’s Attorney General, Lawrence Wasden, speaking out against Obamacare.

So the real question is why do Idaho legislators keep pursuing nullification. The idea is not only an archaic violation to the Constitution but doesn’t even garner full support in  Idaho. Repealing the Affordable Care Act may very well be imperative, but detesting legislation does not give one the right to violate the Constitution.

Idaho is a state with passionate people and politicians, perhaps that passion would be better spent improving the income and education of Idahoans, which rank 49th and 47th in the nation respectively. There are a lot of problems left to solve here at home, let our national representation do their job and maybe our state representatives can start doing theirs.

Justin Ackerman can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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