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Prop 122 aims to allow state to reject certain federal laws, rules

PHOENIX – Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, says too many laws and edicts from Washington are interfering with the individual rights of Arizonans. To combat this, he suggests Arizona assert its sovereignty when state leaders or voters determine that one is unconstitutional.

“There’s so many federal intrusions and encroachments that we have to take a stand and say enough is enough,” Borrelli said. “We should be able to fight back. It goes back to the original intention of the Constitution.”

That’s the essence of a ballot measure to be decided in November. Proposition 122 would amend the state Constitution to say that Arizona may exercise its “sovereign authority” to restrict the use of its money and personnel to purposes consistent with its Constitution.

That would be done through a bill, referendum or “pursuing any other available legal remedy.”

It’s the second straight election with sovereignty on the ballot. In 2012, voters soundly rejected a ballot measure that would have asserted Arizona’s control over its natural resources.

The Legislature referred the matter to the ballot based on a 2012 resolution authored by state Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, who died in August after being thrown from a horse.

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, who voted for the resolution, said that Proposition 122 acts as more of a mechanism than the previous ballot measure.

“It’s fighting the encroachments of federal law. There’s no specific federal mandate or rule that this proposition is taking on,” Lesko said. “It’s important for the citizens of Arizona to decide to continue to use state resources to carry out what they perceive as a bad federal mandate or law.”

Yes On 122, the main group supporting the measure, had raised $275,600 through Sept. 15, $257,000 of it from Jack Biltis, a Cave Creek resident and CEO and founder of TAG Employer Services, a provider of payroll and human resources services for businesses.

In 2012, Biltis organized and contributed $1 million toward an unsuccessful effort to get the issue on the ballot as a citizen initiative based on petition signatures.

Voicemails messages left with Biltis’ office weren’t returned.

Even if the proposition passes, Arizona wouldn’t be considered a sovereign state, according to Paul Bender, who teaches state and federal constitutional law at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

“The state cannot declare its independence from federal law,” Bender said. “(Proposition 122) gives people the wrong idea. It might give them the impression that they don’t have to obey federal law, and it can get them in real trouble.”

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, which is opposed to Proposition 122, called it another bad idea from an Arizona Legislature.

“I feel like these guys missed a whole section of U.S. history,” she said. “The Legislature doesn’t get to decide what laws or programs or environmental protections on the federal level are constitutional or not.”

Bender said that states have power over the federal government in choosing to enforce federal law with state law enforcement agents But one way the federal government holds power over the state is through funding, which Bahr said Arizona shouldn’t be wasting to make a statement.

“The bottom line is the likely result is a lot of litigation, and we just can’t afford that,” she said. “Arizona has wasted enough money on dumb lawsuits, and it’s time the government stepped up and worked on solving problems.”

Arizona’s Constitution says that the U.S. Constitution is the “supreme law of the land.” Borrelli said the new language would fulfill the hopes of the Founding Fathers.

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“The states are supposed to give very limited power to the federal government,” Borrelli said. “Our founders wanted to make sure they keep intact the states’ sovereignty.”

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Proposition 122

  • If passed, the ballot measure would amend the state constitution to say that Arizona may exercise it's sovereign authority to restrict the use of its money and personnel to purposes consistent.
  • Supporters include: Goldwater Institute and Republican U.S. Reps. David Schweikert, Trent Franks, and Paul Gosar.
  • Opposition includes: Sierra Club—Grand Canyon Chapter.