The Proposition amends the state constitution to say that if the legislature deems a federal law unconstitutional it can, in effect, nullify the law by ordering state employees not to enforce it.
Not a good idea says ASU constitutional law professor Paul Bender. Bender said that he understands the sentiment behind the measure but that the state will certainly face litigation if the legislature attempts to enforce it.
“So, this is going to add to that [Arizona Constitution], ‘Yeah, federal law is supreme,'” he said. “But if the state Legislature thinks the federal law is unconstitutional, it can announce that it’s unconstitutional and every employee of the state has to obey what the state Legislature says about the constitutionality — rather than what the federal courts say.”
“Litigation is really expensive and time-consuming,” Bender said. “And state employees have a lot more important things to do than fight losing battles against federal legislation.”
Supporters of the proposition say that it recognizes the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land but that Congress sometimes passes laws that do not conform to it. In those cases, states have the right to nullify the offending law. They tout it as a bipartisan measure even though the Arizona legislature which passed the resolution is predominately Republican (53 Republicans, 37 Democrats between the two houses).
The proposition had support from Governor-elect Doug Ducey and Attorney General-elect Mark Brnovich — both Republicans, as well as such luminaries as Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.
“I support Prop 122 because Arizona needs to decide how it will best spend its own budget,” Ducey wrote in support of the measure.
“Many federal programs cost Arizona more than the state receives from the federal government. Prop 122 creates a way for the state to evaluate these programs and determine what makes sense for Arizona’s taxpayers. It won’t stop Washington from passing new laws, rules and regulations, but it can at least force them to pay their own bills,” he wrote.
“As Sheriff of Maricopa County, I see firsthand how bad policies from Washington, DC make life more difficult for everyday Arizonans. Federal laws that mandate amnesty for illegal immigrants, and interfere with law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment right to own and bear arms simply defy common sense.” Arpaio wrote in support of prop 122.
Watch a report from KPHO below.
CBS 5 – KPHO