Interstate compacts — A new tactic for challenging federal authority
Once employed for such mundane issues as inmate transfers, natural resource management and state boundary definitions, interstate compacts have suddenly become the latest tool for legislators looking to buck the federal government on a slew of controversial topics.
The interstate compact bills proposed this year address issues ranging from firearms regulation and endangered species protection to denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants and blocking the new federal health care mandates.
This year, nine bills propose interstate compacts, a stark contrast from only four interstate compact bills that were proposed during the four previous years. Only one of those became law. All of the current interstate compact bills are aimed at challenging the federal government’s authority in some arena.
If they’re passed in Arizona and signed into law, they’ll then need federal approval to go into effect.
For Arizona lawmakers like Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Republican from Snowflake, the formerly dry legal mechanism is a way to deftly maneuver around the normal constraints of state laws and strike at federal power from a new angle.
Allen is the primary sponsor of four of this year’s interstate compact bills.
She first became aware of the way to use interstate compacts during last year’s American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference. Allen said there were several conference workshops that labeled interstate compacts an effective tool for promoting federalist notions.
“We’re testing this 50 years of immensely growing federal power, to the point that there are no states’ rights,” Allen said. “Basically what these (bills) are all saying, is that the federal government has overstepped its enumerated powers.”