State Rep. Jennifer Carroll had a pretty radical idea during the Legislature's last session: What if Florida just ignored federal laws that don't come attached with funding? The idea is widely supported among tea party types. So the Jacksonville Republican put it on paper, submitting H0679 -- a resolution that would essentially allow Florida to break away from federal oversight.
The idea, any constitutional scholar will tell you, is entirely the stuff of fiction. It probably would've soon been forgotten, especially considering the thing didn't even make it out of a House committee room.
But last week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott picked Carroll as his running mate, and now that resolution could help paint her as something of a tea
party radical prepared to rip the Florida peninsula from the motherland.
Carroll didn't return phone calls to her House office and to the campaign. She first filed the resolution January 15. It began with this:
A joint resolution proposing the creation of Section 28 of Article I of the State Constitution, to assert the sovereignty of the state and refuse to comply with unconstitutional federal mandates.
It goes on to promise that Floridians will not "comply with mandates by any branch of the Federal Government" without money attached. It cites the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as giving Floridians the power to make such calls.
The House leadership knocked the resolution down to the Criminal & Civil Justice Policy Council, where it languished for three months. It died in April from lack of action.
Carroll's proposal isn't new to tea party types, who have dedicated websites and fiery speeches to the states' rights to ignore federal mandates. Doug Guetzloe, a chief strategist with the Florida Tea Party, says the idea is "supported by most tea party aficionados."
"Right now, it's more of a buzzword than a reality," Guetzloe acknowledges. "Some of the wingnuts in the tea party movement use this as a clever buzz phrase, but actually getting it passed is another issue."
The reason it'll never be enacted is that it's entirely unconstitutional. Charlton Copeland, an associate professor at the University of Miami Law School and a constitutional law professor, says the idea of a state's right to ignore federal mandates has long been clear.
The issue first surfaced in the early 19th Century, when South Carolina passed a law that it would ignore a federal tariff. After Congress gave President Andrew Jackson permission to use the military to intervene, South Carolina backed down. Then came the Civil War, which proved that the feds wouldn't stand by as states declared themselves independent.
So to declare Florida free of such rules ignores a couple of hundred years of federal law -- a conclusion no constitutional scholar would disagree with, Copeland says. "The idea that the state has that authority to declare federal laws unconstitutional is just flat-out wrong," Copeland says. "The parts of the resolution that are not wrong are just redundant."
It's unclear if Scott's campaign, which didn't return calls for this story, would support Carroll's idea to declare Florida's independence from the feds. But the campaign did post a video of Carroll shortly after her nomination in which she endorses the idea of an Arizona-style immigration law for Florida. She says:
We want to make sure that the citizens of this state, our borders, are protected and the federal government does not encroach on our state's rights.
Apparently, that means even if it defies a couple hundred years of U.S. law.
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