Secede from Arizona? Create the 51st state? Can these people be serious?
The short answer is: Yes, these people are serious. The slightly longer answer is: The people talking about creating a separate state in Southern Arizona are seriously worried, as am I, about the direction Russell Pearce and his fellow Republican extremists in the legislature are taking us.
For Paul Eckerstrom, co-chair of the recently formed group Start Our State (SOS), the tipping point was when Pearce and company created a series of bills allowing Arizona to simply ignore federal laws it doesn’t like. That, Eckerstrom told me, is dangerously close to a declaration of secession from the United States. According to Eckerstrom, “I finally said, this is it. Maybe Russell Pearce wants to be a traitor to this country. I don’t.”
Though it’s unlikely Pima County alone or all the counties south of the Gila River together will form Baja, Arizona anytime in the near future, this is not a frivolous gesture. SOS is making a very serious point. The group is saying, we are loyal to this country and believe federal laws, rules and executive orders are the law of the land unless and until they are changed by legal means. The last time people tried to pass laws saying the states didn’t need to obey the federal government, we had a Civil War on our hands.
Even before they began pushing their secessionist bills, the Republicans controlling the state legislature seemed bent on one-upping last year’s extreme agenda. Take SB 1070, the anti-immigration bill passed before the 2010 elections. Apparently, that was only the beginning. Now they are proposing bills that would effectively ban children without documents from attending school and entire families from going to the hospital.
Remember the cuts to education in last year’s budget? They want to slash more this year even though our schools are already at rock bottom in the country in spending per student.
Apparently, denying life-saving transplants wasn’t enough for some legislators. AHCCCS, Arizona’s Medicare-Medicaid program, could be cut completely in this year’s budget. The loss of
$7 billion in federal matching funds with the attendant loss of jobs, the flight of doctors to other states, and the increase in medical cost for all Arizonans don’t seem to bother these legislators.
Meanwhile, though they can’t find money for schools or health care, they passed a huge tax break for corporations and just found $5 million to give to Pinal County for border security — even though Pinal isn’t on the border.
But talk about Baja, Arizona didn’t get serious until Republicans took the next step and put together a series of secession bills. They apparently believe the law of the land is nothing more than a bunch of suggestions that can be followed or ignored at the legislature’s whim.
The worst of the bills is the Nullification Law, which says the legislature can hold a vote to nullify any federal law it pleases. Thanks to a few Republican senators who came to their senses and voted no, that bill probably won’t be making it to Governor Brewer’s desk. Still, other bills would make Arizona exempt from federal rules governing water and greenhouse gas emissions, make it harder for federal regulatory agencies to check for violations of the law and put products made and sold in Arizona beyond the reach of federal regulation and inspection.
There is a move afoot to join together with other states and form compacts whose purpose would be to challenge federal regulations. The term “confederacy” comes to mind.
In 1863, West Virginia split from Virginia and became a separate state. The reason? Virginia had seceded from the union and joined the Confederacy. Arizona isn’t in full blown secession mode right now, but Start Our State is telling us it’s time to be vigilant. Loyal Americans should understand, the people running our state are dangerously close to saying they no longer believe they are bound by United States law.
Dave Safier is a regular contributor to Blog for Arizona.