Nullification lives again.
States' rights vs. federal rule took center stage Wednesday as South Carolina House lawmakers battled over a resolution to give states veto-like power over federal rules and regulations.
Ultimately, House members approved the resolution – backed by House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston – and the Republican majority, by a 72-44 vote.
The measure asks Congress to call a constitutional convention to consider a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow states to repeal any federal law if two-thirds of state legislatures disagree with it.
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“This would give the state's a veto right that would not be the same as but would be similar to a presidential veto,” said state Rep. Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, who led the charge for the bill.
Saying they are concerned about the erosion of states' rights and a federal government that they see as overreaching, 17 states are considering the proposal, Lucas said. South Carolina is the second state where the idea, which still must win Senate approval, has been voted on.
Democrats said the measure is a distraction from the state's more pressing problems, including its 10.7 percent jobless rate -- one of the highest in the nation -- and the need to create jobs. They called the measure a misguided reaction to Democratic-led federal initiatives, including health-care reform and a threat to minorities, women and others not in power.
“It was the federal government that took care of all aspects of civil rights legislation,” said state Rep. David Mack, D-Charleston, a African-American lawmaker who grew up in the civil rights era. “South Carolina had to be dragged screaming and kicking because they didn't want to do it because (S.C. lawmakers said) the federal government was encroaching and overstepping its grounds.”
Republicans said the resolution's intent is not to disenfranchise minorities or women. Instead, they said the resolution is non-partisan effort that Democrats should join Republicans in supporting to preserve states' rights.
“This would have to be (a federal bill) so egregious that (state legislatures controlled by) Democrats and Republicans would have to jump up and say, 'We're not going to take it anymore,’ ” Lucas said.