Honorable Councilors, Mayor and Manager:
Three City Councilors were on the KAJO talk show on July 7th . When they were confronted with a state law which would nullify a proposed ordinance, one asked whose law we should obey, state or federal?
The state is the basic level of government, from which both federal government and local governments are derived. When the colonies declared independence, they declared themselves “free and independent states.” The Articles of Confederation bound them too loosely for some years, and then the Constitution was written to give the federal government specific, listed powers, with other powers reserved to the states and the people. Its powers allow it to deal with foreign governments by treaty or war; regulate the military; coin money; regulate interstate commerce; judge disputes between the states; to levy particular taxes to do these and other listed powers; and by the 14th amendment, to secure the rights of the people in the states. Much of federal law is not authorized by the Constitution; it is tolerated by the states.
The states control elections; we register to vote as citizens of our state of residence. States license driving, marriage and many professions, including doctors. The vast majority of the laws that we are subject to are state laws.
States formed the federal government; they also charter cities and counties. That which is licensed or chartered by a government can be revoked thereby. The feds cannot revoke your charter; the state can, in theory.
The federal government has backed off enforcing its laws where they are contradicted by state law. The Supreme Court stopped John Ashcroft from going after legal medical marijuana growers and sellers; the feds have since stopped prosecuting people following state marijuana law.
Where there is a conflict between state and federal law, therefore, you should obey the one with constitutional authority; they have separate realms of authority.Where there is a conflict between city and state law, you should obey the state, the source of your authority to be a city, unless the state law conflicts with the state or federal constitution. Then you should defend the rights of all your residents.
July 2015 protest issue.
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Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener 541-955-9040 firstname.lastname@example.org