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Action Alert – S2250/A3476 (and an Explanation)

As mentioned last week, S2250/A3476 passed both houses of the legislature with overwhelming support three days after Senator Lesniak introduced it.  The bill awaits Governor Christie’s signature.  While many groups across the political spectrum may be aware of the issue, many individuals may be unaware of the importance of this legislation.  In the grand scheme of things, compared to drones, firearms freedom or NSA snooping, sports betting is not among one of the Tenth Amendment Center’s top priorities, and yet the thought process behind the bill is the essence of nullification.

S2250/A3476 partially repeals state level bans against sports betting in New Jersey casinos.  Federal lawmakers and agencies depend heavily on state and local assistance for enforcement.  The federal government knows this; Senator Lesniak appears to know this.  As our founder Michael Boldin has pointed out time and time again, if one looks up almost any article on any federal raid, the words “assisted by state/local law enforcement” will almost always be there.  Take away state and local assistance, and the federal ban on sports betting falls apart.  On an issue  that by itself may seem minor, the approach is

Some people may misconstrue opposition to the federal sports betting ban or support of S2250/A3476 as support for gambling.  It needn’t be.  It simply means fidelity to the Constitution, as the federal government has no constitutional authority whatsoever to regulate, limit or otherwise involve itself in the issue.  The most obvious support would come from those who participate in sports betting, as it affects them most, but the support should be more widespread than that.  Even if sports betting doesn’t affect you, federal overreach inevitably will.  Even if you vehemently oppose gambling, but believe in limiting the federal government, then support this bill, but feel free to rejoice that the market is already deciding the fate of the industry.

Contact Governor Christie and tell him if the federal government expects to enforce its unconstitutional ban on sports betting, or any other such laws and regulations, it can do so alone.  This is not the time to “move on,” as the governor has said.  It is time to tell these bureaucrats that if they want to regulate every little aspect of our lives, they can do so without our help.

Sports Betting – Christie Caves; Lesniak Plans

In predictable fashion, the black robed oligarchs known as the United States Supreme Court will not hear New Jersey’s appeal of the federal ban on sports betting.  The decision by the Supreme Court not to hear the case essentially lets past appeals court decisions stand.

Governor Chris Christie expressed disappointment with the decision, but said in regards to the attempt to legalize sports betting in the Garden State, that it was “time to move on.”  Christie, who admittedly showed a lot of guts in the hot corner (third base for any baseball laymen) at a charity softball game in Yankee Stadium, will apparently not pick up the bat for sports betting here, but perhaps what we need is not so much a batter’s mentality as that of a pitcher.  A win in the courts is somewhat like Bucky Dent hitting one over the Green Monster; we cannot rely on that if we want to win.  As a matter of fact, without an RBI double from Thurman Munson and a solo home run from Reggie Jackson that same game, Dent’s home run would have been insufficient to win.

While the governor does not plan to pursue the issue further, Senator Ray Lesniak believes “it ain’t over until it’s over,” as Yogi Berra once said.  The senator has introduced a bill that would “sidestep” the federal ban by repealing state bans, and according to an NJ101.5 poll, nearly two thirds of participants agree New Jersey should not give up.  Though the bill’s text is not yet available on the legislature’s website, Lesniak believes the Justic Department will not intervene if his bill passes, citing Colorado and Washington’s recreational marijuana laws as his reasoning.  The language the senator uses sounds a lot less like the hard fastball to the courts, for which the federal bench of lawyers would be well prepared, and a lot more like the eephus pitch of noncompliance, which DC simply cannot hit.  The non-commandeering doctrine, which even the courts have upheld time and again, would leave the federal government powerless to enforce their laws without state and local cooperation.

 

UPDATE: S2250 over the course of four days, June 23-26, was introduced and has passed both the Senate (38-1) and Assembly (63-6-2).  The bill awaits Governor Christie’s signature or veto.

The New Jersey Tenth Amendment Center supports any efforts to nullify the federal government’s sports betting ban, and urges all in New Jersey to contact their officials in Trenton and ask them to do the same.  Not succeeding in the courts doesn’t mean the game is lost.  This one’s just gone into extra innings.

New Jersey National Guard off to Qatar – Trenton Does Nothing

“The operation of measures thus unconstitutional and illegal ought to be prevented by a resort to other measures which are both constitutional and legal. It will be the solemn duty of the State governments to protect their own authority over their own militia, and to interpose between their citizens and arbitrary power. These are among the objects for which the State governments exist.” – Daniel Webster, 1814 speech to Congress

Over 450 troops from the New Jersey National Guard will deploy to Qatar, according to a report from NJ.com and the Associated Press earlier this week, a move that nearly three fourths of participants in an NJ101.5 poll oppose.  General opinion points to the Qatar deployment as a move toward eventual deployment to Iraq.  Apparently the “Peace President,” Barack Obama, was against the war in Iraq before he was for it.

In addition to National Guard units being deployed in neighboring countries, the Obama administration also has plans to send 275 troops for “non-combat” action to Baghdad to help secure the US embassy and train Iraqi security against the insurgency.  Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed the possibility of using manned and unmanned drones to support the Iraqi government, and in addition to the USS George W. Bush (because it’s his fault), the USS Costa Verde has entered the Gulf carrying 550 Marines.  The president has insisted the US government will not be sending ground troops into combat, but the absence of ground troops in combat has not led to an end of the interventionism that has defined US foreign policy for nearly three quarters of a century.

Meanwhile, our legislature and governor in Trenton have stood by and done nothing to prevent this.  While much of the nullification movement’s attention in the past few years has focused on nullifying ObamaCare, cannabis, the NSA and gun laws, just because George W. Bush has not occupied the White House for over five years does not mean our troops are not still being subject to unconstitutional deployments worldwide.  During the Bush years, the Tenth Amendment Center introduced Defend the Guard model legislation.  The act would require the governor of the state to withhold or withdraw approval of the state’s National Guard to federal control “in the absence of an explicit  authorization adopted by the Federal Government in pursuance of the powers delegated to the Federal Government in Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 of the U.S. Constitution.”  Recent events have shown New Jersey certainly has a vested interest in passing this legislation.

To the people who participated in the NJ101.5 poll, to people who have read about these pending deployments and oppose it, to the people forward thinking enough to think several presidents and congresses in advance and wanting to limit their powers ahead of time, now would be a good time to contact your state legislators.  Tell your officials in the Assembly and Senate to introduce Defend the Guard legislation.  If, by the time you do, another legislator has beaten them to it, tell yours to sign on as a cosponsor.  There is a lot of talk about supporting the troops.  If you truly do so, then support legislation that will support their oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.

NJ Gun Rights Activists: Still Trust the Courts?

Gun rights advocates should have reason to rejoice last month’s Supreme Court decision not to hear a challenge to New Jersey’s carry law.  The law states that one must show and urgent need to obtain a permit to carry a gun outside one’s home.  Both a police official and judge must approve the permits.  Why should gun rights advocates rejoice at this?  Because the crutch of depending on the federal government to “fix” the massive flaws in our state government has finally broken.

It’s no secret that New Jersey has one of the most hostile climates of any state toward gun owners and gun rights in general.  Whenever our Assembly or Senate holds a hearing regarding its latest gun control bill, and there are a lot, the hearings are generally a sham.  If a supporter of gun rights speaks, and the speaker reaches the allotted time to present an argument, he or she often does not have the opportunity to finish the last sentence.  Meanwhile, gun controllers generally have the opportunity to finish making their point.  If you doubt that, one can find plenty of videos of hearings. Anybody who believes in gun rights and has any awareness whatsoever of the New Jersey Legislature’s disdain for firearms freedom can easily fall into the temptation to give up hope of bringing about any change in our state’s policies for the better.  It can also be appealing to look at cases where federal court decisions have offered a majority opinion against state and local gun control laws and believe suing your state in federal court is the best option.  It can appear just, since the government history books often tell us the 14th Amendment incorporates the Bill of Rights.  Tenth Amendment Center Communications Director Mike Maharrey does an excellent job shooting down both the incorporation doctrine and the idea of the Second Amendment applying to the states, so I think there is little I can do to add to that.

Still, many New Jerseyans failed to look to their state constitution for answers to restraining the tyranny in Trenton.  Sure, the New Jersey Constitution does not spell out the right to keep and bear arms.  So what?  It doesn’t forbid it either.  To reiterate from what we at the NJ TAC have been saying for years, we need to spread the message that state problems need a state and local solution, and we have those in the state constitution.  For example: Article I, Section 1.  All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness. Article I, Section 21.  The enumeration of rights and privileges shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people. While the words “arms,” “guns” or “firearms” do not appear, one would think the right to keep and bear arms would easily fall under the categories of use for defending life and liberty, protecting (and even being) property and pursuing and obtaining safety as stated in Article I, Section 1.  Article I, Section 21 is New Jersey’s internal version of the Ninth Amendment, clarifying that listing one or several rights does not mean that other rights not listed do not exist.

If our state government wants to play games and split hairs with terms like “urgent need,” then gun owners and would be owners need to be as clever with the language as they are.  Get as many applications on the books as possible.  If they ask for an urgent need, self defense need be the only urgent need listed, given the condition of cities like Newark, Camden and Paterson.  It may seem a dirty tactic, but have lawyers at the ready, and if one person whose carry permit the state denied is injured or killed in a criminal attack, people need to be ready to sue the state for negligence in denying its residents the right to defend themselves.  It needs to be in the media every time someone suffers a break in, and did not have the opportunity to defend his/her personal safety, family and property.  If it happens in an anti-gun legislator’s district, the people need to show that legislator’s face along with the perpetrator and the victim, to show those who deny decent people their unalienable right to defend life, liberty and property are not just passive bystanders, but guilty of the blood of the innocent.  Most of all, we need to spread the message from the bottom up.  Gun owners and advocates, invite those who disagree with you to come to a range.  Dispel the stereotypes by disproving them in person.

There was certain to come a time when the strategy of depending on the federal government to protect our freedoms against state mischief was doomed to backfire.  Perhaps it has not arrived in some states, while it arrived sooner in others, but that time is definitely here in New Jersey.  Forget the rhetoric of “taking back America,” and start taking back your communities, changing one mind at a time if need be.

New Jersey Budget Hearings – Get Your House in Order

For those desiring bills along the lines of much of our model legislation, that period of time on the state legislative calendar dedicated to budgets, budgets and more budgets can become a waiting game.  While good bills on hemp, drones and other issues sit largely ignored in committee, the legislature and governor go back and forth over taxes and spending, each convinced of moral and intellectual supremacy over the other.  Still, a state’s fiscal policy does much to determine its ability to resist the constant encroachment upon our individual rights and reserved state and local powers.  While the New Jersey Tenth Amendment Center chapter does not have the manpower necessary to go through a line by line, item by item breakdown of what belongs or does not belong in our state budget, it would be a mistake to be silent on the issue.

The most important thing our state government can do regarding fiscal policy is to present a budget that is fully paid for without a dime of federal aid.  This may mean a complete revamping of state and local government as we know it in New Jersey, but it also means not being dependent on federal dollars and all of the strings attached.  More financial autonomy helps to protect our political autonomy, leaving us in a better position to enforce the Tenth Amendment.  While we’re on the subject of federal aid to the states, if our legislature and governor want to talk about that, maybe they can apply a little bit of pressure on DC to stop giving our tax dollars away to other states.

New Jersey needs to repudiate all unconstitutional debt.  There may be some whom such a move will upset, mostly those who purchased bonds not backed by the full faith and credit of the State of New Jersey, but according to the limits of our own state constitution, Trenton never should have taken on this debt.  Our state can never hope to enforce the limits of the US Constitution against DC if the legislature and governor cannot be faithful to our their state constitution.

Our state and local governments must strip away, to the greatest extent possible, any and all funding from any activities that assist the federal government in violating our rights.  This should be a no-brainer, as enforcement of even constitutionally delegated federal powers should be mostly up to the federal government.  Our state, county and municipal police and other agencies are not administrative subdivisions of the federal government, but servants of the people of this state.  Their responsibilities are to us, not any outside entity, and last I checked, the District of Columbia is outside of New Jersey.

In the short term, we cannot reasonably expect the governor and legislature to put aside partisan bickering in our budget hearings, or for any compromises to result in any major changes in how our state government operates.  That is where you come in.  You have a voice in this too.  In addition to any specific changes you believe need to be a part of our state budget, our legislators need to know there needs to be shift in our mindset regarding the purpose of government, both inside and outside our state.

New Jersey Senate Joins Push for Marijuana Legalization

On the heels of a bipartisan bill in the Assembly, and as many following the issue have expected, Senator Nicholas Scutari has introduced a bill in the New Jersey Senate that would legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.  Although the text of the bill is not available on the New Jersey Legislature’s site yet, according to Heather Haddon at the Wall Street Journal, S1896 would allow for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 21 years of age and older.

Unlike the Assembly version of the bill, S1896 provides for the taxation of recreational marijuana at a rate of 7%, with 70% of the revenue going toward transportation projects.  The remainder would go to, according to Ms. Haddon, drug education and women’s health, the latter being an often deliberately vague term.

Senate President Steve Sweeney is “open to debate” on the issue, while Governor Christie has promised to veto any legislation that legalizes marijuana.  In the event of a veto, the bill would need a two thirds majority in both houses to override.

New Jersey May Legalize Marijuana

Following successful efforts in Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana for non-medicinal purposes, efforts have now made their way to New Jersey.  State Senator Nicholas Scutari stated in January that he was planning to draft legislation to legalize marijuana.  According to The Daily Chronic, a bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Assembly.

Republican Michael Patrick Carroll and Democrat Reed Gusciora have introduced a bill, A2842, which would allow the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, subject to voter approval.  If the Assembly and Senate were to approve the bill, it would need Governor Christie’s signature before going on the ballot for the voters to make the final decision on the law.  The governor has promised to veto any bill that legalizes or decriminalizes marijuana.  Both houses of the legislature would both need a two thirds vote to override a veto.

While Governor Christie says the federal government still considers marijuana illegal, it should be noted that during the Prohibition era, the federal government was at least honest enough to admit it needed to amend the Constitution to do so with alcohol.  Absent an amendment to the United States Constitution, the federal government has been claiming an authority on this issue it does not possess.  Like many other issues, this is one that is reserved to the state and the people.  Whatever the outcome, it should be the decision of the people of our state.

Napolitano vs Stewart: A New Jersey Perspective

There have been some great minds that have already covered the recent exchange between Judge Andrew Napolitano and Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.  On the overall issue of the legacy of Lincoln, without years of study on the subject, I dare not think I can cover that issue better than or as well as they might.  There was, however, an issue briefly brought up in the debate between these two New Jerseyans that should be discussed in greater detail, namely our state’s involvement in slavery before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.

For those unfamiliar with nullification efforts before the Civil War, one of (if not THE) most noble involved the Personal Liberty Laws, which sought to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  The nullification of the Fugitive Slave Act, as well as the names of states utilizing such nullification, are cited in the secession declarations of South Carolina and several other southern states.  Shamefully absent from that list of nullifying northern states is New Jersey.  If the institution of slavery is, as Judge Napolitano and Mr. Stewart both agree, an aberration and perhaps the greatest evil in American history, then New Jerseyans need to know about this ugly mark on our state’s past.  New Jersey not only failed to resist the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 via nullification, but went the opposite route, actively enforcing it. One can see a deeply entrenched precedent in state law making it difficult to promote nullification in our state.

In a conflict that went from simply being about preserving the union at all costs to supposedly being a struggle against slavery, how many died to preserve the same union that was sending escaped slaves in chains back to slave states that did not secede?  According to the book “United States Colored Troops,” by William A. Gladstone, a total of 1,185 black soldiers from New Jersey served in the Civil War.  How many of them died in the name of a union that perpetuated slavery while claiming to fight it, while at the same time representing its most willing accomplice among the northern states?

During the Daily Show debate over Lincoln, Stewart brushed aside Napolitano’s concerns over the atrocities committed against women and children by union soldiers in the Civil War.  Maybe he thought the southern white population had it coming, or perhaps he just thought rape and bank robberies were bad, but less serious than slavery, the former being an unfortunate but necessary stepping stone toward ending the latter.  If his concerns were exclusively about slavery, then a question not asked on the show, to which we may never know the answer is this; how many slaves were among the civilian casualties resulting from union war tactics?  Were they also a necessary stepping stone toward ending slavery?  Was it consistent with just war teaching, on which the Judge attempted to school Mr. Stewart, to pursue tactics that resulted in the unintended deaths of some slaves in the name of liberating them?  Were all options exhausted before embracing full scale war?  Would The Daily Show’s viewer base be willing to entertain such a question regarding a war not fought during the Bush administration?

All the debate over Lincoln and the perceived necessity of the Civil War will not change what happened in the past, but looking well beyond what we are taught in our government approved history books is important to help us make better choices in the future.  To claim a war that still leaves scars on America’s identity was necessary, while simultaneously believing it unnecessary to engage in some serious soul searching about the actions of all sides during the war, is folly.  Hopefully, New Jersey residents will be among those to take an in depth look at our history, not to deify or demonize certain major figures, but with the intent of avoiding the evil and building on the good deeds of those who came before us.

One Assemblyman – Two Hemp Bills

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora has been busy on the hemp issue in the early months of this legislative session.  There have been two bills introduced, and he is the primary sponsor on both.

The first bill, A2719, is a little bit vague due to language in section 1b of the bill:

Notwithstanding any other law, or rule or regulation adopted pursuant thereto, to the contrary, a person may plant, grow, harvest, possess, process, distribute, buy, or sell industrial hemp in the State, provided the person complies with the rules and regulations adopted pursuant to section 2 of this act.

The New Jersey Tenth Amendment Center has requested clarification from Assemblyman Gusciora’s office on the language in this section.  By “any other law,” it is unclear whether they mean simply state or local law or include federal prohibitions on hemp farming.  We are awaiting clarification before taking an official stance on the bill.

The second bill, A2919, is a reintroduction of A2415 /S3110 from last year’s legislative session.  The bill passed the Senate 38-0 (2 not voting) and the Assembly 65-8 (7 not voting), but Governor Christie pocket vetoed it.  The New Jersey Tenth Amendment Center expressed its opinion on the bill last year, and that opinion has not changed.  This bill is not a nullification bill, and we will not support any legislation, no matter how popular, which amounts to asking the federal government for permission.

Contact Assemblyman Gusciora’s office and ask for an explanation of A2719, Section 1b, especially if you are one of his constituents, and share with us if you receive an answer.

This Week’s Happenings

The New Jersey Legislature has a light schedule this week, however, there are a couple of items of interest in committee meetings this Thursday.  One is not specifically a nullification bill, but aims to expand privacy protections for New Jersey residents, so there is a connection to our mission.  The other deals with an act of nullification that has been ongoing since just before Chris Christie began his first term as governor, medical marijuana.

At 10:00 am, the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee will meet.  One of the bills on the agenda, A1396, would enact the Reader Privacy Act.  Under current New Jersey law, library records which contain the names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of libraries are confidential and protected from disclosure except in certain circumstances.  This bill extends similar protections to the readers and purchasers of books and e-books.  The bill defines a “book service” as a service that, as its primary purpose, provides the rental, purchase, borrowing, browsing, or viewing of books.  While it does not claim to render any federal legislation or regulation null and void, it would be a positive step for Trenton to take action on expanding privacy protection simply on a state level.  With other states targeting federal abuses such as the NSA and drone spying, this bill could be looked at as a start in addressing the same issues here.  After all, how a state treats its own people can be an indication of how willing that state is to stand up to the federal government.

At 2:00 pm, the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee will meet to hear from invited guests regarding implementation of New Jersey’s “Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.”  The Act, which became a law in early 2010, has experienced glitches over the past four years in terms of implementation.  Hopefully, the invited guests and committee members will come up with some helpful ideas to improve protections for those covered by the law.

Contact the committee members, especially if they represent your legislative district, and urge their support on these important protections.