A coalition of 28 different groups calling itself the Connecticut Grassroots Alliance came to the Capitol Wednesday to show its support for a resolution to reaffirm their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s 10th amendment. The coalition says the amendment gives states sovereignty over some actions taken by the federal government.
Tanya Bachand, a Tea Party Patriot from Wallingford, said the coalition was frustrated by the health care debate in Washington and was concerned that the federal government was on the verge of handing down a federal health care mandate to the states, so it found a way to help the states fight back.
During a December conference call with Tea Party activists from 28 states, at a time when the Democrats held a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, “we decided the only fight we had left was at the state level,” Bachand said.
So the coalition began calling state lawmakers looking for support for legislation to reaffirm the 10th amendment.
Several Republicans answered the call and were able to convince Sen. Gayle Slossberg, the Democratic co-chairwoman of the legislature’s General Administration and Elections Committee, to raise the concept as a resolution. The resolution is expected to be raised by the committee this Friday.
The resolution, if passed, will only reaffirm the state’s position regarding the 10th amendment. It does not require the state to take any action.
While the coalition considered the resolution a step forward, Deborah Stevenson said she was disappointed that the committee opted not to raise a bill to create a committee to review federal mandates.
Coalition members promised to continue to pursue more meaningful legislation.
“This is an issue that’s not going to go away and we are going to continue to call our federal government officials to task and elicit the support of our state representatives and our state senators to help us with this effort,” Stevenson said.
“This issue is not about political parties,” Stevenson said. “It crosses all party lines.”
However, it was only Republican lawmakers who joined the coalition for Wednesday’s press conference.
“The 10th amendment of the United States is important to a lot of people,” Sen. Michael McLachlin, R-Danbury, said. “It may seem mundane to some, but it’s important to the people standing here today because they understand Washington D.C. has this terrible habit of unfunded mandates being rolled down to the states.”
He said once there’s a public hearing on the resolution he’s confident lawmakers on the other side of the aisle will agree with them and pass the resolution.
“As a result of the public hearing I think they’re going to feel comfortable voting in favor of the resolution before us,” McLachlan said of the legislature’s Democratic majority.
Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said the concept “can’t really be disputed.“
“Congress can only pass laws that the constitution gives them the power to pass,“ she added.
‘No Child Left Behind’ and the now-stalled health care bill would have been good examples of bills the states should scrutinize under the 10th amendment, Boucher said.
Sen. Dan Debicella, R-Shelton, said he hadn’t even heard a discussion about the 10th amendment at the Capitol until the coalition brought it up.
“A lot of this is just bringing the issue to the forefront. I don’t know about you, but in my three years up here I’ve never heard a discussion about the 10th amendment before these folks brought it up,” Debicella said.
And he said he thinks it is a concept that crosses party lines since it was Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, who sued the federal government regarding ‘No Child Left Behind.’