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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 2/16/18

Congress Trying to Trample States' Rights; Eliminate Animal, Consumer Protection Laws

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US Congressmen Steve King and James Sensenbrenner want to eliminate laws protecting consumers, animals, and the environment. Steve King's Protect Interstate Commerce Act (H.R. 3599/H.R. 4879) and James Sensenbrenner's No Regulation Without Representation Act (H.R. 2887), dubbed as the "States' Rights Elimination Act," would take great power away from state and local governments, a dangerous overreach of the federal government.

H.R. 3599/H.R. 4879 would render a broad range of state and local agriculture laws including animal welfare, environmental, workers' rights, food safety, and really any laws that have to do with agriculture, null and void. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) concludes, "[H.R. 3599] would preempt vital state agricultural policies designed to protect the safety and well-being of our farmland, waterways, forests, and most importantly, our constituents." The NCSL goes on to say the bills would have far-reaching effects on our economy.

H.R. 2887 would prohibit states from regulating activity in interstate commerce. For instance, a hazardous product made in another state could be sold in Michigan no matter how dangerous it is without Michigan having a say in the matter. Any state laws banning that product could not be enforced. Under this bill, pretty much any state and local laws related to interstate commerce could be eradicated. The NCSL warns, "If enacted, this constitutionally questionable legislation would codify a radical federal overreach that would undermine the longstanding constitutional right of states to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens and local businesses, as well as preempt countless laws in all 50 states. In short, this legislation would strip states' ability to govern."

These bills will jeopardize numerous state and local laws. One example is voter referendums on battery-cage eggs. It's common practice that egg-laying hens are crammed into cages so small they cannot spread their wings or even move. Some voter referendums in recent years mandate the cages have adequate space. Furthermore, these anti-states bills could reverse laws banning the sale of dog meat in Michigan and other states. They could wipe out laws restricting the sale of diseased animals on factory farms, which is a public-health issue. State and local laws regulating puppy mills would be no more. They could affect food-labeling laws, laws banning BPA in infant food containers, laws requiring that imported firewood be free from invasive species, etc. The list of laws that could be affected goes on and on.

The United States Constitution grants states the power to regulate themselves. These overreaching bills violate the Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Just a few of the more than 70 organizations that oppose these bills include the Animal Legal Defense Fund, ASPCA, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Center for Food Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, The Humane Society of the United States, and United Farm Workers.

Our health and the rights of our states and local governments are important. I urge our federal representatives to oppose these bills.

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William holds a BBA from Western Michigan University and a Master of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School.

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