The national NullifyNow! Tour stopped in Orlando on the tenth of October with great fanfare. The date, 10-10-10, was chosen for the symbolism the convergence the 10’s represented. The central Florida stop of the states’ rights organization The Tenth Amendment Center’s tour was just one of many that includes Chattanooga, Ft. Worth, Phoenix and Los Angeles. The rally was a celebration of the United States Constitution’s Tenth Amendment. The beautiful sunny Sunday was also a call to action for liberty-minded people to become involved in stopping the spread of the federal government into areas that are best left to the states. The education and advocacy group The Tenth Amendment Center was founded by Michael Boldin, nationally recognized speaker and author who has made it his life’s mission to free the 50 states from the grip of the federal government.
Pasco County resident Andrew Nappi is the director of the nascent Florida chapter of the Tenth Amendment Center. He and Francisco Rodriquez, a noted constitutional scholar and states’ rights speaker, organized the first ever statewide Florida stop along the NullifyNow! countrywide Tour. The event brought together a diverse blend of groups whose primary goal is to stir up grassroots support to take action at the federal and state level. Encouraging states to nullify overreaching federal laws and regulations that limit what sovereign states can do is the overarching goal of the tour. The recent court decision to allow Florida and 39 other states to challenge to the federal health care reform law is an example of nullification in action.
Nappi kicked off the daylong event with a rousing speech extolling the virtues of nullification. He noted that the Founding Fathers “stingingly” ceded limited powers to the federal government. Nappi told the crowd of over 400 that there have been encroachments of federal jurisdiction into state government and pointed out that there is a system of checks and balances to challenge those encroachments. More importantly Mr. Nappi encouraged that “nullification of unlawful general government acts” is the only way to stop the intrusion.
This writer had the opportunity to help educate the crowd about the most effective ways to communicate with state legislators. Building relationships with lawmakers and an understanding of timing the legislative process were two key points that were stressed during the presentation. This writer stated “ a strong state government, fueled by citizen participation, will help stave off a runaway federal government whose tentacles reach farther and farther across our borders as each year passes. You are the ones who can go out and beat back those tentacles by making sure your lawmakers know what is important to you. And, perhaps more importantly, are willing to take action to ensure your voice is heard.”
The two headline speakers were former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and New York Times bestselling author Tom Woods. Governor Johnson, rumored to be in the running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, had the crowd on its feet as he discussed his eight years reforming state government in New Mexico. He pointed out the proliferation of knee-jerk legislation that defines much of what happens in statehouses all across America. He brought the crowd to a round of hearty applause when he shared that soon after a track and field team member was injured pole vaulting in one of New Mexico’s public schools, a bill soon arrived on his desk mandating that all pole vaulters in public schools must wear helmets. The governor noted that he vetoed the bill, as he did over 700 other bills during his tenure, a figure that was more than the combined vetoes of all the country’s governors in that particular year. The governor’s point being that people can take responsibility for their own actions and don’t always need the government telling them what to do.
As a border state governor, Johnson also spoke about his thoughts on immigration as well as the federal government’s failed efforts to reduce the importation of marijuana into the country. These issues will no doubt be a part of his platform if he decides to enter the next presidential race. Based on the numerous standing ovations he received in Orlando he looks as though he will at least be a viable candidate among those who care about personal liberty and a smaller federal government.
The keynote speaker of the day was Thomas Woods, New York Times bestselling author of ten books, most recently Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century. Woods defines states nullification as “the idea that the states can and must refuse to enforce unconstitutional federal laws.” He points to President Thomas Jefferson’s words that “nullification is the rightful remedy” when the federal government oversteps its bounds. Woods’ rallying cry is that the “mainstream has put the Constitution through a paper shredder.” Throughout his presentation he had the crowd on its feet many times in wild applause as he pointed out that , despite mainstream disapproval (i.e. political figures, major news media and political pundits) “we need nullification of unconstitutional federal law.” Woods then proceeded to point out the historical precedent in the nation’s founding documents to prove his point.
Additional speakers followed Woods’ presentation. One of the final speakers, constitutional scholar and lecturer Francisco Rodriquez, followed up on this writer’s presentation from earlier in the day by teaching the crowd how to spend time building a network of advocates working on Tenth Amendment issues throughout the year. Rodriquez explained that if each person dedicated only 15 minutes a week (only 2 minutes a day) towards effective contact with their legislators, they will be able to keep Tenth Amendment issues in the minds of lawmakers year round.
The 10-10-10 event ended with the undeniable fact that Florida has stepped onto the national stage as a force to be reckoned with in the arena of nullification. As a fitting coda to the conference, a federal judge in Florida decided last week that Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s challenge against the federal health care law can move forward. No doubt if the announcement had been made at the NullifyNow! event it would have brought wild cheers from those assembled.
The writer has 16 years of experience working in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate as the chief legislative assistant to current Senate President Pro-Tempore Mike Fasano.