As states across the country are recognizing the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War it seems that a new battle is starting over the union. Tea Party legislatures from Arizona to Virginia and now New Jersey are introducing a resolution to support a Constitutional Amendment that will allow for nullification. In New Jersey this is ACR170 sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Handlin and Assemblyman Jay Webber, who was Governor Christies Republican Party Chair. 150 years after the Civil War we are now going through the same political exercise that ended up causing the war in the first place.
Nullification is a political construct that would give the states the power to nullify federal law or regulations. This is what the civil war was fought over. The southern states believed they had the power to nullify or not follow federal law when it came to the issue of slavery. The concept of states rights comes out of giving states the right to nullify state law.
Even though parts of New Jersey is below the Mason Dixon line New Jersey was clearly a union state. Maybe what's happening is Amy Handlin is confusing Fort Sumter with Fort Monmouth. Jay Webber may think he is Stonewall Jackson. Today's concept of nullification has more to do with the Tea Party's attempts to attack environmental protections and regulations. This version of nullification would give states the power to not follow the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act or Safe Drinking Water Act. Along with other regulations that protect public health and the environment. The irony is that Governor Christie is following the Tea Party agenda by eliminating Red Tape and has signed an Executive Order saying New Jersey should have no rules stricter than the federal government. His own party is saying we should not have to follow federal rules either.
Many of Governor Christie's Executive Orders and Red Tape reforms come directly from the Tea Party agenda that is being promoted in other states. Governor Christie, under the excuse of regulatory reforms, is weakening environmental regulations for polluters and special interests. This is not about meeting the needs of New Jersey, but is part of a national environmental agenda for the extreme right to eliminate environmental protections and public safeguards.
The more national exposure Christie receives the further right his positions shift. Climate skepticism is a main tenet of the Tea Party. After running on a campaign platform of promoting renewable energy and green energy jobs in New Jersey, Christie shocked the state by announcing he is doubtful climate change is caused by human actions. The Governor has appointed pro-development individuals who have spoken out against the Highlands regulations to serve on the region's Water Protection and Planning Council. The Governor wants to dismantle the protections in the Highlands rules which are up for readoption next year.
Perilous Tea Party policies are sailing through the Statehouse backed by the Governor and the Democratic Legislature. New Jersey has already passed a bill that would allow state agencies to challenge the rules adopted by another agency with an administrative law judge having final say over the disputes and ultimately the agency's rules. Public oversight and transparency are lost in the process and agencies promoting development can challenge rules that protect our environment from more degradation. These policies are not based on the needs of New Jersey's economy, budget deficit, or citizens. Christie is raising his national profile by implementing the Tea Party wishlist to rollback environmental protections at the state level throughout the nation. Christie is using talking points and tactics straight from the national developers and polluters' agenda to dismantle over 30 years of landmark environmental protections in New Jersey. We hope that Governor Christie stands with former New Jersey Governor George McClellan a union general that lead the union forces during parts of the Civil War instead of with the secessionists members of his own party like Texas Governor Rick Perry and Representative Michele Bachman.
Just a short time ago Governor Christie was given an award from the Union League in Philadelphia founded to support the union in the Civil War. It seems that Republican Party is moving away from Lincoln and siding with Jefferson Davis. President Andrew Jackson prevented nullification in 1832 by sending troops to South Carolina to surround the legislature stopping them from nullifying federal law. We fought the Civil War and passed the 13th and14th Amendment to prevent this nullification because President Lincoln, Congress and state legislature believed we needed to form a more perfect union. More than 600,000 brave Americans died during the Civil War to end nullification and states' rights. We would be doing a disservice to their memory and what they fought for with ACR170. Nullification was used by the southern states during the 1960s to support segregation and to block the implementation of the Civil Rights Act or Voting Rights Act. Civil rights had to be enforced by US Marshalls integrating schools, buses and giving African American citizens the right to vote.
A government for the people by the people shall not perish from the Earth. Not get nullified from Tea Partiers.
Jeff Tittel is the Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.