Considering the firestorm gun laws often generate, a Republican lawmaker in Arizona has opted to use the incandescent-lightbulb to battle the federal government over states’ rights and interstate trade.
In a twist on the Montana gun law that challenges whether the federal government has the constitutional authority to impose gun regulations on states, Tucson Representative Frank Antenori has introduced House Bill 2337, which intends to assert states’ rights and challenge the federal mandate to phase-out incandescent-bulb sales.
Antenori’s bill follows behind Arizona’s manufactured-firearms bill, which is Arizona’s version of the Montana gun bill. Currently, attorneys are researching whether the sale-in-Arizona-only provisions exempt the state from the federally required background check on gun buyers.
Antenori is ready with low-flow toilets and mandates to save water if 2337 fails.
By Mary Jo Pitzl
Rep. Antenori’s proposal takes on federal mandate
Frank Antenori’s idea is as bright as a 100-watt lightbulb. And it’s lighting up conversations at the Capitol over states’ rights and the role of the federal government.
In proposing that Arizona become the national epicenter of incandescent-lightbulb manufacturing, the Tucson Republican hopes to provoke a fight with Washington, D.C., over states’ rights and interstate trade.
He’s picked what he believes is an inoffensive field of battle: A glass bulb with a tungsten filament.
It’s a new twist on a national trend that involves a Montana gun law that 23 other states, including Arizona, are mimicking this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The premise is that by providing that guns manufactured in a given state are not sent over state boundaries, the federal government has no right to impose regulations, such as gun registration.
Knowing the firestorm that gun regulation can inspire, the freshman lawmaker decided to dial down the emotion and use lightbulbs as his weapon of choice in a states’-rights push.
“It’s kind of like the Montana gun bill, but not as angry,” Antenori said of House Bill 2337.
“You can’t get too (angry) with lightbulbs. You don’t shoot people with lightbulbs.”
But he hopes perhaps you can sue if the federal government insists that a phase-out of incandescent-bulb sales applies to Arizona.
The federal Energy Independence and Security Act, signed into law by then-President George W. Bush, imposes new efficiency standards beginning in 2012. It bans the sale of the most widely used incandescent bulbs, those ranging from 40 watts to 100 watts. The idea is to move the country toward compact-fluorescent lightbulbs and LEDs, which consume less energy.
The federal law is “touchy-feely legislation,” Antenori told a House panel earlier this month. He said it will expose consumers to the mercury in CFLs, as well as kill jobs, because no one makes them in the United States.
But those are side arguments. As with the gun bills being introduced from Arizona to New Hampshire, Antenori’s lightbulb bill aims to assert a state’s rights.
“The real intent of this legislation is to challenge the federal mandate in court,” he told the House Commerce Committee. “We could make history by having the (U.S.) Supreme Court rule that the federal government overstepped its bounds.”
The committee approved the bill on a 5-1 vote, although there were several arched eyebrows.
“I think it’s more of a statement than a practicality,” said Rep. Frank Pratt, R-Casa Grande.
The bill is awaiting a hearing before the Rules Committee, which checks whether it is constitutional.
Antenori said he consulted with attorneys before introducing his bill and believes he is on solid legal ground.
“The Founding Fathers had never intended to control commerce in lightbulbs,” he said.
His bill is following in the tracks of the Arizona’s manufactured-firearms bill, introduced by Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Kingman. Her measure, House Bill 2307, is Arizona’s version of the Montana gun bill. It’s awaiting a formal vote of the full House while attorneys research whether the sale-in-Arizona-only provisions exempt the state from the federally required background check on gun buyers.
McLain, like Antenori, said her bill’s intent is to assert states’ rights.
Antenori said he thinks making the lightbulb the point of contention might illuminate the states’-rights issue in a kinder, gentler way, while creating fewer ripples in the Legislature.
But it’s already exasperated some lawmakers.
“We have more pressing matters,” Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said during debate.
The various bills and resolutions that seek to irritate the federal government are counterproductive, especially as the state grapples with a fiscal crisis, he said.
If the bill falters, Antenori is ready with his second line of defense: Low-flow toilets and mandates to save water.