When Louis Brandeis called state legislatures “laboratories of democracy,” he couldn’t have imagined the curious formulas the Tea Party chemists would be mixing in 2011, including: a bill just passed by the Utah legislature requiring the state to recognize gold and silver as legal tender; a Montana bill declaring global warming “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana”; a plan in Georgia to abolish driver’s licenses because licensing violates the “inalienable right” to drive; legislation in South Dakota that would require every adult to buy a gun; and the Kentucky legislature’s effort to create a “sanctuary state” for coal, safe from environmental laws.
Less well known is what’s going on in Montana. Legislators there have introduced several bills that would nullify federal law, including health-care reform, the Endangered Species Act, gun laws and food-safety laws. Under one legislative proposal, FBI agents couldn’t operate in the state without the permission of county sheriffs. Legislators are also looking into a proposed resolution calling on Congress to end membership in the United Nations.
A “birther” bill, similar to proposals in various other states, would require presidential candidates — they’re talking about you, Obama — to furnish proof of citizenship that is satisfactory to state authorities. Montana has also joined the push in many states to restore the gold standard, and a Montana House committee approved legislation invalidating municipal laws against anti-gay discrimination.
Then there’s House Bill 278, authorizing armed citizens’ militias known as “home guards.” With the home guards mobilized, Montana would no longer have to fear a Canadian invasion. And while Montana repels the barbarians from Alberta, New Hampshire is contemplating a state “defense force” to protect it from the marauding Quebecois.
Some of the proposals are ominous: South Dakota would call it justifiable homicide if a killer is trying to stop harm to an unborn child.
Some are petty: Wyoming, following Oklahoma, wants to ban sharia law, even though that state’s 200-odd Muslims couldn’t pose much of a sharia threat.
Some are mean-spirited: Iowa would allow business owners to refuse goods and services to those in gay marriages.
Some are fairly harmless: Arizona took actions to make the Colt Single Action Army Revolver the official state firearm and to create a Tea Party license plate.
And some are just silly: A Georgia bill would require only “pre-1965” silver and gold coins for payment of state debts.
A nation divided against sanity cannot stand.