Feds K.O. Colorado Sovereignty

By Jerry Kopel and Dave Kopel

January 2, 1997

Just before Congress went home last year, it decided that Colorado isn't competent to regulate business in Colorado. Instead, Arizona law and Arizona regulators will be in control here beginning January 1st, 1997.

Sound slightly insane? Perhaps, but it's true. The 104th Congress passed HB 4167 (Public Law 104-272), the "Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996" which provides that a state without a boxing commission, such as Colorado, is subject to jurisdiction of a neighboring state, such as Arizona, that does have a boxing commission.

The bill passed the House by a voice vote on October 8th, 1996 and the Senate by unanimous consent on October 9th, 1996. Either of our Senators, or any other single Senator, could have blocked this unprecedented invasion of state sovereignty. But no-one spoke up.

Under HR 4167, states boxing commissions will regulate the contests; license trainers, cut men, and seconds; register and provide identity cards to professional boxers; and supervise activities of managers, matchmakers, and promoters. These state boxing commissions will not only control boxing in their own states, they will control boxing in neighboring states that don't have boxing commissions. Thus, Arizona's boxing commission will be making law for both Arizona and Colorado.

But it gets worse. The new federal law also gives the private, unsupervised "association of boxing commissioners" the authority to adopt regulatory guidelines which must be followed in a half-dozen states (mostly western) without boxing commissions, including Colorado.

Colorado is forbidden to protect itself from laws made by outsiders, since Colorado is now forbidden to outlaw professional boxing. The new federal statute only allows states to "adopt laws or regulations not inconsistent with" H.R. 4167; and this federal law protects boxing in all fifty states, Indian reservations, the District of Columbia, Territories and Puerto Rico.

The new federal boxing law is an extreme-but not isolated-instance of federal interference with state law. If Congress wanted to spend the money and hire the employees to create a FederalBoxing Commission, which would regulate boxing nationwide, there would be no claim that the law violates states' rights.

But the federal boxing law goes much further: it says if the state doesn't do what the federal government wants, then the state will, in effect, lose parts of its sovereignty. If Colorado doesn't do what the feds say, then Arizona law goes into effect in Colorado.

The federal boxing law is therefore a violation of the Tenth Amendment, which protects the states against federal interference; and also a violation of the Republican Form of Government clause of the Constitution. If Colorado laws are being made by the Arizona legislature-a body in which Colorado voters have no voice-then the people of Colorado are being deprived of a republican form of government, since Colorado laws are being made by persons (Arizona boxing commissioners) not accountable to Colorado voters.

New regulations which go into effect in Colorado will be created by a non-government boxing association. Under Colorado law (the Colorado Administrative Procedure Act), regulations may only be adopted after there an opportunity for public hearing and comment. If regulations are adopted illegally, citizens may appeal to state court. Further, all Colorado regulations automatically expire in a scheduled sequence over an extended period of years unless they are specifically renewed by the legislature.

But the regulations created by the boxing association-which does not even have a Colorado member-will become "law" in Colorado, even though the regulations violate Colorado law for regulation-making.

There are two possible solutions: The first is to cave in to the federal government, and pass a bill establishing a Colorado Boxing Commission, according to federal standards. Colorado State Representative Mike Salaz (Repub.) is carrying a bill which would effectuate Colorado's submission.

The other approach is for the Colorado legislature to refuse to buckle, and to pass legislation ordering the Colorado Attorney General to bring a lawsuit to prevent laws made in Arizona, or at a boxing commissioners meeting in Nevada, or in any other state from being enforced within the boundaries of Colorado.

For years, Colorado legislators have talked big about state's rights. This year, we'll see if their actions match their words.


Jerry Kopel served as a Democratic State Representativefor 22 years, and sponsored legislation leading to the "sunset" of numerous regulatory agencies. Dave Kopel is Research Director of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden.

 

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