Lightbulb bill aimed at asserting state rights
Rep. Antenori's proposal takes on federal mandate
117 commentsby Mary Jo Pitzl - Feb. 21, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
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.