US vs. State Constitution

How far do states rights go?

Is it possible for a state constitution to contain an amendment that might be unconsitutional nationwide?

Case in point and the reason why I’m interested: here in Rhode Island we have slated on the November ballot an amendment giving the Narragansett Indians and Harrah’s the right to build and operate a casino on non-tribal lands in West Warwick. For various reasons, it might not even pass constitutional muster within the state. But I’m curious that if it does pass, can the US Supreme Court negate the amendment for violating the US constitution? Or would that be a violation of the doctrine of States Rights?

To be clear, yes the Supreme Court could invalidate the amendment. State’s rights do not include violations of the US Constitution.

To put it a different way, states can constitutionally guarantee more rights to its citizens, but never fewer rights.

Nowhere. States do not have rights. They have delegated authority.

People have rights.

Can a state grant its citizens the right to possess all manner of intoxicating substances, despite their prohibition by federal law?

(Forgive me if the answer is obvious, I’m Canadian.)


Actually… I think it’s the other way around. The States got together to form a Constitution, and delegate certain powers to the federal government, not the other way around.

Read the 10th Amendment (part of the Bill of Rights) for more…

Not quite. Not all of the rights in the Bill of Rights have been incorporated to the states. For example, the 2nd amendment right to bear arms can be and has been abridged by the states.

How would that act by the legislature violate the US constitution? And are you sure that’s a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution? It would seem very odd for a state constitution to reference a specific company, like Harrah’s.

Which provision of the federal constitution do you think this particular amendment would violate?

No idea on the federal constitutional question, but yes, there is a ballot initiative on the November ballot (link to summary with link to PDF of full text).

For some unknown reason I can’t see the full text in the PDF, because PDF is a goddamn piece of shit, and so I can’t tell if Harrah’s is named specifically. However, Harrah’s has been trying for years to build a casino in RI. Here’s an article on the last attempt to get a ballot initiative passed, with some background on the project.

Thanks, Otto. I could read the text and it doesn’t explicitly call out “Harrah’s”. I guess the OP meant that the amendment would allow companies like Harrah’s to operate the casino, and that Harrah’s probably would be the one which ended up doing so.

Harrah’s is not mentioned specifially, but the town of West watwick and the Narragansett Indians are. They’ve both been in cahoots for quite a while, and the narragansetts already have an agreement with Harrah’s.

One of the interesting points is this :

Section 23. Resort Casino - - Notwithstanding sections 15 and 22 of this Article, and provided that a majority of the electors of the Town of West Warwick have voted to approve this amendment, the establishment of a resort casino and games located therein is authorized in the Town of West Warwick.

According to some consitutional experts, this would give a single town in the state the abity to negate the amendment.

Just a minor nitpick: a constitution does not *grant * rights; it ***protects ** * them. (Or is supposed to.) Implicit in this philosophy is that rights are inalienable.

Not particularly unusual. Article IV Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to create new states, but adds that no state can be formed from another state without that state’s consent.

The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition while specifically giving states the authority to ban alcohol.

In 1986, the Missouri constitution was amended to permit parimutual betting on horse racing. However, the amendment contained specific language calling for a separate vote in every county in the state, and any county voting against the amendment would not receive any gambling licenses.

No, states have often managed to read the *entire * sentence, and apply the SCOTUS ruling in Miller that the right is limited to the context of well-regulated militias. There is no abridgement of a right that does not exist.

Wiki has a good summary of the status of incorporation.

Notwithstanding those origins or the continuation of that strain of thought, the supremacy of the federal government was established by the Civil War. Just try getting your state to secede from the Union, or even nullify a federal law, these days.

Uhm, I don’t know what part of my post you’re objecting to, but I’m quite familiar with that wiki cite. Familiar enough, in fact, to remember this part:

The states and localities can and have passed restrictions on gun ownership that the federal government could not get away with.

This is an opinion, not a fact. You’re calling state gun-control laws based on your own interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, not on any settled law. SCOTUS has never ruled that the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms to invidual citizens rather than militias. If SCOTUS ever were to deliver a decisive ruling that the 2nd Amendment applied to private citizens, all of those so-called “abridgements” by the states would go out the window. In point of fact, ALL Constitutional Amendments are binding on ALL states.

This is not true. There’s no reason that the federal government couldn’t pass the same laws on a federal level. Their Constutionality simply hasn’t been decided yet. Federal restrictions could be challenged, but so could state restrictions.