EDITORIAL: Light-bulb rights showdown

States defy federal claim to meddle in fixture choice

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State lawmakers are fed up with the federal government micromanaging their lives. The South Carolina Senate is scheduled to strike back Tuesday with a bill that asserts the 10th Amendment right of the state to tell Washington to take a hike when it comes to the sale of incandescent light bulbs manufactured within state borders.

Ever since then-President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the clock has been ticking on Thomas Edison’s venerable incandescent. Unless Congress acts before Jan. 1, 2012, federal bureaucrats will begin their campaign to foist the mostly Chinese-made, compact fluorescent bulbs on a public that has shown no interest in buying them on the free market.

Palmetto State lawmakers aren’t interested in waiting for the feds to see the light. The “South Carolina Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act” declares any fixture that bears the stamp “Made in South Carolina” is a product of intrastate commerce and thus “is not subject to federal law or federal regulation.” State Rep. William E. Sandifer III, chairman of the South Carolina House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, told The Washington Times that the measure he co-sponsored has a very good chance of becoming law. “I believe that it is improper for the federal government to tell us as citizens what light bulbs we can use to light our own private homes or businesses,” he explained. “I think the feds have overstepped our 10th Amendment constitutional rights as they’ve so often done under the Commerce Clause.”

Conservative lawmakers ultimately are looking to mount a Supreme Court challenge that would, they hope, roll back the expansive interpretation of interstate commerce that has allowed the federal government to meddle in our everyday affairs. “Are we to that point in this country where we have to get down to telling them what kind of lights they can have in their house?” asked Arizona state Sen. Frank R. Antenori, a Republican, who sponsored the first incandescent freedom bill in 2009. His measure made it all the way to the desk of fellow Republican Gov. Janice K. Brewer, who vetoed it saying, “There are no active tungsten mining or mineral processing facilities in Arizona.”

Not so, Mr. Antenori told The Washington Times. He checked with the Grand Canyon state’s mining commissioner who confirmed the state does have tungsten, but it isn’t processed because there’s no financial incentive to do so right now. South Carolina may make for a better test case because the American Light Bulb Mfg. Co. located in Mullins, S.C., already makes incandescents.

Ideally, Congress would pass the light-bulb freedom measure introduced by Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, which repeals the 2007 ban. Realistically, her measure would have a tough time getting past the veto pen of President Obama. That’s why states are looking at their own declarations of lighting freedom. It will only take one state’s defiance of federal overreach to break the system. Should Mr. Sandifer’s bill be the first enacted, there is no doubt the South Carolina will see a substantial increase in tourism next year - as drivers fill the trunks of their cars with mercury-free bulbs.

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