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The search is on for an issue that a state can take to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of strengthening rights of all states.

It's uncertain what the issue will be and even less certain how the court action would turn out, said Rex Lee, who represented the United States as U.S. solicitor general in cases before the high court."Federal judges are very independent. They usually don't respond to political pressure," Lee said. "We'll just have to get a representative case, take it to court and give it our best shot."

Bashing the federal government was the activity of choice on the first day of the Western States Summit II on Thursday. The conference drew about 350 participants from 18 states, including several in the East, and the District of Columbia.

Arizona Gov. Fife Symington urged the participants, which included governors, state representatives, county and law enforcement officials, to join him in earmarking funds to sue the federal government over regulations deemed intrusive on states' rights.

Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt pushed his plan for an informal conference of the states to discuss whether the U.S. Constitution should and could be amended to prohibit unfunded mandates, require a balanced budget and strengthen states' rights.

Lee, president of Brigham Young University, said there needs to be checks and balances in the federal government's dealings with states, just as there is within the federal government. He also raised the possibility of amending the Constitution.

"There's been a slow but steady enhancement of federal powers at the expense of states," he said.

Symington's request for a Constitutional Defense Council was honored by the state Legislature, which empowered it to hire lawyers to sue the federal government and gave it $1 million for its first year of operation.

The council, composed of the governor, state House speaker and state Senate president, also may direct the state attorney general to initiate prosecution.

The council was formed in response to passage of the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Brady bill, all of which required state action but didn't provide funding.

Raena Honan, staff lobbyist with the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the council was a bad idea that amounts to nothing more than election-year rhetoric.

Symington, a Republican, is seeking re-election.