Texas proposal looks to nullify federal law in between state lines

A proposal in the GOP-led Legislature in Texas calls for the state to ignore federal law and court rulings and forgo enforcing national regulations.

State Rep. Cecil Bell’s Texas Sovereignty Act allows for overriding federal laws through the same process as passing a bill. First a legislative committee, then the whole Legislature, would vote for nullification, and then the governor would sign his approval.

“If Texas has to live under California’s environmental regulations because the court says, ‘Oh no, Texas can’t be Texas, Texas has to be identical to California,’ this would make a legislative process to address that,” Bell, a Republican from Magnolia, about 45 miles north of Houston.

Bell is “very thankful” Republicans control Washington but says he wants to prohibit future overreach from the federal government.

Arizona already has approved a similar policy, and other states want to follow suit, despite the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which stipulates federal laws and treaties take precedence.

One key target could be legalization of gay marriage. In 2015, Bell introduced a bill prohibiting Texas from enforcing court orders sanctioning gay marriage — a pre-emptive strike against the landmark Supreme Court decision later that year. The bill died on the last day to pass House legislation, but only amid Democratic stalling tactics.

txstatecap_small Texas proposal looks to nullify federal law in between state lines Law

The Texas Sovereignty Act is an even longer shot. Democratic Rep. Chris Turner, Bell’s colleague on the committee hearing the bill, said he cannot imagine it even making the House floor because it’s “not a serious bill.”

“It proposes a structure for state nullification of federal laws which is clearly unconstitutional,” said Turner.

Constitutionality questions haven’t stopped the Texas Legislature before. Federal courts have savaged the state’s strictest-in-the-nation voter ID law, and the U.S. Supreme Court voided nearly all of its tough 2013 abortion law.

But rather than liberal California imposing its will on other states, some have suggested a “Calexit,” hoping that state might secede to escape President Trump. The notion of Texas secession has popped up periodically over the years on the far right, but mostly quieted under Trump — and Bell isn’t looking to go that far.

The Arizona law passed in 2014 would allow the state to withdraw its resources from enforcing federal laws it deems unconstitutional, though it has been little used since then and hasn’t prompted major legal challenges. Oklahoma, Maine, and Idaho have proposed similar legislation this year.

Only Maine’s has won significant legislative support, but it is far narrower than Texas’ bill.

“In the Maine scenario, there is no determination of constitutionality involved, and it probably wouldn’t cover something like a Supreme Court ruling,” said Mike Maharrey, a spokesman for the 10th Amendment Center, which advocates for states’ rights.

Maine is also a far cry politically from Texas, which hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. Trump snagged one of Maine’s four, proportionately awarded electoral votes in November.

Maharrey, who has recently seen a flurry of such legislation, said it’s grounded in anti-commandeering doctrine, meaning the federal government cannot force states to use their resources implementing federal programs. It’s also been used by blue states to promote things such as “sanctuary city” laws excusing police from enforcing federal immigration law.

“There are a number of bills based on this same concept, including bills pending in California and New York legislatures to create state sanctuaries,” Maharrey said.

Sandy Levinson, a University of Texas professor specializing in constitutional law, said that while states have the right to refuse to cooperate with the federal government by reserving resources, the only way they can contest the constitutionality of a federal law is to sue. Texas sued the Obama administration nearly 50 times but has been less-litigious so far under Trump.

“What would be special is if the Texas Legislature really and truly believes that Texas can decide on their own, ‘this is unconstitutional we’re not going to do it,'” Levinson said. “That’s just bonkers.”

  • DrArtaud

    In my humble opinion, Texas is a state to avoid. John Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, one clearly an assassination, one never really proven one way or the other.

    A homosexual female mayor of Huston that subpoenaed sermons given by a group of local pastors who opposed a recently passed (at that time) ordinance that provided protections to the LGBT community.

    The subpoena in question sought “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO (the ordinance), the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” The move has sparked outrage from many Christians who feel the subpoenas violate religious freedom and free speech rights.

    Rick Perry, the governor at the time, failing to check the flow of illegal immigrants into Texas, sending the National Guard to the border to watch illegals cross the border and not turn them back.

    Rick Perry calls other White House hopefuls heartless toward illegal immigrants

    It fascinates me to read about the courageous history of Texas but see them succumb to the same political correctness that infests the remainder of the country. In principle, the subject of today’s article sounds reasonable, but it would just as quickly be used to override federal laws that may have some value to them. I don’t think the answer lies in actions such as Texas is now trying, but in the elimination of useless federal laws, and customizing of existing and future laws, to best comply with the needs of each state.

    • Dr Studebaker

      Its Sad Dr but it is changing all one needs to do is turn down the noise and open one ‘s mind and eyes

  • Waltzin Matilda

    What about the Texas bill that would outlaw “sanctuary” cities and counties?

    If I heard correctly, this would allow the state of Texas to arrest and prosecute Mayors, Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, etc, if they fail to uphold the law.

    Waltzin Matilda