AUSTIN, Texas (Apr. 23, 2015) – A Texas bill that would create a mechanism for the state to evaluate the constitutionality of federal laws and mandates in light of the original meaning of the Constitution passed a House committee this month.
Rep. Dan Flynn (R – Canton) along with 11 co-sponsors introduced HB98, the Texas Balance of Powers Act, in February. The legislation would create the Joint Legislative Committee on Constitutional Powers and Enforcement empowered to “review any federal action to determine whether the action is an unconstitutional federal action.” The committee would report their findings to the Governor and Attorney General, and suggest measures that could be taken to stop the unlawful federal behavior.
The bill passed through the House State & Federal Power & Responsibility, Select Committee with a 5-1 vote on April 9. It represents a significant first step toward removing state support for unconstitutional federal acts in the state of Texas.
HB98 cites the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as its basis. It reads, in part:
The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution defines the total scope of federal power as including only those powers specifically delegated by the Constitution to the federal government. Those powers not explicitly delegated by the Constitution to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people themselves…
Each power delegated to the federal government by the United States Constitution encompasses only that power as it was understood at the time it was delegated, subject only to an expansion or limitation of that power by a subsequent amendment to the Constitution.
The legislation contains a declaration of Texas sovereignty along with a recognition that the federal government has clearly overstepped its bounds. HB98 reads, in part:
The federal government has acted in a manner inconsistent with the language, intent, and spirit of the United States Constitution in direct violation of the Constitution and the contract between this state and its people, and the United States. This state rejects the unauthorized and excessive abuse of power by the federal government that infringes on the rights of this state and its people and that unconstitutionally undermines, diminishes, and disregards the balance of powers between the states and the federal government established by the Constitution.
While HB98 provides no mechanism to actually address unconstitutional federal overreach, it does provide a framework for the state of Texas to build on, and sets the stage for future nullification actions. Passage of the bill would also provide a strong indication that Texas takes its sovereignty seriously and is on the path to limiting federal overreach.
Now that it has passed through its committee assignment successfully, HB98 is set to receive a vote in the state House in the near future.