BATON ROUGE, La. (May 30, 2024) – On Tuesday, Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry signed a bill into law prohibiting state and local enforcement of rules and mandates that may be imposed by international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Sen. Thomas Pressly and two cosponsors introduced Senate Bill 133 (SB133) on Feb. 29. The new law declares, “The World Health Organization, United Nations, and the World Economic Forum shall have no jurisdiction or power within the state of Louisiana.” The law then takes a practical step that attempts to limit their impact in the state by barring state and local cooperation with their rules, regulations, and mandates.

“No rule, regulation, fee, tax, policy, or mandate of any kind of the World Health Organization, United Nations, and the World Economic Forum shall be enforced or implemented by the state of Louisiana or any agency, department, board, commission, political subdivision, governmental entity of the state, parish, municipality, or any other political entity.”

The House passed SB133 by a 69-22 vote. On May 20, the Senate concurred with a 37-0 margin. With Gov. Landry’s signature, the law went into immediate effect.

IN PRACTICE

It remains unclear how SB133 will play out in effect. The law doesn’t include any mechanism to determine that a policy was mandated by an international agency. Additionally, there is no way to distinguish between policies recommended by these international organizations versus those voluntarily implemented by various government agencies in the U.S. – federal, state, and local. The proposed law also lacks a process to distinguish between international and U.S. government mandates or policies recommended by these international organizations but voluntarily implemented

But there is no doubt the law will hinder the enforcement of any policy the state refuses to cooperate with.

Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” provides an extremely effective method to render federal laws, effectively unenforceable because most enforcement actions rely on help, support, and leadership from the states.

This is just as true when it comes to international bodies – probably more. These institutions have no enforcement mechanism of their own. All of their power is based on voluntary compliance and enforcement by local jurisdictions.

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed this type of approach would be extremely effective. In a televised discussion on federal gun laws, he noted that a single state refusing to cooperate with enforcement would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.

The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations, and acts. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states can nullify in effect many federal actions. As noted by the National Governor’s Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “States are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”

This enforcement problem is magnified when it comes to international bodies such as the WHO and the UN.

LEGAL BASIS

Some might argue that Louisiana is obligated to enforce WHO or UN mandates due to treaties, but this doesn’t state up to legal scrutiny.

The Supreme Court has consistently held that the federal government can’t commandeer state and local resources for its own purposes. Under the anti-commandeering doctrine, states are sovereign entities and can direct their resources as they see fit. It logically follows that international organizations can’t commander state and local resources either. Even if the U.S. government is obligated to enforce some U.N. mandate based on a treaty, it doesn’t follow that state and local governments must also enforce the same.

The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on five Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. U.S. serves as the cornerstone.

“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”

No determination of constitutionality is necessary to invoke the anti-commandeering doctrine. State and local governments can refuse to enforce federal laws or implement federal programs whether they are constitutional or not.

Mike Maharrey

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