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House Bill 490: Mississippi’s Bid for Supremacy in the area of Legislative Silliness

So that you can point at them and laugh should they walk into a restaurant, pictured above are Gary Chism, representing House District 39 (Lowndes, Clay, Oktibeha Counties), a Shriner, insurance agent, Republican, and chair of the House Insurance committee and Jeffery Smith, representing House District 39 (Lowndes), Baptist Deacon,  former County prosecutor, and graduate of the Ole Miss law school (and thus presumably has been required to sit in a classroom where the phrase “Supremacy Clause” was uttered and to a degree explained).

They have introduced one of the most stupid pieces of legislation offered in the Mississippi Legislature this year.  I say that without fear of contradiction, even though I’ve only read a couple or three other bills that have been introduced. It is House Bill 390 and was referred (oh, the irony!) to the Constitution committee (I look forward to hearing what committee member Tommy Reynolds has to say about the bill).

You know it is trouble right from the get-go.  It is titled:

AN ACT TO CLARIFY THE COMPACT ENTERED INTO BETWEEN THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI AND THE UNITED STATES WHEN MISSISSIPPI WAS ADMITTED TO STATEHOOD IN 1817; TO ASSERT THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE STATE UNDER THE MISSISSIPPI CONSTITUTION OF 1890; TO PROHIBIT THE INFRINGEMENT OF THE CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHTS OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, OR ITS PEOPLE BY MEANS OF ANY FEDERAL STATUTE, MANDATE, EXECUTIVE ORDER, JUDICIAL DECISION OR OTHER ACTION DEEMED BY THE STATE TO BE UNCONSTITUTIONAL; TO CREATE THE JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE ON THE NEUTRALIZATION OF FEDERAL LAW; TO PROVIDE FOR THE MEMBERSHIP AND DUTIES OF THE COMMITTEE; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.

There’s that reference to sovereignty, a term that has surely already been abused enough by Mississippi in this area.

The bill’s authors outline some areas on which they want to focus their craziness:

the foregoing public meaning and understanding of 46 Article 1, Section 8, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Tenth Amendment, of the United States Constitution is a matter of compact between the state and people of Mississippi and the United States as of the time that 50 Mississippi was admitted to statehood.

They even define commerce.  Not, of course, the way the federal courts have defined it:

Further, the power to 51 regulate commerce among the several states as delegated to the Congress in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution as understood at the time of the founding, was meant to empower Congress to regulate the buying and selling of products made by others, of land under certain circumstances, including associated finance and financial instruments, and the navigation and other carriage across state jurisdictional lines. This power to regulate commerce does not include the power to regulate agriculture, manufacturing, mining, major crimes, or land use, nor does it include activities that merely substantially affect”>commerce.

They declare that the commerce clause gives the federal government no power over “state substantive law or state judicial procedure” and state that the federal government has no power “to preempt state legislation.”  They even announce that the federal government has no power to enact laws “repugnant and obtrusive to … the citizens of the state.”

So what are they proposing to do about this?  They propose a committee from both houses of the legislature charged with reviewing all federal law, and, upon concluding a federal law (or regulation or court order or (drum roll) mandate) is “outside the scope” of federal power, such laws are not enforceable in our state during a 60 day period, at which time the legislature is to vote on whether they are going to allow the federal law to apply here.  The act also charges the legislature with the duty of voting down laws that are outside its bizarro-world definition of federal power.

Finally, the statute contains provisions determining the jurisdiction of the federal courts! That’s right, it says that only the United States Supreme Court can here disputes about this.   And if the Supreme Court rules that the legislature was mistaken about federal power, the state will have a referendum about whether to overrule the Supreme Court!

There are a couple of other obsessions demonstrated in the bill.  The authors are trying to out-original-intent Clarence Thomas, and they keep saying things hostile to the application of foreign laws in our country while not too clearly explaining what that has to do with their efforts.

Mississippi is not alone in this craziness.  Michigan’s legislature has a nullification bill relating to firearms before its current legislature, quite similar to one that came before the Alaska legislature in 2010 and Oregon in 2010. in 2011 somewhat similar bills (directly referring to “nullification”) were introduced in MontanaNevada and Tennessee.

The similarity in language among these and a number of other bills that a simple google search disclosed  suggest that there must be a central crazy-idea clearing house for this stuff out there, somewhere in tea party land.

The ideas behind this are not new– they date back to the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions against the Alien and Sedition Act. In 1861, the Southern fire-eaters decided to act decisively on these principles.  It did not work out for them.  One would have hoped that, to the extent the events of the 1860s did not end this argument, the events of the Civil Rights era would have.

Ones hopes are sometimes dashed.

Sam Hall blogged itafter Jerry Mitchell brought it to his attention.

105 comments to House Bill 490: Mississippi’s Bid for Supremacy in the area of Legislative Silliness

  • P.B. Pike

    My take on the subject has been the plain text of the Mississippi Constitution, to relevant provisions of which CRS absolutely refuses to address.

  • I’ve addressed them Pike. We have judges on our state and federal supreme courts who are able to read the same documents and come up with different interpretations. I guess the two of us are able to read the same constitutional provision and come to a completely different opinion as to what it means.

  • CRS,

    You only address, obssessively, the meaning of federalism as defined by (1) your neo-secessionist fantasies, (2) your ludicrous elisions of the plain meaning of the word “support” in the Mississippi Constitution, and (3) a Supreme Court decision about federal law, not state law. Ever since I pointed out the Mississippi Constitution’s obvious subordination of state law to federal law — hence its deference to your “paramount allegiance” to the government of the United States (do I need to provide a definition of “paramount”?) — you’ve been in an Orwellian stupor trying to say things are the opposite of what they plainly are. You pretend that you’re addressing the Mississippi Constitution, but you’re not. I believe that you know you’re not — and again, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you know you’re not.

    Give me a judicial opinion construing the relevant provisions of the Mississippi Constitution in a way that aids your position that a person can take an oath to “support” federal law and then, when put to a specific test of that oath, refuse to support federal law in a way consistent with the oath. (Printz does not say anything like that.)

    Take your time.

  • As H.L. Mencken would have said long ago, you may be right.

  • Bb63

    Thank you for posting their pictures. If I see them out in public, I’ll be applauding them.

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