A pair of Republican lawmakers in Mississippi have proposed a bill to keep the federal government in its place, and laying out a plan to create a Joint Legislative Committee on the Neutralization of Federal Law, which would — well maybe you can already start to guess what the committee would do.
The bill, known as the Mississippi Balance of Powers Act, was authored by state Rep. Gary Chism (R), chairman of the House Insurance Committee, and Rep. Jeff Smith (R), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Earlier this week, the bill was referred to the House Constitution Committee.
“The provisions of this act shall serve as a notice and demand to the federal government to cease and desist any and all activities outside the scope of its designated constitutionally enumerated powers, and that attempt to diminish the balance of powers as established,” the bill reads.
The neutralization committee called for in the bill would enforce “a constitutional balance of powers,” and would be made up of the lieutenant governor, six members of the state Senate appointed by the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the state House of Representatives or his designee and six members of the House of Representatives appointed by the speaker. The committee will be allowed to review “any and all existing federal statutes, mandates and executive orders for the purpose of determining their constitutionality.” Any measure that is found to be “beyond the scope and power assigned to the federal government under Article 1 of the United States Constitution or in direct violation of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890” may be recommended for neutralization by the simple majority vote of each house of the Mississippi State Legislature.
“If the Mississippi State Legislature votes by simple majority to neutralize any federal statute, mandate or executive order on the grounds of its lack of proper constitutionality, then the state and its citizens shall not recognize or be obligated to live under the statute, mandate or executive order,” the bill reads.
Chism told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper the bill was intended to enforce the 10th Amendment:
Talk of opposing federal law started with federal health care reform and has since been fueled by the push to change federal gun laws, he said. “It’s too much intrusion. You’re bleeding into our constitutional rights.”
He rejected comparisons to the Sovereignty Commission, which became a segregationist spy agency. “We abide by all the Constitution,” he said. “The 13th and 14th Amendments (abolishing slavery and giving freed slaves citizenship) — we honor those, too. It has nothing to do with black and white.”
Numerous experts and historians consulted by the newspaper ridiculed the measure.
“The Neutralization of Federal Law’?” Robert McElvaine, professor of history at Millsaps College, said. “I am astounded to see such a measure introduced in the 21st century. Do the authors of the bill see Mississippi as part of the United States?”
Read the whole story here.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com