Wednesday, April 21, 2021

House, Senate pass competing bills to challenge unconstitutional federal actions

Drama in the Oklahoma legislature as both chambers pass competing versions of related ideas while bashing the other for perceived issues with their measures (for what it's worth, I side with the House on this). NonDoc has a decent write-up on the kerfluffle here.

So, here are three press releases on the issue. First we'll see the Senate side, then the House side, then OCPA hopping in on the Senate's behalf. Be sure to read the whole thing, as House Speaker McCall really puts a zinger in on Senate President Treat. 🔥

Senate advances Pro Tem Treat’s bill to fight federal overreach

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 20th) – The Oklahoma Senate advanced a measure from Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat to protect Oklahoma from federal overreach.

The Senate adopted House Bill 1236 on a 33-14 vote on Tuesday. The measure creates and funds a unit in the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office dedicated to protecting Oklahoma from attempts by the federal government to interfere with state power and authority.

“Oklahomans are increasingly concerned by the federal government’s attempts to grab power at every turn. This measure substantially strengthens Oklahoma’s position to challenge and push back against federal overreach. Creating a unit in the attorney general’s office to find and fight federal overreach will protect Oklahomans’ rights and our state’s authority, and will place our state on the vanguard in protecting state authority,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

The measure adds to the statutory duties of the attorney general the responsibility “to monitor and evaluate any action by the federal government including, but not limited to, executive orders by the President of the United States, rules or regulations promulgated by an agency of the federal government or acts of Congress, to determine if such actions are in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

Treat also said the bill provides a funding source for the federalism unit in the attorney general’s office by dedicating $10 million per year for the next five years derived from corporate taxes.

HB 1236 was amended by the Senate, which means the measure now returns to the Oklahoma House for consideration.

“This is a strong attempt at protecting Oklahomans from the Biden administration, or any other administration that would act unilaterally and outside the confines of our system of checks and balances. I encourage my colleagues in the House to take up this measure and advance it to the governor’s desk soon,” Treat said.

House passes bill to challenge unconstitutional federal actions

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 20th) – A bill establishing an intra-branch legal process to guard against federal overreach in Oklahoma passed the House today.

House Bill 1237, by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, is similar to House Bill 1236 passed through the House earlier this session. It establishes a constitutional process to exercise Oklahoma’s authorities as a state under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by reviewing federal actions for constitutionality and seeking judicial rulings to block unconstitutional federal actions from taking effect in Oklahoma. It passed 79-18.

Upon recommendation from the Legislature, the executive branch, through the attorney general, could review any federal executive order, federal agency rule or federal legislative action for constitutionality and seek judicial branch intervention when necessary to prevent unconstitutional federal overreach in Oklahoma.

“Nearly the entire House coauthored an idea I brought forward in House Bill 1236 earlier this session to protect Oklahomans from federal actions that encroach on their rights,” said McBride. “I’m proud the House again stepped up to pass another strong measure after the Senate leader amended HB 1236 into a toothless paperweight. HB 1237 has compromise language addressing all concerns that we look forward to the Senate taking up in short order.” [* Emphasis mine. Also.... ouuuuuch!]

Amendments to HB 1236 by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, substantially limited the scope of issues that could be reviewed and removed most involvement by the Legislature in the process. Additionally, the amendments would call for the creation of a new government oversight entity and require an additional $10 million a year to be appropriated for the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office. 

HB 1237 maintains the tenets of the initial version of HB 1236 and eliminates any constitutionality concerns. The bill includes compromise language that clarifies the role of the courts in the process by providing that legislative findings of unconstitutionality will need court affirmation. Additionally, it creates no new government bureaucracy and should have no fiscal impact.

“It is the duty of the states to secure the rights of their citizens,” said Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon, chairman of the House States’ Rights Committee. “Here in Oklahoma, the House is making sure those rights are protected by putting the federal government on notice that we intend to maintain the separation of powers prescribed in the Tenth Amendment.”

The House also passed a rule authorizing it to send additional measures on this topic to the Senate should it be necessary.

“There is nothing unconstitutional about exercising constitutional rights,” McCall said. “The House will continue standing up for Oklahomans until the job is done.”

HB 1237 is now eligible to be heard by the Oklahoma Senate.

OCPA applauds Treat’s changes to HB 1236

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 20, 2021)— Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, issued the following statement to praise proposed changes to House Bill 1236, which would amend the duties of the office of the Attorney General to include monitoring and evaluating “any action by the federal government” to “determine if such actions are in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” The bill would create a State Reserved Powers Protection Unit within the AG’s office to perform those functions and challenge unconstitutional federal actions in court. 

“Under a prior administration, the Office of the Attorney General had a similar division with dedicated staff and resources focused on combatting federal overreach and abuses of power,” Small said. “The proposed amendments to HB 1236 would restore that office and put sharper teeth and accountability into HB1236. We applaud Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat’s wisdom in making HB1236 the best possible tool it can be to defend the constitutional powers that the U.S. Constitution has granted to Oklahoma and other states.” 

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is a free-market think tank that works to advance principles and policies that support free enterprise, limited government, individual initiative, and personal responsibility.


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