NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Two Republican lawmakers have introduced a measure that would allow the state legislature to nullify any federal action it deems unconstitutional.

Tullahoma Sen. Janice Bowling and Kingsport Rep. Bud Hulsey have introduced SB1092/HB0726, also dubbed the “Restoring State Sovereignty Through Nullification Act,” which “establishes processes by which the general assembly may nullify an unconstitutional federal statute, regulation, agency order, or executive order.”

In other words, this bill would give the state of Tennessee the power to review and refuse to follow any federal action it determines falls outside of its constitutional authority.

The bill states that the only ways laws can be enacted is by passage of both the House of Representatives and the Senate and signed by the president, or through a veto override vote, and that any federal executive orders, federal agency rules and regulations, and federal court opinions “are not laws at all” and are usurpations of Congressional power. Further, the bill asserts that any federal action that violates the “horizontal separation of powers” imposed by the Constitution is “void, since the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land.”

The text of the bill states its purpose is to “aid the people and the government of this state in the implementation and enforcement of the various provisions of the Constitution of the United States that expressly limit federal power and federal jurisdiction.”

The process by which the state would determine if any federal action is unconstitutional involves a “plain reading and reasoning” of the Constitution and “the definitions at the time of the framing and construction” of it before making a “final declaration of constitutionality.”

In addition, the bill declares that “federal laws, federal executive actions, and federal court opinions must comply with the jurisdictional limitations” of the Constitution and “any federal action outside” that power would be “in violation of the peace and safety of the people of this state” and “therefore, said acts are declared void and must be resisted.”

According to the bill, “nullification” of any unconstitutional federal action would involved the state making an official declaration of the following:

  • A specific federal action has exceeded the prescribed authority under the United States Constitution;
  • That said action, as being ultra vires, will not be recognized as valid within the bounds of Tennessee;
  • That said action, as being ultra vires, is null and void in this state;
  • That an officeholder, agency, or government employee, whether state, county, or city, serving under the authority of the Constitution of Tennessee shall not assist in any attempted enforcement of said federal action; and
  • That state or local funds collected under the authority of the Constitution of Tennessee shall not be used to assist in any attempted enforcement of said federal action.

Per the bill, the general assembly would have the “sole authority” to determine what consequences would befall a violation of the nullification.

According to the text of the bill, the nullification process could be started in a number of ways, including by:

  • Executive action by the governor
  • From a member of the general assembly, where it would bypass all committee debate and proceed immediately to the floor of the state House and Senate
  • Through any court in the state where it might have jurisdiction
  • Through “any combination of ten (10) counties or municipalities,” through their own governing bodies
  • Or a petition signed by at least 2,000 registered voters in Tennessee presented to the speaker of the house – though any voter petition must be “coordinated and compiled in batches” and include at minimum 25 registered voters of one county per batch

The general assembly would be allowed to consider any federal action – past, present or future – per the text of the bill, and a bill of nullification could not be rejected due to “any perceived statute of limitation or because said federal action was taken in the distant past.”

“Any federal action may be considered, or reconsidered, as the people or their representatives may think proper,” the bill states.

The only limitation on consideration included in the bill is that a bill of nullification cannot be presented more than once a year. If a bill fails, it cannot be brought up again until the next year, per the proposed law.

The bill would take effect immediately, if passed.

So far, the House version has made its way through a few committees and will next be heard by the State Government Committee. On the Senate side, the bill is set to be heard March 14 in the State and Local Government Committee.

News 2 has reached out to Sen. Bowling’s office for comment. At the time of publishing, we have received no response.

Hundreds of bills will be up for debate during the 113th General Assembly. Tennessee lawmakers shared their thoughts on some of the major issues up for discussion at this year’s legislative session.

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