AUSTIN, Texas (April 10, 2017) – A Texas bill to prohibit state expenditures on enforcement of any federal action not authorized by state law has received a committee assignment. This legislation would set the stage to effectively block some federal laws in the Lone Star State.
Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring) introduced House Bill 2808 (HB2808) on March 3. The legislation would bar the use of appropriated money to enforce a federal action unless that use is explicitly authorized by the legislature in:
(1) the General Appropriations Act; or
(2) other state law.
The stated purpose of HB2808 is to “prevent the commandeering of state resources by the federal government.”
Passage of the bill would end state expenditures on enforcement of some federal actions. This would leave the federal government to enforce those acts alone. This would nullify such actions in effect.
Last week, HB2808 was referred to the House Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility. Swanson called this a positive step for such a bill in the legislative gauntlet, but indicated it could have a difficult path in this particular committee.
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 effectively method to render federal laws, effectively unenforceable because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from the states. This legislation could effectively end enforcement of federal laws that aren’t codified in state law.
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 legislation rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program. The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. US 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.”
HB2808 will need to pass the House Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility by a majority vote in order to move ahead in the legislative process. If you live in Texas, you contact committee members and urge them to support the bill. You can find contact information HERE.
Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.