Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 Texas Legislative Session To Call For Constitutional Amendment To Enforce States’ Sovereignty

Several Texas Republicans have filed legislation aimed at reaffirming states’ rights and providing a constitutional mechanism to annul federal laws and regulations. The calls for amending the U.S. Constitution go a step beyond the ‘sovereignty’ resolutions pushed for in 2009.

Last session, Texas Rep. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) led the way on legislation to reaffirm the Tenth Amendment, which says powers not provided to the federal government in the Constitution are explicitly reserved to the states. Out of five pieces of legislation introduced on the topic, only Creighton’s House Concurrent Resolution 50 made it out of committee. HCR 50 passed the House by a margin of 99-36 (with all of the ‘nay’ votes belonging to Democrats) before dying in the Senate.

This session, Creighton has introduced the similar HCR 16. Additionally, state Sens. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) and Jane Nelson (R-Lewisville) have introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 toward the same end. Hegar introduced the similar SCR 39 in 2009. Those ‘sovereignty’ resolutions basically would send a message to members of Congress requesting they repeal federal laws that Texas lawmakers think are unconstitutional.

For the upcoming session, Creighton is going further — his HCR 17 and House Joint Resolution 50 urges Congress to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing and ratifying a constitutional amendment allowing any federal law to be repealed by consensus of two-thirds of the individual states’ legislatures.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Vicki Truitt (R-Keller) proposed HCR 19 for the same purpose. Truitt’s resolution specifically cites the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments as creating a “constitutional imbalance” in favor of the federal government against the states. The Sixteenth Amendment enabled the federal income tax, while the Seventeenth Amendment provided for direct election of U.S. senators, rather than having the state legislatures choose them. In a news release, Truitt said the federal health care reform law is “an example and the greatest episode” in unfunded mandates of the states. According to the news release, Truitt was inspired to file the resolution after reading an editorial in the Wall Street Journal written by Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett and Virginia state House Speaker William J. Howell.

For the 2011 session, Vice-chair of the Texas House Appropriations Committee, State Rep. Richard Raymond (D-San Antonio), has filed two resolutions urging the federal government to eliminate deficit spending and balance the budget from year to year. He has authored similar legislation regularly since at least 1995, none of which has passed the committee stage.

Raymond’s House Concurrent Resolution 23 asks Congress to “propose and submit to the states for ratification an amendment to the United States Constitution to provide for a federal balanced budget.” His House Joint Resolution 34 would put Texas legislators on record as supporting a proposed Constitutional amendment for a balanced federal budget. In 2009, Raymond’s HCR 73 and HJR 71 attracted two co-authors, state Reps. Diana Maldonado, D-Austin, and Aaron Pena, D-Edinburg. State. Rep. Aaron Pena switched to become affiliated to the Republican Party in December 2010.

The appeals for a constitutional convention of the states have also appeared in legislation aimed at creating a balanced federal budget amendment to the Constitution. There are two ways to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution: a two-thirds majority vote in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate; or by a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures, according to the National Archives.

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