In each session of the state’s annual legislative gathering there are a handful of bills introduced that are guaranteed to produce more than a few snickering and snide comments as outsiders to the process struggle to refrain from simply laughing aloud.
You can add House Bill 352 from the current session to that historic list.
Introduced by Rep. Jason Spencer of Woodbine and Charles Gregory of Kennesaw, HB 352 basically would empower the state to ignore any federal law the General Assembly felt was unconstitutional.
The bill provides for a 10 member committee – five members appointed from the state House, five from the state Senate – that would be responsible for deciding if federal laws and regulations are “outside the scope of the powers delegated by the people to the federal government in the United States Constitution or at odds with the Georgia Constitution.”
If the committee found that the law or regulation being reviewed overstepped the bounds of federal power, as interpreted by the committee members, it would recommend “nullification” to the state’s General Assembly, which could then vote to do so. And at that point, one presumes, said federal law or regulation may still apply to the other 49 states, but not to Georgia.
When it comes to picking your poison, it’s hard to say which prospect has less appeal – a federal government that doesn’t respect the boundaries of its power, or the idea that 10 members of the Georgia legislative body could be empowered to interpret where those boundaries should exist.
Obviously such legislation is indicative of the frustration felt by many at the federal government’s never sated lust for more authority. But as tempting as it might be to shout for joy at the prospect of being able to ignore federal law, it’s a little hard to generate much enthusiasm for this particular proposed bit of anarchy.
The whole idea of states having the right to selectively decide which federal laws they choose to acknowledge was pretty well decided 150 years or so ago by the fighting of a civil war. While there are those who will “never forget,” for most it’s not an issue worthy of serious debate.
Spencer, for his part, has said that he doesn’t really expect the bill to be passed this year, though he hopes for a committee hearing which can be used for educational purposes to explain constitutionality and governmental roles.
Bills like HB 352 tend to find favor among small groups of passionate people in various states, and frequently more than one legislative body will find them on the docket for discussion. This particular idea is also at the core of a bill in Mississippi this year, where a legislative committee has voted it down.
We understand the mindset behind the legislation, can even empathize to some extent to those who would favor such an action, but that’s about as far as it goes in generating support for the idea of making the state’s General Assembly the arbiter of what is constitutional and what is not, rather than the Supreme Court of the land.