House passes bill to challenge unconstitutional federal actions

Mike Seals - April 20, 2021 10:33 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – 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.”

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.

 

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