88th LegislatureFederalIssuesRepublicans Propose Legislative Committee to Police Constitutional Violations, ‘Texas Sovereignty’

The bills would preclude state enforcement of federal actions Texas deemed to be infringements of the U.S. Constitution.
February 24, 2023
Rep. Cecil Bell Jr. (R‐Magnolia) and Sen. Bob Hall (R‐Edgewood) filed bills to create a legislative committee designed to nullify “federal actions” deemed by Texas to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Bell filed House Bill (HB) 384 in November, and Hall filed Senate Bill (SB) 313 last week. The bills were referred to each chamber’s state affairs committee.

The proposed Joint Legislative Committee on Constitutional Enforcement would be composed of six members from each chamber of the Legislature, appointed by the speaker of the House and the lieutenant governor. A maximum of four members from each chamber could be in the same political party.

While the committee’s decisions would be subject to approval by the Legislature and the governor, the bills would make any acts deemed unconstitutional unenforceable for the state’s purposes. State officials who enforced an “unconstitutional” federal action could be prosecuted for official oppression, per the bill.

“The contract with the State of Texas has been willfully violated by the federal government and must be constitutionally restored,” both bills read.

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The definition of “federal action” in the bills seem broad enough to encompass virtually any movement by the federal government, including executive orders by the president, federal law, and judicial opinions.

Hall’s legislation would also defer to the Texas Supreme Court on whether a particular action was constitutional, an element not present in HB 384.

Decisions would be based on the original intent of the authors of the Constitution, including judicial opinions of the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and the historical context of the English constitution.

“The federal government has often instituted rules that have violated both the federal and state constitutions, and thereby violating the rights of her citizens. In these instances, the State of Texas currently has little to no mechanism to fight federal legislation,” Hall’s office wrote in an email to The Texan on Friday.

“The State of Texas needs a review and enforcement mechanism that gives the state the ability to not only deem which federal actions are unconstitutional but prevent their enforcement within state boundaries by anyone other than federal law enforcement.”

When asked if SB 313 would function in conflict with the federal judiciary or the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Hall’s staff explained that the bill is intended to prevent state resources from being used to carry out unconstitutional federal decisions.

“If the federal government attempts to come in and enforce the ruling with strictly federal resources, it would not stop them from doing so,” the email read.

The Tenth Amendment does grant states and the people all power not explicitly given to the federal government.

Ratified as part of the Bill of Rights in December 1791, the Tenth Amendment reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

However, the Supremacy Clause found in Article VI, Section 2 reads, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

Article III of the Constitution gives the judicial power to the U.S. Supreme Court and “inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

Republicans pushing back against Democratic administrations is a theme in Texas politics. When he was attorney general, Gov. Greg Abbott sued the Obama administration 31 times. Paxton filed plenty of lawsuits against the Obama administration and the Biden administration as well, including almost a dozen suits against Biden’s border policies alone.

Bell’s office did not respond to The Texan’s questions by the time of publication.

Copies of SB 313 and HB 384 can be found below.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."