Tag Archives: states rights

House votes 59-31 for considering U.S. Constitution change

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers on Thursday joined four other states in calling for a national convention on amending the U.S. Constitution to bring about limits to federal power — what one supporter touted as the “atomic bomb of politics.”

The resolution sponsored by Republican Rep. Sheila Butt of Columbia passed on a 59-31 vote in the House. The Senate previously voted 23-5 in favor of the measure. The governor does not have veto power over resolutions passed by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Tennessee joins Alabama, Alaska, Florida and Georgia in approving the measure. A total of 34 states would need to pass the resolution for the convention to be called.

Republican Rep. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma, a supporter of the measure, said the resolution should serve as a signal to the federal government that state legislatures are serious about wanting a greater say.

“This is the atomic bomb of politics,” Matheny said. “The federal movement must know the states have mobilized, and we have put an atomic bomb on a plane and it is flying over the District of Columbia. And if they don’t listen, then we’re going to get done what needs to get done.”

Butt said the convention would be limited to focusing on putting additional fiscal and jurisdictional restraints on the federal government and to urge term limits for members of Congress. But opponents voiced concerns that a constitutional convention could quickly overstep those bounds and seek to changes to religious and gun rights.

“They’re going to do things contrary to what we believe in Tennessee,” said Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro. “You’ve got 50 other players in this game and they’re not going to be thinking like us in Tennessee. They’re not going to send legitimate delegates with legitimate qualifications to these conventions.

“We’re going to be outnumbered,” he said. “As far as I know, Colorado’s going to send folks that are going to be high.”

House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley questioned the rationale for trying to overhaul the Constitution.

“They put everything at risk here,” Fitzhugh said. “This thing doesn’t need to get legs. This is the fabric of our nation that would be fooling with.”

Note: Previous post HERE.

Beavers-Pody bill voids same-sex marriage in TN

Legislation filed in General Assembly would declare “void and of no effect” within Tennessee the U.S. Supreme Court decision authorizing same-sex marriages. The announcement news release and a partial text of the bill follow.

News release from Sen. Mae Beavers
NASHVILLE, September 17, 2015– On Thursday, almost a thousand conservative Christians gathered at the Tennessee state capitol for a rally today that featured many Republican state legislators prepared to fight the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage.

At the rally, State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) and State Representative Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) announced legislation calling for Tennessee to defend current state law and the constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2006 specifying that only a marriage between a man and a woman can be legally recognized in the state. The “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act” rejects the Obergefell v. Hodges decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June giving same sex couples the fundamental right to marry and calls on the attorney general and reporter to defend any state or local government official from any lawsuit to the contrary.

House Bill 1412 / Senate Bill 1437 also aims to protect court clerks and ministers who have religious objections to marrying same sex couples from prosecution or civil action.

“This decision defies constitutional authority and is one of the most glaring examples of judicial activism in U.S. Supreme Court history,” said Representative Pody. “It not only tramples on state’s rights, but has paved the way for an all-out assault on the religious freedoms of Christians who disagree with it. This bill calls for Tennessee to stand against such unconstitutional action in hopes that other states will stand with us against an out-of-control court legislating from the bench.”

“Natural marriage between one man and one woman as recognized by the people of this state remains the law, regardless of any court decision to the contrary,” said Senator Beavers. “The Obergefell case is clearly and blatantly an overstep of the Supreme Court’s Authority and it is time that states, like Tennessee, stand up against the judicial tyranny of which Thomas Jefferson so eloquently warned. This legislation deems that any court decision purporting to strike down the state’s definitions of natural marriage, including Obergefell v. Hodges, is void in Tennessee.”

“Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying, ‘Whenever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force,'” said Beavers.

Beavers’ and Pody’s legislation says, “No state or local agency or official shall give force or effect to any court order that has the effect of violating Tennessee’s laws protecting natural marriage.”

It also says, “No state or local agency or official shall levy upon the property or arrest the person of any government official or individual who does not comply with any unlawful court order regarding natural marriage within Tennessee.”

“Our clerks and Tennessee’s clergy need protection to exercise their religious beliefs,” added Beavers. “This law would help protect them from prosecution or civil actions.”

State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) praised Beavers and Pody for their willingness to stand and fight.

“I’m so thankful to have Senator Beavers and Representative Pody fighting for the Tenth Amendment here in the State of Tennessee,” said Holt. “Together, we will be the voice of our constituents. Whether the Court likes it or not.”

Tennessee’s marriage protection amendment specifying that only a marriage between a man and woman can be legally recognized in the state was approved by 81 percent of voters.

The General Assembly will take up the bill upon convening the 2016 legislative session in January.

Note: The bill has a seven-page preamble of “whereas” clauses, followed by the following language:

(b) Natural marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman as recognized by the people of Tennessee remains the law in Tennessee, regardless of any court decision to the contrary. Any court decision purporting to strike down natural marriage, including Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), is unauthoritative, void, and of no effect.

(d) The attorney general and reporter shall defend any state or local government official from any lawsuit regarding the official’s recognition of natural marriage as defined by this section.

(e) No state or local agency or official shall give force or effect to any court order that has the effect of violating Tennessee’s laws protecting natural marriage.

(f) No state or local agency or official shall levy upon the property or arrest the person of any government official or individual who does not comply with any unlawful court order regarding natural marriage within Tennessee.

TN bill targets NSA surveillance efforts — part of national group’s push

Excerpt from TNReport:
The U.S. National Security Agency claims that the broad surveillance powers it has assumed are necessary to protect Americans against terrorist attacks. But some Tennessee lawmakers are backing legislation to prevent state-run service providers and facilities from in any way aiding in warrantless data-collection by the federal government.

The Tennessee Fourth Amendment Protection Act (HB0679/SB0782) — sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and Republican Jonesborough Reps. Micah van Huss and Matthew Hill — would prevent the state or any of its subdivisions from assisting or otherwise providing “material support or resources to enable or facilitate” the gathering of an individual’s data by the NSA without a judge’s approval.

The legislation was conceived by a privacy rights advocacy group called the Off Now Coalition, whose aim is to “shut down the surveillance state.” It is designed to help protect against the NSA’s domestic data-collection program revealed in 2013 by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Tennessee legislation represents part of a broader national strategy by activists to gain regional leverage against the NSA where political efforts in Washington, D.C. have largely come up short.

Note: A previous news release from Off Now on the Tennessee bill is HERE. It says Tennessee is particularly significant in the anti-surveillance efforts because of a facility used by NSA at Oak Ridge.

Below is a news release, distributed by email to media today, that mentions Tennessee as one of 13 states where such “model legislation” is pending.
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Montana’s ‘Firearms Freedom Act’ (same as TN version) held invalid

By Matt Gouras, Associates Press
HELENA, Mont. — Gun advocates asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to overturn a lower court’s ruling against state laws designed to buck federal gun rules.

Earlier this year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge’s decision against the 2009 Montana Firearms Freedom Act. The law attempts to declare that federal firearms regulations don’t apply to guns kept in the state where they were manufactured.

Other pro-gun states have passed similar measures. (Note: In Tennessee, the law was approved in 2009 over the veto of then Gov. Phil Bredesen. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey wrote a letter in support of the Montana law when it became the subject of a lawsuit, posted HERE.)

The Justice Department has argued successfully that the courts already have decided Congress can use its power to regulate interstate commerce. Some gun-control advocates sided with the federal argument, saying “firearm freedom acts” would allow felons to obtain guns without background checks and make it harder to trace guns used in crimes.
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TN congressional delegation non-committal on ‘bilateral session’ with legislators

A state House committee chairman is proposing that Tennessee’s U.S. Senators and representatives be summoned to Nashville for a meeting with the state House and Senate — the latest example of state-level lawmakers seeking more influence over federal-level lawmakers.

Asked for comment on the proposal from House Government Operations Committee Chairman Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, for a “bilateral session of Congress,” the members of the Tennessee congressional delegation contacted by the News Sentinel replied uniformly by declaring their appreciation of the General Assembly, now controlled by a Republican supermajority. But none of the congressmen, all Republicans, endorsed the idea or even commented on the merits.

Matheny’s proposal was sent to media last week(posted HERE) on the same day that a Gallup poll was released showing nationwide public approval for Congress is down to 11 percent, just 1 percentage point above the all-time low of 10 percent last year.

Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Knoxville, three years ago pushed a bill creating a committee of state legislators to meet with congressmen and give them advice on pending federal legislation. It failed on a tie vote in a House subcommittee in 2010, the last year that Democrats still had equal or majority control of House committee. Today, Republicans have solid majorities in every committee.
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Scribblings in the Notebook While Lost in Legislatorland

Sunday’s News Sentinel column, unedited version:
With the House leadership and Gov. Bill Haslam as moderating influences, Republican legislators continue to strive toward a balance between what some Democrats label “crazy, right-wing stuff” and a reasonable conservative consensus.
The process appears to involve some weeding in the GOP garden of ideas as well as pruning and fertilizing selected seedlings.
On the weeding front, for example, House Republicans – with relatively little fanfare – killed a bill that would have required President Obama to provide his birth certificate to Secretary of State Tre Hargett in order to be on the ballot in Tennessee for the 2012 election.
Also tossed aside, with even less fanfare, was a bill that would have set up a legislative committee to review federal laws and regulations and decide which, if any, should be recommended to the full Legislature for nullification.
There remain rooted other examples of the notion that state legislators should be overseeing congressmen and the president. One, the Health Care Freedom Act, has passed, though at maturity it seems little more than a symbolic gesture to declare that Tennesseans can ignore the national health care law.
The more ambitious Health Care Compact, which envisions a state takeover of federal health care programs and the federal money to pay for them is still being pruned and fertilized.
So is the bill that began as a move to ban collective bargaining by teacher associations with the pruning handled in the House – where Speaker Beth Harwell had to cast a tie-breaking vote last week to keep the thing alive – and fertilizing in the Senate. It is unclear what the seedling will look like when, and if, it reaches maturity.
But it is clear that there is a Republican consensus that something should be done. Similar pruning and fertilizing – and the same clear consensus for doing something, if not exactly what that should be – is underway on Haslam’s tort reform bill.
Ditto for the illegal immigration legislation, where normally Republican-leaning business lobbyists are at odds with the perceived populist uprising for action – most notably on a bill that would require businesses to use the federal “E-Verify” system to check the legal status of their employees.

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Bill Requiring Feds to Get Sheriffs’ Permission Not Popular in Some Quarters

State and local officials have mixed opinions about a bill in the state legislature that would require federal law enforcement agents to get written permission from county sheriffs to make arrests for nonfederal offenses or conduct a search and seizure, according to the Jackson Sun.
“This bill ought be supported by every terrorist, Mafia, thug, drug lord or corrupt politician,” said state Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden.
…Rep. Bill Dunn and Sen. Stacey Campfield, both Knoxville Republicans, are the sponsors of the bill.

Although Dunn said he was not ready to discuss the bill, Campfield said the legislation is an effort to back a Supreme Court decision that said the sheriff should have “ultimate decision-making power.”

”I think we need to start doing some things that show where that power lies,” he said.

… (Madison County Sheriff David) Woolfork described the legislation as limiting to other law enforcement entities at the expense of “public safety.” He said the bill would decrease the overall authority of federal law enforcement agencies.

“You would decrease your overall authority to protect the citizens of Tennessee,” Woolfork said. “I think the first and foremost concern should be public safety.”
He said the proposed legislation would jeopardize that protection
Note: They’re talking about SB1108, which has not been scheduled for a vote or discussion in either the House or Senate.

States Rights & TN Legislature: 1861 Vs. 2011

(Note: This is an unedited and somewhat expanded version of a column written for Sunday’s News Sentinel.)
Declaration of support for states’ rights dominated the 33rd General Assembly, which was controlled by Democrats and which is now officially off the record.
Maybe such declarations are not dominating the 107th General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans. But there is a lot of on-the-record support for assertions of independence from the federal government.
So maybe it’s worth a brief look back into state government history as the nation moves toward the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Not to suggest that history is repeating itself, for there are dramatic differences of degree and basis of the assertions.
Still, if you’ll indulge a Tennessee history buff who spent a bit of time in amateurish research recently, including a brief visit to the Legislative Library, those differences on the states rights theme are worth noting.
In 1861, the focus of states rights fervor was slavery, not a national health care reform law.

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