NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Rep. Bud Hulsey wants to create a way for Tennessee to nullify federal laws or orders deemed unconstitutional.
Hulsey argues the state already has the power to nullify and his legislation just establishes a process for exercising that power.
Under the Restoring State Sovereignty Through Nullification Act, the state would be able to review any “past, present, or future” federal action, including laws, regulations, and executive orders, to determine if it exceeds the federal government’s authority established in the Constitution.
In reviewing a federal action, the state would use “the plain reading and reasoning of the text of the United States Constitution and the understood definitions at the time of the framing and construction of the Constitution by the framers.”
An action deemed “unconstitutional” would be subject to nullification, which would declare it “null and void” in Tennessee and block the state and local governments from enforcing it.
The bill lays out five methods for nullification:
—By the Governor: The governor could nullify any federal executive order.
—By the General Assembly: State lawmakers could introduce a “bill of nullification,” which would not be subject to debate or passage in committees like a regular bill. Instead, the nullification bill would go directly to the House and Senate floors. Debate would have to take place within five legislative days. Once debate is closed, the bill would have to be voted on within three legislative days. If it passes, it would take effect immediately.
—By a State Court: A state judge could nullify a federal action “in any case of which it otherwise has proper venue and jurisdiction.”
—By Local Governments: A group of ten local governments, county or municipal, could submit a petition of nullification to the speaker of the Tennessee House, who would be required to introduce a bill of nullification.
—By Registered Voters: A petition with the signatures of 2,000 registered voters could be submitted to the speaker of the House, who would be required to introduce a bill of nullification. Petitions must be compiled in batches by county, with at least 25 voters per county in each.
Hulsey presented his bill to the House Public Service Subcommittee earlier this month.
“This bill does not force the legislature to nullify anything,” the Kingsport lawmaker told committee members. “This bill simply says, if you’re going to, this is how you do it.”
He acknowledged that the governor’s office “flagged” his bill over concerns it will cause a loss of federal funding.
“I’ve got to remind you, you and I stood up on that House floor over there a few weeks ago and we raised our hand and we swore to 7 million people in this state, we swore not that we would rake in all the federal money we could get,” Hulsey said. “We swore that we would always defend the inalienable rights of Tennessee people by defending and upholding the Constitution. The United States and the Constitution, the state of Tennessee.”
Hulsey told News Channel 11 he doesn’t think any federal funds will be lost because of his bill since it only establishes the process to nullify but doesn’t nullify anything itself.
Hulsey also said nullification is “not a new thing,” citing all of the states that have legalized marijuana in defiance of federal law.
The bill was approved by the subcommittee and is on the State Government Committee’s calendar for Wednesday. The Senate version is scheduled to go before the State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday.