The Tennessee House passed a bill Monday establishing a formal review process to check the constitutionality of presidential executive orders. However, the bill wasn’t passed in its entirety. An amendment adopted to the original bill, introduced by State Representative Rick Eldridge (R-Morristown), removed the provision prohibiting any state agency, political subdivision, or elected or appointed official or employee from implementing any executive order that Tennessee’s Attorney General determined unconstitutional in relation to pandemics; public health emergencies; natural resource, land use, or financial sector regulations; or Second Amendment rights.
According to the legislation, the General Assembly Joint Government Operations Committee would review presidential executive orders at their discretion. Following their review, the Attorney General would then have the final say regarding the constitutionality of any presidential executive orders as reviewed by the General Assembly.
The bill sponsor, State Representative Mark Hall (R-Cleveland), said during the Public Service Subcommittee hearing that this would establish a formal means for Tennessee to exempt itself from federal government overreach.
“If deemed unconstitutional, we can claim exemption from the executive order,” explained Hall.
During the State Government Committee, State Representative Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport) agreed with Hall’s assessment.
“It’s my contention that if state legislatures don’t start to get involved in processes, we’re going to get steamrolled,” said Hulsey.
During the final hearing on the bill, State Representative Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) said that although he didn’t support the bill he thought the amendment was a step in the right direction.
“I don’t believe that we need to be taking these actions. We’ve made it this far without a bill like this. But I do like this amendment, I think it’s taken care of the constitutional concerns that I had,” stated Stewart.
The bill passed 70-23, mainly along party lines. Only two Democrats voted for the bill – State Representatives Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar) and John Mark Windle (D-Livingston).
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