The Senate decided in back-to-back votes to defy federal courts and law.
First, the Senate voted 27-1, with seven, not voting or voting present, for a bill its sponsor, Sen. Trent Garner, acknowledged was unconstitutional under current U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
SB 274 makes rape of a child younger than 14 a capital crime. Garner hopes it can be used to ask the Supreme Court to overturn its 5-4 2008 decision in a Louisiana case that it was cruel and unusual punishment to give a death penalty for rape of a child who did not die and death was not intended.
It will take a case of a child rapist sentenced to death to challenge the law.
Then came Sen. Gary Stubblefield for SB 298, his “Arkansas Sovereignty Act.” It declares as invalid any federal law that some Arkansas official might think violates the 2nd Amendment, particularly, or any enumerated right in the Arkansas Constitution. The bill includes a long list of long-accepted federal laws that are not to be followed. It prohibits state officials from cooperating with federal officials in enforcing such laws. It would penalize anyone who did. Stubblefield acknowledged some police and sheriffs weren’t behind the bill but said his local officers were solid with him.
Sen. Jim Hendren pointed out the strangeness of passing an unconstitutional bill and then moments later promoting a bill saying any bill you think is unconstitutional, don’t enforce it. “We’re in the twilight zone here.”
If you say local law officers can interpret the constitution, Hendren said, “I don’t see how you square that without our duty to uphold the constitution.” This bill will put funding at risk, he said, and it will put law enforcement people in a bad spot having to endanger essential relationships with federal agencies in fighting crime.
Sen. Jason Rapert went on his usual tear of saying that U.S. Supreme Court precedent does not equate to unconstitutionality, Marbury v. Madison be damned. He said this is just a bill standing up for state’s rights. Sen. Joyce Elliott said she couldn’t believe someone could think the Arkansas Constitution can overrule the United States Constitution.
The bill passed 28-7.
Committee action in the House indicates this bill might face more resistance on that side of the Capitol.
The solution is simple for Arkansas if we are going to pick and choose which federal laws to enforce. Secede. Sen. Bob Ballinger said during the passage of the bill might cost some federal money, but it would be the right thing to do.