Executive Orders HF 481
The first two sections of this bill are probably fine. The third section is unconstitutional on its face, because it says that state governments, local governments, and any organizations funded by the state are prohibited from complying with Executive Orders issued by the President of the United States. We talked about that unconstitutionality at length in subcommittee, so I am very disappointed that it has been brought to committee.
We had an interesting conversation in subcommittee – we all (myself included) had ideas about the proper scope of executive power to issue executive orders. And we shared ideas about the proper scope of federal power v. the states. I welcome the opportunity to talk about these issues more.
But just because at any given time some of us don’t like the current balance of power among the branches of the federal government or between the federal and state governments does not mean we can just take matters into our own hands and refuse to follow federal law.
You said at subcommittee that people have been asking you, why now? That is a very legitimate question. Because when President Trump was in office, he issued 220 executive orders in his single term in office, more than any other single presidential term in the last 40 years. I have no doubt that if Democrat-led state legislatures had introduced these kinds of bills when Donald Trump was President, the Republicans would have said we were violating the constitution. That is what you all are doing now if you pass this law.
The Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the US Constitution makes clear that federal law is supreme over state law. And federal law includes not only acts of Congress, but also treaties and Executive Orders. The states do not get to decide for themselves whether to follow an executive order. We are required to follow it unless that Executive Order is declared unconstitutional. And perhaps the most famous Supreme Court case of all time, Marbury v. Madison, makes clear that it is the judiciary who determines whether a law is constitutional. It is not up to state legislators or a State Attorney General or anyone else to determine that. Unless and until a court holds an executive order unconstitutional, states and everyone else are required to follow it.
With this bill, you are picking and choosing when the constitution is to be followed. You are saying that the President of the United States has to follow it with his Executive Orders, but state legislatures don’t have to follow it with the bills we pass.
If every state did this, we would no longer have the rule of law. It would be complete chaos. It might be dressed in statutory language but let’s be clear: this bill is a state-sanctioned rebellion against the federal government.
It is also a total waste of taxpayer money. Here we are spending our time and taxpayers’ money on a blatantly unconstitutional piece of legislation when we should be working on bills to benefit of the people of Iowa. And when people sue the state for failure to comply with these executive orders, we will probably waste hundreds of thousands more in taxpayer dollars defending against those lawsuits. In fact, this is about the 5th or 6th blatantly unconstitutional bill I have seen introduced and discussed in the legislature this session. I think at some point we should ask the state auditor or the Legislative Services Agency to do a report on the amount of taxpayer dollars we waste drafting, debating, passing, and litigating unconstitutional legislation.
I believe that voting yes on this bill, knowing that it violates the constitution, would be to violate the Oath of office we took to uphold the United States Constitution. It also puts other officials around the state in the position of having to violate their oaths to uphold the constitution. I am asking all of you to vote no on this bill for the sake of our state, our country, and our democracy.