My nomination for dumbest bill of the 2013 Louisiana legislative session

English: Paul Hollis

Rep. Paul Hollis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Robert Mann

In the annals of Louisiana legislative history, many a demagogic lawmaker has filed many a puerile bill.

Perhaps each year some organization, maybe the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR), should present an award to the benighted legislator who files the dumbest piece of legislation.

Were there such an award, I would nominate Republican Rep. Paul Hollis of Mandeville, who this session introduced House Bill 429, a push poll disguised as a constitutional amendment.

Hollis’ proposed amendment says, in part

In order to preserve the freedom of all residents of Louisiana to provide for their own health care, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.

In other words, federal law and a Supreme Court ruling notwithstanding, Louisiana shouldn’t have to obey federal laws it doesn’t like, like the Affordable Health Care Act.

Here’s the push poll part: Hollis’ bill would stipulate that when the amendment appears on the ballot in November 2014, it would ask, simply

Do you support an amendment to prohibit any law or administrative rule requiring any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system? (Adds Article I, Section 28)

Hollis is obviously one of the dimmer bulbs in the Louisiana House, which is really saying something.

A check of his background indicates that he has a political science degree from Louisiana State University, which is no credit to that fine program.

But in defense of my dear friends in the Poli Sci Department, it’s clear that their former student was absent the morning his professor discussed the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Article VI, Clause 2: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

It does appear, however, that Hollis was sitting on the front row, taking copious notes, the day his History professor discussed “nullification,” a tactic first used by opponents of slavery and later by Southern opponents of civil rights to negate federal laws they regarded as unconstitutional.

In that category, Hollis apparently sees himself as Louisiana’s version of John C. Calhoun.

For all I know, Hollis may have recently read the 2010 book, Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century. In this ridiculous book, author Thomas E. Woods writes

More and more Americans concerned about ongoing and apparently unstoppable government growth are beginning to wonder if some other strategy should be pursued, the exclusively electoral one having been such a failure. In the face of decades of broken promises and precious few victories against the seemingly inexorable federal advance, the pretty speeches of the plastic men are starting to ring a little hollow.

This is the spirit in which the Jeffersonian remedy of state interposition or notification is once again being pursued. . . .

Nullification begins with the axiomatic point that a federal law that violates the Constitution is no law at all. It is void and of no effect. Nullification simply pushes this uncontroversial point a step further: if a law is unconstitutional and therefore void and of no effect, it is up to the states, the parties to the federal compact, to declare it so and thus refuse to enforce it. It would be foolish and vain to wait for the federal government or a branch thereof to condemn its own law. Nullification provides a shield between the people of a state and an unconstitutional law from the federal government.

But not to worry. While Hollis’ preposterous bill earned 54 votes and 41 nays (you can find the list of House nullifiers here), it failed to get the two-thirds vote required for a constitutional amendment. On Thursday, it was quietly withdrawn from the files of the House.

Hollis’ House colleagues may not fully understand the history of the supremacy clause. But I’m guessing many of them do understand Gov. Earl Long’s more elemental expression of it when counseling Plaquemines Parish boss Leander Perez that it was useless to fight the federal government.

“Whatcha gonna do now, Leander? Long said. “The feds have got the atom bomb.”

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2 Responses to My nomination for dumbest bill of the 2013 Louisiana legislative session

  1. Stephen Winham says:

    Representative Hollis, no doubt, accomplished his goal with this bill – appealing to, and reinforcement of, the ignorance surrounding this issue. He apparently credits his constituents with this depth of knowledge.


  2. MK Carleton says:

    Hollis is bad enough, but that the 54 yeas were less embarrassed at documenting their ignorance than affirming their “freedom stance” just makes ME embarrassed at the state of affairs here. These people are not representing their constituents. In spite of our unique issues, they are thoughtlessly following an outside-funded script that we see duplicated in other states.


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