Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) brought forward a dangerous, unconstitutional, nullificationist bill yesterday... and he knew it. But if you listen to how his Republican colleagues disposed of his bad bill, you'll hear how South Dakota Republicans get too wrapped up in their petty politics to make coherent arguments.
Rep. Nelson's House Bill 1222 copied Wyoming's newly passed legislation to nullify all federal gun laws, present and future. Like the Wyoming measure, it included language limiting this nose-thumbing to guns owned or manufactured in South Dakota and not taken outside the state, verbage necessary to dodge the Interstate Commerce Clause under which the feds can justify gun control laws.
But before he got to yesterday's 3 p.m. House State Affairs hearing (of which Rep. Nelson was notified late yesterday morning, making it difficult for him and other interested parties to get ready to testify), Rep. Nelson realized he couldn't support the Wyoming bill. (More common sense strikes the GOP! Who spiked the punch at the SDGOP Lobbyist Social?) He thus came to Committee armed with an amendment to limit HB 1222's nullification to overreaching executive orders on guns and citations of Supreme Court cases that support states' rejection of such orders.
John Bircher Eldon Stahl from Mitchell rose to back Rep. Nelson with a vague discourse about the separation of powers and slippery slopes. (Stahl himself noted a minute into his testimony that committee members' eyes appeared to be glazing over.)
The Governor sent policy advisor Matt Konenkamp to say Rep. Nelson's bill would shut down gun shows. Attorney General Marty Jackley sent deputy AG Charlie McGuigan to say that Rep. Nelson's bill would create legal expenses for the state in court challenges (funny, that doesn't stop the state from challenging precedent with anti-abortion laws). McGuigan also said HB 1222 is redundant with Senate Bill 207 and existing state law (passed in 2010 but now facing litigation in March in the form of a federal challenge to an identical Montana statute). For what's it's worth, SB 207 is useless puffery, stating that we "look askance" at federal rules on our "sacred" guns and calling on the Attorney General to do his job.
Rep. Nelson had fun pointing out to the committee that the Governor and AG were contradicting themselves, saying that his bill was unconstitutional but that existing state law already does the apparently unconstitutional things HB 1222 would do. He pressed his point about the need for addressing executive orders specifically. He said that his District 19 constituents have deep concerns about encroachments on Second Amendment rights... which makes me dearly want to attend a District 19 crackerbarrel (or send LK!) and gauge whether District 19 holds equally holy all the other Amendments.
State Affairs chair David Lust (R-34/Rapid City) asked Rep. Nelson if he had checked with any constitutional scholars on his bill... a question I can't wait to hear Rep. Nelson pose to Rep. Lust and his colleagues on any of their legislation. Rep. Lust expressed concern that Rep. Nelson might be trying to make South Dakota a test case for challenging federal authority... which again doesn't seem to alarm Lust or his colleagues when they clamor for test cases to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"It is not prudent to rush in and pass statutes in a reactionary fashion," said Rep. Lust. He called Rep. Nelson's bill "haphazard" and reactionary. Of course, that hasn't stopped Rep. Lust from supporting haphazard and reactionary legislation to put guns in schools.
The committee killed HB 1222 on a 12–1 vote, with Rep. Mike Verchio (R-30/Hill City) providing Rep. Nelson his only support. HB 1222 deserved its quick death... but the Republican bosses taking it down tied themselves in contradictory knots to kill it.