May 2—Oklahoma laws on worker's compensation, trains stopped on the tracks, liquor distribution and medication abortions all have something in common.
Local state and federal courts have found these laws, crafted by
Passing laws that are later overturned by the courts is not an issue specific to
But critics say the legislature sometimes knowingly advances unconstitutional legislation, which they argue is a waste of time and taxpayer money when
"We've always had some unconstitutional legislation, but in recent years, and in this session in particular, we've seen that grow in volume," said
Republican leaders of the
Constitutionality is subjective, and the courts reviewing the legality of laws is part of the government's process of checks and balances, said House Speaker
Because the lawyers defending state laws in court are on staff at the attorney general's office, their time spent on a case can't be tallied as easily as the billable hours of a private-sector attorney.
The Solicitor General's unit, which is made up of five lawyers, is typically tasked with defending state laws, said
Hunter's office does not keep records on how many state laws its attorneys have defended.
"I don't think there's any question that the legislature has passed unconstitutional legislation," said Senate Minority Leader
But lower courts have struck down more.
From 2006 to 2016, Floyd, doing her own research, found local courts struck down as unconstitutional nearly 30 Oklahoma laws.
Common themes included laws to restrict abortions and violations of the state's single-subject rule that stipulates legislation may deal only with one main issue.
One of the most notable examples was when the
Floyd suggested concerns about the constitutionality of legislation should be addressed early on in the legislative process, either with input from the attorney general's office or from a constitutional lawyer.
"It's bad for the state," she said. "It costs us money. It costs us reputation, and whatever we tried to accomplish with that bill, is not going to be accomplished."
Representatives from Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Trust Women say many of the anti-abortion bills that have advanced through the Legislature are specifically designed to limit access to abortions, which conflicts with
Trust Women operates an abortion clinic in
Stitt also signed a "heartbeat" bill that would prohibit an abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which in some cases, can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — before many women know they are pregnant.
Any doctor who performs an abortion after a heartbeat is detected could be charged with homicide under the new law.
Asked about the possibility that
The heartbeat bill is one of the many unlawful and unconstitutional bills introduced this year that attempts to end abortion in
Citing the 10th Amendment, which talks about the government powers granted to the states, Sen.
"I do not have the authority to overturn that decision," she said. "I believe fully that it violates the 10th Amendment, so with the authority I have been given, I will work tirelessly to limit abortion in this state until the day comes that that wrongly decided decision is overturned and the authority for making these decisions about preserving life is returned to the states where it belongs."
Republican legislators also introduced bills to further regulate medication abortions, in which women early on in their pregnancies can take a regimen of two pills to induce an abortion.
Stitt also signed a so-called "trigger bill" that would prohibit abortions in
There is optimism among those who oppose abortion that the
Dahm, who opposes abortion, cited the 1992
"It is rare that the courts will change their precedents, but it does happen, especially when there are things that have changed in society," Dahm said. "Even in Roe v. Wade, (the justices) talked about how they would revisit it as technology advanced and as their understanding of life and conception advanced."
The discussion over unconstitutional legislation at the
Treat refused to hear in its original form a bill that sought to curb federal overreach and push back against the Biden administration by allowing
"Believe me, it would be much easier politically for me to let (HB) 1236 go to the governor's desk as is, beg him to sign it and know that the courts are going to throw it out, but to give people false hope is not what I'm here for," Treat said.
Saying the legislation seeks to assert
The 10th Amendment says powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states. However, the Supremacy Clause of the
"Exercising constitutional rights is not unconstitutional," McCall said in a statement. "The bill codifies in state law the 10th Amendment rights granted to states under the
Court rulings on the constitutionality of legislation can give state lawmakers guidance on what they can and cannot regulate.
For example, an
"The bill itself was not ruled unconstitutional; the 10-minute requirement within it was," said McCall, who authored the legislation. "In the ruling, the judge found and affirmed states have the right to regulate train crossings. Should the appeal not succeed, the ruling gives the Legislature guidance to modify the 10-minute requirement to be consistent with the ruling."
Treat said since he has been the leader of the
There may be laws that don't stand up in court for nuanced reasons, but Treat said he's unwilling to pass legislation that lawmakers know will not hold up in court.
"If I believe that something is inherently, on its face, unconstitutional, I have not given it a hearing," Treat said. "Or we have substantially changed it."
Even before HB 1236 advanced to the
It goes back to the fundamentals of government and the duties of the three branches of government, said Rep.
"HB 1236 is a fine example of an unconstitutional bill," she said. "You didn't see this last session when
Goodwin is among legislative
According to Goodwin, from 2010 to 2013, 14 laws were found to be unconstitutional — amounting to less than 1% of the bills that became law during that time period.
Goodwin can also rattle off a list of more recent laws that have been overturned by the courts.
She pointed to legislation from 2019 that would have required the most popular wine and spirits brands be made available to all wholesale distributors, which ran counter to State Question 792 that allowed wine and spirits manufacturers to pick and choose their distributors.
Also overturned was State Question 755, which banned the use of Sharia law in state courts. The legislature referred the measure to the ballot where it passed with 70% approval.
"It's a way to continue to stir the pot when they know it's unconstitutional," Goodwin said of the
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