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Federal law-nullification bill killed by committee chair

JACKSON — Mississippi, a state that defied federal authority during the Civil War and the civil rights movement, won’t revive its efforts to nullify federal laws — at least not this year.

Republican Scott DeLano, of Biloxi, chairman of the state House Constitution Committee, has killed a bill that sought to neutralize federal laws that displease leaders of the conservative state.

He said the proposal became “poisonous” after it was compared to the Sovereignty Commission, a segregation-era state agency that spied on civil rights workers and sought to bypass federal mandates for voting rights and racial integration.

“We carefully considered it and decided it wouldn’t be a bill that would have the support to pass the House,” DeLano said.

Matt Steffey, a constitutional law professor at Mississippi College, said the proposal was meaningless because federal law trumps state law.

DeLano chose not to bring the bill up for a vote in the Constitution Committee, and his decision killed it. Tuesday is the deadline for House and Senate committees to act on general bills filed for the current three-month legislative session.

Republican Reps. Gary Chism and Jeff Smith, both of Columbus, said they filed the bill in response to the health care overhaul that President Barack Obama signed in 2010 and because of the possibility of new federal restrictions on guns or ammunition. The Central Mississippi Tea Party had called for the legislation.

The bill brought widespread ridicule, including comments from late night comedian Stephen Colbert, who referred to it last week and said: “Nobody, but nobody, outstupids Mississippi.”

Smith on Monday said he wasn’t bothered by the criticism or by the death of the bill. Even if it had passed the House, he said, it appeared to have little chance of surviving the Senate.

“If you can’t take the criticism I got, you ought not be in the public eye,” Smith said.

Democratic Rep. Willie Perkins of Greenwood said the bill deserved to die because it was “a slap in the face to the president.”

“Although I never liked Ronald Reagan, I tried to show due respect to him when he was president,” Perkins said. “I just don’t think this bill was showing respect to the president of the United States.”


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