Texas governor urges constitutional reset over federal ‘threat’

Source: Mike Lee and Edward Klump, E&E reporters • Posted: Sunday, January 10, 2016

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called last week  for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution and roll back what he called overreach by the executive branch and the Supreme Court.

Abbott, a Republican, cited U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan and the Endangered Species Act as prime examples of “government run amok.” His “Texas Plan” proposed nine changes to the Constitution that he said would put power back into the hands of the people.

“The threat to our Republic doesn’t come just from foreign enemies, it comes in part from our own leaders,” he said in a speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, Texas.

“Leaders such as a president who changes laws with a pen, Congress that has no need to root their laws in constitutional principles, a judiciary that rewrites laws and freely amends the Constitution,” he said.

The governor drew a standing ovation and celebratory hollers during his appearance before a receptive crowd at a downtown Austin hotel. TPPF events have become an important place for Texas leaders to tout conservative proposals and credentials.

TPPF’s website says the group seeks “to promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise in Texas and the nation.”

Abbott, who was the state’s attorney general before being elected governor in 2014, built his career challenging the federal government. He once quipped that as the state’s top lawyer, “I go to the office in the morning, I sue the federal government and I go home” (EnergyWire, April 21, 2014).

The “Texas Plan” includes ideas that have been kicked around by conservative policy wonks for decades, including a stricter interpretation of the Commerce Clause, a balanced budget amendment, and strengthening the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which reserves power for the states.

Other parts of the plan would allow a two-thirds majority of states to nullify federal law and Supreme Court decisions. Federal agencies would be prohibited from pre-empting state law, and “administrative actions” such as new regulations would have to be approved by Congress. It would take a seven-member supermajority of the Supreme Court to invalidate “a democratically enacted law.”

It wasn’t immediately clear when a convention of states would be held. Abbott said he wants the Texas Legislature to consider a bill allowing his state to join such a convention, but the Legislature isn’t scheduled to meet until 2017.