BILL TRACKER ALERT: Florida House Memorial 577

Florida House Memorial 577 —“Relating to the Scope of Federal Power to Regulate Commerce”

By: Autumn B. Matthews, Esq.

In the midst of health care reform upheaval, courts and legal scholars across the nation have disagreed on the issue of the exact scope of federal power to regulate under the Commerce Clause.  Depending on your geographic location, a federal judge may have already issued an opinion in your district as to whether or not the health reform law passes constitutional muster.  Some courts have said yes, some courts have said no.  It is a foregone conclusion that this battle is going all the way up to the Supreme Court.  As I type this blog, attorneys are even litigating if the District Courts of Appeal can be skipped so the cases can proceed directly to the Supremes.

In the chaos of this litigious atmosphere where no one seems to agree on anything in the health law, enter the Florida House of Representatives.  They have the solution.  And it’s called HM 577.  For general information about the Memorial Bill, go here.  To read the current version of the bill, go here.

And please, note my sarcasm.

Background of HM 577

The purpose of this Memorial Bill is to urge Congress to honor the provisions of the Constitution of the United States that limit the scope and exercise of federal power to regulate commerce.

It was co-sponsored by Representatives Matthew Caldwell (Rep., Lee County) and Jeffrey Brandes (Rep., Pinellas County) on February 1, 2011.  Currently, the Memorial Bill is in the Federal Affairs Subcommittee.  It received its first reading March 8th, 2011.

Summary of HM 577

The Memorial Bill is two pages in length.  It quotes the Tenth Amendment.  It quotes the Ninth Amendment.  It quotes the Commerce Clause.  It then goes on to make three “sweeping” resolutions:

  1. The Florida legislature claims sovereignty over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government.
  2. All goods grown, manufactured, or made in Florida and all services performed in Florida, when such goods or services are sold, maintained, or retained in Florida, shall not be subject to the authority of Congress of the United States under its constitutional power to regulate commerce.
  3. Copies of this memorial be dispatched to the President of the United States, to the President of the United States Senate, to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and to each member of the Florida delegation to the United States Congress.

Basically, HM 577 reminds the Congress to take the Constitution into account when drafting legislation.  Right…I’m sure Congress forgot about that.

What is really going on?  Why would the legislature find it necessary to draft HM 577?

Here’s my hunch: Judge Vinson in the Eleventh Circuit (the circuit to which Florida belongs) filed the Order declaring the health reform law unconstitutional on January 31, 2011.

Which means HM 577 was filed the very next day.  So although HM 577 never mentions the words “health care reform” nor cites any Court ruling, the sole reason it exists is because of the health care reform law.

HM 577 is nothing more than a legislative response to a court ruling. It’s basically the state legislature saying, “Take that” to the federal government.  It is unnecessary and offers no legal guidance as to the state of the health law in Florida.  I am sure the leaders in Washington who may receive a copy of this bill are losing sleep at night waiting to receive it.  It doesn’t change the applicability of the Commerce Clause to the state of Florida.  If it was THAT easy to get around the Commerce Clause, someone would have thought of it by now.  The Memorial serves absolutely no purpose, and is a complete waste of time for a legislature that is dealing with big issues (e.g., high-speed rail, education, state worker pensions, funding).

(For a historical discussion about the Commerce Clause, go here.)

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