Hutchinson, Kansas, City Council member Sara Bagwell is the latest public official to offer a goofball plan to oppose “overreach” by the state and federal governments.
Tuesday, Bagwell offered a resolution to the Hutchinson council declaring the community a “constitutional republic city.” The city of Hutchinson, she said, should refuse to enforce executive orders from Topeka or Washington that go too far.
“It is a resolution to stand by our citizens,” Bagwell told her four council colleagues, who seemed bewildered by the proposal.
Councilman Steven Garza asked for an example of an unacceptable order. “Well, state mandates, like mask mandates,” Bagwell replied. “Vaccine mandates that are coming down.”
Local governments — like the one in Hutchinson — are still free to pursue masking requirements.
No matter what Councilwoman Bagwell may believe, the U.S. Constitution, and the Kansas Constitution, are silent on masks and vaccines. While there can be legitimate debate over the scope of any government’s authority to address a public health crisis, any claim that Hutchinson can unilaterally decide if a state or federal order is wrong is laughable.
Hutchinson Mayor Jade Piros de Carvalho correctly called the resolution “an act of treason against the Constitution,” and it was voted down, quickly and easily, by a vote of 4-1.
Bagwell did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
It’s easy to make fun of this ill-advised effort. If Hutchinson is so eager to nullify state orders, for example, perhaps it’s time to take a look at moving the Kansas State Fair somewhere else. You know, where the rule of law still applies.
Reno County residents, who depend on state and federal resources (including Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security) might want to think about any Hutchinson plan to secede from the union, or the state. Might be a mistake.
At the same time, though, it would be wrong to single out Councilwoman Bagwell for her strange approach to small-r republican government.
You can hear chatter like hers on the floor of the Kansas Legislature any time you want. In September, wacky Kansas Sen. Mike Thompson and colleagues wanted a special session called “for the purpose of nullifying President Biden’s executive orders.” Like Bagwell’s resolution, the idea went nowhere.
Missouri has had more success destroying federalism. It passed a law forbidding local law enforcement from cooperating with the feds on gun-related crimes, a move that cripples police, endangers residents and trashes the U.S. Constitution.
So Bagwell’s approach is far from unique. But it is, like these other examples, an insult to the democratic process. As Mayor Piros de Carvalho suggested, it is anti-constitutional to nullify laws simply because you don’t like them. That’s why we have elections.