Members of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday made short work of the proposed Restoring Constitutional Governance Act (RCGA), which, among many things, would legislatively declare “Wyoming is not a battlefield.”
House Bill 91 was sponsored by Rep. Kendell Kroeker (R-Casper), who probably would have had better luck trying to pass the “Pat Benatar ‘Love Is a Battlefield’ Bill.” Legislators in Wyoming seem to prefer bills that declare what something is, rather than what something isn’t, and the committee probably could have gotten behind something as positive and catchy as the Benatar Bill.
Maybe next year. This year, the panel — which is usually tasked with approving bills that have some sort of appropriation in them — decided 5-1 there really wasn’t a need to restore constitutional governance in Wyoming, because it only went away in the minds of some Tea Partiers who were adamant about protecting rights we never lost.
But thanks for the thought, Rep. Kroeker. Perhaps one day, when the federal government really is out to get all of us, your deep sense of paranoia will pay off in a big way.
Kroeker explained HB 91 was inspired by a kind of perfect storm of constitutional craziness, beginning with the United States holding prisoners at Gitmo without charging them with any crimes and sometimes not even letting them talk to a lawyer, which, as anyone who watches any iteration of “Law and Order,” “CSI” or “NCIS” will tell you, is neither legal nor cool.
Public servant Kroeker obviously doesn’t want to see anyone in Wyoming terrorized in this manner, so HB 91 would have prevented the arrest or capture of any person in Wyoming, or citizen of the state, “under the law of war.”
It doesn’t matter whether Congress or the president authorized the use of military force, or used the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) or a similar law that used deadly force against anyone in our state, or “intentionally subject(ed) any citizen of Wyoming to targeted killing or murder,” because Kroeker’s bill would have made all of that illegal and prosecutable under the Wyoming Criminal Code.
That goes for assault, battery, kidnapping or murder, “as applicable.” The only exceptions would be for those serving in the land or naval forces or the militia, “when in actual service in time of war or public danger.” In those cases, the Uniform Code of Military Justice could still be used — especially if someone who actually believed in the U.S. Constitution was ever in the White House again.
As Kroeker outlined the bill for the panel, he explained that a federal judge had ruled the NDAA unconstitutional, and while a stay was later lifted, that underlying determination had never been changed.
It’s funny, but Rep. Bob Nicholas (R-Cheyenne) didn’t recall it exactly that way. An attorney, he said a three-judge federal appeals court unanimously overturned that decision, so there’s no longer an active case or controversy.
Nicholas said despite Kroeker’s contention Wyoming citizens could be arrested under the NDAA, in fact, it only applies to aliens who are not U.S. citizens.
“I’d like to know where you get your information from, and why it’s different than mine,” Nicholas told Kroeker.
Acting Chairman Tim Stubson (R-Casper) noted the NDAA covers any person who participated in the 9-11 attacks, and was a member or associate of al-Qaida or the Taliban.
“As I understand your bill, a federal agent who arrests them in Wyoming is going to be guilty of a felony under this act,” Stubson said.
Kroeker said he doesn’t think so, as long as the arresting officer made sure the suspect was charged with a crime and able to see an attorney, “as opposed to just sticking them in prison and forgetting about them.”
Even alleged terrorists need to be given their day in court, Kroeker said, and “treated like every other criminal.”
Nicholas reminded Kroeker that federal law has supremacy over state law. “We can’t arrest a federal officer for violating a state law if he’s performing his lawful duties enforcing federal laws,” the lawyer said.w
But Kroeker disagreed. “I would argue if someone is ignoring the rights that are guaranteed in our Constitution, he is not following federal law because he’s performing an unconstitutional act,” the Casper legislator said. “We would have the right under state law to arrest him.”
“We may differ in that opinion,” Kroeker added. Yes, we think that exchange constituted a disagreement.
Clearly, Kroeker’s bill wasn’t ready for prime time this time, but maybe he could improve it.
Our earlier “Benatar Bill” suggestion was a silly idea, and would likely meet the same fate as HB 91 did at the hands of the House Appropriations Committee, which is comprised of some pretty tough (and sharp) cookies. But perhaps the 1980s pop icon could still be useful in a campaign to bring Kroeker’s bill back next year, if she would just rewrite a few lyrics:
“We are strong/ No one can tell us we’re wrong/ Searching our hearts for so long/ Both of us knowing/ Wyoming’s not a battlefield.”