Ivory Moves to Expand Constitutional Notes on Legislation

Always fighting for states’ rights and sovereignty, Rep. Ken Ivory has two bills this session aimed at educating both lawmakers and lawyers who work for state and local governments in Utah.


“This is kind of cool,” Ivory, R-West Jordan, said of HJR7, a joint rules resolution on constitutional notes.

Every bill or resolution introduced in the Legislature is reviewed by the lawmakers’ own attorneys for its constitutionality – that is, if the bill became law would it violate a clear ruling by either the U.S. Supreme Court, the Utah Supreme Court, or the constitutions of both entities.

Usually, a constitutional note is a negative thing – for it makes it harder for the sponsor to get votes for his measure – especially if it would be vulnerable to challenge in the courts.

That doesn’t mean conservative legislators don’t pass likely unconstitutional bills. Various abortion restrictions over the last decades have passed, been challenged, and struck down, costing the state millions of dollars in legal fees.

But HJR7, says Ivory, doesn’t restrict current constitutional notes.

“It expands them.”

Under HJR7, legislative attorneys must list how the bill would aid, or hinder, federalism, or state sovereignty.

It would be an education process, says Ivory.

Lawmakers would read about the impact of state rights on each of the 700 or 800 bills they see each 45-day session.

Most bills, of course, would have no federalism issues. So no notes.

But many may.

The U.S. Supreme Court, over the last 30 years, has ruled a number of times in favor of state sovereignty, says Ivory, an attorney who prides himself on being a constitutional scholar.

But state lawmakers and/or state attorneys don’t know about it, or don’t act on it.

The high court “is saying we are independent sovereign entities; they are actually saying some times we have to act like it,” said Ivory.

By reading federalism constitutional notes on their bills, lawmakers and citizens will learn what they can do in trying to grab back states’ rights, Ivory believes.

Ivory also has HB120, which would require every lawyer who works for state or local governments to take a federalism, or state’s rights, legal test.

The test would resemble in form the current state legislator/lobbyist ethics test.

Public attorneys would be required take the test – developed by the state’s Federalism Commission – online every two years.

As you work your way through the ethics test, if you answer a question wrong, the right answer is displayed.

“So you can’t fail it,” said Ivory.

“It is really an education experience.

“If we have jurisdictional sovereignty, but we don’t know it, that’s no better than not having jurisdictional authority in the first place.”