Iron County Commission sets up panel to review constitutionality of federal, state executive orders

Iron County Commissioners Marilyn Wood, Mike Bleak and Paul Cozzens during commission meeting, Parowan, Utah, April 12, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

PAROWAN — The Iron County Commission has established a Constitutional and Federalism Defense Council that commissioners say will help protect county residents from potentially overreaching presidential and gubernatorial executive orders.

Sign on interior wall of Iron County building, Parowan, Utah, July 9, 2020 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

At its regular meeting Monday, the three-member commission voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance forming the new panel, which will comprise five members: the three Iron County Commissioners, the Iron County Attorney and the Iron County Sheriff.

Commissioner Paul Cozzens said the language of the ordinance is modeled after a new state law passed during the 2021 Utah Legislature. That measure, designated as HB 415 and sponsored by Rep. Phil Lyman, was titled “Executive Order Review Process Amendments.”

“When this bill, HB 415, passed and was actually signed by Gov. Cox, I thought it was awesome. That was well done,” Cozzens said during the meeting, adding that the county’s new ordinance in turn sets up a similar review process at the county level.

The new county board will be tasked with reviewing certain executive orders, whether they come from the federal or state level, in order to determine their constitutionality, Cozzens noted.

In this March 2020 file photo, Iron County Commissioner Paul Cozzens speaks during a county departmental staff meeting, Parowan, Utah, March 16, 2020 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“In the end, they would decide whether they would allocate funds to challenge or to choose not to enforce a certain edict or executive order,” he said. “It just gives us autonomy and the ability to make decisions as a body, whether we want to not enforce or push back against what we think would be unconstitutional mandates.”

Fellow Commissioner Mike Bleak then raised the question of whether rejecting federal or state executive orders could jeopardize the county’s eligibility to receive funding in certain situations.

“I’m not disagreeing with the resolution in principle, but I would be remiss in my duty if I did not advise the commission on the possible consequences of this action,” Bleak said. “Iron County is currently waiting on confirmation of grant funds for $1.4 million to provide radios for all law enforcement and fire departments in the county.”

Bleak added that Iron County is also the recipient of other federal grants to purchase equipment and pay salaries for law enforcement, fire and emergency management.

“Whatever your decision, we will make this work,” he said. “Just be aware that this funding could possibly be withheld.”

Commissioner Marilyn Wood said she thought each issue would be taken up individually.

“So, you know, if we talked about it and it did affect our funding, there might be some things that we wouldn’t want to do.”

Cozzens said the review board would take monetary and other concerns into consideration when it met to discuss certain executive orders.

“If a particular issue had some consequences like that, that could be discussed,” he said, noting that the orders would be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

The commission then voted 3-0 to adopt ordinance 2021-4, formally titled Constitutional and Federalism Defense Procedures.

Immediately after the meeting, Cozzens spoke to Cedar City News and said the action echoes a resolution adopted eight years ago which affirmed the county’s support of the Second Amendment.

Iron County Sheriff Ken Carpenter speaks on Second Amendment and Constitutional rights, Cedar City, Utah, April 7, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“On March 11, 2013, the Iron County Commission adopted a resolution declaring that federal actions that violate the true meaning of the Second Amendment will not be recognized in Iron County,” he said. “In the eight years since that resolution was signed, we’ve seen Americans from all sides of the aisle express concern about government overreach and the need to resist oppressive policies.”

Iron County’s new constitutional review process, he noted, will allow the county’s elected officials to respond to executive orders as they see fit.

“As part of that process, the commission can work with our sheriff and county attorney in a public and transparent way to determine our legal footing, the harm our residents may face due to outside orders and whether we can or should pursue litigation, nonenforcement or another path.”

Cozzens said he wanted Iron County residents to “know that we’re in their corner.

“We will always do our best to preserve their rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. This ordinance gives us a measured and deliberate path toward protecting those rights.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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