Meanwhile, in Mississippi...
On Friday, December 16, 2022, I interviewed Mississippi state representative Dan Eubanks of Desoto County about his experience as a legislator and his views on federalism and abortion. Representative Eubanks has represented Desoto County since 2016. He has an impressive record, having helped Mississippi join the Convention of States and co-authored the Gestation Age Act, which ultimately led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. He is a co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Caucus.
Being a state legislator
Kennelly: What made you want to run for public office?
Rep. Eubanks: I saw an assault on the Constitution, our freedoms, and our liberties. We got away from the republican form of government our Founders implemented and have started to become a centralized monarchy.
Kennelly: What does a regular day look like for you in the capital?
Rep. Eubanks: Mississippi has a citizen-led Legislature. Most legislators have other full-time jobs that they take breaks from or work in tandem with when in session. However, representing our constituents does not end when we are not at the capital.
Each session starts in January. The first session of a four-year term is 120 days long; the other three sessions are 90 days. This is to allow time for new people to get situated into their positions, committee assignments, and for the governor to pick his Cabinet and advisers.
In a given year, there may be 3,000 bills that get submitted between the House and the Senate. Maybe 200 of them will survive. We will work through all the House bills by a certain date, while the Senate works on all the Senate bills. Then the Senate will send all the bills that survived to the House, while the House sends its bills to the Senate. Once both bodies of government agree with the language of the bill, it is sent to the governor to either sign into law or veto.
Kennelly: Do you have an act that you are most proud of passing?
Rep. Eubanks: I am proud of multiple acts. In 2016, I was the co-author of the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. This bill prevented the state government from being weaponized and prosecuting someone for adhering to his religious beliefs. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law.
I was also proud of our 15-week abortion ban that the Supreme Court used to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Lastly, I was proud of last year's income tax reform. This was the biggest tax cut in state history. This ensured that Mississippians can keep more of the hard-earned cash that they earn.
Kennelly: How often does Mississippi use other states' laws to influence its own laws?
Rep. Eubanks: They do it all the time. There are groups such as the National Conference for State Legislators (NCSL) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), along with other think-tank groups that help with this. These groups pitch model legislation to each state.
A lot of the times, there is a peer pressure kind of thing that goes on among states. When a majority of states enact legislation, it puts pressure on other states to follow suit. There is sometimes legislation from another state that looks effective. When this happens, we could use that type of legislation as a model for our own state. For example, Florida passed a law that allowed employees working for private companies to refuse the COVID vaccine if they could show that they had previously recovered from COVID-19 or for health or religious concerns about taking the vaccine. Due to this, we could use Florida's vaccine law as a model for Mississippi's potential vaccine law.
Additionally, Mississippi has problems with certain aspects of our elections. Five of our counties have more registered voters than residents. Ohio had a similar problem, but their secretary of state purged thousands of dead people from their voter rolls. Ohio's actions were challenged, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the state's actions. Due to precedent, Mississippi has tried to do something similar.
At a state level, banking and insurance groups look at the best practices in the country to determine how to regulate our banking and insurance.
Kennelly: You helped Mississippi join the Convention of States in 2018 and 2019. What types of amendments would a convention introduce to help rein in the powers of the federal government?
Rep. Eubanks: There are three amendments that are a part of the Convention of States call: 1. a balanced budget amendment, 2. a federal overreach amendment, and 3. term limits. For states to call a convention, the language has to line up for each state which passes the resolution. Each of the amendments, should it pass, would then have to come back to the state legislatures to be ratified, just as when Congress proposes an amendment.
The Founding Fathers said there may come a day when D.C. becomes so corrupt and so powerful that it would not do anything to regulate itself. The Convention of States gives us an avenue for the people and states to rise up and take matters into their own hands. You need 34 states to call a convention, and then 38 states have to ratify any amendment that comes out of the convention.
Gestation Age Act and Abortion
Kennelly: Why did you co-author the Gestation Age Act, which banned abortions after 15 weeks?
Rep. Eubanks: It was the right thing to do. In the medical community, doctors look at whether there is brain activity and a heartbeat to determine whether someone is alive. If you have neither of these, you are not considered alive. You cannot pick and choose what is alive. In the womb, if you have brain activity and a heartbeat, then you are alive.
Believing that life is sacred and that God is the giver of life, I am going to stand up and defend life.
Kennelly: Is it true that the Gestation Age Act allows for abortions if the health of the mother is at risk after fifteen weeks?
Rep. Eubanks: Yes, it still allows abortions when the mother's health is at risk. This would be an example of a medical emergency.
Kennelly: What is your response to people who said the Supreme Court should not have overturned Roe v. Wade because of precedent or stare decisis?
Rep. Eubanks: Just because you do something wrong for fifty years does not make it right. Roe was incorrectly reasoned because abortion was not rooted in our nation's history or traditions. All the Dobbs decision did was make the issue go back to the states for regulation. Liberal states may pass fewer restrictions on abortion, while conservative states may pass more restrictions on abortion.
Kennelly: Were you surprised that the Supreme Court heard the Dobbs case? Were you surprised that the Court ruled the way it did?
Rep. Eubanks: I was surprised that the Supreme Court took up the case. The Court hears only a limited number of cases a year. I had hoped and prayed that the Court would hear our case.
Conservative justices showed great courage in overturning Roe v. Wade. Their lives were in danger leading up to and after the decision.
Kennelly: What is Mississippi doing to make adoptions and foster care more accessible for women?
Rep. Eubanks: That is a number-one priority for us this upcoming session. We are going to look at our adoption laws and foster laws. It should not cost $30,000 or $40,000 to adopt a child. We have to fix that. There are many families out there that can't have kids who would like to adopt children but are unable to because it is too expensive.
Kennelly: What is Mississippi doing to help poor pregnant women have their children?
Rep. Eubanks: We need to educate mothers about the other options they have besides terminating a pregnancy. Mothers need to be informed that adoption is the best option. The government should intentionally partner with private and religious nonprofits who are often better suited at educating and informing pregnant women about adoption and pregnancy care. These groups often provide these services at a fraction of the cost, too, and are usually more passionate about helping these women because it is what they exist for.
In Mississippi, we have given tax credits to companies that donate to pregnancy crisis centers and will probably increase the cap this upcoming session.
Edward Kennelly is a law student at the University of Memphis. He has written several political articles which have appeared in the American Thinker and the California News and Views. He has worked on several political campaigns. He hopes to continue working in politics.
Image: Michael Rivera via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.