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Hutchinson, Kansas, a 'Constitutional Republic' free of federal mandates? Council says no

 Screenshot of Hutchinson City Council meeting on Jan. 18, 2022.
City of Hutchinson
Screenshot of Hutchinson City Council meeting on Jan. 18, 2022.

A Hutchinson City Council member said she may continue her efforts to shield the city from enforcing federal and state executive orders that it deems unconstitutional.

Sara Bagwell introduced a motion to the council Tuesday to make Hutchinson a “Constitutional Republic City.”

She used mask and vaccine mandates as examples of executive orders she deems as unconstitutional.

The motion failed 4-1, but Bagwell said there’s a possibility it will be introduced again at a later meeting.

“Maybe change the title because I think a lot of people are confused with the Constitutional Republic City title,” Bagwell said. “Probably use the same language in the resolution, but just maybe change the title and see if that’s better understood.”

Bagwell said her motion would prohibit the city from enforcing executive orders that are being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional.

“I did say (at the council meeting) that this is just affirming our oath of office,” Bagwell said. “I thought I made that clear.”

Hutchinson Mayor Jade Piros de Carvalho compared the motion to secession and the Confederacy at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Thoughts on a possible secession?” the mayor said when the motion was opened for discussion.

Other members of the council also questioned the motion.

“It’s a slippery slope because then it’s, ‘Well, we don’t like this either, so we’re going to declare ourselves independent of this rule,’” council member Jon Richardson said.

City Attorney Paul Brown said at the meeting that the motion was not legal.

“We are a municipal corporation,” Brown said. “How are we established as a municipal corporation? By the state of Kansas. By state law. We couldn’t exist without it.”

Brown explained that the council should trust the courts to determine whether an executive order is unconstitutional.

The only other city in the United States thought to have passed a similar resolution is Oroville, California. Oroville’s resolution, however, doesn’t carry any legal authority.

Bagwell, who’s been in office since 2020, said the idea of a Constitutional Republic City was brought forward to her by “a few” constituents.

“So I emailed and contacted the mayor of Oroville,” Bagwell said.

Since the meeting, Bagwell said she’s received emails for and against her motion.

“I think it’s something that should have been done sooner than later, but at least later is better than never,” she said.

Copyright 2022 KMUW | NPR for Wichita. To see more, visit KMUW | NPR for Wichita.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron or email her at cameron (at) kmuw (dot) org.
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