Republican Sponsors Bill To Nullify Contracts

That’s one way to look at Missouri Representative Kurt Bahr’s proposed law to abrogate the contracts between subdivision/neighborhood associations and their members:

That would change statewide for future elections under a bill proposed by a legislator from nearby O’Fallon. The measure, by Republican Rep. Kurt Bahr, would prevent homeowners associations from enforcing or adopting bans on political signs.

“Should a private organization allow you to contract away constitutionally protected inherent rights?” Bahr asked.

Strangely enough, contract law does this all the time.

Consider:

  • Employer contracts that require non-compete, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure agreements. These contracts “violate” the rights to assemble and to free speech and press. 
     
  • Employer or other contracts that require drug testing. These violate the right to be secure against unreasonable searches. 
     
  • Lawsuit settlements where terms include nondisclosure and nondisparagement. These also violate the right to free speech. 
     
  • When employers fire you or taverns kick you out without a jury trial. This violates the 7th Amendment 
     
  • Mortgage agreements. Have you ever actually read a mortgage contract? You would be surprised to find out what you cannot do. Storing flammable liquids like gasoline for your lawnmower might put you in violation, which might make you think the bank is violating your private property rights.

And so on and so forth.

The fact of the matter is that people sign contracts and make individual agreements that limit what they can do. This does not “violate the rights” of either party in the contract or agreement any more than holding one’s tongue when one has a snarky remark violate’s one’s own right to free speech.

What Representative Bahr confuses here, as so many do, is that the Bill of Rights limits the government’s authority, not other organizations.

Anyone who signs a contract with a neighborhood association needs to honor that contract. Anyone considering moving into a home bound by such a contract needs to recognize that it is a contract, not a formality, and they need to honor it.

And the Missouri government should not step in and break these codicils when the citizens who signed the agreement didn’t read them or didn’t really expect to be held to them.

I’m not sure the non-enforcement part of the law could stand up in court anyway. After all, ex post facto is not just a river in Italy.

(Representative Bahr’s HB 1380 text here. United States Bill of Rights text here)