Worried the federal government is increasing its dominance over their affairs, several states are pursuing legislative action to assert their sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution in hopes of warding off demands from Washington on how to spend money or enact policy. The growing concerns even have a handful of governors questioning whether to accept federal stimulus money that comes with strings attached.
The sentiments to declare themselves legally independent from Washington have swept across as many as a dozen states, renewing a debate over so-called unfunded mandates that last raged in the 1990s. The states question whether the U.S. government can force states to take actions without paying for them or impose conditions on states if they accept certain federal funding.
“We are telling the federal government that we are a sovereign state and want to be treated as such. We are not a branch of the federal government,” said Arizona state Rep. Judy Burges, who is leading an effort in her state to pass a resolution called “Sovereignty: the 10th Amendment.” Ms. Burges was inspired to action by a pair of Bush administration initiatives: The No Child Left Behind education law of 2002 and the Real ID Act, a 2005 law that established national standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.
In other states, lawmakers say they are bracing to repeal federal mandates to spend their money that they expect will emanate from Washington once President Obama begins delivering some of the big-ticket programs promised during his presidential campaign.
Oklahoma state Sen. Randy Brogdon introduced a resolution that he said would enable his state to “reclaim its 10th Amendment right to reject any and all acts of Congress that go beyond its enumerated powers in violation of the 10th Amendment.”
Other states pursuing sovereignty resolutions are Hawaii, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire and Washington. Similar measures are likely to be introduced in more than a dozen other states, analysts said.
“The states are sending a message,” said Robert Alt, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation.
The nearly $800 billion stimulus bill also has raised worries.
Republican governors Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas expressed reservations this week about accepting their states’ shares of the stimulus package because they are worried that the federal government will impose conditions on how it can be spent.
As a self-styled staunch conservative, Mr. Sanford, the new head of the Republican Governors Association, aggressively opposed the stimulus plan. However, in a Thursday morning interview on CBS’ “The Early Show,” Mr. Sanford said his state would accept money from the stimulus bill. Opposing the plan “doesn’t preclude taking the money,” said Mr. Sanford. South Carolina’s 9.5 percent unemployment rate is the nation’s third-highest.
Mr. Perry sent Mr. Obama a letter Wednesday certifying that Texas also would accept stimulus money.
“I remain opposed to using these funds to expand existing government programs, burdening the state with ongoing expenditures long after the funding has dried up,” Mr. Perry wrote, clearly expressing his opposition to unfunded mandates.
Mr. Obama has promised that his administration will use federal funds to support his administration’s initiatives.
“[Mr. Obama does] not support imposing unfunded mandates on states and localities. They strongly support providing necessary funding for programs such as No Child Left Behind,” his campaign literature said.
The states are resting their efforts on the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”View Entire Story
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