A core tenet of constitutional conservatives and libertarians — is the understanding that all power does not and must not rest solely in the hands of the federal government. Most Americans understand there must be a balance of powers between Congress, the presidency and the judiciary. Just as the Constitution established checks and balances between branches of the federal government, the 10th Amendment established a similar balance — reserving all powers to the states that were not delegated by the Constitution.
As a Virginian and a conservative, I’m proud of the manner in which the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, has regularly defended the 10th Amendment. Throughout his career, Mr. Goodlatte has been a staunch and consistent advocated for federalism and a protector of the 10th Amendment.
As House Judiciary Committee chairman, in 2013 Mr. Goodlatte opposed the creation of an Internet sales tax, specifically stating, “States should be sovereign within their physical boundaries.” And just last month, he acted once again to defend the 10th Amendment. The chairman offered an amendment to the Department of Interior Appropriations bill, reining in the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to take over Virginia and Maryland’s cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.
The true test of a statesman is whether he is willing to remain true to his principles even when faced with an issue he may personally oppose or disagree with. It appears Mr. Goodlatte has passed that test. As ardent a supporter of the 10th Amendment, he has also been an opponent of gambling. Yet, he had recognized that gambling is an issue that has always been regulated by the states. In fact, in every Congress since 1997, Mr. Goodlatte has introduced legislation that empowered each state to determine how it would regulate Internet-based gambling.
Mr. Goodlatte is, once again, facing a test we are confident he will pass. There is an effort underway, financed and promulgated by special interests, to trample on the Constitution in order to prohibit states from legalizing online gambling. In the House, the Restore America’s Wire Act, H.R. 707, introduced by Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, in an effort to trample federalism for an activity that some don’t like. Not only does the Chaffetz bill ban all state-legalized and -regulated Internet gambling, the bill also rolls back state laws regarding the sale of lottery tickets on the Internet.
During a recent hearing on the measure, Mr. Goodlatte noted the conflict between his constitutional leadership on 10th Amendment issues with his personal opposition to gaming. He acknowledged that the bill is “about states that want to regulate and permit Internet gambling within their own borders” and “any update to the Wire Act will need to address how to handle both the states that have already enacted laws allowing online gambling and any states that would want to do so in the future.”
The right to determine each state’s path resides in a state. It has not been, nor should it ever be, determined by the federal government. Several states have chosen to move beyond the nationwide gambling that has been established for decades, multistate lotteries like Powerball and MegaMillions. Many states have had decades of horse or dog racing with licensed on-site betting. Some states, like Maryland, created officially sanctioned “Off Track Betting” parlors to increase the legal opportunities for gambling on horse racing. And recently some states, such as New Jersey, have successfully begun utilizing technological solutions to allow people to play Internet-based casino games.
These states are able to do so because they restrict play to those people who are physically within that state’s boundaries. Georgia does so with online lottery sales, and each of these states have witnessed a corresponding increase in state revenues.
The truth is there is no middle ground. Supporters of the federalism-violating ban on Internet gaming bill want to roll back state laws and prevent other states from enacting similar measure. This idea is a clear violation of the constitutional principles advocated throughout Mr. Goodlatte’s career. Some have suggested carve-outs be made for lotteries in order to buy votes on the bill. But whether the bill rolls back state laws pertaining to the Internet gambling or the purchase of lottery tickets, it still tramples on the Constitution.
Federalism, and the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, is sacrosanct. Mr. Goodlatte is a hero for championing this plank of the Bill of Rights.
• Daniel Horowitz is an independent consultant and has served as a staff member for conservative members in the U.S. House and Senate.