The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution, from the Bill of
Rights 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.
There is a troubling trend coming out of Washington, D.C-one that I would
not have guessed would become exacerbated, what with Republicans in control
of the federal government. In recent years, we have seen a disturbing
increase in the amount of what is called ‘federal preemption’ taking place.
This is when the national government passes laws that take authority from
local governments or the states, and creates an over-riding policy from
There are all kinds of classic examples of how Congress has passed laws over
the years weighing into areas that have traditionally been local matters–the
federal speed limit for one, and federally mandated blood alcohol levels for
drivers as well. Sometimes the method of pre-emption is outright blackmail,
threatening federal dollars for local programs if a state or local
government does not willingly accede to Washington’s demands.
Just after his election in 2000, President Bush signed into law a preemption
that federalized auto-liability laws for rental cars. He has also signed
laws giving federal regulators authority over approval sites in the states
for liquefied natural gas terminals, and for the first time, he signed into
law national requirements for individual states’ driver’s licenses.
Congress is also talking about national standards for elections, another
area of responsibility traditionally left to the states.
There are literally dozens of other examples of Congress flexing its
‘muscle’ and shifting authority from the states to the federal government.
One of the most egregious examples of federal preemption is President Bush’s
No Child Left Behind Act where the federal government has issued national
standards requiring local schools to make progress each year in improving
students’ proficiencies. The Act also requires annual testing in the third
through eight grades.
Using the No Child Left Behind Act as an example, no one is saying that
schools should not make progress in teaching kids, or that there shouldn’t
be standardized testing–but should these be mandates on state and local
governments from D.C.? The entire principle behind federalism is that the
closer the level of government to the people, the more responsive government
is to the needs of those that it represents.
Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger highlighted this federal
control-grab in a keynote address he gave the annual conference of the
Republican Governor’s Association last week in Carlsbad: “But for the last
half century, states’ rights were constantly weakened by the federal
government. Federalism made a comeback under Ronald Reagan, but incredibly,
under Republican control of Congress, states’ rights are beginning to erode