Monday, June 19, 2006

It's a New Raw Deal: The Federales Are No Federalists

For all of their talk about "New Federalism" and "letting the states decide" policy matters, the Republican powers-that-be in the U.S. House and Senate have done more to remove the prerogative of states to determine their own policy than any Congress in recent past. A minority report from the Committee on Government Reform is just out identifying several areas that the U.S. Congress has preempted state laws and regulations to advance a conservative cultural agenda from the top and to strengthen conservative executive power over local, democratic initiatives.

Since 2001, the House and the Senate voted 57 times to overrule state authority. The multiple preemptive provisions in those bills amount to 73 total against state authority. President Bush has signed 27 of these bills into law, amounting to 39 distinct preemptive provisions against states. In most cases, these bills focused on areas where the Republican leadership's policy preferences differed from the polices adopted by state government or the decisions of state courts:
The preemptive bills passed by the House and the Senate nullify a wide array of state laws and regulations and significantly erode the authority of state courts. Some of the bills federalize traditional state authorities, such as state land-use decisions and issuance of state drivers' licenses. Others prevent the states from protecting their citizens from emerging threats, such as computer spyware or the growing problem of unsolicited email.

Some of the preemptive bills are narrow in scope but represent an unprecedented intrusion into purely state and local matters, such as the law that stripped Florida state courts of jurisdiction over the end-of-life decisions of the [Terry] Schiavo family. Other bills would overturn a huge swath of existing state laws and regulations, such as the House-passed bill that would block state regulation of food safety. Some of the bills advance the interests of large Republican campaign contributors, such as the law that preempts state regulation of information-sharing among affiliates of large financial institutions. Others impose social values held by a minority of Americans on communities across the nation.
Tennessee Senator Bill Frist figures prominently in the report, especially on attempts to override states not passed by the Congresss.

It would seem that the "let-the-states-decide" mantra in the Republican Party is actually a trojan horse designed to hide the many ways that they are actually taking power from the states and concentrating it at the federal level. New Federalism Federales are paradoxically undermining our republic.

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