Protecting States’ Rights Under The United States Constitution

February 19, 2010

It is no secret to anyone who keeps up with current events that a lot of people are angry with government. The disillusioned people I hear from may not always agree with each other’s specific reasons for being angry, but they do share a belief that government is too big, too expensive, and too far removed from their day-to-day lives to care about them and their needs. They feel ill-used by a state and federal government they believe wants them to just be quiet and pay their taxes.

I sympathize. After all, our nation was not founded by, or for, people who go along to get along – or for people who quietly and blindly empty their wallets into government coffers. That is why I recently participated in a press conference called by several Republican legislators and a coalition of grassroots organizations to focus attention on our efforts to reassert Connecticut’s rights under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Tenth Amendment states that “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.” Basically, that means the federal government’s power to impose its authority on the states is limited. Some of us strongly believe that Congress must be reminded that it has no right to infringe in matters that are left to state and local governments. Good examples include the federal No Child Left Behind law and the ongoing national healthcare reform debate. Tenth Amendment advocates question the federal government’s constitutional authority to interfere in education matters best left to state and local governments, or to dictate the types of healthcare and insurance people should have.

I have always believed that the framers of our Constitution knew what they were doing when they spelled out the rights and obligations that belong to states and those that belong to the federal government. The United States is a very big, diverse, country and what works well in California may not always make sense in, say, Connecticut. Clearly, the Tenth Amendment is meant to address that basic truth.

Connecticut is not the only state where people have joined the Tenth Amendment movement. In 2009, more than 30 states considered proposals addressing states’ rights. This year, Connecticut legislators are being asked to consider three separate proposals: a resolution reminding Congress of its legal authority to pass only those laws they have the authority to pass under the Tenth Amendment; legislation permitting state lawmakers to determine if specific federal laws or programs violate the Tenth Amendment; and legislation putting Congress on notice with respect to specific federal laws or programs deemed to be in violation of the Tenth Amendment.

So far, I expect the legislature’s Government Administration & Elections Committee to hold a public hearing on the proposal to pass a resolution reminding Congress of its legal authority to pass only those laws they are entitled to pass under the Tenth Amendment. It is a start. I am a co-sponsor of this proposed legislation.

There are very practical reasons to support states’ rights under the Tenth Amendment. Carrying out federally mandated laws and policies are often expensive and, sometimes, fly straight into the face of what the residents of an affected state believe is beneficial, or even acceptable. Connecticut citizens are already overwhelmed by the expense of carrying out mandates imposed by state government on both local governments and on businesses. As you may know, I strongly support abolishing state mandates that cost Connecticut citizens more than they are worth. Certainly, I believe that the federal government should not exceed its constitutional authority to impose expensive, and often unwanted and unnecessary laws on our state.