The concept of states' rights is as old as America, but lately it's become a red-hot issue.
As Governor Sarah Palin left office this month, she signed a resolution asserting Alaska's sovereignty, referring to the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment 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."
Alaska is one of seven states passing Tenth Amendment resolutions this year, according to the Tenth Amendment Center, which tracks such legislation. More than 20 others are considering similar bills and have either passed one chamber of the legislature, or are being worked on in committees. But why now?
For lawmakers like Republican Charles Key of Oklahoma, the federal government has overstepped its authority. Case in point: Former President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" mandate. "There's nothing in the Constitution that says the federal government has the legal right and authority to tell the people in the various states how to educate the children," he says.
Many proponents of Tenth Amendment resolutions bristle at Washington's involvement in what they consider states' affairs – like gun laws, education, health care, and even personal privacy, with the Patriot Act. It may seem like a new phenomenon, says Larry Kramer, dean of Stanford University Law School, but in fact the states' rights movement is deeply rooted in American history. "Federalism functions as a political competition between the states and the Federal government,” says Kramer. "[It's] how the system is supposed to work."
Although proponents of the resolutions acknowledge they have no legal bearing, they say it is important to put the federal government on notice. "I'm not telling the federal government to butt out," says Nebraska State Senator Tony Fulton. "The Tenth Amendment exists and there is a gray line and that doesn't mean there is no line at all." In January, Fulton plans to introduce his own Tenth Amendment resolution in Nebraska's State Senate.
Filed under: Just Sayin'
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