Sunday, May 10, 2009

Taking Another Stand for States' Rights

This week, the Oklahoma House of Representatives once again voted to support a House Resolution authored by State Representative Charles Key which sends a message to the federal government regarding states' rights. This is Key’s second proposal which has been necessitated by a previous version approved in the House and Senate, but vetoed by the Governor.

The resolution seeks to reassert Oklahoma’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and according to the resolution’s language, serves as “Notice and Demand to the federal government, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.”

The resolution makes a firm statement on behalf of local control.

I continue to firmly support local control because the ability of the people to make a difference is greatly enhanced when the power to change the law is close to the people.

For instance, people have very little opportunity to make a difference in federal policy. They can call their Congressmen or US Senators, but in the big scheme of things, it is hard for even a federal official to change policy because he/she is only one out of several hundred. This means that people have very limited ability to change unfair federal mandates.

On the other hand, people have a little more ability to change policy at the state level. You can call me as your State Representative and I can have some voice in changing egregious policy, because I am 1 out of 149 legislators. In addition, I can sponsor up to eight bills each year in order to reflect the desires of the people I represent. If a parent or teacher is negatively influenced by a bad state mandate, with a lot of effort we can make a difference.

However, if the power is concentrated at the local level of government, then people have a tremendous voice, because they can easily contact their city councilman, county commissioner or school board member. Rarely do these boards have more than 10 members, so it is quite possible and relatively simple for the affected individual to contact every member of the board to make sure their side of the story is heard. If local officials are not responsive to the values presented, the way for people to change policy at that point is simply by voting for a new local official.

I believe that as much power as possible should be placed in the entities that are closest to the people and I believe this was also an important principle to our founding fathers which is why they attempted to make this concept clear in the Tenth Amendment to our country's Constitution.

Another reason the people have a much greater voice at the local level is because powerful special interests and lobbyists have a tremendous investment in federal and state level politicians. At the local level there is very little influence welded by these groups as they can not afford to invest in every local official.

Unfortunately, years of aggressive federal government expansion has eroded these principles and it is my hope that as more states adopt states' right resolutions and laws, we will see the start of a reversal of this trend.

Federal mandates are affecting our lives in a number of ways and in the future I plan to share some of the examples of how the federal bureaucracy's unfortunate regulations are negatively affecting local residents.

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