Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

States Begin 'Revolt' against Encroachment by Uncle Sam Some Governors Seek Return of Co-Equal Power with Washington

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

States Begin 'Revolt' against Encroachment by Uncle Sam Some Governors Seek Return of Co-Equal Power with Washington

Article excerpt

TO Gov. Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska, it was another sign of a balance of power out of whack.

Each of the three times that he testified before congressional committees this year, he was followed at the witness table by a string of special-interest representatives.

The "sovereign" states -- once considered equals with the federal government -- are now treated on Capitol Hill as just another special-interest lobby, he says. If Mr. Nelson and many of his fellow governors have their way, that balance of power will change.

"States shouldn't have to come in as one more lobbying interest," says Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, a Republican who is also a leading federalist. "We should be equal partners."

The push toward stronger federalism, meaning more autonomy for states compared to the national government, has broader support now than in decades.

Governors Leavitt and Nelson are leading a slow-burning but serious revolt against years of growing federal encroachment. What they seek is a legal wall of protection -- possibly including constitutional amendments -- that protect the autonomy of states from acts of Congress.

In January, Leavitt and Nelson expect a resolution to be introduced in all 50 states for sending bipartisan delegations to a Conference of the States next summer. The conference is intended to produce a proposal for formal endorsement by state legislatures, one that would be much stronger than a federal law limiting the costs that Congress can impose on states, the governors say, but short of a potentially dangerous constitutional convention.

One outcome might be a constitutional amendment that allowed a three-quarter majority of states to nullify an act of Congress -- unless it was a clear congressional prerogative such as foreign policy or federal spending. "It would have to be a terrible law for that many states to act in concert," says Leavitt. But just the possibility or threat of being able to cancel a law would change the bargaining power between states and the Congress, he says.

THE conference has been endorsed by people from incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich to the Republican Governors Association to the nonpartisan Council of State Governments. …

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