WASHINGTON vs. the states: It's been a staple United States
political struggle since lawmakers wore breeches and wigs. Lately
the balance of forces has favored the hinterlands - and now state
governors and legislators are looking toward truly historic
Forget welfare block grants and Medicaid reform. Some 300 state
officials gathered here this week and talked of states having an
official say in the development of federal rules and legislation.
Such a change would mark a new high-water mark of state power.
At stake might be Washington's ability to impose, among other
things, broad education, environment, or highway-safety laws and
The fact that state leaders are even contemplating a call for
such change reflects a widespread feeling that the federal
government has spread too far into areas that should be reserved
for state and local governments. The implications of the conclave
"This is probably the most important meeting on federalism since
the original one," said New York State Assemblyman Bob Wertz (R).
The delegates and observers at the "States' Federalism Summit"
in Cincinnati represented 39 states and five nationwide
organizations of state politicians, including the National
Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governors'
Association. Govs. George Voinovich (R) of Ohio, Bob Nelson (D) of
Nebraska, John Engler (R) of Michigan, Tommy Thompson (R) of
Wisconsin, Michael Leavitt (R) of Utah, Roy Romer (D) of Colorado,
and George Allen (R) of Virginia attended.
Specifically, the summiteers recommended that their
organizations study four proposals for strengthening the states'
hands in dealing with the federal government. National defense,
foreign policy, and civil rights would be exempted. The four
*A "mechanism" - which might be a constitutional amendment -
that would give states the power to force Congress to reconsider
laws and regulations that interfere with state authority.
*A federalism law that would give states a more effective voice
in congressional deliberations. This could require Congress to cite
a constitutional basis when it passes laws and to justify any
preemption of state laws.
*A constitutional amendment that would allow states to propose
amendments, subject to ratification by Congress. Today states can
only demand a constitutional convention to amend the Constitution.
Such a convention has never been called, since many judge it could
legally reconsider the entire Constitution and politicians
everywhere fear what may result. …