States Seek to Grab Even More Power from Washington Leaders Want Role in Federal Rulemaking
Lawrence J. Goodrich, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
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 federalism reforms.
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 regulations.
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 are clear.
"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 proposals are:
*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. …