by David M. Dickson
Worried the federal government is increasing its dominance over their affairs, several states are pursuing legislative action to assert their sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution in hopes of warding off demands from Washington on how to spend money or enact policy. The growing concerns even have a handful of governors questioning whether to accept federal stimulus money that comes with strings attached.
The sentiments to declare themselves legally independent from Washington have swept across as many as a dozen states, renewing a debate over so-called unfunded mandates that last raged in the 1990s. The states question whether the U.S. government can force states to take actions without paying for them or impose conditions on states if they accept certain federal funding.
“We are telling the federal government that we are a sovereign state and want to be treated as such. We are not a branch of the federal government,” said Arizona state Rep. Judy Burges, who is leading an effort in her state to pass a resolution called “Sovereignty: the 10th Amendment.” Ms. Burges was inspired to action by a pair of Bush administration initiatives: The No Child Left Behind education law of 2002 and the Real ID Act, a 2005 law that established national standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.
In other states, lawmakers say they are bracing to repeal federal mandates to spend their money that they expect will emanate from Washington once President Obama begins delivering some of the big-ticket programs promised during his presidential campaign.