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Federal powers juxtaposed by states’ rights, autonomy

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It’s the American way to remonstrate against the government when the legislature’s actions don’t coincide with the populaces’ opinion on the direction they lead the nation. The United States was built on such principles.

But in the 237 years since colonists first put pen to paper to declare they would no longer accept a despot monarchy that ruled the people past the point of oppression, the average American’s voice has been somewhat lost when it comes to choices their leaders make.

Though their intent isn’t focused on individuals’ rights, the table could be set to remove some of the power usurped by the federal government, powers that are constitutionally held to belong to the states.

The constitution calls for clear division of powers for states, though that line is blurred and more often than not, it’s the state that becomes the conceding party in discord of autonomy. That is problematic for conservative lawmakers who feel the federal government has overstepped its bounds and all but stripped the states of their rights.

States’ rights are granted under political powers reserved for them and held solely separate from the federal government’s according to the U.S. Constitution. Those powers are set forth in a list under the enumerated powers of Congress and the Tenth Amendment. Therein, Congress may exercise the authority only as the Constitution grants it, with explicit restrictions. The Tenth Amendment identifies that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

That sentiment is held strongly by many groups, including the Tenth Amendment Center. Their communications director, Mike Maharrey, contends that states fighting back against such programs as Obamacare do so to combat a system imposed by the federal government which refuses to abide within its constitutional limits.

“Who is really behaving lawlessly here, a federal government that refuses to operate within its delegated powers and rips authority away from the states and the people, or the states, working through legitimate democratic processes, saying, ‘No! We don’t accept this’?” he asked. “I would argue it’s the federal government that’s in rebellion, and it’s time for the states to put a check on illegitimate federal power.”

Ask the average person to identify the difference between state and federal government, or the limitations placed on each, and it will likely yield a number of partially correct answers, as well as looks of bewilderment from those who search the far reaches of their minds to offer a response as to how states evoke the sovereignty.

From America’s earliest days, the division of power was an issue of conjecture for our founding fathers, who never united on a singular ideology. Calls against the overuse of federal authority ultimately led to the Civil War and progressed as the fed imposed legislation over states through the Civil Rights movement, the end of Jim Crow legislation and legislation for a drug-free America, all issues which continue to heighten calls by states for nullification.

Many would say those were all legitimate use of federal power that helped forge a nation more in line with enlightened moral beliefs which worked to keep entire sectors of the population safe and should have been enacted.

But emerging from those laws are progressively expanding programs that have tall ceilings for spending and have given much more license to U.S. lawmakers to grow ideological agendas that have encroached the merits of their respective bounds.

That has prompted a group of like-minded state lawmakers to seek a seldom-used tactic within Article V to fight a national system that they feel has failed its constituents, is bloated to the point of collapse, mired in a calumny of self-interest and produces unnecessary over governance.

Earlier this year, Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long took the reigns to generate momentum for the initiative.“The founders gave us that ability,” Long said, in reference to Article V of the U.S. Constitution which gives states the power to hold a convention without congressional interference. “It’s tougher now than when there were only 13 states, yes I understand that, but they gave us that ability expecting us to utilize it as a key tool to limit federal overreach … .”


Though formal gatherings have yielded little more than prerequisite discussions about gaining support for a convention, sights on Constitutional amendments seem to be the route they are heading.

Legislators’ plan to seek amendments to reinstate control back to individual states has merit on a broad scale; the focus may be narrow-sighted in its effectiveness. More laws won’t mean less authoritarian dominance. It will likely only work to create unforeseen problems that will require judicial reviews to define Constitutionality. Nary a regulation has ever landed on the books without being tested at some point, and many times those laws yield new ones to combat the issues that arise from them.

However the movement has gained popularity with the group Citizens for Self-Governance, which, according to their website, has a goal of providing “awareness and provide resources, advocacy and education to grassroots organizations and individuals exercising their rights to govern themselves.”

That in itself should be a goal the legislators strive for – to bring autonomy back to local governments, where local leaders are more readily accessible, more in tune with what the people want and ultimately held accountable when their constituents’ needs aren’t met and limit the impact of large-scale impacts from institutionalized state and federal administrations.

Ultimately what the people need isn’t new amendments, just less regulation, because the government that governs best governs least. That’s what the end result should be about, because without the peoples’ voice in how their lives are run, the nation, its states, and all the communities in them simply become enslaved to oppression and totalitarianism.

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