2013 Symposium: Conflicting States In Laws Can Cause Problems, Should The Federal Government Become Involved And Pass Blanket Laws?

Cartwright: No. Any powers not expressly granted to the federal government by the United States Constitution are deemed to be rights or powers of the states. If one state wants to ban smoking in public places but another one doesn’t, it’s not up to the federal government to make a blanket law or get involved. The only caveat being unless the state law violates the Constitution or federal laws. Laws vary from state to state. If the federal government is standardizing laws throughout the nation doesn’t that effectively emasculate the states? I don’t like the idea of the federal government harmonizing laws. Why should I be bound by the laws of California if I live in Florida? Laws in states are made by the elected legislators. The people of Florida didn’t elect the people in California, so why should they control our laws in a roundabout way?

Call me cynical, but I see this simply as a way for the federal government to chip away at our freedoms and the rights guaranteed us by the Constitution. Here’s how I see it playing out. Let’s say California passes a ban on owning ammunition and then a bunch of blue states follow. The federal government passes a blanket law to ban private ownership of ammunition in every state. So, we didn’t have any say in the matter here in Florida. The laws would be determined by a handful of heavily populated states with liberal agendas and they would impose their liberal agendas on everyone else. I don’t like it. We’d be one click away from communism and direct rule by the political elites in Washington.

Keep the federal government out of the states’ business!

North Carolina: The U.S. Constitution governs the relationship and authority of states and the federal government. The federal government is delegated certain enumerated powers while all other powers not otherwise prohibited by the Constitution are reserved to the states. The federal government has injected itself in a number of state laws and other state issues, and those interventions have caused considerable conflict and legal problems for states. The federal government has used its authority with state law issues and has done so in an aggressive and purposed manner. Any federal action should be confined to those specific powers delegated to the federal government under the Constitution. The federal government must follow guidelines when dealing with state laws, and the National Governor’s Association has laid out clear directives as to compliance by the federal government. States support the preservation of state sovereignty when legislating or regulating state activities, and the federal government must adhere to the guidelines maintained by the states. These principles include the limitation of federal actions to those that are truly national in scope, the avoidance of preemption of state laws and policies, the prevention of interference with state revenue systems, the preservation of state standards, the respect of the judicial branch for state laws (with no preemption of state laws), the imposing of unfunded federal mandates on states, and the cooperation of the federal government with federal-state programs. There are numerous and highly publicized interventions by the federal government in state law issues. For example, voter identification laws passed in the state of Texas have been recently challenged by the Justice Department, as have major immigration laws passed in Arizona with S.B. 1070, public employee union disputes in Wisconsin with Governor Scott Walker, and gay marriage laws in Utah. The list goes on with direct intervention by the federal government and a complicit federal judiciary. States are battling the federal government at every turn on a wide assortment of issues. The federal government should not become involved in state law issues; only in instances of direct and grievous federal law violation should intervention occur. When supposed federal violation occurs, the states must retaliate with rebuttals and legal representation. In no sense should the federal government pass blanket laws to manipulate and control states and their issues. Federal government meddling must be challenged by affected states, and the government must be stopped from imposing unconstitutional, unfair, unworkable and harmful legislation. In order for states to operate efficiently and under the guise of the Constitution, a balanced relationship must exist between the states and the federal government, and the government must acknowledge that there are challenges that are best addressed at the state level without federal intervention.

Orlando: In most cases in which the federal government has deferred regulatory authority to the states, the process has ended very well for the commercial entities who would be subject to regulation and for those states who offer the loosest regulation. Nowhere is this problem more apparent than in labor laws. Some states have passed, and many others are considering, passing “right to work” laws, which would prevent union membership from being a requirement to work at a place of business. While some unions are corrupt institutions, it is not coincidental that median income has fallen in correlation with the decline in union membership. Collectivization is a powerful tool for labor to demand better working conditions, higher wages, and fairer distribution of benefits, and those states who were willing to effectively outlaw unions, unsurprisingly, attracted considerable capital from businesses who wanted to hire people without paying as much money. This capital flight created a race to the bottom, as each state sought to provide a more and more favorable regulatory climate for large companies, while wages and benefits for workers continued to fall. This is an example of the regulatory breakdown that occurs when it is easy to move businesses from state to state.

This problem does not suggest the need for entirely unitary federal control. It does, however, suggest that Brandeis’ “laboratories of democracy” ought not to experiment with forces they cannot control. States can innovate by providing new, more effective services to their citizens. They can change the way they educate their children, the way they design and maintain parks, the means by which their citizens move from one end of the state to the other, or the way they care for their poor. They should delegate the regulation of capital, though, to an entity with sufficient collectivized resources to handle large, multinational corporations, and the only entity capable of doing so is the federal government.

Washington, DC: The United States of America has a very complex legal system which is further complicated by the fact that it is based on the principle of federalism and, consequently, has two court systems. First of all, there are federal courts and laws that apply to everybody in the United States and cover such areas as bankruptcy, tax fraud, counterfeiting, immigration, federal anti-discrimination and civil rights, patent laws and copyrights, maritime laws and such. Second, there are state courts and laws which apply to cases which fall under the jurisdiction of each particular state and usually cover such areas as family and divorce matters, criminal matters, welfare, worker’s compensation, wills, inheritances, and real estate matters, business contracts, and so on.

Depending on an issue, state law can be superior or subordinate to a federal law and, to add to the complexity, state laws can vary widely from one state to another. Thus, a resident of one state can have bigger or smaller responsibilities and rights than a resident of a neighboring state. For example, eighteen states including California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Utah, and New Jersey (to name a few) consider gay marriages legal; at the same time, thirty-two states including North Carolina, Arizona, Alaska, Michigan, and Texas among others do not recognize gay marriages. In the same way, twenty states legalized the use and cultivation of medical marijuana (with the terms and possession limits varying to a large degree), while others did not.

There exists a great variety among the laws on federal and state levels; however, the US Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) specifies: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” As a result—based on the supremacy clause—if there is a conflict between state and federal law, the court must rule according to the federal law, provided the law’s power was defined by the Constitution. At the same time, there exists the right of “state nullification,” where states can refuse to follow federal laws they deem unconstitutional. This right was first introduced by Federalists in order to prevent the government from unchecked enlargement of its power.

The United States was founded on the principle of federalism, i.e. each state in the Union retains its sovereignty in some areas and conforms to national laws in others as defined by Constitution. If the government were to pass “blanket laws” regarding some conflicting state laws, the whole state-building premise of the United States as well as Tenth Amendment of the Constitution would be effectively challenged.

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