The States in Action

The mariner spent the morning reading web sites about State legislation that is in process. The overall impression is that the States are very defensive. There’s a lot about nullifying Federal gun legislation using the second and tenth amendments as a legal bulwark. A lot of legislation is focused on making more effective punishment for felony and misdemeanor conviction. Some legislation is favoritism to a given person or business – always tacked on to a larger bill just like the Congress does.

Generally, State legislators are quite defensive and small minded, having no hopeful attitude about how to make life better for its citizens. The mariner understands that the Federal Government and the economic conditions have dealt a heavy financial blow to the budgets and economies of the States. The States, however, can find their own ways back to civility and concern for the constituency without waiting for the Federal Government.

Unfortunately, many States are bound by balanced budget laws. Visiting a bank to refinance debt (issuing State bonds) is not an option if the State is constitutionally bound to a balanced budget. In addition, states have become overly dependent on Federal handouts for activities that are wholly within the State and really only the State’s business.

A lot of State government difficulty can be attributed to attitude. To use an old metaphor, legislators have been in the foxhole too long and have lost sight of the greater constituent need for them to lead the State into the future. This has become the task that voters and activists must pursue. A State’s constituency must force the legislators to turn from defensive and paranoid behavior, to turn away from legislative favoritism, and focus again on what is best for the common citizen of their State. That attitude has existed in the past for most States. Legislators will balk at the pressure of the citizens, citing financial impossibilities. It doesn’t cost a lot to be nice and care about people – ask any nonprofit organization serving the underprivileged.

But the main point the mariner wants to make is the States are free to be independently driven, to pass laws that benefit the State’s constituency without waiting for Federal change. This is especially true in societal situations where rational human behavior need not wait, for example, unions are under siege in several States, marijuana and same sex marriage and ignoring Federal gun laws that require registration. It is also true that an enlightened State government can do a lot to fix its own economics.

You, the local State citizen, have more influence over who is elected and what they will do while in office. The mariner still advocates that governmental change will emerge from State leadership.

Finally, the gun issue is a classic example of “one popular issue” campaigning. What else does the legislator believe besides leveraging the popular gun issue? It may be scary. In the southern States, voting by every citizen is at great risk. If the Supreme Court decides the Federal oversight of voting laws in southern States is no longer necessary, what’s the gun-toting legislator have to say about the right for every citizen to vote without burdensome constraints?

 

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