By Max Behlke
"State sovereignty, or states’ rights, is not a doctrine of convenience. Rather, it’s the idea that states, and their citizens, know best how to govern themselves."
—Senator Deb Peters, July 25, 2017
NCSL President-elect Senator Deb Peters (R) of South Dakota testified before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law today in opposition to the No Regulation Without Representation Act, H.R. 2887. If enacted, this constitutionally questionable legislation would codify a radical federal overreach that would undermine the longstanding constitutional right of states to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens and local businesses, as well as preempt countless laws in all 50 states.
Peters' explained in her testimony that the framers of the Constitution were concerned about an all-powerful central government, which resulted in the ratification of 10th amendment: "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.
"Since its ratification, the 10th Amendment has defined American federalism, the relationship between the federal and state governments," Peters said. "However, Congress has persistently endeavored to erode state sovereignty and undermine the significance of the 10th Amendment in favor of more centralized power at the national level. This erosion of state sovereignty has only accelerated in recent years as the congressional thirst to dictate state governance apparently cannot be quenched."
She went on: "All too often, members of Congress will tout the importance of 'states rights' to justify a position on an issue, and then preempt states on other issues that don't suit their agendas. This ideological impurity is why the American people are frustrated. Therefore, it is the prerogative, no, it is the obligation of states to remind Congress that there are 50 stars on the American flag, not 535."
In her written testimony, Peters cited some of the hundreds of state laws that would be preempted by the No Regulations Without Representation Act, including state laws that prohibit the possession of Salvia, laws that would address the opioid crisis, laws that protect against invasive species, and the list goes on and on. She also said the legislation being discussed in the hearing would have shut down efforts by states to collect sales taxes on remote transactions and would preempt numerous other tax laws, such as corporate income taxes, in 25 states.
In general, the members of the subcommittee were sympathetic to the concerns raised by Peters, and most offered little or no support for the No Regulation Without Representation Act. Representative Doug Collins (R-Ga.), in his comments, stated that because of the broad and preemptive nature of the bill, “I cannot support the approach we are taking in the subcommittee here today in considering this legislation.”
Click here to view the NCSL letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging them to oppose The No Regulation Without Representation Act, which if enacted, would prove congressional indifference for the role of states in American governance. (June 13, 2017).
Max Behlke is director, Budget and Tax, State-Federal Relations Division in the Washington, D.C., office.