By Abdul Hakim-Shabazz
Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, has caught a lot of flack lately for a proposal that would call for a constitutional convention to address what he (and a lot of other people) believe is a federal government that is out of control when it comes to spending, taxation and a few other areas likely too numerous to name.
He is proposing, and the Indiana Senate passed, a resolution that would call for a constitutional convention that would roll back the federal government’s taxation and spending power as well as rollback/repeal the Affordable Care Act. Long’s argument is pretty simple: the federal government has overreached and it is time for the state’s to push back.
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org.
Now, I am the first person to admit when I hear the term “state’s rights,” I have a different connotation of the term, as you can probably imagine, me being African-American and all. Luckily, having known Long for years, I don’t worry about that being any part of his motivation. What I do worry about is the fact that we actually got to this point in the first place.
For years, the power of the federal government has encroached into areas that were once the purview of the states. The feds have done it under the spending clause of the constitution. Note, the federal government can’t compel the states to do anything, but it can act like an over-controlling parent who uses money and the power of the purse to force the kids to comply with their wishes. By the way, this is why we have seat belt laws, speed limits and .08 for DUIs. It’s because the federal government has tied highway funds to those objectives.
Now the good news in all this is that when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional, they also gave the states a little bit of a break. The court ruled that the government cannot withhold funds from states for refusing to expand a program mandated by the federal government. The states are not entitled to more money, but they cannot be penalized by having funds taken away from them for existing programs.
I think a stronger and more immediate signal the state of Indiana can send the federal government is to tell them that it is not going to participate in the expansion of any federal program without 1) making sure it truly is in the best interest of Hoosier taxpayers; 2) Implementing it in a way that is fiscally responsible and protects the taxpayers. Oh, wait a second, we’re already doing that with the ACA. Imagine that.
Like I said in the beginning, I can’t get mad at Long for taking legal steps to change a situation he thinks needs changing. Now, granted, it is going to take a while. It takes at least two-thirds of the states or Congress to introduce and amendment and then three-quarters of the states to ratify it. To put that in perspective, the last constitutional amendment to get approved was the 27th Amendment which prohibited congressional pay raises while lawmakers were serving their current terms. It was introduced in 1789, but not passed until 1992. That took 203 years to make it through the system, but It sure beats firing a cannon on Fort Sumter.
Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.