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14 July 2011

Dempsey: Lawmakers Assert Right of States to Control Wasteful Federal Spending

“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.” –10th Amendment, U.S. Constitution

Part of the beauty of the American Constitution is its recognition that in order for freedom to flourish political power must be divided among many, not centralized in the hands of a few. It was this balancing of power among the independent branches (Legislative, Executive and Judicial) and between the state and the federal governments that perhaps most clearly reveals the genius of the founders.

As generations have passed, however, many in Washington have lost sight of the fact that the federal government was intended to have only limited power. The result has been out-of-control spending, record deficits and costly, intrusive mandates on American citizens such as the recent requirement to purchase health insurance. With Washington continuing to spend trillions of dollars we do not have, leaders in the 50 states are realizing the need to maintain the balance America’s founders intended.

With that goal in mind, we have taken action to rein in wasteful spending and assert the rights of the states to be full – not merely junior – partners in operating the government. Last year, the Legislature put on the ballot a proposal stating that no Missouri citizen would be required to buy health insurance (as mandated by the new federal law). The voters approved this measure by more than 70 percent.

This session, the General Assembly passed legislation [HB423] by an overwhelming and bipartisan vote that would authorize Missouri to enter into a compact with our sister states concerning the issue of health care. The importance of this particular approach is that under the U.S. Constitution, state compacts trump federal law. In other words, assuming the federal government gives approval to the compact, it would ensure that participating states have the ability to control health care issues within their own borders.

Finally, on a related note, there is a move in Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to require the federal budget to be balanced – similar to what is already required by the Missouri Constitution. In order for this amendment to be effective, it would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the 50 states. Last week, in response to a Congressional request, I wrote to the sponsors of this legislation to assure them that if such an amendment is sent to the states for ratification, I will do what I can to see it approved by the Missouri Senate.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution knew that the best way to guarantee liberty for future generations was to divide power between the states and the federal government. The actions discussed above are important steps towards ensuring that this delicate balance is preserved.

I always appreciate hearing from you. If you have any questions about this or any other issues, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

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