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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Texas Lawmakers and Federal Power

Before the legislative session began in January, lawmakers filed more than a dozen bills geared to limit the federal government's ability to dictate what happens in Texas.

Now, with a little more than a month left in the session -- and much focus directed on the budget and redistricting -- some wonder whether state legislators will be able to pass bills demanding that Washington back off.... Whether these bills make it through the system, some observers say the proposals send a message to Washington.

"It shows the Congress of the United States that some of the various states, Texas in particular, may not be in agreement," said Allan Saxe, an assistant professor of government at the University of Texas at Arlington. "It is one way in which the people can also voice their frustrations and aspirations through the Texas Legislature to the U.S. Congress."

A look at some of the proposals:


A bill claiming sovereignty for Texas under the 10th Amendment, which says powers not specifically outlined for the federal government in the U.S. Constitution belong to the states, has been sent to the House Calendars Committee, the last stop before reaching the House floor.

Gov. Rick Perry has spoken in favor of the bill. "I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens and its interference with the affairs of our state," he said. "I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations and ultimately strengthen our Union."



Last week, the House approved a measure to take control of healthcare programs from the federal government and give it to the states. It now heads to the Senate, where [Rep. Jack] Nelson will help carry it. The measure would let Texas join an interstate healthcare compact.


Federal budget

A resolution calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget has been adopted by the Texas House and sent to the Senate.

"With a deficit of $1.47 trillion, the government will need to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends," said Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who filed the measure. "Texas stands as a model for other states during these turbulent economic times, and it is because we balance our budget and limit expenditures. ... This is a good step in requiring that the federal government act like Texas."


Repeal amendment

A proposal by [Rep. Vicki] Truitt to ask Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment that would allow specific portions of federal laws to be repealed with approval from two-thirds of the states has stalled in the House State Sovereignty Committee.

The proposal, if approved, wouldn't prevent Congress from responding by simply enacting the same law that was repealed by the states.

"I don't think that bill is going anywhere," Truitt said. "There is some concern that it could put our current Constitution at risk.

"But other bills are moving," she said. "And I have signed on to other bills I think will help with state sovereignty and the federal deficit."