When the Founding Fathers set up our federal government they envisioned a system under which the national government was responsible for things that concerned all the states and would be difficult if not impossible for the individual states to handle themselves. This covered such issues as waging war and taxing imports. The national government was also responsible for overseeing relations between two or more states, such as water rights and interstate commerce.
It was a good system and worked pretty well for the first 150 or so years of our nation’s existence. Recent decades, however, have seen an increase in federal oversight of issues once left to the states.
These days many folks think that if something is a good idea, it should be implemented nationwide. And rather than go to all the trouble of going through 50 state legislatures, they go straight to Washington.
That’s what is happening with efforts to impose a law barring motorists from getting behind the wheel when they’re under the influence of drugs. Drugged driving is the newest target of road safety advocates. While we agree that motorists whose abilities are impaired by drugs, legal or not, shouldn’t drive, we object to the tactics used by supporters of the proposal.
Instrumental in the effort to impose this standard in every state is Nevada Rep. Jon Porter, the Republican lawmaker responsible for Nevada’s drugged driving law. Porter wants to force states to ban drugged driving by, you guessed it, withholding federal highway funds from states that don’t comply. That seems to be a favorite tactic among those who wish to nudge recalcitrant states toward passing whatever law is at issue, especially when millions of dollars of highway funds are at stake.
For some reason those who would impose their will on others through Washington sometimes follow at least the appearance of honoring the founders’ intent and use state lawmakers to further their ends. Porter spokesman Adam Mayberry said the congressman’s bill “simply requires states to come up with their own plan. We’re not dictating what states ought to do.”
Perhaps, but holding millions of dollars in highway funds over states’ heads seems more like extortion than incentive.