Federal vs. State

I guess this whole election thing has brought this to my mind again, especially with the battles going on between the State and Federal Supreme Courts. But beyond that, a few weeks ago when the legislature passed a nationwide blood-alcohol level that would be recognized as “drunk”, few people realized that the way the government did this was to threaten to withdraw highway funds for the states if they didn’t comply. That’s basically exactly what they did to pass the 21-year old drinking age as well, lo these many years ago- blackmail the state legislatures into passing common laws. (Right before I turned 19, too! Couldn’t even get grandfathered in!!) Does anyone feel that the Federal government shouldn’t be doing that, that it’s unconstitutional, or is this whole State’s Rights thing just an inconvenient block to passing laws that need to be passed and recognized nationally, no matter what a state legislature might say or believe?

Its probably akin to what happened before the civil war. Too bad us americans are now too violent from tv to go to war.

What it amounts to essentially is extortion. I don’t know if the Constitutionality of such laws has ever been challenged, but they piss me off to no end. I personally believe the Federal government has no business deciding what an acceptable BAC level is. It’s a state issue and states should be left to deal with it as they please.

The drinking age law was challenged in the Supreme Court in 1987. The case was South Dakota v. Dole

The Supreme Court upheld the case saying that the threat of withholding interstate highway funds was a valid use of Congress’ spending powers. It was a 7-2 decision with O’Connor and Brennan dissenting. They argued that under the 21st Amendment, only the states have the right to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages.

However, the majority opinion, written by Rehnquist, said that the Federal government had an interest in trying to keep younger people from driving while drunk on interstate highways.

You can read the whole opinion at:

Let’s try that link again

Well, seeing as Idaho [for example] gets about 7 times more Federal tax funds than it puts in, of course the people footing the bill [eg. California] can require certain standards. Idaho is free to reject Fed’l highway funds, too; its residents are free to demand their state officials to do so, or move to some preferable state. Hardly extortionary.

Not that I’m for the rule, myself, nor even against state’s rights… but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater & knock the concept of Federal standards too hard. I was involved once in a matter where a prison escapee with a long, violent criminal record (primarily rape) was stopped in State “A”, having escaped from State “B”. State “B” refused to extradite, knowing full well that the open warrant would discourage the criminal from returning; whereas bringing him back would cost $$ to bring him back, incarcerate him, after which he could stay. They told State “A” that they’d save money AND guarantee his non-return by not pursuing the matter [no pun].

Good if you’re from B, lousy if your from A.