Balancing the State-Federal Relationship

There's an editorial by William T. Pound in the Kansas City InfoZine, that puts Real ID in a more general perspective - the current relationship between state and federal governments. Pound is talking primarily about Katrina and Rita, but he notes that there's been a serious trend of Federal laws pushing unfunded mandates back onto the states. He mentions RealID almost in passing as a good example:
The relationship between the states and the federal government has been tenuous at best over the past several years. Federal initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, the REAL ID Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Help America Vote Act have eroded state authority and left states to pick up a $30 billion per year tab.
He goes on to note a tension between State and Federal governments that, ironically, pushes in both directions. First, the states really need more federal money:
The Katrina and Rita reconstruction efforts pose a serious threat to the progress made in federalism over the past 25 years. As the costs to rebuild the Gulf States continue to rise, so too will the reliance on the resources of the federal government just as it did during the Great Depression.
And second, Federal government uses current issues to further erode states' rights:
Congress is already considering preempting state authority in several areas. The Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005 sponsored by Representative Joe Barton of Texas was introduced in response to the rise in gas prices in the wake of Katrina. The bill preempts states' authority to license domestic oil refineries, reduces a state's choice in alternative fuels used to meet clean air standards and preempts state laws on the ability of individuals to file claims in state courts over refinery licensing and pipeline siting.

Katrina is also affecting state budget authority. The White House's emergency funding proposal for schools that are providing services to hurricane evacuees would send money straight to local school districts bypassing the state budget process. In many situations, the local school districts would profit from this scenario as many have already received emergency funding from their state.


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