State level governance impacts us all

Many in this nation are under the impression that individual state governments exist only for the purposes of maintaining state roads, bridges, schools, law enforcement and income tax collection. They feel that other than these “housekeeping” items, state governments serve no real purpose and are redundant with the federal government.

Although a few states are mostly self-limited to these things, it wasn’t always like that. Nor is it likely to stay that way in the future.

State and local governments have been, and continue to be, the most efficient way of developing, administering and enforcing state and local laws and regulations for their residents and businesses. Plus, there is direct voter accountability for the elected officials responsible for these actions.

State Focus

Currently there is a raft of states enacting legislation making it illegal to use certain electronic devices while driving. A driver’s use of cell phones, including texting and e-mailing, video devices and a few other items, such as laptops and gaming consoles, are the primary target of these laws.

These laws seem reasonable enough, as everyone knows that distracted driving is dangerous, and are a good reason for state government.

Is distracted driving legislation the most pressing problems facing our 50 state legislatures? Probably not.

Do the voters have a say in what takes place in their state houses and governors’ mansions? Absolutely.

Are there laws that the state government should enact nationally? I can’t imagine how the federal government could do that, or who or how would it be enforced?

These issues are best suited to the states and constitutionally are not the business of the federal government. All responsibilities not granted to the federal government by our constitution are remanded to the states. Well, supposedly.

Legislative Impact

State governments are beginning to enact a significant number of new laws that affect all of us. Enforcement of these laws is confined to the jurisdictions of the individual states. This is the way this country has worked since its founding.

Some states have written regulations on businesses to the point where very little manufacturing, forestry, power generation or public works activity remains within their borders. Environmental- and labor-related laws are good examples of this dynamic.

If one state gets out of control with legislation and regulations to the point where it is difficult to live or do business there, one has the right and ability to move to a state with laws that are more acceptable to you or your company. This is happening all over the country on a large scale.

Hidden Agenda

As a trade association, our government affairs office has been called to action to work with state governments on a range of important issues.

There are a few states that feel it is in the interest of their citizens and the state’s environment that certain minerals be removed from brake materials; copper being the primary problem. Copper was substituted in friction material formulations when asbestos was outlawed a few decades ago.

To completely remove all copper in short order would be technically impossible. Formulation testing and performance testing would take time. Inventories of the offending variety would need to be purged from all stock, etc.

Special formulations of friction material for the individual states would be impractical and a universal change would be required.

Would it make sense to send this issue to the federal government? Only if it is recognized as an environmental hazard for all of the states.

In this case, the drive behind the state law was concealed in the legislation. The state in question wanted to charge the brake manufacturers a fee for every brake shoe and pad that was shipped in to the state.

The Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association and other interested groups managed to work with the elected officials of this state and another to come to reasonable language in the bills and to eliminate fees.

The state lawmakers had failed to see that they would affect business owners all over their states in the form of additional costs. The businesses, dealers, parts stores, shops and fleet owners all supported our position that the fees would amount to fines, enacted after-the-fact on something that was completely legal at the time.

I cannot imagine the outcome had this been taken up as a federal issue.

Noteworthy Shifts

Much of the hullabaloo taking place in Washington, D.C., recently is related to the gradual transfer of power from the states to the federal government that has been occurring over the past many decades.

Not to get all “10th Ammendment-ish” or anything, but we the people have allowed and encouraged this to take place. And now, there is no money to cover the massive costs.

One significant shift that we see coming in the future is a “re-transfer” of much of the legislative power back to the state governments. Many highly visible governors and state legislatures are showing very strong leadership in keeping Washington in its constitutional place, and demonstrating that the states are better suited to handle local interests.

Local Involvement

Keep in mind, regardless of their title or pedigree, lawmakers work for us.

My point is: We all need to work toward shaping the future of this country.

Getting to know your elected officials, both federal and state, has never been more important.

Get your elected officials out to your place of business. Make them a part of what you encounter with all of the new laws and regulations.

Elected officials are mostly just regular people like you and me. However, they need a better understanding of how their actions affect your livelihood.