In response to a recent editorial, readers have been commenting about our observation that state leaders objected to what they called the federal government trying to usurp state laws — or, if you will, states’ rights.
We argued, and have been arguing, that the federal government’s administrations, mostly through presidential executive orders, have been attempting to circumvent the checks-and-balances process set forth in the U.S. Constitution.
We feel, and again have argued, that former President Barack Obama went too far in his executive orders about transgender bathrooms. We argued then, and argue now, that issue is one that should be in the hands of the other two branches of the government — the legislative and judicial branches.
We also feel that President Donald Trump’s executive edicts that called for curtailing federal government support of a current law, the Affordable Care Act, were not only an attempt to get around the law of the land but a blatant attempt to bypass his own’s party’s inaction in reforming or repealing Obamacare.
Our argument is not over the merits, or even lack thereof, of the two issues.
Our argument is how executive power is beginning to outgun legislative or judicial power, not just in Washington but in Austin.
As one reader pointed out, the Constitution provides that any rights not expressly outlined for the federal government are reserved for the states.
What isn’t clearly defined by two constitutions, both federal and Texas, is whether any rights not specifically given to the administrative branches are reserved for the states or local municipalities.
And here’s where administrations have the upper hand over the legislative and judicial branches. While appropriation of money is decided mostly by Congress or the Texas Legislature, just how that money is doled out, and in what fashion, is pretty much controlled by the administration, which oversees the bureaucratic function of government.
While many lament the eroding role of federal versus state governments, we see several interesting parallels.
By executive order, many U.S. administrations have threatened — through departments such as the Environmental Protection Agency, federal transportation agencies and the like — to withhold taxpayer funds from states if they don’t enact laws such as speed limits.
The message from the agencies, again administered by a current administration, is “sure, you can pass the state laws, but we control the money.”
How much different is it on the state level regarding its counties and cities?
Earlier this year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blocked about $1.5 million in state funding to Austin over so-called “sanctuary cities.” It came after Travis County’s sheriff said the jails would no longer honor most federal immigration detainers.
So much for Texas’ much-valued home rule, where a city can pass any regulations or laws it deems necessary unless the state law prohibits it.
Here again, we come to the problem. State or federal law doesn’t have to permit it or ban it.
The federal and state administrations, with their vast resources of your federal income tax or state property tax through the education-funding Robin Hood system, has hold of the purse strings.
Former President Teddy Roosevelt said that the presidency allowed him a bully pulpit.
Roosevelt meant the bully pulpit was an avenue for the president to set an agenda for public debate, with the key word being pulpit.
We wish that were the case now.
Because right now, it seems like the administrative branches of the state and federal government have a loan shark business.
• Dave Mathews