Federal Control from Highway Funds

Current Events        vs.       Founding Documents

Entry 31                                                                                                                                  Submitted by: Mark Musselman


Current Event

From: ABC News on line and USA TODAY January 26, 2010


A crackdown on texting while driving entered a new phase Tuesday when the federal government banned the practice on handheld devices for bus drivers and commercial truckers.


"The dangers posed by texting while driving are the same whether you're behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler or a four-door sedan," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Schumer and Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J, and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., propose legislation that would strip states that don't enact texting bans of 25% of their federal highway funds.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood acknowledged that enforcing texting bans is challenging. "The enforcement part is critical, and it may be the most difficult part," LaHood said. "We're at the starting gate on this. We're going to figure out a way to enforce these requirements."


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According to Wikipedia:


South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court considered federalism and the power of the United States Congress under the Taxing and Spending Clause.


 In 1984, the United States Congress passed
legislation, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, withholding 5% of Federal-Aid Highway Act funds from states that did not adopt a minimum legal age of 21 for the purchase and possession of alcohol. South Dakota, a state that had allowed 19-year-olds to purchase beer containing up to 3.2% alcohol, sued to challenge the law, naming Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole as the defendant because her office was responsible for enforcing the legislation.


The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision authored by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, ruled that Congress had engaged in a valid exercise of its power under the Taxing and Spending Clause, and did not violate the 21st Amendment.


The first three restrictions, Rehnquist noted, are uncontested. This leaves the fourth restriction. The Tenth Amendment bars federal regulation of the States, and it has been suggested that the Twenty-First Amendment might prohibit federal regulation of the drinking age. Nevertheless, the Congressional condition of highway funds is merely a "pressure" on the State to comply, not a "compulsion" to do so, because the State's failure to meet the condition deprives it of only 5% of the highway funds it may obtain. Therefore, Congress has not run afoul of the Tenth or Twenty-First Amendments.


Justices O'Connor and Brennan each filed dissents. O'Connor agreed that Congress may attach conditions on the receipt of federal funds, and that the Twenty-First Amendment gives states authority over laws relating to the consumption of alcohol. The attached condition on the states, O'Connor said, must be "reasonably related to the expenditure of funds." O'Connor disagreed with the Court's finding that withholding federal highway funds was reasonably related to deterring drunken driving and drinking by minors and young adults. She argued that the condition was both over and under-inclusive: it prevents teenagers from drinking when they are not going to drive on federal and federally-funded highways, and it does not attempt to remedy the overall problem of drunken driving on federal and federally-funded highways. Therefore, the relation here between the condition and spending is too attenuated:


If the condition and spending are too attenuated, then they fail the court's "reasonable relation" test, falling outside the scope of Congress's power in the Constitution. Brennan, in a brief paragraph, states his agreement with O'Connor, stating that the Twenty-First Amendment "strikes the proper balance between federal and state authority".



State vs. Federal authority


Founding Document


The US Constitution, The ninth amendment:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


The US Constitution, The tenth amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


We the People:


Since the 18th amendment, which gave the federal government control over alcohol was repealed by the 21st amendment, there is absolutely no link to federal control as it is exercised today.  Such logical contortions by Justice Rehnquist only discourage rational people from participating as they acquiesce to the false claim that only the learned and elite can interpret the Constitution.  He should have addressed the 10th amendment instead of the 21st.


Senators Schumer, Menendez, and Hagan will remain unencumbered by the 9th amendment limitations on their power, and their oaths of office, unless their constituents react to such violations.


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