Why do Utah state legislators continually complain about the federal government? Is state/federal tension health or counterproductive?
Pignanelli: My response to this often-asked question regarding Utahns antifederal psyche begins with a nod toward Fort Douglas (and the explanation it wasn't built to defend against Native Americans). This ingrained hostility, combined with Feds controlling 60 percent of Utah lands, breeds easy political gains with anti-Washington speeches. Because society and technology is ever changing, there should never be a permanent solution to this tension. It is a necessary and vital component of our republic.
Webb: State lawmakers all over the country chafe under federal domination — rightly so. The nation would be far better off if the federal government did less, and the states more. The Founders purposefully established three branches of government and two levels of government so the branches and levels would compete for power, thus preventing any branch, level or individual from amassing too much power.
Unfortunately, through neglect, court decisions and statutes, states have lost considerable standing in the federal/state relationship and we no longer have balanced federalism. States are mostly relegated to groveling before the federal government on every issue imaginable.
And the nation is the worse for it. A major reason the federal government is broke, dysfunctional and disrespected is that it has taken on far more than it can successfully execute. So state leaders should push back against federal encroachment. They are fulfilling a role the Founders expected of them. We need more push back, not less.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: email@example.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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