Last week, I wrote of the House of Representatives’ creation of new committees designed to expand legislative purview at the state level. Specifically, I pointed to the attempt to gain a grasp on the state’s overwhelming dependence on federal dollars.
Massive amounts of federal spending are channeled through state government. It appears as if about $8 billion of state spending actually originates from federal sources. The Legislature appropriates $6.5 million each year, which means that much of legislative oversight is distracted from the federally funded programs and mandates that accompany the money.
The federal government derives a lot of power from taking your tax dollars and going into debt, and then using that money to entice state governments to do its bidding. Over the years, many state agencies have enabled this system by anxiously applying for federal money. This money has funded a host of government jobs, and those who have federally funded jobs aren’t likely to oppose federal mandates for fear that the funding will be withdrawn and their jobs become no longer necessary.
This puts state government in a tenuous situation as the federal government approaches its inevitable day of reckoning of having to cut back on this funding but, of course, they likely will still insist on the costly mandates that accompany the funding.
State policy makers are starting to realize they must put limits on the amount of new federal funding. We also must stop enacting and revising state laws to comply with the latest and newest intrusive federal mandates, even if this puts some funding at risk.
As in every session, there will no doubt be a continued push this year for any number of initiatives designed to preserve or increase federal funding.
For example, over the past three or four days, legislators have been bombarded with personal and business mail promoting the importance of “pipeline safety.” Most legislators probably have no idea that this is a preliminary attack to enact far-reaching new state regulations that appear set to intrude on the rights of property owners and prove costly to local government entities.
The effort seeks to implement a federal law that could take away funding from a program inside the state’s Corporation Commission unless the state starts a new program regulating citizens’ activities on their own personal property.
The law is still being drafted, but it appears that it could put in place regulations that require you to jump through various government processes prior to digging on your own property with a mechanical digger. Someone who digs a hole to plant a tree could face large government fines if they don’t go through some sort of government-mandate process.
The law also could require that local government entities enact very costly processes such as marking utility lines prior to grading roadways deeper than the original excavation. Can you imagine how much this will slow down the road maintenance process if the local government must mark miles of roadway just to grade a road?
Those who fail to come into compliance with this new law could face massive fines.
What happens if the state doesn’t enact this new assault on the rights of property owners?
Potentially, the state would lose federal funding for a program within the Corporation Commission that most lawmakers and citizens probably don’t even realize exists. Is this really worth the creation of massive new and intrusive state regulations?
It is clear that certain special interests are preparing to advance these new laws. This is exactly the type of proposed action that the new states’ rights-focused committee in the House of Representatives must defeat.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at email@example.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.