Perhaps now is the time to remind Americans of the significance of state governments. While being heard by Congress seems like a monumental task, Americans can talk to—and be heard by—their local lawmakers. Local governments are best suited to address local issues, and together, a chorus of state lawmakers can elicit real change in a state’s direction and hold sway over the federal government.
The United States Constitution was designed with local governments in mind. The 10th Amendment gives power to the states and to the people and reminds all Americans they do have a seat at the table. And, while the federal government was shut down, state governments were open and fully functional. States have bills to pay, promises to keep and their constituents to serve.
In 48 states, the law requires a balanced budget, and states’ taxation policies, education policies, environmental policies and other policies give them their own unique signatures. The beauty of state governments is not their similarities, but their differences. These differences give Americans the ability to make decisions on what is best community by community, from deciding in which state to live to which state to own a business. State governments provide choice for the American people, and those choices are what allow Americans to make decisions best suited for them.
State governments are representative of the government our founders envisioned: of the people, by the people and for the people. The first priority of state governments is to answer their residents, not the federal government. While it is true state lawmakers have come to impasses—Connecticut’s government shut down in the early nineties—the effects of a state shutdown are felt immediately and painfully, making state government shutdowns a particularly distasteful course for lawmakers. This shutdown marked the 18th time the federal government has shut down since 1976. Certainly it seems the federal government is willing to use the American people as a bargaining chip.
Perhaps it is time to remind the federal government of its purpose. If government is emblematic of the people it serves, then our federal government does not hold the American people in high regard. While there will always be differences in opinion, state governments show that regular compromise can be achieved and that opposing parties can work together. It is time the federal government looked to the states as models of leadership.
Piscopo is a state representative from Connecticut and serves as the National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council.