Sunday, May 22, 2011

What's the matter with the states?

Betsy Russell chronicles some interesting goings-on in state legislatures of late in a recent article in the Spokesman-Review:
Montana lawmakers backed a bill to let local sheriffs stop federal law enforcement officers from making arrests in their counties, though the governor vetoed it. They also debated measures to legalize hunting with a hand-thrown spear and declare global warming “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana.”
Florida legislators outlawed droopy pants on schoolkids that show their underwear. Illinois made it legal to pick up road-killed animals for food or fur, saying it’ll clean up the roads.
Utah lawmakers ordered schools to teach kids that the United States is a “compound constitutional republic” rather than a democracy, after the bill’s sponsor said “schools from coast to coast are indoctrinating children to socialism.” South Carolina looked at setting up its own gold or silver currency in case the Federal Reserve system fails. And a Georgia lawmaker pushed unsuccessfully to abolish drivers licenses because he said requiring them violates people’s “inalienable right” to travel.
What's going on lately? I'm pleased to report that Russell interviews no fewer than four political scientists (including yours truly) in an attempt to answer this question. My contention is that the recent Tea Party movement has encouraged people to run for office who wouldn't normally be interested in politics. Many of these candidates had little or no background in the traditional Republican Party, and since it was a good year for Republicans in general, many of them just wound up in office. The issues they're advocating aren't necessary Republican or even Tea Party issues per se, but they're the issues of outsiders who are new to politics and government. Whether they're crazy or thinking outside the box is really just a matter of perspective.

There's some nice arguments from Thad Kousser, Alan Rosenthal, and Gary Moncrief in there. Check it out.

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