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“Our Partnership”: New Regs for REAL ID

His views on “our Federalism” aside, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’ might have stepped out of a vintage World War II movie with January’s edict on REAL ID. For the vast majority of Americans who have never heard of it, REAL ID is the national ID card which Congress included in the post 9-11 legislation aimed at combating overseas terrorists. The program has now taken on a life of its own among the States who will have to bear the burden of its financial and logistical costs. Washington has neither the interest nor frankly, the money.

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PT's Federalism Roundtable: Part II

A State as Quarterback

Policy Today convened its Federalism Roundtable II at NCSL's recent Annual Meeting in Boston. The conversation grew more serious as the participants spoke openly about the stakes involved.

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The Follow-Up: Federalism Reloaded

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If state legislators want to reclaim their place in the federal partnership, they'll have to find a rally point and band together in the effort. Just ask State Senators Leticia Van De Putte and Libby Mitchell.

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Federal Partnership: The Follow-Up

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If one theme emerged above others during PT's roundtable discussion in April, it's that the federal partnership is in need of repair. We went back to three of our roundtable participants for a few more answers...

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State Solutions: REAL ID

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The federal REAL ID Act has inspired more than its share of controversy since its 2005 launch. Twenty-six states have flatly rejected it, and Arizona has even introduced a measure requiring state agencies to "report any attempts by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to force implementation." PT provides the definitive rundown across the country.

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Can the States Save the Federal Model?

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As coequal stewards of political legitimacy in the American Republic, senior legislators representing 18 states will join PT's Roundtable II to discuss the role they can—or should —play in our federal system.

Two hundred and twenty years ago, a distinguished group of statesmen assembled in Philadelphia to draft a new Constitution. They struggled to balance sectional interests and concerns about unrestrained power in a principled yet pragmatic document. But the ultimate source of political power was never in doubt: the consent of the governed. Decision-making authority was spread between the two levels and three separate branches, but political legitimacy—the right to govern—flowed through both national and state governments.

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Federalism: The View from Washington

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Despite the protests of state legislators lamenting "unfunded federal mandates," not everyone believes the federal partnership is in dire straits.

State legislators have recently moved to pass alternatives to — or outright undermine — federal policies such as REAL ID, sparking debate about the federal-state partnership among policy makers across the country. At the National Conference of State Legislators' Spring Forum, lawmakers from both red and blue corners of the nation could agree, there was cause for concern.

Kansas Speaker of the House Melvin Neufeld says, "The real problem I have is that the federal government passes so much authority to the states' executive branches, ignoring the legislative branches. Then we have to play catch up to try and retain our separation of powers and constitutional duties in the states."

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The States' Turn to Steer?

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With a federal government tripped up by war, deficit and paralysis, is it time for the states to reassert their "vertical check" and regain balance? The better question is "How?"

Few political relationships stay the same over time. Partnerships grow stronger and weaker depending on the issues and personalities involved; some fall apart on a roll call vote. Institutional relationships like the United States' federal partnership are rarely quick to change. But change they do, and few would argue that the relationship between the states and Washington has remained static over the past 220 years.

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A Troubled Partnership

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Working Out the Differences
If the states' reaction to REAL ID is any indication, America's "laboratories of democracy" may be gearing up for a fight. When 33 states—and counting—begin to openly defy Capitol Hill, Congress must take note.

Seeing a storm on the horizon, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is poised to push legislation repealing the 2005 REAL ID act. Not only has the post-9/11 legislation strained the already tenuous state-federal partnership, but it is also testing powerhouse organizations like the ACLU, which would happily cheer its quick demise.

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