purple question mark

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...



Joe Hackney is the Speaker of the North Carolina House and Vice President of the NCSL.

Stephen Morris is the president of
the Kansas State Senate. He has served in the Legislature since 1992.

Richard Moore is a member of the Massachusetts State Senate. He has served in the state legislature for 28 years.

Outline a few problems with our current federal partnership.

It's certainly dysfunctional on immigration. I do think there are certain things the feds and states work well on, but immigration is an issue that needs to be addressed on the federal level.

Education and Medicaid are issues that concern me the most. In Kansas, we had to spend $120 million just to change the structure because of federal rules.

In the Reagan/Bush era, the concept of devolution was supposed to give more power to the states, but we just started getting the bills. It wasn't the revolution we were promised.

What needs to happen for the states to reclaim their role as co-equals in the partnership?

There has to be a fair amount of insurrection amongst the states. On REAL ID, for example, the states have just said, "Thank you very much, but we're not going to do it."

How do you actually do it? There are no easy answers. But people sitting around a table—actually discussing these issues—might be able to come up with some answers.

The states would need to find a focal point for their efforts. Who really has the Constitutional authority? Who else can we turn to? Is there an interest group that would support the states?

Many members of Congress were once state legislators. Do their experiences and relationships have any bearing on the structure?

I wouldn't say that. I don't think personal relationships get in the way of systemic change.

Half the members of Congress who were once in state government have amnesia.

They tend to lose their perspective and start thinking like Washington insiders after they get elected.