ALEXANDER OFFERS AMENDMENT TO STOP UNFUNDED FEDERAL MANDATES ON STATES

Says Tennessee Communities Should Be Able To Opt Out of Federal Labor Mandates if They Compromise Public Safety, Lead to an Increase in Taxes or Cut Into Existing Services

Posted on May 13, 2008

“It is inappropriate for Congress to overturn laws in Tennessee and 20 other states, effectively telling them that we know how to run their communities better than they do.” – Lamar Alexander

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander today offered an amendment to S. 2193, the Public Employee-Employer Cooperation Act, which would allow state governments to opt out of federal mandates if they result in an increase in taxes, cut into existing public services or compromise public safety.

“Every year that I was Governor, and just about every year since, the state of Tennessee has considered whether or not it is in the public interest to force local communities to engage in collective bargaining with public employees,” said Alexander.  “And the answer has consistently been, ‘No, it is not.’  It is inappropriate for Congress to overturn laws in Tennessee and 20 other states, effectively telling them that we know how to run their communities better than they do.  My amendment would change this bill to say that local communities could opt out if they conclude that this law would lead to higher taxes, cuts in other services or otherwise compromise public safety.  I think the people of this country should admire, respect and honor our first responders. But we should also admire, respect and honor our Constitution and our federal system and say that we may have different opinions in different states and different cities about what we should do.”

S. 2193, the Public Employee-Employer Cooperation Act, would impose unionization and collective bargaining rights for public safety employees on states that do not have existing statutes that meet minimum federal standards spelled out in the bill.

Alexander, a two-term Governor of Tennessee and a longtime opponent of unfunded federal mandates, also has said that he will offer an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill later this year to stop the REAL ID program until the federal government pays for it.  The REAL ID Act, which sets minimum national standards for state driver’s licenses as part of an effort to deter terrorists from easily obtaining identification, passed Congress in 2005 without any Senate hearings.  It was added to a bill to fund our troops in Iraq during a closed-door meeting. 

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