DOUG ROSS: State's rights shouldn't come at Hoosiers' expense

2014-05-02T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: State's rights shouldn't come at Hoosiers' expenseBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is a zealot when it comes to state's rights. No wonder he supports a change in the way U.S. senators are chosen.

Zoeller wants the states to be seen as co-equal sovereigns, not as subordinates. 

He seems to yearn for the "good old days," when U.S. senators were chosen by state legislators instead of by direct election.

The 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, gave that power to the voters, not the legislatures.

Under the "soft repeal" of the 17th Amendment favored by some state's rights proponents, members of the General Assembly, rather than the voters, would nominate each party's U.S. Senate candidates. Voters still would have the final say.

"If they had to come back ... and get renominated each six-year cycle, they'll be less likely to pass statutes that stuck it to states," Zoeller said.

So who would the senators really represent? The people who elected them, or the legislators who nominated them?

And what's so bad about democracy?

From a political standpoint, the idea of a Rube Goldberg electoral process has all sorts of flaws.

We'll begin with a look at the Indiana General Assembly, which is heavily Republican. The political party in control draws the legislative districts, so the political party tends to remain in control.

Even if the General Assembly were to nominate a Republican and a Democrat, the Democratic candidate would most likely favor Republican principals, so voters wouldn't have much of a choice.

And what about Libertarian, Green Party and other candidates? Zoeller's idea would not give them even the extremely slim chance they have now.

The Indiana Legislature is close to being out of step with the majority of Hoosiers on issues like same-sex marriage. Polls seem to indicate the majority of Hoosiers oppose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, yet the Legislature came close to proposing that ban and might yet do so, if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't rule definitively first.

For that matter, consider the state's rights push by Indiana Senate President David Long to have the states join in a Mount Vernon Assembly to prepare to overhaul the U.S. Constitution. 

Even if the intent is just to require the federal government to balance the budget, think of all the downstream effects. The Indiana economy, as well as everywhere else, would take a major hit if the fiscal diet were drastic and not tapered.

Remember the federal stimulus that kept Hoosier teachers employed during the Great Recession? Or the federal loan that allowed Hoosiers to keep their unemployment benefits when Indiana's fund was insolvent?

State's rights might sound good in theory, but think through the ramifications before wholeheartedly endorsing the idea.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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