The most important institution in American federalism is the state legislature. It is in the halls of state capitols around the country where the most consequential and impactful policy debates and lawmaking takes place, affecting the lives and liberty of every American.
The National Association of Former State Legislators (NAFSL) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), nonpartisan organization with a membership comprised of current and former state legislators. The NAFSL represents the largest network of former state legislators in the country and was established to honor those who served in their state legislature and provide a venue for them to connect and network nationally.
Not beholden to prevailing political agendas, former state legislators have the influence and experience needed to provide elected state legislators with objective peer-to-peer mentoring on principled governance. With their institutional knowledge of the political process, they are a valuable resource to those who are newly elected, especially in states with term limits.
The NAFSL comprehends the federalism defined in the US Constitution and the essential responsibility it is of current elected state legislators to intentionally preserve the sovereignty of their states. This is in response to the predisposition of the national government to further consolidate and centralize its power and authority over the states.
The mission of the NAFSL is to recruit former state legislators for membership and prepare them to connect with current state legislators on balanced federalism and advise them on implementing strategies to check the encroachment of the national government on state sovereignty.
At one time, all former state legislators took an oath of office that many of them continue to take seriously. While no longer serving their state, supporting and defending their State and U.S Constitutions still looms large in their collective conscience.
By definition, our American federalism is the consensual agreement of shared governance and divided power between the states and the national government. It is codified in our Constitution and reflects the Founders’ aspiration to uphold the autonomy or self-determination of each state. It was the states that reluctantly created our national government, not the other way around.
The authority granted to the national government is specific and limited (Art. 1, Sec. 8, US Const.), while all other powers are reserved to the states and the people. The 10th amendment is considered the exclamation point on this balanced federalism.
Unfortunately, with the passage of time, flawed amendments to the Constitution (i.e. 17th Amendment) and errant US Supreme Court interpretations (Wickard v. Filburn) have usurped some of the safeguards of balanced federalism instilled by the apprehensive Founders. These alterations have further encouraged and enabled the predicted action of the national government to assert even more power and leverage over the states.
The national government has grown in potency well beyond the distinctly defined boundaries given to it, while the influence of state governments is noticeably waning in proportion.
This increased centralization and overreach of the national government has left the states to contend with the ambition, avarice and dictates of a national behemoth, putting their sovereignty at risk and the proper balance of federalism at stake.
The result is unprecedented angst and a growing divide between the political factions in the halls of government, and among the people. It seems that the political party that takes the reins of control in Washington, DC can boldly push its dogmatic agenda onto the states, even though it has no actual authority to do so.
The states have extraordinary power to push back against the national government if only they will utilize their authority. Unfortunately, they have been misled to believe they are mere subsidiaries of the national government.
State legislators are not giving enough consideration to the ramifications of state sovereignty and balanced federalism. They are justifiably preoccupied with a multitude of important state policy issues in their respective states. However, matters of principled governance are fundamental and require their immediate attention.
In order to reclaim the sovereignty of the states and reaffirm the balance of federalism established by our Constitution, our elected leaders at the state level need to be more vigilant than ever, devising ways and implementing strategies to repel the unconstitutional edicts of the national government.
The NAFSL urges the states to, once again, become the laboratories of freedom as conceptualized by the Founders where they enact their own policies and determine their own destiny without excessive interference from the national government.
By Jim Kallinger, President
National Association of Former State Legislators
For more information on our efforts to restore a more perfect union, please visit our website. www.nafsl.org
Defending the sovereignty of your State defends the sovereignty of all States and strengthens our Union.
–Natl. Assoc. of Former State Legislators