Washington, D.C. – one of the most visited cities in the world – oozes a sense of superiority and power. How could it not? Our nation’s Capitol building is truly enormous, the Secret Service and Capitol police carry rifles regularly, and the President of the most powerful country in the world lives within its borders.

Anyone, whether a visitor, summer intern, or permanent resident, feels that they are amongst the most formidable and important people in the world when in Washington.

This sentiment is mostly true. The President, Congress, and Supreme Court do yield great authority and power to influence our lives – if they choose to use it.

The truth, however, is that state governments are more likely than the federal government to create laws and policies that affect our day-to-day lives. This is, in fact, how our country was designed.

James Madison, a founding father and our fourth President, wrote in Federalist No. 45 that “the operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security.”

In layman’s terms: the federal government will protect our national security and borders while the states dictate domestic policy.

Admittedly, Madison’s vision of federalism is not exactly what we see today, as the federal government often rules like it is “most extensive and important” in both peacetime and wartime.

Even so, the 10th amendment of the Constitution remains, and all powers not delegated to the federal government are constitutionally reserved to the states. Although the federal government finds itself at a standstill arguing about all types of domestic policy, state governments are productively creating them every day.

Take, for instance, the Alabama legislature. In the first three months of 2018, the Alabama State House and Senate passed over 300 bills. The U.S. Congress, with all its power and superiority, has passed only 172 bills since the beginning of last year.

This gap is even more pronounced when examined nationally. In 2014 alone state legislatures passed over 24,000 bills. The 113th Congress, by contrast, passed only 296 bills in both 2013 and 2014.

This productivity gap is largely because, unlike in Washington, many states have supermajorities of a singular political party. This makes it immensely easier to pass legislation in the states.

These laws, although restricted to a single state, are not limited to minor issues. During the Obama administration, for example, states enacted over 200 restrictions on abortion. State governments are also in charge of public education, determine how to tax their residents, and decide infrastructure spending – spending that could easily impact your daily commute.

State governments also recruit businesses and jobs to the area, determine many welfare benefits and qualifications, regulate occupations (for better or for worse), and draw their own district lines.

The reality is that the actions of the state government can have immediate and consequential effects on our everyday lives. This makes it critically important to know the candidates we are voting for in state elections.

The days of the national media covering Alabama politics constantly are, for the moment, over. Fox News and CNN aren’t reporting on our governor’s race like they did last year’s race for U.S. Senate – and they certainly are not following our races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, or those of other down ballot positions.

Alabamians, therefore, must intentionally learn about the candidates, their records, and their positions. Thankfully, there are ample opportunities to do so including recorded debates, coverage by local news organizations, and detailed policy questionnaires.

On June 5th, Alabamians will vote. When we do, we must not vote blindly based off name recognition or slick advertising. We should, instead, learn about candidates up and down the ballot because state elections matter more than most think.

This op-ed was originally published by Yellowhammer News, Alabama Today, the Brewton Standard, and the Andalusia Star.


MORE ON Good Governance

2018 Attorney General Candidate Questionnaire: Attorney General Steve Marshall Responses

Please see below for Attorney General Steve Marshall’s responses to the 2018 Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News Attorney General Candidate Questionnaire. Submitted Friday, May 18 at 7:56 am View responses in PDF format here.  2018 Attorney General Questionnaire Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News ACTING PHILOSOPHY Interpreting the Law Question: Attorneys general are in the […]

2018 Lieutenant Governor Candidate Questionnaire: Dr. Will Boyd Responses

Please see below for Dr. Will Boyd’s responses to the 2018 Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News Lieutenant Governor Candidate Questionnaire. Submitted Tuesday, May 15 at 4:57 pm View responses in PDF format here. 2018 Lieutenant Governor Questionnaire Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, […]

2018 Lieutenant Governor Candidate Questionnaire: Representative Will Ainsworth Responses

Please see below for Representative Will Ainsworth’s responses to the 2018 Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News Lieutenant Governor Candidate Questionnaire. Submitted Monday, May 14 at 2:52 pm View responses in PDF format here. 2018 Lieutenant Governor Questionnaire Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, […]

MORE ON The Forum

HUNTSVILLE RADIO: Alabama should shine the light on asset forfeiture

API Senior Fellow J. Pepper Bryars recently discussed civil asset forfeiture on the Fred Holland Show, 105.3 FM WTKI in Huntsville. The two spent an hour discussing the issue, including how it’s done in Alabama, its pros and cons, and why law enforcement should make the process more easily available to public scrutiny. Listen to […]

While the Supreme Court deliberates, Alabama should shine the light on asset forfeiture

The U.S. Supreme Court recently signaled that it’s ready to limit the government’s power to confiscate things like cars, houses, and cash that prosecutors have proven, or maybe just reasonably suspect, were involved in crimes. The court heard oral arguments related to Indiana’s use of the power, known as asset forfeiture, to confiscate a $42,000 vehicle — […]

MORE FROM Parker Snider

API urges “Yes” vote on Amendment Two on evening news

Parker Snider, Director of Policy Analysis for the Alabama Policy Institute, recently urged voters to vote “Yes” on Amendment Two on Alabama local news, including WBRC Birmingham, WSFA Montgomery, WAFF Huntsville, and WTVM Columbus. Watch the stories here and here or at the links below. Story by WBRC’s Alan Collins: https://www.wbrc.com/2018/10/16/amendment-rights-unborn-v-right-choose/ Story by Raycom Media’s […]

How to prepare for Russia’s October surprise

Russia is in the business of mind control. They’re not doing it through sinister headgear, satellite interference, or dream invasion like in Inception, though. Instead, Russia seeks to control the minds of Americans through something we all have and spend arguably too much time on: social media. This isn’t news to many of us. For years […]

Towards a less angry politics

“When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, count to one hundred.” If only we followed the advice of the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson, who expressed this sentiment, knew first-hand how politics can lead to indignation. Today, one glance at cable news or Twitter affirms that we too are accustomed to an […]