Monday, May 16, 2016

Nixon, Reagan, and Bathrooms.

In 1974, President Nixon signed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, a bill that set a national speed limit at 55 mph.  It was a widely ignored law that created a nation of scofflaws.  What the bill intended to do was to save gasoline, and it told the states that if they didn't enforce the law, they'd risk loss of federal highway funds.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act.  That law set the minimum age to consume alcohol at 21.  It also tied the drinking age to a loss of federal highway money.

I admit, freely, that I thought President Clinton had changed the drinking law.  Louisiana successfully bucked the trend for over a decade.  As this article records, it was President Clinton who finally forced Louisiana to change our drinking age or risk the loss of federal highway funds.  Louisiana was the last state in the union to change the drinking age from 18 to 21.

But, I'm saying all this to lay the groundwork for the current bathroom brouhaha.  I now you've all been busy this weekend, but you must have been under a rock if you haven't heard about this.  If not, let me give you a quick quote, from the link above.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Education will tell school districts Friday that federal law requires them to allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms "consistent with their gender identity," escalating the pressure from the Obama administration on the contentious public debate over transgender rights.
Failure to comply with the dictat might subject the schools to lawsuits and loss of federal education funds.  Etc, etc.

In one small school district I'm familiar with, the loss of federal education money would come to some $18 million.  That's a lot of coin, and a sizable percentage of the total money available to educate students.  I'm sure that elected school boards all over the nation will be talking about this in the coming weeks.  As well they should.

This whole exercise shows the danger of accepting federal money for something that should be a local exercise in government.  When you allow the federal camel to stick it's nose into the tent, before long, you've got to deal with the camel in the tent.

Many might say that Obama has gone too far, but it's my contention that Nixon went too far with his national speed limit, and that Reagan went to far with his national drinking age.  Obama is simply following where those two went.  The states knukled under before because they didn't want to lose federal money.  This ploy is only the latest iteration in a kabuki play that's been going on for most of my adult life.

If the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution means anything, then the states are going to have to start defending it.  Understand, I don't blame Nixon or Reagan.  The folks who are to blame are the myriad state governors who allowed those two to have their way.  If we hadn't started taking federal money in the first place, we wouldn't be dealing with this problem now.


Jonathan H said...

If you look back at the Hillsboro and Grove City vs. Brown decisions, the courts enforced the position that once you took a dollar of federal money, ALL of your programs became subject to federal rules, not just the programs receiving federal money, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the government use the club in other areas.
However, on the other hand, the Supreme Court decision on Medicaid expansion a few years ago in NFIB v. Sebelius seems to say (I'm not a lawyer) that the government can't withhold all funding from a state for not creating new programs, so this could be used as a precedent the other way.
I'm not sure which way, or how, this will come out. I did see pointed out that the North Carolina law sidesteps 'gender identity' by specifying biological gender and not perceived gender.
The one thing I am sure of is that this will mean more money for lawyers!

Old NFO said...

Yep, the whole damn camel IS in the tent now... sigh