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DUPLICATE FEDERAL CRIMES AND TRIED TO HELP LOCAL AND STATE STREET
POLICE, DETECTIVES, PROSECUTORS AND JUDGES DO A MORE EFFECTIVE JOB.
THE DIVERSION OF RESOURCES, FOCUS AND ATTENTION AWAY FROM LOCAL
EFFORTS AND TOWARD FEDERAL PROSECUTION OF DUPLICATE CRIMES IS ONE
OF THE REASONS WE ARE INEFFECTIVE IN DETERRING CRIME. STATE AND
LOCAL POLICE, PROSECUTORS AND JUDGES, COMPARED TO THEIR FEDERAL
COUNTERPARTS, ARE UNDERPAID AND HAVE TOO MANY CASES PER LAW
ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL TO DEAL WITH.
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD GET OUT OF THE BUSINESS OF
ENACTING AND TRYING TO ENFORCE DUPLICATE FEDERAL CRIMES. IT SHOULD
MAKE A POLICY JUDGMENT THAT IT WILL ASSIST LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT
TO DO A BETTER JOB. IF ALL THE FEDERAL AGENTS AND PROSECUTORS AND
FEDERAL DEFENDERS NOW ENFORCING DUPLICATE FEDERAL DRUG AND
FIREARMS LAWS WERE ASSIGNED TO STATE AND LOCAL AGENCIES, AND IF
FEDERAL MONEY WAS MADE AVAILABLE TO UPGRADE STATE ENFORCEMENT,
THE EFFORTWOULD PAY DIVIDENDS. CONCENTRATE FEDERAL CRIMINAL LAW
ENFORCEMENT IN ONLY THE FOLLOWING CORE AREAS:
1. OFFENSES AGAINST THE UNITED STATES ITSELF.
2. MULTI-STATE OR INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL ACTIVITY THAT IS
IMPOSSIBLE FOR A SINGLE STATE OR ITS COURTS TO HANDLE.
CRIMES THAT INVOLVE A MATTER OF OVERRIDING FEDERAL
INTEREST, SUCH AS VIOLATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS BY STATE ACTORS.
4. WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION AT THE STATE AND LOCAL LEVELS.
SYMBOLICALLY TO LOCAL CRIME BY PASSING NEW LAWS, THEY CAN ACT
SYMBOLICALLY BY PASSING LAWS THAT ASSIST LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT
OFFICIALS. VIOLENCE IN THE SCHOOLS, OR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, OR
CARJACKING, OR JUVENILE VIOLENCE ARE PROBLEMS THAT MUST BE SOLVED
AT THE LOCAL LEVEL.
OUR UNDERFUNDED STATE INVESTIGATIVE,
ADJUDICATIVE AND CORRECTIONS SYSTEMS MUST BE IMPROVED. PASSING
MORE LAWS FEDERALIZING CRIME IS NOT A VALID RESPONSE. AID TO LOCAL
NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES WASHINGTON OFFICE: 444 NORTH CAPITOL STREET, NW SUITE 515
WASHINGTON, DC 20001 202/624-5400; 202/737-1069 FAX
JOHN M. DORSO
MAJORITY LEADER, NORTH DAKOTA
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE
REGARDING FEDERALIZATION OF CRIME LAW
May 6, 1999
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
Good morning. My name is John Dorso. I am the Majority Leader of the North Dakota
House of Representatives. I also serve as chairman of the Law and Justice Committee of the
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Today, I am presenting testimony on behalf
of NCSL, which represents all of America's state legislators.
I want to thank you for holding these hearings, yesterday and today, on issues of
federalism and preemption. There is no more important issue and there is no more difficult issue
than the one of sorting out the appropriate roles of the states on one hand and of the national
government on the other. This is particularly true when it comes to sorting out the appropriate
role of the states and the national government when it comes to the criminal law, the topic of
today's hearing and the focus of my testimony.
But first, let me give you a little background on what I believe and what NCSL believes,
in general, about constitutional federalism. It will provide a context for understanding why we
deplore the current trend in the federalization of the criminal law.
Our touchstone - my touchstone - for analyzing issues of state-federal relations is the
Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which, as you know, provides:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor
prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who as you may know served as majority leader of the
Arizona Senate, did a good job in her opinion in New York v. United States of explaining with
clarity and concision what the Constitution contemplates in terms of state-federal relations:
States are not mere political subdivisions of the United States. State governments
are neither regional offices nor administrative agencies of the Federal
Government. The positions occupied by state officials appear nowhere on the
Federal Government's most detailed organization chart. The Constitution instead
'leaves to the States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty' reserved explicitly to
the States by the Tenth Amendment.
James Madison made a related point in The Federalist No. 14:
It is to be remembered that the general government is not to be charged with the
whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to
certain enumerated objects...