Contributed by Rep. Shelley Hughes, Senate Seat F Candidate
I don’t know a soul who isn’t ready for this political season of swirling accusations and heated debates to end. At the same time, there’s a lot to sort out. What I’ve found helpful lately is to close the social media apps, turn off the radio, walk away from the TV, take a deep breath and then spend a little time thinking through what’s at stake, what I fundamentally believe and what I can do about it.
Since I’m asking to be the next state senator for District F, I thought I’d share my most recent internal ponderings to help you better understand how I’m processing what’s before us and why, despite all the worry and anxiety over what may happen nationally on November 8, I’m hopeful.
You may wonder why someone who is seeking to serve Alaskans at the state level would delve into a discussion about the national scene, but bear with me. There will be an intersection.
Most Alaskans, wherever we are on the political spectrum, agree that the power and influence of the federal government has increased since statehood. In fact last year, a poll by Dittman Research showed that here in Alaska 82% of us crossing socioeconomic and party lines, think it’s important that we push back against the federal government overstepping its bounds.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We all recognize that the federal government is not all bad and that it’s helped Alaska in many ways over the years and that certain functions, such as national defense are essential. It’s the overstepping, the overreaching that’s the problem.
Considering that we presently face a serious fiscal shortfall at the state level, I can’t help but wonder how much less of a problem it would be if we’d been able to advance projects and economically diversify across this great state of ours without repeatedly and consistently hitting federal brick walls at every turn. I also can’t help but wonder how much more easily and quickly we could get on the other side of the current challenges if we were confident that doors to opportunities wouldn’t be slammed shut in our faces by the feds, or at least wouldn’t be so painfully difficult, costly and slow to get through.
Now, back to the November election and the impending results of the races at the national level. We’ve all got our preferred candidates but if history teaches us anything, we have to face the music. To fix the ever-growing federal encroachment, it’s going to take more than what any single candidate can deliver.
Individual U.S. senators, members of Congress and presidents can be great defenders of freedom, promoters of liberty, advocates for limited government and even proponents of states’ rights, but have any of them been able to reverse the trend in Washington, D.C. of an ever-increasing and seemingly unstoppable, overstepping federal government? Some have done their best to slow it down - President Reagan was a fierce champion of everything I just listed and he did a marvelous job during his years in office to stem the tide and increase opportunities and prosperity. But the trend has persisted since, despite his valiant efforts.
So whoever the winners are in November, we simply can’t expect them to remedy the growing federal government and encroachment problem - it’s going to take something else to do the trick. Congress won’t fix itself and we need to realize that. The president isn’t going to wake up one day and want less power. The federal judicial branch isn’t going to suddenly turn over a new leaf (yes, the pun is intended!).
You see, there’s been a missing element that’s left the federal government unchecked all these years, and it’s landed us right where we are - with massive and powerful federal agencies and a huge, cumbersome and expensive bureaucracy.
This is where we come in, you and I, we the people.
In the last few years, a growing number of us are beginning to wake up to the fact that the founding fathers included an instrument in the U.S. Constitution granted to the states, which the states have never used. A number of concerned Americans, including me, are realizing the time has come for the states to utilize, to implement the tool we’ve been given to correct this problem: Article V. This section of our nation’s guiding document allows state legislatures to call for a convening of the states to amend the Constitution.
Never before has this authority been exercised, but more and more citizens across the country are rightly concluding that the federal government will never check itself. We’ve long understood that the states created the federal government; now we’re realizing it’s the states’ job to provide the balance, and the time has come for the states to step up and do just that.
I am blessed to be on the forefront of this effort and honored to report to you that activity across the nation is picking up.
The countermand resolution that I led with the help of Sen. Stoltze and that passed in the Alaska Legislature this past spring (the first state in the nation to pass it) is now being considered on a national scale. The word “countermand” means “veto” or “abrogate” and the effort would allow under certain circumstances for states to join together to veto federal decisions not in the best interest of the states.
Two weeks ago, national news reports indicated that this proposal rose to the top among all those submitted at a simulated convention in Williamsburg, Virginia and that as early as 2019, an actual, not a simulated, convening of the states could take place. I am honored to report that I submitted this “countermand” or “abrogation” proposal for consideration at this simulated convention and was the first to advocate for its adoption.
So you see, there’s hope on the horizon. One elected federal official will not be able to turn the tide, but I have great hope that the 50 states - we the people - working together will be able to restore the proper balance between the federal government and the states. A little known tool that has been tucked away in the Constitution while the federal government has been expanding in size and power over the decades is being picked up, brushed off and readied for use. I’m hopeful. And I’m especially hopeful for Alaska in light of this historic Article V effort.
Oh, one more side note - an important one I might add. I’d be honored to have your vote for State Senate District F (Greater Palmer, Lazy Mountain, Butte, Fairview Loop, Eklutna, Peters Creek and Chugiak) on November 8. With your support, I will not only continue to help lead this important effort for Alaska, but will also apply the same principle about the federal encroachment to our state government - working to lessen the grip, the burden, and the cost of state government - so that you don’t hit brick walls and experience slammed doors, but can pursue opportunities and endeavors as we make adjustments during our present fiscal reality.