In 1994, Congress pass a bill, with President approval, that withheld ten percent of federal highway funds from states who fail to penalize drug offenders by suspending the drivers license for six months. A condition the federal government placed on the grants for highway funds is states’ must suspend the drivers license for any drug conviction, regardless of severity, including marijuana possession. However, states do have the ability to “opt out” by passing their own state law stating they will not suspend drivers licenses for such violations. The clause was used by Congress in the hope that states would not want to be recognized for allowing drug offenders to keep their license, but most states opted out.
Both California and Utah sued the Secretary of Transportation for the release of funds. California legislature challenged the federal law in light of the withholding of federal highway funds were not related to the suspension of drivers licenses, and the “opt out” clause was not a rational or uniform national policy. California’s legislature is arguing this requirement is to initiate debate between the governor and the state legislature. The requirement for the governor and legislature to agree or forcing the legislature majority to override a gubernatorial veto violates the state’s sovereignty basic function and specifically the absence of a uniform national policy.
Utah passes a law that suspends drug offenders drivers license for all drug violations, however, Utah has also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and redefined offense as a misdemeanor: “burning without a permit. The Secretary of Transportation believes Utah’s motive to decriminalize and redefine the offense vio...
... middle of paper ...
... California until the state complies with the federal condition placed on the highway funds, however, the constitutional issue concerning the requirement that states’ debate on whether to “opt out” or not be removed as a condition upon the receipt of funds. By removing this option, it will create a uniform national policy that is applicable to every state. If this condition is not removed it is recommended that California receive their federal grant moneys. Secondly, Utah has complied with the regulation and therefore the federal highway funds should be released. The Secretary of Transportation is infringing upon the state’s sovereignty after Utah has complied with the condition placed upon the federal funds.
The United States Constitution
Epstein, Lee, and Thomas Walker. Institutional Powers and Constraints. 8. Thousand Oaks: CQ Press, 2013. Print.
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