While looking for a good topic to write about, I strolled the internet and kept scratching my head for days trying to find the correct one. I finally realized what to write the other night, as my father and I attempted to get out of putting lights on our Christmas Tree. Our “scapegoat”, was a City Council meeting. For some slight background, my father is the Fire Chief of our city and attempts to attend nearly all meetings so that he may not only be informed, but give information on behalf of the Fire Department. Luckily for me, there was a gentleman there to talk about how the city would have to file for a permit and make some adjustments to our “Separate Storm Water Sewage System”. Now a question popped into your head, “Are you going to write about the ‘Separate Storm Water Sewage System’?” The answer is an outstanding, no. As much fun as it would be to make a fool of my self talking about water pollution, and pollution that would come from water going into our sewer system, I will not. Instead it reminded me simply of a question that I have long forgot, “What is our “Federalist” system and would it be better to use more of it?”
So what is our “Federalist” system currently? Currently we look are living in a system where the Federal Government tells the States what to do, and the states have to comply. Now that can come in different forms of involvement from the individual state. One state, may set up an agency that would interact with all of the cities to ensure they comply with the laws and regulations. While another state would leave it up to the cities themselves to comply with federal laws and regulations. One state could also use both of these methods for different types of laws and regulations. And even sometimes states have stricter laws and regulations. This different ways of handling things can cause confusion for small and medium sized cities that don’t have the resources of larger cities. Not only resources as in funding, but staff and availability of knowledgeable lawyers in the area.
Just to make a quick jump to looking at this sort of issue from the fire service side. The National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA is a national body that forms standards and recommendations for fire protection systems and fire department personnel and equipment. While NFPA standards are not laws or regulations, case-law has proven that fire departments can be at fault, if something were to happen, for not following the NFPA standards and recommendations. These while most fire departments attempt their best to be as compliant with NFPA as possible, no department is fully NFPA compliant because of the inability to do so. This need to be as compliant as possible as caused many small fire departments to keep old equipment, not hire new personnel, or not be able to purchase everything they need. These standards are even causing rural fire departments to close down entirely because of their inability to keep their equipment working and keep their firefighters safe. These standards are one of the causes of the declining amount of volunteer firefighters throughout the years. Now do not get me wrong, most of these standards are very safety oriented, and ensure that we as firefighters do not make the same mistakes that other people have in the past. But they also restrict what fire departments can do with what they have.
Jumping back into the political spectrum, the next question i want to ask is very simple. What was our “Federalist” system supposed to be like? And this has been outlined in a great deal of writings from our founding fathers, and even expressed in the bill of rights. It is an idea that the Constitution laid out what the federal government can do, and what the individual states cannot, and anything that is outside of those parameters is left to the states, or respectively the people. So that simply if the Constitution doesn’t say it’s the federal government’s job, then its the states, and if the states don’t believe its their job, then its the people’s. That is what “Federalism” was meant to be, and the founders believed it so, that it is the 10th amendment to the Constitution, the last of the bill of rights. Our founders believed that is how our government should work, and 225 years after its ratified, our idea of it looks nothing like how they envisioned. Should we return to this old style of governing, or should we continue this path we are on now? I wish we could live the 10th amendment today, not just forget about it. What do you believe we should do?
“This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from over passing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them.”