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EDITORIAL

Even with rising federal power, state lines matter

Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 12:01 am

Federalism may be a little creaky, but it's still the best system.

Guess we’re not going to be buying any bottles of booze on Sundays anytime soon. The Sunday carry-out proposal got further than ever this year – a committee actually heard testimony on it – but in the end the influential package liquor store lobby prevailed again. House Public Policy Chairman Bill Davis, in announcing he was pulling the bill, said he had been against Sunday sales and had heard nothing new to change his mind.

About the only winner is the package store lobby. Their members won’t have to stay open on Sundays to compete with grocery stores, increasing their overhead and labor costs. Hoosier drinkers will lose because choices they should have won’t be there. Retail outlets in border areas will continue to lose business to neighboring states – Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio all have some form of Sunday package sales. Actually, so does every other state.

That means the state will keep losing out on some sales tax revenue. It probably comes close to breaking even, though, because smokers who don’t want to pay the oppressively high taxes in the greater Chicago area buy their smokes here. And – at least so far – we get more gambling money from surrounding states’ residents than surrounding states get from ours.

Funny, isn’t it, that in a time when the federal government has become all-powerful, state lines still matter? Consider two of the biggest unresolved issues out there today:

Gun control. Chicago has the toughest gun control in the nation but the highest murder rate. Illinois officials say 20 percent of the guns used in violent crimes there come from Indiana with its fewer restrictions. They’d like us to toughen up. On the other hand, 3rd District Rep. Marlin Stutzman wants a federal law mandating all states to honor each other’s concealed-carry permits.

Gay marriage. Individual states now are able to ban it or approve of it, and it doesn’t matter to residents of another state. But sooner or later, the Supreme Court must decide whether gay marriage is covered by the Constitution’s full faith and credit clause (as traditional marriage is). If so, a gay marriage in one state would have to be recognized in all states. If not, people will have to accept their state’s call or move.

The very concept of federalism has gotten a little creaky these days as the federal government has assumed more and more powers once reserved to the states. But it’s still the best system around for letting the majority win without violating the rights of the minority and for diffusing power by dispersing it. We should appreciate every decision made at the state level, even if we disagree with them.