Upholding The Freedoms We Celebrate On Independence Day
A Guest Column by State Senator Larry Obhof
June 29, 2016
[ Larry Obhof Home | Larry Obhof Press ]

This time of year, we come together to celebrate our independence or, more specifically, the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in 1776. 
The ideas expressed in the Declaration were revolutionary, and they form the foundation of our nation’s political philosophy. In breaking away from the British Empire, the Thirteen Colonies described themselves as “Free and Independent States.” They also made clear that our rights are not granted to us by the government – they are inherent in all persons. Thus, the Declaration of Independence emphasizes certain self-evident truths, including that we are each endowed by our Creator with “unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration also emphasizes that government comes only from “the consent of the governed,” that is, from the people themselves.     
The Founders recognized the difficulty in protecting the people from an overreaching government. That is perhaps the primary reason that the U.S. Constitution establishes a separation of powers between the different branches of government. It is also why we have a system of “dual sovereignty,” where some powers are granted to the federal government but most are left to States. As James Madison argued in the Federalist Papers, this division of powers between three branches and the further division of government between the state and federal levels provide a “double security” that protects the rights of the people. 
Dividing government power ensures that no one branch of government, and no one level of government, can become strong enough to intrude on our rights as citizens. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically preserves this balance. It provides that “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 the people.” 
As a state lawmaker and as your representative in Columbus, I have sought to restore the balance envisioned by the Founders. In far too many areas, state and local policies are determined by reference to federal laws. In other cases, Ohio is pushed toward supporting policies because federal money (in reality, your tax money) often has “strings attached.”  In some cases, like the President’s health care law, it is both. 
This is not what the Founders intended. The States are laboratories of democracy, able to experiment with their own policies and decide what works best for their citizens.  The States are not junior partners of the federal government. Each level of government has its own responsibilities, and by dividing these responsibilities, the Constitution protects the rights of the people.        
This is why I sponsored Senate Concurrent Resolution 15. The resolution, which passed the Ohio Senate in May, reasserts the principles of federalism. It calls upon Congress to end any unconstitutional federal mandates and repeal any laws contravening the Tenth Amendment. 

It is important that we reaffirm and uphold these principles and restore the balance between the States and federal government. Strong and robust States foster innovation and reform that best serves and protects their citizens. Most importantly, when each level of government respects the proper limits of its authority, each serves as a check against the other. Those checks and balances protect the rights of the people. 
As you celebrate our Independence, there will be barbecues, parades, and fireworks displays. In between these events, I encourage you to take a few moments to read some of the words of the Founding Documents and remember what we are really celebrating. You can find these documents at www.OhioFoundingFathers.com or www.ohiohistory.org

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