At time when our nation is facing record deficits and a historic debt load that is projected to exceed our Gross Domestic Product within 2 years, our state’s senior U.S. Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, is looking to spend $100 million in taxpayer’s dollars to urge states to implement bans on driving while talking on a cell phone and texting while driving. Is this really a federal priority?
Sen. Hutchison is working with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a liberal Democrat from West Virginia, on the so-called Distracted Driver Prevention Act of 2010. This legislation, which was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last week, would send strings-attached taxpayer money to the states to implement the bans.
There’s little doubt that distracting driving can create dangerous situations, and to this end states have begun acting to address the issue. It’s reported that most states have already enacted or modified their laws to confront this problem in the ways they see best fit for their locations.
While Sen. Hutchison said “it is most appropriate for the states to handle this issue and devise laws that best meet their particular needs,” she went on to defend this Washington-down approach by adding that her legislation “does not threaten states with lost highway funds if they elect not to enact a distracted driver bill.”
Regardless if it’s in the form of an incentive or disincentive, it’s still a “Washington Knows Best” maneuver to influence state policy. Why not just cut the deficit spending in Washington, and let the state and local leaders decide if and how to make such programs work?
Conservatives and taxpayer advocates can be hopeful this pork-barrel spending won’t go through unchallenged. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, has said the “top-down way of telling states how to design their traffic laws is the wrong approach,” and recognized that “states are a laboratory for ideas in this area.”
Here at Empower Texans, we wonder if any members of the Texas delegation in the U.S. House will sign-up to help push forward this expensive “Washington Knows Best” strategy, particularly at this time?