• Heritage Action
  • More

Regent University

Regent University
November 17, 1994
Becky Norton Dunlop

Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I would like to discuss two different, but highly interrelated topics with you this morning. First, I will discuss with you my views and the views of Governor Allen on Federalism and the proper relationship between State and Federal government. Secondly, I will outline the principles that I use to formulate public policy in the Commonwealth’s Department of Natural Resources. You will notice a strong correlation between the two subjects. Then, I am also happy to take your questions and discuss any specific issues you care to hear about.

My experience in the federal government and my current responsibilities at the state level give me special interest in the revival and resurgence of federalism. This issue is gaining momentum in the states among Governors of both parties. I hope that a new Republican majority in Congress will follow through on their promise to the citizens to shrink government and return authority -and tax dollars- to the states.

Some of you may be aware of the Governor’s newly created Advisory Council on Self-determination and Federalism of which Charles Cooper and me are co-chairs. This group of 52 highly capable individuals will focus on the issue of State sovereignty, not only here in Virginia, but around the country.

Currently, the federal government is moving aggressively in the opposite direction. It is shifting the focus back to “command and control” federalization of policy. Words and rhetoric that support state flexibility and state government authority are not matched by actions of the Clinton Administration. And, of course, actions speak louder than words.

The federal government’s appetite is voracious…for dollars…for power…for bigger federal government. Regard for states is lacking. Regard for the Tenth Amendment is nil.

Yet, having observed the current status, I recall President Reagan’s hypothesis that the Twenty-first century will be the century of the States. And I am optimistic.

In Virginia, we look upon our challenge for the remainder of the Allen administration as Virginia’s Federalist challenge. And, indeed, Virginia’s Federalist challenge is America’s Federalist challenge. We must understand what federalism is and why it is important. The genius of the American experiment is that our Constitution is a charter of government the central proposition of which is that the people must be protected from government.

As George Washington said in his farewell address, “Government is like fire. It can be a helpful servant or a fearful master.” And today, as never before, we are suffering under the ravages of a fearful master.

The principle of Federalism is woven into every thread of the fabric of the Constitution, and is summed up in the 10th Amendment: “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.”

My area of natural resources is in the very vortex of this issue. You might even say we are a magnet for unfunded federal mandates and bureaucratic red tape.

So now, I would like outline the five principles that guide public policy-making in my secretariat.  It will become very clear to you how some of these principles relate to or are dependent on Federalism.

Principle One : People are Virginia’s greatest natural resource. The enhancement of our natural resources is dependent on the good stewardship of the citizens of this Commonwealth. Clean air and clean water are not to be taken for granted. They must be treated with the respect and care that their inherent value requires. Most Virginians appreciate that fact, and are inclined to do their part in caring for our vast natural resources. In government, it is our role to see that regulatory structures empower good stewards of our environment and the practice of sound conservation methods, as well as promote innovation and advance science.

Principle Two : Personnel is Policy. It has an obvious tie to the first principle. Governor Allen and I place a high value on the contributions of individuals inside government as well as private citizens. We are working hard to make the best use of the diverse talents of the dedicated professionals in our natural resource agencies; in our colleges and universities; and in the private sector. Groups and individuals have an important contribution to make in the process of finding the best solutions to our problems. I always cherish the opportunity to hear the advice and expertise that thoughtful, solution oriented individuals and groups have to offer. Those individuals closest to the problem are the best equipped to deal with it.

Principle Three : A growing economy and a healthy environment are mutually dependent. Without economic growth and technological advancement, there are insufficient resources to meet both the increasing demand of the public for goods and the requirements of environmental stewardship. The Governor and I formulate public policy on the basis of this principle. Private property rights and responsibilities, the incentives of the marketplace, and the free enterprise system offer the greatest new prospects for improving the environment.

Principle Four : Renewable natural resources are inherently dynamic, resilient, and responsive to conservation management. The science of conservation management allows us to improve the quality and condition of our natural resources. Sound science must be the basis of our decision making in the domain of natural resource policy.

Principle Five : Excessive government regulations are injurious to the environment. People and states have a responsibility to collaborate and challenge excessive and injurious regulations. We must devise ways to ensure that advancement of the arts and sciences of natural resource management are not thwarted by the burden of government regulation.

You may have noted a Federalist theme in several of these principles. As I mentioned previously, my area of Natural Resources is at the very vortex of the struggle that defines the issue of Federalism. For example, the interpretation of Clean Air Act provisions is galvanizing the states to stand up against federal dictates. The lawful acts of Congress require that the states undertake deeds to accomplish reductions in air pollution. Agencies of the federal government -contrary to the principles of Federalism- are insisting that we impose what we in Virginia believe to be wrongheaded mandates on our people and local governments. Many of you may be following the on-going struggle between EPA and the Commonwealth or one of the other states that are struggling with the proposed enhanced inspection and maintenance program. This issue is not about the relative merits of clean air. I also want an improvement in air quality. What this, and many other issues are really about, is the Liberty of states and the liberty of the people.

I would encourage you, in your studies and in your work, to be vigilant in your defense of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment. Constitutional liberty is what has made America distinctive. We must examine every policy and undertake every deed with the peal of the Liberty bell ringing constantly in our ears.

Thank you for your attention. And may God be with us as we meet this challenge, and may God bless these United States of America.