Letters and Opinion

Repeal 17th Amendment to restore balance

May 31, 2014

This year, I authored legislation that would have rescinded Indiana’s approval of the 17th Amendment. The 17th Amendment, adopted in 1913, requires U.S. senators to be elected by popular vote rather than by state legislatures. Doug Masson [May 19 Forefront] argued that this would be a bad idea, but he missed most of the story.

Adoption of the 17th Amendment all but destroyed the original structure of the legislative branch envisioned by our Founding Fathers, throwing off the balance of power between the federal and state governments.

The Founding Fathers divided the legislative branch into two bodies with equal power, each to act as a check on the other. Members of the House of Representatives would be elected directly by the people, while the Senate would ensure the federal government recognized its constitutional limits and respected state sovereignty.

Upon adoption of the 17th Amendment, states lost their outlet to influence Congress. Since that day, Congress has been able to push through policies that take power away from the states without the say or approval of the affected state governments.

Our federal government today is indistinguishable from what the framers designed. The unrelenting growth of government has seeped into every aspect of our lives and the authority of states has been trampled.

We as citizens should be demanding a stop to this, which is why I continue to push for a return to the original balance of power by repealing the 17th Amendment.

Masson disagrees with me, preferring the status quo. He reminded readers that the 17th Amendment was advanced because some politicians in the 1800s were flawed. Of course, some politicians were imperfect then, just as they are now and will continue to be in the future. If people were perfect, there would be no need for government.

The framers understood this, which is why they designed a federalist government where power was limited and shared, and states provided a critical check on federal action—a far cry from what we’re experiencing today.

More than 100 years of experience shows us why unchecked power is disastrous. We would have been wise to consider George Washington’s warning: “Power must never be trusted without a check.”
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State Sen. Jim Smith, R-Charlestown

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