Several Senators want states to ban TWD: Texting While Driving. Citing to studies which indicate that drivers who send text messages while driving pose a greater risk of traffic accidents, four Democrats have introduced a bill that might effectively lead to a "national" ban on TWD.
The proposed measure, introduced by Democratic Senators Schumer, Landrieu, Menedez, and Hagan, would deprive states of federal highway funds if they did not ban TWD within 2 years. Each year without a TWD ban would cost a state 25% of its federal highway funds. Fourteen states have already banned TWD.
My Thoughts: States versus Congress
Although I strongly support federal involvement in very important issues, this matter seems a bit odd to me. The measure is simply a "national" traffic law tied to the use of federal highway assistance.
Nevertheless, the measure, if passed, would not violate the Constitution (at least from what I have read about the bill). While the conservative Supreme Court has significantly curtailed the ability of Congress to regulate the states, it has not substantially limited the power of Congress to impose regulatory duties upon the states via the Spending Power. Indeed, there are no free lunches.
Congress has the constitutional authority to spend, and it has used this power to shape policies in the states -- and to establish national policy. With respect to highway funds, the "national" 21-year-old drinking age results from a federal law that would deprive noncomplying states of highway assistance. Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and other federally funded programs also provide money to and impose requirements upon states.
Congress used the Spending Power to accelerate the pace of racial integration in public schools when it passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law contains a provision that bans the use of federal money in a manner that discriminates on the basis of race. Until the passage of this law (ten years after Brown v. Board of Education), most schools remained completely segregated in the South.
Banning TWD seems like a brilliant idea for a state to implement. Perhaps Congress should let the states take the lead, however. Where important rights or vital national interests are at stake, I fully support the use of the Spending Power (and Court doctrine) to accomplish national standards. But this measure seems to jump ahead of the states at a time when Congress certainly has more pressing issues to discuss.
What do you think?