A helpful reader sent me two articles that illustrate some of the problems for states in regards to the Adam Walsh Act. First, there is the problem with the AWA's interference with state laws meant to decrease sexual violence:
Teen sex offenders would have their photos posted online under a new federal law that threatens to undo reforms state lawmakers pushed through last session.
During a legislative hearing Wednesday, Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, said it might be worth opting out of the Adam Walsh Act and risk losing federal law enforcement funds.
Johnson led efforts to soften punishment for young, nonviolent sex offenders after hearing tearful testimony from constituents about teens as young as 14 prosecuted as adults and placed on lifetime probation for one-time incidents with a family member or a younger girlfriend.
The new state law, which takes effect next week, allows teens to have their cases sent back to juvenile court or have their probation lifted, and requires that they be placed in treatment with young people convicted of similar crimes. The law applies only to nonviolent, first-time offenders.
“To think that the Adam Walsh Act might wipe all that out is pretty hard to take,” Johnson said. “A lot of kids make mistakes ... (only) to have their whole entire life ruined, with no light at the end of the tunnel.”
The 2006 federal law is intended to protect children from violent sex offenders by creating a nationwide registration and notification system.
For the first time, those requirements will extend to juveniles, and be applied retroactively, as well as on tribal lands.
While probably not relevant to a court's finding regarding the commerce clause, the problems outlined above are certainly at odds with a system of federalism that values states as laboratories. Arizona (which is hardly a state that coddles sex offenders) had chosen to support a different method of dealing with juvenile sex offenders than required under the AWA. So, Arizona is forced to give up the federal funds or abandon its system of dealing with juvenile sex offenders.
A second problem concerns the dependency and obligations that federal funding creates:
Congress frequently offers million of dollars to entice state governments to carry out new policies. Over time, states have become completely dependent on these cash transfers and wouldn’t know how to operate without them. Earlier this year, the governor and the Legislature debated for months on how to use $10.6 billion in state taxes. In truth, the state will spend more than $26 billion this fiscal year, with nearly $12.9 billion coming from the federal government.
With the states hooked, the federal government now can dictate almost anything and the states generally go along to keep the money spigot flowing. Arizona wants its $500 million in federal highway dollars? Then the state must have a mandatory seat belt law. Arizona can’t get by without $40 million in federal funds that makes up two-thirds of its child enforcement budget? Then the state had better turn over employment records and other “private” information about its residents.