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Bishop wants to give federal programs to Utah

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WASHINGTON — Rep. Rob Bishop decided to do something dramatic as he and nine fellow House Republicans, including Rep. Jason Chaffetz, announced a new 10th Amendment Task Force on Thursday aiming to decentralize power from Washington back to the states.

Bishop unveiled a bill that, as an experiment, would give Utah total control over education, transportation and Medicaid using the state's portion of federal revenues for such programs.

"The federal government has inserted itself into every aspect of our lives with one-size-fits-all rules and regulations. The Utah Laboratory of Democracy Act is the first of many proposals I intend to support that will begin to disperse power from Washington back to the people, states and local entities," Bishop said.

He added, "This is about better governance and breaking up big, inefficient, unresponsible government — returning power back to the people of this country."

Earlier this year, Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups and Utah House Speaker David Clark proposed in a Washington Post essay to allow Utah to do just that — give it its portion of federal money for transportation, education and Medicaid, and let it run those programs itself to see if it can be more creative and efficient.

"The federal government operates like an old-fashioned mainframe computer, pushing one-size-fits-all mandates out to the states. We believe there is value in intelligent decentralization," they wrote at the time.

Bishop obviously agrees, and said his bill "would help realign the proper balance of government by allowing Utah to operate these three programs more efficiently and productively without the federal strings and mandates."

He said he hopes the "modest experiment" proposal will start a serious discussion nationally about the proper role of different levels of government.

That came as 10 Republicans announced the 10th Amendment Task Force to elevate decentralization of power "as a core Republican focus" by monitoring threats to federalism.

"Successful federal government by its very nature should be focused and limited," Chaffetz said. "Washington cannot possibly develop solutions that are the best fit for all 50 states. Each state has its own unique priorities, demographics, economy, strengths and weaknesses. That's why we need to allow states to have more control over policy making and implementation."

Other founding members of the task force are Reps. Tom Price, R-Ga.; Mike Conway, John Culberson and Randy Neugebauer, all R-Texas; Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.; Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.; Scott Garrett, R-N.J.; and Tom McClintock, R-Calif.

This story was reported from Salt Lake City.

e-mail: lee@desnews.com