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Responding to California’s travel boycott

By Bruce Walker
web posted July 17, 2017

California has implemented a boycott on state agency travel to those states which have passed laws which it dislikes.  This is unconstitutional.  States may not restrict interstate commerce except in those narrow cases in which the restriction is directly related to protecting highway safety or preserving roads. 

The attempt by California to unconstitutionally limit interstate commerce is not resolved by the fact that state agency travel is involved.  State agencies are clearly part of interstate commerce and, beyond that, the whole purpose of the boycott is to adversely affect interstate commerce in particular other states. 

What California is doing is no different than if it prohibited California state agencies from buying goods or services in Texas (a principal focus of California’s boycott) or if Texas prohibited state agencies from purchasing any goods or services from any state which did not protect the rights of the unborn. 

As bad as it is for California to interfere with Interstate Commerce Clause by using state government to limit trade with other states, the violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by California is even worse. 

The boycott by California to ban state agencies from holding conferences or meetings in Texas is directed at private citizens of those states whose legislators passed laws which California does not like.   So ordinary Texans are to be punished in their private lives for the political decisions of Texas state government because California state government dislikes the laws Texas has passed.

Each state under our republican system of government has the right to pass laws which differ from other states.   If a particular state law violates the Constitution, then the remedy is action by Congress or the Supreme Court but not action by a sister state which cannot discriminate against individuals of another state. 

The California boycott also involves the use of federal funds.  The California state agencies prohibited by California law from attending conferences in states whose social politics offend California legislators are using for their travel and conference costs a hefty chunk of federal dollars which are categorized as administrative expenses by the state program involved.

These federal funds cannot be used for purposes unrelated to the federal program activity involved.  States cannot use administrative funds for welfare programs to promote highway safety or soil erosion funds to reduce crime.  California’s boycott brazenly intends to do just what is prohibited:  advancing a completely unrelated state issue with federal funds intended for an explicit and limited purpose.

Most federal programs administered through state programs make it a federal crime to use funds for purposes outside the scope of the federal program.   At a minimum, using state funds for a purpose not intended creates a disallowance, meaning that the state must pay back to the federal government all the funds it improperly used. 

There is yet another problem with California trying to control “state agencies” attending conferences in other states.  These conferences, almost invariably, are actually conferences by private organizations which state agencies join in an effort to influence federal legislation, lobbying for more funds, share “best practices” and things like that. 

So when California state government dictates where its state employees may attend conferences, it is really dictating how non-governmental national organizations headquartered outside California must behave in scheduling its conferences and training seminars. Trying to dictate to state employees who happen to belong to this organization how they must behave as members of this non-governmental organization draws these state employees with the rules of the non-governmental organization which almost invariably provide for comity and respect among the state members.

What ought to be done?  Boycotted states like Texas could respond with similar boycotts, perhaps aimed at most vulnerable California economic interests.  If enough states did this, the effect would be serious enough to make it politically unpalatable to try to bully other states from Sacramento.

President Trump ought to issue an Executive Order to federal agencies requiring that agencies disallow all travel expenditures by states which boycott travel to certain other sister states.   Indeed, President Trump and Congress might simply stop providing any federal funds for any state travel to conferences which would make thousands of state government programs throughout the nation furious at California for trying to abuse federal travel funds so flagrantly so that Washington was simply going to stop state agency travel on the federal dime.

California, with the typical arrogance and silliness of all leftists, has done a very stupid and potentially counterproductive thing with the boycott…big surprise. ESR

Bruce Walker is the author of book Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life and a contributing editor to Enter Stage Right.



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