INDIANAPOLIS – Citing the growth in federal government activity that impacts Indiana government that the state must monitor, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller today announced that he will assign a deputy attorney general to serve in the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.
Deputy Attorney General Richard M. Bramer will work with members of Indiana’s congressional delegation to monitor and review bills moving through Congress and proposed regulations moving through federal agencies. The deputy AG will advise the Attorney General’s Office of upcoming issues so that the State of Indiana can make its position known and recommend action if necessary. And he will seek opportunities for state government to provide testimony to committees and regulatory agencies.
“Lobbyists and special interest groups live in Washington and have regular access to Congress and they often work to undercut the authority of state governments and centralize the authority of the federal government by claiming the states are only a ‘crazy-quilt patchwork’ of inconsistent jurisdictions. From my own experience I know that a physical presence at the Capitol succeeds better in dealing with the federal government than sending a letter,” Zoeller said.
Bramer was a longtime deputy AG who served in various capacities in the Attorney General’s Office from 2002 to 2011 including chief counsel of the Advisory Division that renders legal opinions for state government. He recently returned to work again for the Attorney General’s Office as a deputy AG after serving in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.
“Having met with some of the members of Indiana’s congressional delegation, I am looking forward to this assignment that focuses on the federal government’s impact on our state clients,” Bramer said.
Under an existing state law, Indiana Code 4-6-8-2, the Attorney General’s Office can at the request of an Indiana member of Congress review any congressional bill and prepare a report and analysis on it. In January 2010, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar asked Zoeller’s office for a report on the federal healthcare bill – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – then working its way through Congress. The 55-page report and analysis that Zoeller’s office prepared for Lugar identified constitutional problems with the legislation, and the report later supported the legal challenge that 26 states including Indiana filed against the health care law after it passed.
The United States Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in the law, but – in a partial victory for the states – the Court ruled that the federal government may not tie current Medicaid funding to a state’s willingness to expand its Medicaid program, which releases states from a substantial financial threat. Zoeller said Chief Justice John Roberts’ nuanced majority opinion opens the door to challenges to other programs where the federal government uses its spending power to coerce the states.
“The framers of the U.S. Constitution intended that under the system of federalism, the federal government would respect the sovereign state governments; but in recent years we have seen increasing federal government expansion into the states’ zone of legal authority. Given the sheer volume of bills and amendments to bills in Congress and proposed regulatory actions moving through the arcane federal government bureaucracy that affect the states, it’s important that we have someone on the ground in Washington, D.C. monitoring these changes so that my office, Governor-elect Pence’s Office and our members of Congress and the Legislature have an early warning of potential changes adversely affecting Indiana,” Zoeller said.
For example, Zoeller noted his testimony to a congressional committee in November 2011 in opposition to an amendment to a bill that would have curtailed the states’ ability to regulate “robo-calls,” prerecorded phone solicitations generated with auto-dialer machines. The amendment had been introduced and was working its way through the congressional committee process before Indiana officials became aware of it or its potentially harmful effects on consumers. The amendment eventually was withdrawn, but Zoeller said if the Attorney General’s Office had a presence in Washington, the proposal might have been discovered and opposed earlier. The Attorney General’s Office represents the legal interests of state government and enforces its telephone privacy laws and consumer protection laws.
The state attorneys general in Indiana and other states are at the forefront of challenging federal actions that infringe upon the sovereignty of state governments while working collaboratively with federal law enforcement officials on criminal justice matters that cross jurisdictional lines, such as human trafficking and cyber crimes. Zoeller in April 2012 spoke at a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights panel discussion in Washington, D.C. regarding state efforts to combat human trafficking. Zoeller is one of the state AGs who serves on the Executive Working Group on Prosecutorial Relations with the U.S. Department of Justice in support of law enforcement, prosecutors and the state’s criminal justice system. He also serves on the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force with DOJ that works on consumer protection and combating oil and gas price fraud. And Zoeller on November 15 joined the Federal Trade Commission in Washington to announce a joint crackdown on business opportunity scams.
The deputy AG position will be funded through the Attorney General’s Office’s existing budget under contract for $55,500.
NOTE: Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s February 2010 report on the federal health care legislation, prepared at the request of a member of Congress, is at this link:
NOTE: A short bio of Deputy Attorney General Richard M. Bramer is attached.