Romney Presses for States' Rights

The Associated Press
Thursday, August 23, 2007; 2:32 PM

RENO, Nev. -- GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney took a strong states' rights stance Wednesday on Western issues of water, mining and public lands, saying he's against "heavy-handed" intrusion by the federal government.

States' rights also take precedence in the abortion debate for Romney, a conservative and a Mormon who's against abortion and would like to see the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling overturned. He said in an interview with The Associated Press that states should "fashion their own laws with regard to abortion. That's what I think the next step should be."

Romney listed education as an area in which states should have a strong voice. Discussing the federal No Child Left Behind Act, he said he supports the act's role in spotting "failing" schools _ but wants "greater state flexibility in the (student) testing process."

"We've suffered too many years of Washington politicians thinking they know the best for people of other states," he told the AP.

"I'm a governor," the former Massachusetts governor said. "I come with the perspective of the states. I'm not a lifelong senator or congressman who has been imbued with the false reality that Washington knows best."

The candidate also said he backed "the rights of states to reach their own agreements ... with respect to water rights" _ although he'd want to study legal arguments about overriding federal rights raised by the Justice Department in a dispute over water for a proposed nuclear waste dump in Nevada.

Romney, who didn't take a firm stance Tuesday on the federal dump proposed for Yucca Mountain 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, said Wednesday that it's possible such a dump might not be needed if there's extensive reprocessing of spent nuclear fuels and development of new nuclear power plants.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently promised to fight construction of any coal-fired power plants in Nevada, but Romney said: "That doesn't make a lot of sense to me."

"We need to become an energy-independent nation. Coal is a major source of energy for this nation," Romney said, adding that a better course would be to "insist on clean-burning technologies."

Romney has ranked coal alongside ethanol, biofuels and nuclear energy as alternatives to foreign oil.

On another subject, Romney said he doesn't know exactly how the manager of his blind trust is sorting out conflicts between his investments and his policy positions. One reported move by the manager was to sell off stocks in gambling companies.

"If I had (control of) my own investment portfolio, I would not be averse to having a gaming stock," said Romney, who placed his assets in the blind trust after his election as Massachusetts governor in 2002. He and his wife Ann have assets worth from $190 million to $250 million, advisers say.

© 2007 The Associated Press