Capitol Comments

In March 2015 Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” A new challenge coming out of South Dakota might be just the case Justice Kennedy had in mind. 

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, decided in 1992, the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the State and Local Legal Center stated in its amicus brief. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors.

May 1-7 is National Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to recognize the critical role that America's public school teachers play in educating and developing our children and youth. Here's a look at America's teaching workforce, by the numbers.

According to April 27, 2016 data from the CDC, all cases of Zika virus in the 50 states and the District of Columbia are related to travel to affected areas. The CDC reports 496 cases confirmed by laboratory testing in the U.S. In just six states no case of Zika has yet been reported.  

There is another story in the U.S. territories. Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa report 596 cases of locally acquired Zika virus. In February, the first U.S. death from Zika virus was recorded. A 70 year old man in...

Last week’s settlement by the rideshare company Uber of a pair of class action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts means the company won’t have to change a key part of its business model … at least for now. I also have items about Uber’s involvement in a new lobbying group to promote autonomous vehicles, a new report on how ridesharing services could help fill the gaps in low-income communities not well served by transit and how some communities are trying to deal with the issues presented in allowing Uber to operate in their jurisdictions while protecting the interests of others. Plus updates on a couple of key conferences later this year you might want to attend.

The benefits of e-cigarettes outweigh their potential harms the British Royal College of Physicians concluded after a comprehensive review of the current scientific research on e-cigarettes. The college's April 28 report, reported in Britain by the BBC and in the U.S. by the New York Times, concludes e-cigarettes are "much safer" than smoking conventional cigarettes and can be an important aid to quit smoking.

In Heffernan v. City of Paterson, New Jersey the Supreme Court held 6-2 that a public employer violates the First Amendment when it acts on a mistaken belief that an employee engaged in First Amendment protected political activity. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief taking the opposite position.  

The Court assumed the following facts in this case:  Police officer Jeffery Heffernan worked in the office of the police chief. The mayor was running for reelection against a friend of Heffernan’s, Lawrence Spagnola. Heffernan was demoted after another member of the police force saw Heffernan picking up a Spagnola yard sign and talking to the Spagnola campaign manager and staff. Heffernan was picking up the sign for his bedridden mother.

Since August 2015, three major coal companies--Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and, most recently, Peabody Energy--have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In addition to raising questions about potential layoffs, losses in benefits for employees, mine closures and reductions in state tax revenue, these bankruptcies have left state regulators and the public questioning how these bankruptcies will affect the companies’ mine reclamation obligations.

While in office former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell accepted more than $175,000 in money and luxury goods from Jonnie Williams. Williams wanted a Virginia state university to test a dietary supplement his company, Star, had developed.  A jury found McDonnell guilty of violating a number of federal bribery statutes.

In McDonnell v. United States McDonnell essentially claims he did not do enough to help Williams to be guilty of bribery. From his brief: “[t]his case marks the first time in our history that a public official has been convicted of corruption despite never agreeing to put a thumb on the scales of any government decision.”

For Earth Day 2016, EPA is focusing on the issue of food recovery. About 40 percent of the nation’s food supply is lost or wasted, which results in decreased food security, adds unnecessary waste to landfills, and adds to methane emissions, which contribute to climate change. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food loss and waste is estimated to cost retailers and consumers about $161 billion each year.

In Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission the Supreme Court confirms that state and local governments don’t have to apportion legislative districts perfectly, but they do need a good reason for failing to doing so. But we knew that before.  

The Court held unanimously that Arizona’s redistricting plan, which had a total population deviation among districts of 8.8 percent, wasn’t unconstitutional. Those attacking the plan failed to show it is more probable than not that the deviation reflects illegitimate reapportionment considerations.

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