Capitol Comments

Beginning in the mid-2000s numerous states, including North Carolina, adopted “Jessica’s” laws requiring GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders.  Since then, as GPS has become more common and more inexpensive, state and local governments have begun using it to monitor other categories and kinds of offenders.  Most recently, NCSL reports that some states are using it as an alternative to pretrial detention.  

In a per curiam (unauthored) opinion the Supreme Court concluded in Grady v. North Carolina that satellite-based monitoring (SBM) for a recidivist sex offender is a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.  The Court left it to the lower court to decide whether it is an unreasonable, and therefore unconstitutional, search.

In 2012 in Miller v. Alabama the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states may not mandate that juvenile offenders be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In Montgomery v. Louisiana the Court will decide whether Miller is retroactive; that is, whether it should apply to those convicted before the case was decided. 

This case will be decided next term (by the end of June 2016).  The Court agreed to hear a case raising the exact same issue, also from Louisiana, this term.   Toca v. Louisiana was dismissed when George Toca was released from prison after pleading guilty to two counts of armed robbery in exchange for his murder conviction being vacated.   

In Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center the Supreme Court held 5-4 that Medicaid providers cannot rely on the Supremacy Clause or equity to sue states to enforce a Medicaid reimbursement statute. 

The Court’s rejection of a private cause of action under the Supremacy Clause has implications well beyond this case.  Had the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, the Supremacy Clause would have provided a cause of action for every federal statute that arguably conflicts with state law.  

With record low voting turnouts, adequate proposals to ease voter registration are being discussed by various states. Such regulatory changes are expected to increase voter turnout and have acquired much support from the American public thus far. This month, Oregon became the first state to use data from their Department of Motor Vehicles for the purpose of automatically registering voters.  

Young v. United Parcel Service presents a dilemma most employers, including state and local governments, can relate to.  What should an employer do if a pregnant employee’s job requires that she lift an amount well above what her doctor has approved during pregnancy? 

The specific issue the Court had to decide in this case was whether an employer violated Title VII because it accommodated many but not all nonpregnancy-related disabilities but...

In the March/April issue of Capitol Ideas, I wrote about how the state of Utah has used transportation investment to drive the state’s economic growth. Among those I talked with were two legislators—one a civil engineer, the other an economist—as well as a planning official for the Utah Department of Transportation. But there is plenty more to the story of Utah’s success as I learned in this February interview with Abby Albrecht of the Utah Transportation Coalition, which arrived too late to be included in the published article. The coalition is an organization formed by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Utah Association of Counties.

In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama the Supreme Court held 5-4 that when determining whether unconstitutional racial gerrymandering occurred—if race was a “predominant motivating factor” in creating districts—one-person-one-vote should be a background factor, not a factor balanced against the use of race.  And Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) does not require a covered jurisdiction to maintain a particular percent of minority voters in minority-majority districts.  The Court sent this case back to the lower court to reconsider in light of its opinion.

Econ Piggy

In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress officially designated the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” In honor of this month, here are a few stats about women in the United States.

I learned a few things last week when I was visiting with Indiana Rep. Ed Clere, one of the new co-chairs of CSG’s Health Public Policy Committee.

  • That week, the state announced the 100,000th person enrolled in the Medicaid expansion waiver, called HIP 2.0 in Indiana, after the program opened less than a month before. Indiana had three Medicaid managed care organizations already engaged in the state and the state Medicaid office and the
  • ...

The comment period closed for the EPA's proposed update to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone on March 17th. Based on recommendations from EPA’s science advisers and staff, the EPA is expected to announce a more stringent standard, likely in the range of 70 to 60 parts per billion, down from the 2008 standard of 75 parts per billion...

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