Capitol Comments

This week Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 277 which removes the personal belief exemption parents could use to exempt their children from vaccination requirements tied to public school attendance.  When the law becomes effective in 2016, California will become the third state, after Mississippi and West Virginia, to allow vaccination exemption for medical reasons only.  

The Quadrennial Energy Review, or QER, is the federal government’s analysis of energy vulnerabilities. Released in April as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the QER’s goal is to strengthen energy policy by reviewing existing laws and regulations in order to recommend new policies while taking into account numerous perspectives. The first installment focuses on energy infrastructure, particularly transportation, storage and distribution--or TS&D--with additional installments coming every four years. The Department of Energy requested $500 million in the 2016 fiscal year budget as part of a down payment on the QER’s recommendations totaling $16 billion in expenditures.

Eight state legislators from around the country, many of them transportation committee chairs or vice chairs in their respective states, attended the 5th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy May 11-13, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The academy, which took place during Infrastructure Week, included a tour of transportation projects in Northern Virginia, a keynote address by Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn, a luncheon at the D.C. office of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a standing-room-only briefing for Capitol Hill staffers on the importance of continuing federal transportation investment to state and local officials, a conversation with officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation, a dinner with representatives of two of the largest transportation-related membership associations—the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the American Public Transportation Association and a briefing on the status of state exploration of mileage-based user fees. Attendees also took part in a transportation policy roundtable with representatives of ASCE, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Transportation for America, the Eno Center for Transportation, the American Trucking Associations and UPS. Finally, the legislators were able to take part in Infrastructure Week activities including Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. This page includes photos from the three-day academy, the complete agenda for the event and links to web pages where you can read extended excerpts of remarks from many of the speakers.

In Glossip v. Gross the Supreme Court held 5-4 that death row inmates are unlikely to succeed on their claim that using midazolam as a lethal injection drug amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

All death penalty states and the federal government use lethal injection. In Baze v. Rees (2008) the Court approved a three-drug protocol that begins with a sedative, sodium thiopental, followed by a paralytic agent and a drug that causes cardiac arrest. Anti-death penalty advocates have persuaded United States and foreign manufacturers to stop producing sodium thiopental and an alternative, pentobarbital. So, Oklahoma and other states began using midazolam. Oklahoma increased the dose from 100 milligrams to 500 milligrams after Clayton Lockett was moving and talking after being administered 100 milligrams of midazolam. (An investigation into Lockett’s execution concluded that problems establishing IV access was the “single greatest factor that contributed to the difficulty in administering the execution drugs.”)

July 1, 2015 marks a big day for the future of transportation funding in a number of states. Six states see their gas tax rates increase today, the result of not only 2015 legislative actions but also actions that took place in previous years as well as automatic increase mechanisms. Meanwhile, Oregon begins a closely watched program that could determine how transportation will be funded in the years ahead. And a number of state legislatures are in the process of completing work on major transportation funding packages as they prepare to adjourn for the year. It all sets the stage for a month in which Congress must come up with a plan to address federal transportation funding before a July 31st deadline.

                In Michigan v. EPA the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted unreasonably in failing to consider cost when deciding whether regulating mercury emissions from power plants is “appropriate and necessary.” Twenty-three states challenged the regulations.

                The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate air pollution from stationary sources based on how much pollution the source emits. But EPA may only regulate emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants if it finds that regulation is “appropriate and necessary.” EPA found it “appropriate” to regulate mercury emissions because they pose a risk to human health and the environment and controls are available to reduce them. EPA found it “necessary” to regulate mercury emissions because other requirements in the Act did not eliminate these risks.

State legislators attending the fourth annual CSG Medicaid Policy Academy June 17-19, in Washington, D.C., learned how critical Medicaid funding can be to services for vulnerable persons. Dr. Jeffery Brenner, a 2013 winner of a MacArthur Foundation genius award, challenged the group to rationalize the health care system. He described how his project in Camden, N.J. has reduced costs and improved care for patients suffering from a complex set of chronic diseases. Health care workers visit patients in their residences and seek to evaluate not just medical needs but social and emotional needs as well. 

The opinion upholds the constitutionality of the redistricting commission as a method to draw congressional and legislative redistricting lines after a Census.     

Nearly half of state governments in the U.S. use a process outside of the legislature to draw congressional district lines. In the recent 5-4 decision, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Court held that the Constitution’s Elections Clause permits voters to vest congressional redistricting authority entirely in an independent commission. Read more HERE. 

In 5-4 decision in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission the Court held that the Constitution’s Elections Clause permits voters to vest congressional redistricting authority entirely in an independent commission.   

In 2000 Arizona voters adopted Proposition 106 which places all federal redistricting authority in an independent commission. The Elections Clause states:  "[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations . . . .”

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