Capitol Comments

In Foster v. Humphries the Supreme Court will decide whether potential black jurors were purposely excluded in violation of Batson v. Kentucky.

In 1987 Timothy Tyrone Foster, who is black, was sentenced to death for murdering an elderly white woman. The jury was all-white; the prosecutor peremptorily struck all four prospective black jurors.  Prosecutors may strike a number of jurors for any unstated reason except because of race and sex, the Supreme Court has held.

A highly contagious strain of of avian influenza, or “bird flu”, hit the United States this year, leading at least 11 states—including Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—to ban all bird shows this summer where birds might co-mingle, such as county or state fairs, in the hopes of stopping the spread of the disease. As of late-May, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the highly pathogenic H5 virus has led to the deaths of more than 40 million birds in 15 states.

Next month, state and federal officials and representatives of the private sector will converge on New York City for the InfraAmericas U.S. P3 Infrastructure Forum 2015, an annual conference assessing the state of public-private partnerships in infrastructure. In anticipation of that event, here’s a roundup of recent news on P3 projects around the country. I have items on when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan might decide the fate of a P3 light rail project, why a new Cape Cod bridge might be closer to reality and why an Ohio bypass may cost more than originally advertised. Plus details on how you can register to attend the InfraAmericas forum to join the conversation on this important tool many state policymakers are turning to as they seek to meet the nation’s infrastructure needs.

The U.S. Constitution Equal Protection Clause’s “one-person one-vote” principle requires that voting districts have roughly the same population so that votes in each district count equally. But what population is relevant—total population or total voting population—and who gets to decide? The Supreme Court will decide these issues in Evenwel v. Abbott.

Janet Kavinoky is the Executive Director for Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC and Vice President of the Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition. Pat Thomas is Vice President of Global Public Affairs for UPS and currently serves as First Vice Chairman at the American Trucking Associations. Both were speakers at a transportation policy roundtable May 12 in Washington as part of the 2015 CSG Transportation Policy Academy. In these excerpted portions of their remarks to state legislators attending the academy, they spoke about why both of their organizations support a federal gas tax increase, why Congress hasn’t been able to reach agreement on a plan to meet the nation’s infrastructure investment needs, what it may take to convince them to do so and how predicted changes ahead for freight transportation makes a national focus on the issue imperative.

Joung Lee is the Policy Director at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in Washington, DC. He was among the speakers at a policy roundtable CSG hosted May 12 in Washington as part of the 2015 Transportation Policy Academy. During these portions of his remarks, Lee spoke to state legislators attending the academy about why the federal Highway Trust Fund faces insolvency again this summer and some of the options Congress could consider to address the situation.

While the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which regulates private employer retirement plans, does not apply to state and local government retirement plans--a fiduciary duty does. A lower court determining the precise nature of the fiduciary duty state and local governments owe employees under a state law similar to ERISA regulating public retirement plans may look to the Supreme Court’s opinion in Tibble v. Edison International.  In this case the Court held unanimously that employers have a continuing duty to monitor retirement investments and remove imprudent ones.   

In a 5-4 decision in Comptroller v. Wynne the Supreme Court held that Maryland’s failure to offer residents a full credit against income taxes paid to other states is unconstitutional. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC)/International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) filed an amicus brief in support of Maryland. 

Maryland taxes residents’ income earned in- and out-of-state. If Maryland residents pay income tax to another state for income earned there, Maryland allows them a credit against Maryland’s “state” tax but not its “county” tax. Maryland also taxes nonresident income earned in the state. Nonresidents pay Maryland “state” tax and a “special nonresident tax” equivalent to Maryland’s lowest “county” tax.

Brian Pallasch is the managing director for government relations and infrastructure initiatives at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in Washington, DC. He was among the presenters at a policy roundtable CSG hosted on May 12 as part of the 2015 Transportation Policy Academy in Washington. During these excerpts from his remarks, he discusses ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the economic costs of not investing in infrastructure, why ASCE supports an increase in the federal gas tax and a permanent fix for the Highway Trust Fund and why he believes a proposal to eliminate the federal role in transportation is a bad idea.

If you know anything about the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) you know that it files amicus briefs in U.S. Supreme Court cases affecting state and local government. The SLLC made an exception and filed an amicus brief in a federal circuit court of appeals case because of the importance of the issue to SLLC members.

In Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl the Tenth Circuit will decide whether Colorado’s law requiring remote sellers to inform Colorado purchasers annually of their purchases and send the same information to the Colorado Department of Revenue is unconstitutional. At least three other states have similar notice and reporting requirements (Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Vermont).

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