Capitol Comments

Paid leave laws are only found in three states; California, Rhode Island and New Jersey.  14 states total have leave laws that provide unpaid or paid leave beyond the employee supports found in the federal Family Medical Leave Act, known as FMLA.  The infographic below highlights information on leave laws and the impact they have on employees and employers.  

 

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The New York Times says that the oil industry is in its “deepest downturn since the 1990s, if not earlier”. The price of a barrel of oil has plummeted, falling more 70 percent since mid-2014, and gas prices at the pump have followed – falling from $2.21 one year ago to $1.70 today (AAA). Unfortunately, a drop in energy prices means a headache for several states that rely heavily on severance taxes for revenue.

A majority of states (35) impose at least one form of severance tax, which is a tax on natural resource extraction. While overall severance taxes don’t make up a large percentage of total state taxes collected – 2.1 percent in 2014 – they have very different impacts across the states. For example, in 2014 severance taxes collected ranged from 72 percent of total tax revenue in Alaska and 54 percent of revenue in North Dakota to less than 1 percent in 18 states. In seven states, severance taxes make up 10 percent or more of total tax collections. 

What happened when land on an Indian reservation was opened to settlers? Did the land lose its reservation status? What if an Indian tribe tries to regulate a city now located on that land?

In Solem v. Bartlett (1984) the Supreme Court articulated a three-part test to determine if a reservation has been diminished. Courts must look at “statutory language used to open the Indian lands,” “events surrounding the passage of a surplus land Act,” and “events that occurred after the passage of a surplus land Act.”

In Nebraska v. Parker when the Omaha Tribe tried to enforce its new alcoholic beverages tax in the Village of Pender, Nebraska, the village objected. It claimed it is not located on the Omaha Indian Reservation because Congress diminished the reservation in 1882. The 1882 Act allotted less than 1,000 out of 50,000 acres of the western portion of the reservation to tribe members; the remaining acres were sold to non-Indians.  

Imagine yourself (if you can) on an Alaska moose hunting trip riding along in your hovercraft. Oh no your hovercraft has just broken down! While you are repairing it, three National Park Service (NPS) law enforcement officers inform you that you cannot operate it here because of an NPS regulation banning hovercrafts.

You are shocked because you know that while the portion of the Nation River you are on is contained in a national park, Alaska owns (at least) the land under the Nation River.

So what would you do? John Sturgeon sued.   

On Tuesday evening, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay that stops implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan until the ongoing legal challenges to the rule are resolved by the courts. The 5-4 decision came in response to a request for stay to the U.S. Supreme Court by over two dozen states, utilities, and other industry advocates after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit...

The Supreme Court has issued a stay preventing the Clean Power Plan regulations from going into effect until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court if it chooses to, rules on the regulations.

The Clean Power Plan requires power plants to reduce carbon emissions and establishes state-by-state targets to accomplish this goal.

Food safety in restaurants made headlines last year when E. Coli outbreaks linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill sickened 60 people in 14 states. All Chipotle restaurant locations closed until 3 p.m. Feb. 8, 2016, for an all-staff food safety meeting that was broadcast live. Preventing and controlling foodborne illness outbreaks is a collaborative effort between local and state health departments and federal agencies. 

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) for the first time ever has asked the Supreme Court to accept and decide a case. The SLLC is asking the Court to hear United Student Aid Funds v. Bible and overturn Auer deference to federal agencies.  

In Auer v. Robbins (1997) the Supreme Court reaffirmed its holding in Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co. (1945) that courts must defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own regulations (even if that interpretation is articulated for the first time in an amicus brief during litigation).

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s office has launched its new online voter registration system just in time for the March 1, 2016 Alabama Presidential Primary. This makes Alabama the 30th state, plus the District of Columbia, to offer online voter registration.

Individuals who wish to register to vote in Alabama may either fill out the online registration form or print an application online, both of which would go to county registrar’s offices for final processing. The deadline to register for the Alabama primary is...

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