Capitol Comments

In Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar the Supreme Court held 5-4 that a Florida statute prohibiting judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions does not violate the First Amendment. Thirty of the 39 states that elect (rather than appoint) trial or appellate judges prohibit judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign funds. 

In Mach Mining v. EEOC the Supreme Court held unanimously that a court may review whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) satisfied its statutory obligation to attempt to conciliate employment discrimination claims before filing a lawsuit.

The Court’s decision is favorable to employers, including state and local governments, who benefit from the EEOC’s statutory mandate to try to resolve employment discrimination cases before suing employers. If the EEOC fails to try to conciliate employers may sue the EEOC.   

On April 28th the Supreme Court held oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Court will decide whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry and if they don’t whether states may refuse to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed out of state. As usual swing-Justice Kennedy’s vote will be crucial in this case. And as usual Justice Kennedy’s questions during oral argument didn’t give a clear answer as to what he is thinking.

Florida’s Gov. Scott took the Obama administration to federal court on April 28, claiming that they are attempting to force the state to expand Medicaid by threatening to withdraw other federal health funds.

There is no question that dental sealants prevent tooth decay and school sealant programs have been found to reduce the incidence of tooth decay by an average of 60 percent. 

The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report that grades states on how well they are reaching third graders, whether high-need schools are providing dental sealant programs and what other state policies are in place to encourage this evidence-based...

The Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling in Oneok v. Learjet is a solid win for states, consumer protection, and the Ninth Circuit. The Court held the Natural Gas Act does not preempt state-law antitrust lawsuits alleging price manipulation that affect both federally regulated wholesale natural-gas prices and nonfederally regulated retail natural-gas prices.

Historically, federal regulation of the natural-gas industry has been divided into three segments:  production, interstate gas pipelines (wholesale), and local gas distribution (retail). The federal Natural Gas Act regulates only the second segment—the interstate shipment of gas including rate setting—states regulate the other segments. Since deregulation in the 1970s, pipeline wholesalers have sold natural gas at market rate based on price indices of voluntarily reported data of natural gas sales. In 2003 the indices were found to be inaccurate because natural-gas traders had been reporting false data. 

In this week’s issue of The Current State, CSG’s weekly e-newsletter, I write about the factors that allowed Georgia and Iowa to be successful this year in passing legislation to fund transportation. Georgia and Iowa are two of the five states that have passed major funding measures so far this year. Iowa Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tod Bowman and Georgia House Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts told me that gubernatorial leadership, uncertainty about what’s going to happen at the federal level and the lessons of past failures all played a role in their 2015 success. In this unused portion of my interviews with the lawmakers, they also suggest an inclusive process helped pave the way to success. I also have items on Georgia’s new electric vehicle fees and South Dakota’s road to success as well as a look at some key meetings coming up this Spring.

In a 6-3 decision in Rodriguez v. United States the Supreme Court held that a dog sniff conducted after a completed traffic stop violates the Fourth Amendment. 

Officer Struble pulled over Dennys Rodriguez after he veered onto the shoulder of the highway and jerked back on the road. Officer Struble ran a records check on Rodriguez, then questioned his passenger and ran a records check on the passenger and called for backup, and next wrote Rodriguez a warning ticket. Seven or eight minutes passed between Officer Struble issuing the warning, back up arriving, and Officer Struble’s drug-sniffing dog alerting for drugs.  Rodriguez argued that prolonging the completed traffic stop without reasonable suspicion in order to conduct the dog sniff violated the Fourth Amendment.

CSG Midwest
When it comes to improving health outcomes, many policymakers look first to strategies that can provide better care for people who are ill. But some experts argue that medical care itself accounts only for a small part of positive health outcomes. The vast majority of interventions that can make people healthier, and reduce spending on health care, need to happen long before someone enters a doctor’s office.
That’s why states across the Midwest are exploring ways to address so-called “social determinants” to health — from low levels of income and education, to high levels of community violence, to a lack of access to housing and transportation.
CSG Midwest
Of all the bills considered and signed into law so far this year in the Midwest’s state capitols, one has captured the most attention around the country: Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Passed by comfortable margins (mostly along partisan lines) in the Republican-led House and Senate, SB 101 was signed into law in late March.
What followed were calls for boycotts of Indiana (Connecticut’s governor, for example, signed an executive order banning state-funded travel there), concerns raised by top business leaders, and a front-page editorial in The Indianapolis Star to “Fix This Now.” The backlash over Indiana’s RFRA centered on its potential impact on gay and lesbian rights. Would a business, for example, be legally protected if it refused to provide services to a gay patron or same-sex couple?

Pages