Capitol Comments

The upcoming July 4th holiday marks an excellent opportunity to sit back and reflect on the state of civics instruction in public schools. It's easy to see young people standing on sidewalks waving flags during holiday parades or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the school day and believe students are universally receiving a solid civics education in school. Despite these images there is overwhelming evidence that the quantity and quality of civics education a student receives in school depends to a large extent on where he or she lives.

It may not exactly be a case of educational vigilantism in the strictest definition. However, in California parents armed with petitions, not pitchforks, are engaged in a heated battle to turn an historically underperforming public elementary school into a charter school, against the wishes of the local school board.

At least 14 states have recently considered legislation that would empower parents to fire principals and teachers at poorly performing schools, or even close the school or turn it into a charter school merely with the stroke of a pen . The controversial issue, commonly referred to as a “parent trigger” has already been enacted in California. Versions are being considered in New York and Texas, among other states.

Yesterday, opponents of Ohio's recently-passed collective bargaining law marched through the streets of Columbus to deliver almost 1.3 million signatures, more than enough they say to put a repeal question on the November ballot.  

California’s new requirement for online out-of-state retailers to collect state and local sales tax on goods purchased goes into effect tomorrow. While it is estimated to bring in an additional $317 million annually, online retailers such as Amazon and have cleverly taken steps to avoid such collections.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, marking the first time an appellate court has ruled on the question.  The three-judge circuit court panel dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim that the mandate exceeds Congress’ powers and further dismissed the argument that the provision amounts to “regulating inactivity.”  

Today marks the 55th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s signing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which created the Interstates and the Highway Trust Fund. The anniversary has many transportation experts weighing in on where the nation’s highway system stands today and what might lie in store for its future, including as it relates to the next federal surface transportation authorization bill. Here’s a sampling of opinion.

Guest Author: Rick Masters, CSG Special Counsel for Interstate Compacts

When is Congressional Consent required?
The determination of whether congressional consent is required depends upon the applicability of the compact clause of the U.S. Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 10, Cl. 3).  Despite the wording of this provision, not all interstate compacts require the consent of congress, only those which interfere or conflict with some enumerated power granted to the federal government under the Constitution. 

U.S. District Judge Pratt issued an injunction Friday prohibiting Indiana from withholding federal Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood clinics that provide women’s health services. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that the Indiana attorney general’s spokesperson says the state will most likely appeal.

The judge’s ruling would seem to support the position of the federal Medicaid administration that such a restriction is illegal under federal Medicaid law. Indiana’s entire Medicaid program was potentially at risk when it moved to implement the new state law.

The US Supreme Court has upheld an appellate ruling that California cannot regulate the sale or rental of violent video games to children.

CSG Research & Expertise in the News: 6/19-6/25, 2011

The following compilation features published news stories during the week of June 19-25 that highlight experts and/or research from The Council of State Governments. For more information about any of the experts or programs discussed, please contact CSG at (800) 800-1910 and you will be directed to the appropriate staff.  Members of the press should call (859) 244-8246.