Capitol Comments

A state trial court judge in South Dakota has ruled that a South Dakota law requiring remote sellers to collect sales tax is unconstitutional. This ruling was expected for precisely the reason the judge stated—a lower court must follow Supreme Court precedent.   

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, decided in 1992, the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. The South Dakota law directly contradicts this precedent.

The 2017 Grazing Fee was released by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at the end of January, and went into effect on March 1. The federal grazing fee is now $1.87 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered and managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The new fee is down 11% from last year’s $2.11 AUM.

On February 28, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a statement regarding the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget that would cuts 30% of funding to State and Tribal Assistance Grant program, also known as STAG.

STAG is a grant program to assist states, tribes, and territories follow EPA regulations and proactively meet environmental issues and initiatives in their areas. This includes projects such as addressing water and infrastructure needs, cleaning up hazardous substances, and creating new climate change...

On Monday, March 6, the House Republicans released the American Health Care Act, the measure intended to fulfill their campaign pledges to repeal and replace the Obama administration Affordable Care Act. Here is the summary provided by the House Republicans. 

Of primary interest to state policymakers, the House plan implements a per capita cap in Medicaid funding, beginning in 2020, based on FFY 2016 spending levels. The House Republican plan has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office so there are no publicly available data on how much this change will cost states and save the federal government.

On March 2, Congress proposed multiple bills focusing on helping states with the area of cybersecurity. One of these bills was the State Cyber Resiliency Act, which aims to establish a cybersecurity grant program that would provide resources for states to develop and implement effective cyber resiliency plans.

“Despite the velocity of the threat, 80% of states lack funding to develop sufficient cybersecurity,” said...

According to a new report from Timothy Bartik, senior economist at the Upjohn Institutestate and local governments more than tripled the incentives - mostly tax credits - they offered businesses in hopes of spurring economic growth between 1990 and 2015. In 2015, those incentives totaled $45 billion and the average incentive package had an annual value of over $2,400 per job.

President Trump signed a revised version of the Executive Order on Immigration yesterday, after the original order was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court. The purpose of the order is to protect U.S. citizens from terrorist attacks, including those committed by foreign nationals. It states that the U.S. will improve screening and vetting and the process of visa issuance. The revised order removes Iraqi citizens from the travel ban and scraps the provision that protected religious minorities. The order also suspends the refugee program for 120 days and lowers the acceptance of refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 a year.

The 2016 Blue Star Families Military Lifestyle Survey summary was released in January 2017. According to the survey, just over half of all military personnel are married, while 36 percent are married with children. Survey respondents indicated family quality of life is the top reason for leaving the service. When asked about their top concerns, 37.9 percent of military spouses site their employment as a major concern.

The Supreme Court will not decide—at least not this term—whether transgender students have a right to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity due to changes in position on this issue from the Obama to Trump administration.

Title IX prohibits school districts that receive federal funds from discriminating “on the basis of sex.” A Title IX regulation states if school districts maintain separate bathrooms (locker rooms, showers, etc.) “on the basis of sex” they must provide comparable facilities for the other sex.

In a 2015 letter the Department of Education (DOE) interpreted the Title IX regulation to mean that if schools provide for separate boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. DOE and the Department of Justice reaffirmed this stance in a May 2016 “Dear Colleague” letter.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) calls Americans who were born internationally and who have never resided in the U.S. “never resided” voters. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act grants eligibility for citizens that live outside of the U.S. to vote for federal offices. However, the jurisdiction in which the voter can cast a ballot relies on their last place of residency in the states. This leaves room for confusion when discussing citizens that have never resided in the United States and therefore do not have a “previous residency.”

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