Federalism

Puerto Rico, home of 3.5 million American citizens, is struggling to handle over $72 billion in debt. For many years, the U.S. territory borrowed money by issuing municipal bonds to compensate for declining government revenue. But now Puerto Rico cannot afford to pay back their investors. The territory cannot file for Chapter 9...

On June 7, Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who served as the 2014 CSG national chair, testified before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Affairs at a hearing regarding “Oversight of EPA Unfunded Mandates on State, Local, and Tribal Governments.” The hearing was a continuation of the subcommittee’s oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency’s rulemaking process and examined the agency’s compliance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, or UMRA, and the impact of unfunded mandates on state, local and tribal governments. 

Chapter 2 of the 2016 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

The diversity of policy experimentation and accountable governance made possible by the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has enabled our nation to thrive despite the changing needs of a global economy. Given the importance of federalism to our future, it is essential that The Council of State Governments dedicate itself to preserving the role of the states as the “laboratories of democracy” and work both to limit unnecessary federal intrusions into areas of state responsibility and to foster effective cooperation in areas of shared jurisdiction.

On May 1, Puerto Rico defaulted on a $422 million bond payment to little fanfare. Congress now has a brief window to address the commonwealth’s lack of options before a $2 billion payment is due July 1—a default that would likely not pass so quietly.

In March 2015 Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” A new challenge coming out of South Dakota might be just the case Justice Kennedy had in mind. 

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. Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the State and Local Legal Center stated in its amicus brief. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Feb. 13 came at an uncertain time in our nation’s history, as we are quickly approaching a presidential election. Unsurprisingly, while some of the news coverage has focused on the substance of his nearly 30-year career as a Supreme Court justice, much of it has focused on the challenges of replacing him. The public knew Justice Scalia as a conservative, particularly on social issues like abortion, the death penalty and same-sex marriage. Attorneys will remember Justice Scalia as an “originalist,” who believed that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted as the founders intended, and a “textualist,” who interpreted laws by looking only at the words on the page. Court watchers admired Justice Scalia’s beautifully written, clear and often colorful opinions. But what was Justice Scalia’s impact on state and local governments?

A challenge to President Obama’s immigration deferral program and (another) challenge that could harpoon the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could make it on the Supreme Court’s docket this term and be decided by the end of June.

For the first time at the Supreme Court’s private conference on January 15 it will consider petitions in United States v. Texas (immigration) and Sissel v. Department of Health and Human Services (ACA).

The Court will have three choices: grant the petitions, deny the petitions, or postpone making a decision until a later conference. If it postpones a decision in either case, it must decide at the January 22 conference to accept the cases or they will be heard next term (assuming the petitions are ultimately granted). 

CSG Director of Federal Affairs Andy Karellas outlines the top five issues in federal affairs policy for 2016, including fiscal uncertainty, federal regulations and intergovernmental coordination, unfunded mandates, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. 

Congress finished 2015 on an unusually productive streak – at least compared to recent years – by passing a variety of legislation important to state governments, including funding the highway trust fund, reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now called the Every Student Succeeds Act), reauthorizing the highly debated Export-Import Bank, extending a variety of tax incentive provisions, and funding the federal government through September 2016.  Going into a presidential election year, many experts do not expect Congress to act on major policy initiatives before November, and are closely watching what President Obama will do in his final year in office. 

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