By Ana Beatriz Goncalves and Leslie Haymon

Severe wildfires in northern California have leveled homes and killed residents, while other fires continue to rage across several other Western states. As the recovery and rebuilding begin, Congress continues to examine the best way to prevent and mitigate wildfires in the West. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works met on September 27 to consider three wildfire related pieces of legislation...

CSG Midwest
A disagreement in Minnesota over tax and budget issues this spring led to a surprising action — a line-item veto by Gov. Mark Dayton of the $130 million appropriation for the House and Senate.

The Speaker’s Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs, a bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers met on October 12, to examine the historical development of federalism. Witnesses were Heather Gerken, Dean at Yale Law School, Timothy Conlan, Professor of Government at George Mason University, and Matthew Spalding, Associate Vice President and Dean of Educational Programs for Hillsdale College.

When the federal government issues regulations or passes legislation without proper consultation with state leaders, state priorities may be adversely impacted and problems result. An active and lively federalism requires greater interaction and cooperation between federal policymakers and states to assure the state’s needs and goals are met. The Intergovernmental Affairs Committee will take an in-depth look at how states and the federal government work together during the policymaking process, and will examine what effective “consultation” should look like.

South Dakota has filed a petition in South Dakota v. Wayfair asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to its law requiring out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax.

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax.

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.” 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 and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors.

The Fifth Amendment says no person shall be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” The question the Supreme Court will decide in Hays, Kansas v. Vogt is whether the Fifth Amendment is violated when a public employee’s compelled, self-incriminating statements are used against him or her at a probable cause hearing rather than at a trial. 

In Garrity v. New Jersey (1967) the Supreme Court held that public employers violate the Fifth Amendment when they give employees a choice between “self-incrimination or job forfeiture,” which is what Matthew Vogt claimed happened to him.

All eyes and ears were focused on Justice Kennedy during the Supreme Court’s oral argument in Gill v. Whitford. In this case the Court is asked to decide whether and when it is possible to bring a claim that partisan gerrymandering (redistricting to advantage one political party) is unconstitutional.

In the 2012 election, Republican candidates in Wisconsin received less than 49% of the statewide vote and won seats in more than 60% of the state’s assembly districts; and, in 2014, 52% of the vote yielded 63 seats for Republicans.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there were 886,814 total approved cumulative initial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) cases as of March 31, 2017. Texas (124,300) and California (222,795) have the largest percentage of cases with more than 44 percent of approved DACA recipients in total. Illinois (42,376) and New York (41,970) came in third and fourth. Four states – Maine, Montana, North Dakota, and Vermont – have fewer than 100 recipients each. An additional six states have fewer than 1,000 recipients each. The median number of recipients across all states and the District of Columbia is 6,255. 

In 2016 the Supreme Court was expected to overrule a nearly 40-year old precedent requiring public sector employees who don’t join the union to pay their “fair share” of collective bargaining costs. Justice Scalia died shortly after the Court heard oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The Court ultimately issued a 4-4 decision which, practically speaking, kept Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) on the books.

With a ninth Justice now on the bench the Supreme Court has agreed to try again to decide whether to overturn Abood in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. More than 20 states authorize fair share for public sector employees.

Following its predictable loss before the South Dakota Supreme Court, South Dakota is expected to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that its law requiring out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax is constitutional. Doing so will require the U.S. Supreme Court to take the unusual step of overruling 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.

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