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.

Econ Piggy

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). 

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. 

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. 

This term the Supreme Court has taken two cases from California involving arbitration clauses. One has been decided, the other will be decided later this term. Both cases are of interest to states as they involve preemption of state law by the Federal Arbitration Act.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, The Council of State Governments supports efforts by Congress to regulate e-commerce through legislation that allows States to enforce their existing sales and use tax laws, regardless of the method of transaction, and to collect taxes under state law.

Civics education stands at the core of what it takes to equip citizens with the knowledge and willingness to become community, state, national and international leaders. Without such civic fundamentals, the youth of today may not vote or run for public office tomorrow, and the future participation of citizens in America’s grand democratic experiment is called into question. As part of CSG’s ongoing work to explore the challenges of federalism, this session featured experts and policymakers to discuss how states are teaching future generations about the role of state and federal governments and civic engagement.

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