This article reviews developments in interstate relations pertaining to uniform state laws, interstate compacts and administrative agreements, civil unions and same-sex marriage, and other pertinent interstate legal matters since 2011.

Party polarization continues to sustain gridlock in Washington and produce state-federal tensions. States could reduce Washington’s polarized gridlock by eliminating partisan gerrymandering and reforming primary elections, but states also are more polarized along red and blue lines. Polarization contributes to coercive federalism, and states are on the defensive in their relations with the federal government. State-federal conflicts over the Affordable Care Act, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, REAL ID and other issues marked 2013–14. Many observers tout state innovation as a counterbalance to Washington’s gridlock, but many innovations are polarizing because they are produced by one-party states and thus lack bipartisan traction. The federal government also pre-empts some state innovations and nationalizes others. The U.S. Supreme Court decided eight federalism-relevant cases during its 2012–13 term and four in early 2014, with 10 to be decided as of April 2014.

This year’s Supreme Court docket includes many cases of interest to the states on controversial subjects like affirmative action and legislative prayer and more esoteric subjects like abandoned railroad rights-of-way and federal court abstention.

As of early 2014, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have passed measures permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and two states—Washington and Colorado—have legalized the use, cultivation and distribution of small amounts of marijuana for all adult users. While the federal prohibition of marijuana remains in effect, a growing number of states are considering and implementing other regulatory models for marijuana. This article discusses these trends and looks to the future of federal-state relations in this area.

Has any Supreme Court denial been as big and as suprising as the Court not taking the same-sex marriage case?

For the six reasons Lyle Denniston describes on SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court’s announcement on Monday that it would not hear any of the seven petitions striking down same-sex marriage bans was stunning.  Even though there was no circuit split, conventional wisdom indicated the Court would decide the issue because...

In certain cities across the United States, there is a battle for broadband brewing in the halls of municipal and state legislatures. Currently, 19 states have laws in place that make it difficult for municipal governments to provide broadband service via public power utilities. Cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina are petitioning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to preempt state laws that restrict the right to offer broadband.

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Earlier this year, Roll Call — the news source dedicated to covering Capitol Hill — ran a short headline that summed up much of U.S. policymaking today. "It’s the states, stupid,” the magazine declared. Gridlock continues to reign in the nation’s capital, with power divided among two political parties that have become more ideologically distinct and among members of U.S. Congress who have become more ideologically distant from one another. That contrasts with trends at the state level, where a single party now controls the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in close to 80 percent of state capitols. That is the highest rate of unified government in more than 50 years.

In Comptroller v. Wynne the Supreme Court will determine whether the U.S. Constitution requires states to give a credit for taxes paid on income earned out-of-state. 

Forty-three states and nearly 5,000 local governments tax residents’ income.  Many of these jurisdictions do not provide a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for income taxes paid to other states on income earned out-of-state.  A decision against Maryland’s Comptroller in this case...

On July 24, 2014, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, introduced a discussion draft outlining a plan to reform federal anti-poverty programs. Ryan’s Expanding Opportunity in America proposal aims to consolidate federal programs to reduce redundancy while also granting states more authority in the administration of federal programs in order to improve overall efficiency.

Bond v. United States could have been the biggest federalism rulings from the Supreme Court this term.  But it wasn’t.  Nevertheless federalism underlies the ruling in this narrow case.    

The significant question raised in Bond v. United States is whether the federal government can adopt a statute implementing a treaty that it would not otherwise have the authority to adopt. The Supreme Court did not answer that question.  Instead, it merely held that the Petitioner’s conduct in this case wasn’t covered by the statute.   

Carol Anne Bond, upon discovering her closest friend was pregnant with her husband’s child, placed chemicals on her car door, mailbox, and door knob in the hopes her friend would develop an uncomfortable rash.  Bond was charged with possessing and using a chemical weapon in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, which implements a chemical weapons treaty the United States ratified.

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