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.

Federal Judge Rya Zobel issued a preliminary injunction yesterday overturning Gov. Deval Patrick’s ban of the sale of the FDA approved painkiller, Zohydro. She concluded “that the Commonwealth’s emergency order is preempted by federal law.” Further, she stated, "If the Commonwealth were able to countermand the FDA’s...

Just one day after Zogenix, the maker of the new painkiller Zohydro, filed a federal law suit challenging the Massachusetts ban of the drug, the first hearing was held Tuesday.  

U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel, according to the AP, indicated that the drug company may have a point....

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In a case involving management of a watershed hundreds of miles east of his state’s border, and that will be decided by a U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has taken much more than a passing interest.
He is leading a coalition of states that have filed an amicus brief asking the federal court to reject the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to require states in the Chesapeake Bay region to develop processes to reduce nutrient runoff (nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment).

Last week, a group of economists, through the Economic Policy Institute, released a letter urging the president and congressional leadership to raise the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 and hasn't been revised since 2009. The letter states: “July will mark five years since the federal minimum wage was last raised. We urge you to act now and enact a three-step raise of 95 cents a year for three years—which would mean a minimum wage of $10.10 by 2016—and then index it to protect against inflation.”

Alaska Rep. Craig Johnson’s greatest disappointment with politics today is the inability of policymakers to disagree without being enemies. That inability to get along in Washington, D.C., is creating problems in the states, Johnson and other members of The Council of State Governments’ leadership believe.

It’s easy for today’s state leaders to be lured into thinking that the state-federal relationship is at its lowest point ever—beyond repair due to unfunded and underfunded mandates, seemingly capricious regulations and infinite bureaucracy—and that no darker days have occurred. But what state leaders must understand, placing it into perspective, is that these sentiments are not new and the concerns shared by many state leaders today echo those voiced by CSG’s founders in the early 1930s and throughout the past 80 years of American democracy.

Federal court abstention may not rank among the highest priorities with those who care about federalism, including of course, CSG, who is in the midst of a Focus on Federalism Initiative.  However, it was Justice Black (and not me) who described the underpinning of Younger abstention as “Our Federalism” in his 1971 majority opinion in Younger v. Harris

“Our Federalism” “is a system in which there is sensitivity to the legitimate interests of both State and National Governments, and in which the National Government, anxious though it may be to vindicate and protect federal rights and federal interests, always endeavors to do so in ways that will not unduly interfere with the legitimate activities of the States.”

However, “Our Federalism” wasn’t enough in the Court’s most recent Younger abstention ruling.  Sprint Communications Company v. Jacobs was short, unanimous, and issued early in the Court’s Term.  The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case, which CSG joined. 

When the federal government shut down last October, 850,000 federal workers were furloughed for an unprecedented 6.6 million combined days. Forecasters estimated the shutdown cost the economy between $2 and $6 billion in lost output. To end the shutdown, a deal was struck by federal lawmakers. That deal included a deadline by which legislators had to agree on a plan to fund the government or risk another shutdown in January. That deadline is December 13, just a few days away, and it is unclear if federal lawmakers will be able to meet it.

By Anne Stauffer, Director of Fiscal Federalism at The Pew Charitable Trusts
and Former Federal and State Budget Official

The relationship between federal and state finances is complex, not well understood and vital to almost every aspect of Americans’ lives. Federal and state tax dollars jointly support schools, roads, health care, public safety and other key programs. This partnership, however, is under pressure from the enormous fiscal challenges of the past several years and the ongoing fiscal uncertainty at the federal level. An informed conversation using real data on the state impact of federal policies could help policymakers make the tough choices required to put all levels of government on a path to fiscal stability.

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