Capitol Comments

States and local governments who have sued the Trump administration over the sanctuary jurisdictions executive order, the adding of conditions to receive Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG), and providing documentation to prove they comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 have won all their major claims except one as of June 5.

On June 6 in City of Philadelphia v. Sessions a federal district court became the first to rule that Section 1373 is unconstitutional. This statute prohibits states and local governments from restricting employees from sharing immigration status information with federal immigration officials.

Knowing the ins and outs of interacting with federal agencies is critical for state leaders. Many agencies are large, complex organizations whose sheer size and scope can make it difficult for state officials to know who to contact when problems and questions arise. These challenges can be especially acute when agencies are without key leadership personnel or during presidential transitions when information about who holds decision-making authority may be unclear or unavailable. Despite this, the business of government never stops and a successful relationship between state and federal officials can be an invaluable resource. Below are tips and best practices for building a successful state-federal relationship.

Ranju Das of Amazon recently unveiled a new facial recognition service called Rekognition at a developer conference in Seoul, South Korea. This service is being launched in part with the Orlando, Florida’s police department. This software is capable of live facial recognition and movement tracking using the municipality’s surveillance cameras located around the city. According to a statement from the Orlando Police Department, they are not using the technology in an investigative capacity and in accordance with current and applicable laws.

The home sharing industry is booming and the sharing economy is more than established in many cities across the United States. Companies like Airbnb and Uber are leading the way for the industry’s boom. As expected, property rights will be a hot topic surrounding these companies and property owners for years to come. Efforts made by the states to regulate this industry, promote economic growth and protect the best interests of their constituents will continue to be under a microscope.

On May 23, 2018, following a series of deadly school bus incidents, the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, announced its recommendation to implement seat belts on all new school buses. A 2017 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report showed the average number of school bus related fatalities was 30 deaths per year and that 0.4 percent of national traffic fatalities were school-transportation related.

Former first lady Michelle Obama famously planted a vegetable garden at the White House to model good eating to youngsters. Famous restauranteurs such as Alice Waters have been involved in school garden projects for years. These garden programs feel good but now there is evidence that they may, in fact, do good.

A study soon to be published in Preventive Medicine found that students who grow vegetables in a school garden report increased availability of fruits and vegetables at home, particularly the youngest students. The study results were previewed by Journalist’s Resources, a project of the Harvard Kennedy’s School which curates scholarly studies and reports and makes them available on an open-access site.

A commonly cited argument for occupational licensing reform states that licensing results in restricted employment growth and higher wages for licensed workers, which in turn increases consumer costs. Higher wages benefit licensed workers, but wage disparity leads to inefficiency and unfairness, including reducing employment opportunities and depressing wages for excluded workers.

I have an article in this week’s issue of CSG’s The Current State wrapping up the various perspectives on the prospects for infrastructure investment in 2018 that were proffered during Infrastructure Week last month in Washington. But another topic that received some attention from various I-Week speakers and participants involved something else emphasized in President Trump’s infrastructure plan issued in February: streamlining the process by which infrastructure projects receive the go-ahead to move forward, which can often produce years-long project delays.

In a 7-2 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission the Supreme Court reversed a ruling against the owner of a cake shop who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs. The Court concluded the cake maker was entitled to but did not experience a “neutral decisionmaker who [gave] full and fair consideration to his religious objection.” The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case supporting Colorado.

Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins filed a complaint against Masterpiece Cakeshop claiming it violated Colorado's public accommodations law, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, when it refused to create a wedding cake for them. The cake shop owner Jack Phillips explained:  “to create a wedding cake for an event that celebrates something that directly goes against the teachings of the Bible, would have been a personal endorsement and participation in the ceremony and relationship that they were entering into.”

In 2014, the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, FVAP, found that only an estimated 4% of overseas American citizens were participating in voting. David Beirne, Director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, says that employers of overseas Americans can help further the FVAP mission in ensuring their overseas employees are made aware of the benefits when utilizing FVAP’s resources to register and request an absentee ballot.

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