Capitol Comments

In a 5-4 decision in DHS v. Regents of the University of California, the Supreme Court held that the decision to wind-down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). It is possible the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will try again to end DACA.

DACA was established by DHS during the Obama presidency. The program allows certain undocumented persons who arrived in the United...

The Supreme Court refuses to hear thousands of cases a year. So, the denial of a petition, or even multiple petitions on the same issue, is rarely noteworthy. On Monday the Supreme Court denied nine petitions involving qualified immunity and 10 petitions involving guns. Had the Court accepted any of these petitions the case would have had...

In a 6-3 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County the Supreme Court held that gay and transgender employees may sue their employers under Title VII for discriminating against them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

This case will significantly affect states and local...

The doctrine of qualified immunity protects state and local officials from individual liability unless the official violated a clearly established constitutional right. Some of the police reform bills Congress is considering eliminate qualified immunity for state and local police and correctional officers.

What does it mean for a state or local official to have qualified immunity and what would the impact be if it was eliminated?

The evolution of qualified immunity began in 1871 when Congress adopted 42 U.S.C. § 1983...

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Lomax v. Ortiz that a dismissal without prejudice for failure to state a claim counts as a strike under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing for this result.

The PLRA contains a...

On Friday night, close to midnight, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision rejected a request from a number of California churches to strike down the portion of California governor’s stay-at-home order limiting attendance at places of worship to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote a brief, concurring opinion explaining his vote. First, he noted that the churches face a high bar in obtaining...

CSG Midwest
With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing, and a rise in deaths from the disease, “social distancing” has become a familiar term and way of life across the country. But how is social distancing possible for people whose days are spent in a 6-by-8-foot cell with another person? How can state and local governments maintain public safety while protecting inmates? How can they prevent outbreaks from starting in correctional facilities, and then spreading to the wider community?
These are some of the questions that have vexed criminal justice administrators, inmates, staff and family members for months. 
CSG Midwest
After the end to an unforeseen school year across the Midwest, state and local education leaders now face a new set of challenges and uncertainties as the start of another year looms. “We have been encouraging our district leaders and our school leaders to have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C,” Illinois State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said in May during a Facebook Live discussion organized by Illinois Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch.
“We may see the start of school [in the fall] in a remote fashion. We may see a combination where some children are allowed to come to school on certain days, or where we take the upper grades and are able to spread them out in a school building with social distancing norms. Or we may be able to come back full force.”
CSG Midwest
Name the commodity critical to the Midwest’s agricultural producers and rural communities, and evidence of the devastating, immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is plain to see. Futures prices for hogs and feeder cattle? Down 53 percent and 25 percent, respectively, between the start of this year and beginning of April, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Over that same time period, futures prices fell for ethanol (-33 percent), corn (-20 percent), soybeans (-13 percent), Class III milk (-22 percent) and wheat (-4 percent).
“We are definitely living in uncertain times, with every aspect of our economy affected,” Minnesota Rep. Paul Anderson said in April during a webinar hosted by The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. “Agriculture has taken a big hit from the pandemic, and it will take many months, if not years, to recover.”
One of the takeaways from that webinar: State legislatures can play a central role in helping the Midwest’s farm operations and other rural businesses survive, and recover.
CSG Midwest
Even as the U.S.-Canada border shut down earlier this year to all but trade and the movement of essential workers, the strength and durability of the relationship between the two countries was on display.
“[They] worked as partners to restrict, but not [totally] close, the border,” Chris Sands, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said during a May webinar for state and provincial legislators.
This cooperative effort (which included Mexico, via a separate border agreement with the United States), he said, was “historic.” And looking ahead, as the border begins to “reawaken,” he views the North American trading relationship as potentially more important than ever before.
According to Sands, one of the likely takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic will be a push to change supply chains for essential goods such as medical equipment and supplies — away from producers in markets such as China to those in North America. Not only will this be a deliberate policy shift among governments, he said, some manufacturers “will no longer want to put their supply chains at risk.”

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