The 2014 mid-term elections magnified the polarization between the political parties in Washington, D.C., and between blue and red states. In that respect, the elections signaled continuity in American federalism. Despite their congressional victories, lacking the presidency, Republicans are not in a position to effect major intergovernmental change. Increased Republican strength in the states will heighten state-federal conflicts over core Republican issues, while predominantly Democratic states generally will support federal policies endorsed by President Barack Obama. Whether one regards this state of affairs as obstructive or constructive federalism depends on one’s point of view.
Fiscal conditions for states were somewhat mixed in the 2014 fiscal year as state general fund revenue growth declined due to the impact of the federal fiscal cliff, while total state spending growth accelerated due to increased federal Medicaid funds from the Affordable Care Act. The number of states making midyear budget cuts remained low and states maintained stable rainy day fund levels. In the 2015 fiscal year, states are expecting both revenue and spending to grow slowly, but below the historical rate of growth. It is likely that budget proposals for the 2016 fiscal year and beyond will remain mostly cautious with limited spending growth.
America’s infrastructure needs are great. As concerns about federal transportation programs endure, state governments are making strides to address their needs. While major transportation funding packages got much of the attention in 2013, states are implementing numerous strategies to address needs related to bridges, highways, transit and future funding.
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.
President Barack Obama’s June 2013 executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to develop greenhouse gas emission standards for the nation’s fossil fuel power plants signaled a new era in protection of air quality under the Clean Air Act. For the first time, new and existing power plants will have to meet standards for carbon dioxide emissions under Section 111 of the act. This article explores the environmental and socioeconomic implications of this initiative and how effective it will be in achieving emission reductions.
The long awaited return to normal for the nation’s population growth and migration flows after a long lull that began during the Great Recession has yet to surface. This can be gleaned from a spate of recently released demographic statistics. The continued slowdown has implications for population growth in most states, especially the rapid population gainers of the pre-recession period. The continuing freeze on previously free-flowing migration streams across broad regions of the country suggests a revival will not occur anytime soon.
In December 2013, The Federal Aviation Administration selected six public entities and set a course that will lead to the development of unmanned aircraft systems and the economic,environmental, safety and security benefits that will accompany this research. Congress mandated the test sites to conduct research into the certification and operational requirements required to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace over the next several years.