A federal court case arising out of Vermont could have dramatic implications for state sovereignty and the ability of legislatures to regulate corporate activities within their borders. Nine states and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) are standing in support of the State of Vermont in the U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit. Vermont is appealing a controversial lower court ruling that, if upheld, would overturn decades of case law defining how courts determine legislatures’ “intent” and whether their actions are preempted by federal authority. Should Vermont lose, NCSL predicts a chilling effect in legislatures across the country and a move toward limiting public debate and open government.
This week, as the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) convened its annual States & Nation Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, labor, civil rights, and activist groups took advantage of the opportunity to highlight ALEC’s role in advancing conservative legislation on everything from voter ID to SB 1070 copycat bills. National groups such as Common Cause and MoveOn joined the state AFL-CIO, Occupy Phoenix, and others to plan five days’ worth of events during the duration of the conference to highlight the detrimental effects that ALEC-backed policies have had on the economic security of families in both Arizona and states across the country — and to warn about elements of their destructive agenda that may be introduced in coming legislative sessions.
In recent weeks, public workers have been targeted in states across the nation by a corporate-funded, national right wing movement seeking to capitalize on the effects of the economic downturn on state budgets by stripping workers of many hard-won rights, including the right to collectively bargain. Now, the same groups who have campaigned to demonize public workers are deploying a new tactic to intimidate those who dare speak out in support of the middle class: broad and politically motivated Freedom of Information Requests seeking the personal emails of professors and other employees at public academic institutions.
The morning after Election Day, conservative candidates across the country woke up to find themselves the beneficiaries of an historic national wave of voter anger over the state of the economy and record unemployment. Yet in the first few weeks after this clear voter statement of frustration over the economy, conservative state lawmakers across the fifty states are already making it clear that their legislative priorities next year will include pushing a divisive social agenda - an agenda that remained largely hidden during the campaign.
While the right wing continues their rhetoric to repeal, many of the same states calling loudly in both legislatures and courts for the law's rejection are simultaneously preparing to implement it and benefiting from the opportunities the health care overhaul provides them. In fact, a Department of Health and Human Services release revealed that, of the 20 states who have joined the constitutionally dubious multi-state lawsuit seeking to overturn the health care law, eight of them - Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, and Washington - were claiming subsidies for retired state government employees provided by the very law their states are arguing should be thrown out by the courts.
The challenge for progressives from this “states rights” movement is not that any of these laws are likely to survive in court, but that conservatives too often get away with claiming to stand for constitutional values without significant challenge from progressives. The reality is that the right wing has no credibility in promoting their states’ rights arguments and should be challenged more directly. As this Dispatch will outline, their arguments fail on multiple grounds.
In the weeks following the signing of the Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act, lawsuits
challenging the constitutionality of health care reform were joined by
multiple, conservative Attorneys General from states across the nation,
despite widespread condemnation that such challenges were frivolous, wasteful, and
certain to fail in the courts. In early April, Secretary of Health
and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius commented
that she believed the lawsuits had "more to do with politics than
The drumbeat of research papers, talking heads and issue briefs
attacking the scientific consensus around climate change has been
carefully bankrolled by the oil and gas industry. This includes Koch
Industries, the energy industry giant and second-largest
privately held corporation in the country, which is a key funder of a
vast network of right-wing groups -- including many focused on state
policy -- who have promoted climate change denial, according to a recent report released by Greenpeace.
PSN has noted in previous Dispatches, these credits are costly, favor out-of-state workers, offer minimal to no returns, do not create permanent jobs, and place an excessive burden on taxpayers in a time of economic uncertainty. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue recently determined that in twelve states that administer a film tax credit, the return is extremely meager-- finding that states were only getting back "$.0.07 to $.0.28 per dollar of tax credit granted."
Over 70 members of the House of Representatives vociferously opposed ARRA, but returned to their home districts to take credit for job creation, investments in infrastructure and the green economy, and spending on critical community needs. Many of these same lawmakers requested further federal funds for projects in their states.