NEW YORK — Today, Progressive States Network (PSN) lauded
President Obama's decision to accept California's tough new 35.5
miles-per-gallon fuel emissions standards. The group hailed today's
victory as a landmark example of states' power to set national policy
by outpacing federal legislation.
Said PSN's Interim Executive Director, Nathan Newman, "The spin from
auto industry executives is that Obama's decision demonstrates the
wisdom of letting the federal government set a unified national
standard instead of a 'patchwork' of state regulations. In fact, the
complete opposite is true. If it weren't for California pushing to set
standards that outpaced the Bush Administration's pitifully low ones,
there would be no new regulatory framework to enact today."
In a much anticipated decision, Wyeth v. Levine,
the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision upheld states' right to hold the
drug industry accountable for not adequately warning consumers and
prescribers of a drug's impact. The pharmaceutical industry had argued
that Federal Drug Administration approval of a drug's warning label
pre-empts state claims of injury based on the failure by a company to
warn of additional dangers not covered by the FDA-approved label. The
court rejected this argument.
For years, states have increasingly seen their hands tied by a federal government declaring that preemption voids state consumer, environmental and labor rights laws. The Bush administration in particular used its regulatory authority aggressively to block state law after state law.
The results have been catastrophic. Despite the myth that "no one saw the subprime meltdown coming," the reality is that thirty states enacted laws to rein in abuses by predatory lenders. However, the Bush administration used its regulatory authority over banks to shut down most of those predatory lending laws in the courts. This is just the most dramatic example of how preemption allowed the federal government to enforce its own inaction on state governments at the behest of corporate interests.
In a positive step forward for federal respect of state regulatory powers, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider a previously denied waiver to allow California to set more stringent auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required by federal law. In a statement by the White House, President Obama said "the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." The directive represents not only greater respect for state authority, but also a sharp break from the climate policies of President Obama's predecessor.
The new federal mental health parity law, passed as part of the recent $700 billion financial bailout
package, is a real piece of help for families around the country. Even
better, the law will not preempt stronger state parity legislation. The
law will help states achieve their parity goals because it applies to
self-insured health plans which are not subject to state regulation.
In a case with national implications for state health reform across the country, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week in Golden Gate Rest. Ass'n v. San Francisco upheld the employer responsibility provisions of the San Francisco universal health care plan. The decision follows a preliminary decision earlier in the year that allowed the plan to be initially implemented.