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Federal Preemption Must Be Explicit

Obama Affirms Importance of State Policy Innovation By Making California Emissions Rules a National Standard

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday a comprehensive national standard aimed at improving fuel economy and auto emissions through the implementation of tough new rules for tailpipe emissions and higher fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles, based largely on standards already adopted by California and other states, illustrating how state policy can drive national change.  


RELEASE: Obama concession on emissions standards highlights states' role as leaders on regulation

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."

States' Victory Against Preemption - FDA Approval Does not Block State Tort Claims Against Drug Makers

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.

Restoring State Authority: An Agenda to Restrict Preemption of State Laws

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.

Obama Allows California to Adopt Car Emission Standards - New Day for State Regulatory Authority

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. 

Obama May Quickly Reverse Bush Attacks on State Policy Authority

Progressive States Network has regularly detailed the mounting attacks on and preemption of state policy by the federal government in recent years.  The incoming Obama administration is signalling that many of the Bush-era regulations restricting states may be reversed.

Mental Health Parity included in Bailout Plan; Stronger State Laws Remain in Effect

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.

Court Upholds Employer Health Care Responsibility Policies

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.