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.
Progressives scored major victories at the ballot box this month as voters from every corner of the nation loudly and decisively rejected the overreach of right-wing legislatures and governors in 2011 — including attacks that took place this year on workers, voting rights, reproductive rights, and immigrants. As 2012 legislative sessions inch closer, progressive state legislators from across the nation are already planning to capitalize on this momentum. Last week, a national group of progressive lawmakers met to strategize on how to turn the tide in 2012 by advancing state policies that support the 99%.
“It's a no-brainer: Congress should pass the bill. Now.” That’s how California Gov. Jerry Brown characterized the decision facing Congress on whether to pass President Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act, the legislative language of which was released in full this week. Gov. Brown’s reaction was not unique amongst state officials around the nation, dozens of whom have come out in strong support of the bill. As reports around the nation this week indicated, state economies stand to benefit significantly from the boost that would be provided by direct funding in the bill allowing them to put construction workers back to work rebuilding crumbling schools and infrastructure, and to make sure teachers, firefighters, and cops in their communities stay on the job.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court ended its term with a bang with a ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicagothat state gun control regulations can be struck down by federal courts based on the Second Amendment. While the number and scale of blockbuster decisions was not so high this session, the singular impact of the Citizens Unitedcase earlier in the term unleashing unregulated corporate money on elections, combined with the dangerous implications of the Rent-A-Center, West v. Jacksonarbitration decision, emphasizes the pro-corporate bias the Supreme Court has increasingly exercised in recent years.
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.
Gridlock. Slow fulfillment of promises of change in D.C. A health
care bill so compromised that even supporters are unhappy with many
details. Frustration with D.C. seemed to be the clearest message from Massachusetts voters on Tuesday. But what can we expect other than gridlock and resistance when a
59-seat super-majority in the U.S. Senate is insufficient to pass
serious legislation? Or when monied interests in D.C. buy off support
to block serious reforms on financial regulations, health care and
climate change legislation? This is why bold, progressive leadership in the states matters.