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American Federalism: July in review

Fourteen new items have been added to the Federalism Policy Tracker on a range of important federalism issues, from immigration to election redistricting to school choice. In Congress, the Transparency Act, which requires federal agencies to summarize bills or proposed rules "in plain language," became law. Alabama created controversy over its redistricting plans. The Supreme Court is out of session, but are scheduled to hear new cases on redistricting and food label information.



The States


As of writing, there are currently more than 118,637 bills or pre-files for 2023 sessions across 50 state legislatures. Of the 50 state legislatures, only 7 are still in session, with another 2 in special session and 2 suspended.


Here are just a few of the policies attracting attention in the last few weeks:

  • On July 24, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Texas for deploying buoys as part of its immigration enforcement efforts on the Rio Grande.

  • Seven states, including Michigan, Ohio, and Alabama, lowered the legal age to serve alcoholic beverages, according to a report released on July 20 from the Economic Policy Institute.

  • On July 21, Alabama appeared to have defied a U.S. Supreme Court order directing the state to draw two majority-Black districts.

  • On July 18, Wisconsin legislators proposed a constitutional amendment, SJR 54, to bar "any state or local government agency" from shutting down gatherings in places of worship.

  • Massachusetts passed bill SB 148, which aims at restricting the sale of phone location data.

  • Controversy has emerged in Florida after some recruits quit the new state guard program, citing concerns over "militaristic" training.

  • On July 4, Ohio joined a "wave" of states passing pro-school choice legislation, including Arizona, West Virginia, Iowa, Utah, Arkansas, Florida, and Oklahoma, within the last 2 years.

  • SB 1718, a Florida immigration law, was signed into law and took effect on July 1, making sweeping changes to the state's immigration policies.

Congress


There are at least 8,495 bills and resolutions currently before Congress. Of those bills and resolutions, 141 of them had a significant vote in one chamber, making them likely to pass.

Of the 8,495 bills and resolutions before Congress, 141 of them had a significant vote in one chamber, making them likely to pass

By our estimate, that means that roughly 1.7% of all Congressional activity is considered likely to have further action in the upcoming weeks or months.


Among the resolutions and bills more likely to pass, here are a few with federalism implications:

  • On July 27th "S.1409: Kids Online Safety Act" was heard in committee. This bill would regulate social networks to provide certain safeguards for minors and would rely on enforcement through the FTC and the States. View bill here

  • S. 111: "Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act of 2023," was signed by the President on July 25. This bill requires that for each new proposed rule, agencies provide a link to a "100-word plain language summary." A related bill, H.R. 890: "Guidance Out Of Darkness Act,"requires agencies to provide greater accessibility to guidance documents.

  • H.R.3935 passed the House on July 25, reauthorizing the FAA until 2028. If enacted, this bill would allocate over $100 billion for the next five years and provide new regulations on flight training hours for pilots. Read more here

  • On July 19th, the "Schools Not Shelters Act" passed the House. The bill would prohibit any school (university or K-12) which receives federal funding from housing immigrants. Opponents of the bill argue that "local and state leaders, along with a university’s administration, should make these decisions — rather than Congress." Read bill here

There is a long list of bills that have no chance of passing, but may be significant for other reasons. Here is a short list that captured public attention:

  • H.R. 4468, which would prohibit the EPA from enforcing a proposed rule affecting vehicle emissions was introduced on July 6th. View bill here

  • On July 25th S. 2484 was introduced in the Senate. This bill would prohibit the States from restricting individuals from "obtaining, possessing, distributing, or using life-saving drug testing technologies." Learn more here

  • A new bill was introduced to raise the Federal Minimum Wage on July 25th. View bill here

  • H.R. 4563, the "American Confidence in Elections Act," was sent to the House for consideration on July 13. This bill, among other things, would remove "Federal impediments [to] equipping States with tools for, and establishing voluntary considerations to support effective State administration of Federal elections." Read the bill here


Executive


In the last month, President Biden issued 1 executive order, 4 memorandums, 5 notices, and 3 proclamations. 4,764 pages were added to the Federal Register.


As of July 30, there are 120 pending actions across the different agencies.


Courts


The Supreme Court of the United States is out of session for July. However, the Court continues to receive several thousand of petitions. Fewer than 100, on average, are approved for review. To learn about the process of Supreme Court appeals, click here.


Petitions


Among them many petitions for certiorari that have already been submitted for the 2023 term, a handful have clear federalism implications.

  • South Carolina has begun appeals proceedings in Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, (22-807), challenging the injunction against the states’ congressional redistricting plan. Statement here.

  • The court has received a petition for certiorari in the case of Shire v. Blackburn (22-1180), questioning whether a drug company can be held liable under state law for not making changes to warning label information mandated under federal law. Petition here.

State Courts


As of July 28, 2023, state supreme courts have issued a total of 3,842 opinions, on issues such as horse breeding, gender/reproductive issues, crash injury liability, law enforcement, manufacturing, and speedy criminal prosecution rights. Track those cases here


As of July 28, state supreme courts have issued a total of 3,842 opinions

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Authors: Johana Linford, Andrew Bibby, Sam Hill

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