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American Federalism: January in Review

A number of new items have been added to the Federalism Policy Tracker on a range of important federalism issues, from the Texas Border Crisis to the Supreme Court hearing on the future of the Chevon doctrine and new challenges from states over mandates for electric vehicles.


Here are a selection of the top issues affecting states or with implications for American federalism in January:


  • The Border: In December, the Biden Administration warned it would sue Texas if the state implements strict immigration laws. On January 22, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow border agents to remove razor wire, prompting Gov. Abbott to release a statement defending its constitutional authority to secure the border. As of writing, 27 states have joined a coalition supporting Texas Border Defense Barriers

  • EV Mandates: On January 22, Idaho and Utah joined more than 20 states in urging President Biden to "roll back" a proposed EV mandate, which would require two-thirds of new auto sales in the U.S to be electric vehicles by 2030. 120 Republicans have joined efforts to oppose implementation of new EV regulations

  • Chevron Doctrine at the Supreme Court: on January 17, the U.S. Supreme Court heard two new cases, which observers say may alter the future of the so-called "Chevron doctrine," which holds that agency expertise should be given deference when interpreting and executing agency statutes.

  • National Debt: the National Debt reached $34 Trillion on January 3, according to the US Treasury Department. Record high debt levels could play a significant role in upcoming Congressional funding battles


Creator: Erica Gay | Credit: AP


The States


As of writing, there are currently more than 100,000 bills or pre-files for 2024 sessions across 50 state legislatures. 37 states are currently in session, with 9 not yet convened, and 4 states with no regular session this year.


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


  • Ohio Transgender Medical Ban: The Ohio Senate was able to override Governor DeWine's veto of HB 68, a bill that would ban transgender minors from the use of puberty blockers, hormone therapies, or surgery

  • Utah Constitutional Sovereignty Act: Utah introduced SB 57, a new bill that could allow Utah lawmakers to direct state agencies to refuse to enact certain executive orders or federal mandates while they are being adjudicated in court. The bill passed the Senate and will be considered by the house in upcoming days

  • Colorado Disqualification of President Trump: In Anderson v. Griswold, the Colorado Supreme Court held that President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of the President of the United States under Section Three of Fourteenth Amendment.

  • Texas Border Security: In Texas, Governor Abbott approved SB 4, which provides new powers to allow police to arrest migrants who illegally cross the U.S. border


Congress


There are at least 12,551 bills and resolutions currently before Congress. Of those bills and resolutions, 264 of them had a significant vote in one chamber, making them likely to pass.

Of the 12,551 bills and resolutions before Congress, 264 of them had a significant vote in one chamber, making them likely to pass

By our estimate, that means that roughly 2.1% of all Congressional activity is considered likely to have further action in the upcoming weeks or months.


In January, there were very few votes in Congress. Here is a selection of policies with significant federalism implications:


  • EV "Buy America" waiver: on January 11, Congress passed a "disapproval" of a waiver on "buy American" requirements for EVs. President Biden vetoed the legislation on January 24

  • "Keeping the Government Open": on January 18, Congress voted to pass a short term continuing resolution to keep the government funded and running. Another vote is scheduled for March 1 and March 8

  • Border Deal "Dead on Arrival": on January 27, a potential bipartisan border deal hit a roadblock, with U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson saying that the deal was "dead on arrival" in its current form


Additionally, there were several trends among introduced bills on various topics. Those with federalism implications included:



Executive


President Biden issued no Executive Orders in January 2024. On average, President Biden has passed at least 2 executive orders per month since 2021. He did however issue nine proclamations and a declaration and memorandum. As of January 30th, there were 159 pending actions across various agencies.


In 2024 there have been 5,420 pages and 224 rules added to the federal register.


Judiciary


The U.S. Supreme Court heard 10 cases in January, with 26 more scheduled for the February and March sessions.


  • Chevron Doctrine: The U.S. Supreme Court heard two new cases on January 17, which may have implications for the future of the so-called "Chevron doctrine." The two cases before the Court (Loper Bright v. Raimondo and Relentless Inc. v. Department of Commerce) focus on the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regulations. Litigants in the case are seeking to challenge a precedent established in the 1984 case "Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council," which holds that agency expertise should be given deference when interpreting and executing agency statutes.


Emergency Docket


  • Texas Border Security: In an emergency hearing, SCOTUS granted US Border Patrol agents the ability to move or remove razor wire from the Texas-Mexico border that had been placed there by Texas. The full case, Department of Homeland Security v. Texas, will be heard on Feb 7.

  • Redistricting in Michigan: SCOTUS has upheld a lower courts ruling that the MI independent redistricting commission must redraw the maps for legislative districts in the Detroit area, and barring the state from holding elections using those maps because they were drawn largely based on race.

States


  • State Opinions Trending Down: State supreme courts issued a total of 6,722 opinions in 2023. This is the second year in a row where state supreme courts have issued approximately 10% fewer rulings than the year prior.


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Authors: Johana Linford, Andrew Bibby, Sam Hill

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