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American Federalism: March in Review


Several new items have been added to the Federalism Policy Tracker on a range of important federalism topics, from new EV rules, to Border Security and Student Loans. Here is a selection of the top issues affecting states or with implications for American federalism in March:


  • New EV Rule: The EPA has issued a new rule regulating tailpipe pollution limits. The rule is said to be "one of the most significant climate change regulations in the nation's history."

  • Texas Border Feud: A Texas Judge has ordered the release of migrants arrested after a "border stampede." Meanwhile, other states are sending hundreds of National Guard troops to help Texan authorities manage illegal immigration.

  • National Popular Vote Interstate Compact: The Maine house has passed legislation that would add Maine to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). If passed, Maine would become the 17th state to ratify the NPVIC.

  • SAVE Student Loans Program: Kansas and at least 10 other states are suing to stop Biden's "SAVE" Student Loan program.

  • Executive Action on Asylum? President Biden was said to be planning an Executive Order on immigration. Now President Biden has "gone silent."

  • AI: According to NCSL, at least 40 states introduced AI bills and six states adopted resolutions or enacted legislation


Credit: Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images


The States


In our federal system, the States have been called "the first branch of government." While states have typically received less attention in the study of US Government, they remain vital to maintaining the overall balance of power in the American federal system. Contrary to some visions of American government that focus only on the high-stakes battles in DC, or in the national courts, the states continue to carry out most of the important functions in our lives, from education to healthcare to welfare and crime.


As of writing, there currently more than 124,000 bills or pre-files across the 50 state legislatures. 34 states are currently in session with 2 states not yet convened. 4 states have no regular session this year, and 10 states are adjourned.


The States and Federalism


Some readers may be surprised to learn that there are no organized or systematic attempts to track legislation across the states that have implications for Federalism. The Federalism State Policy Tracker is our attempt to correct for this oversight.


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


  • AI: According to NCSL, at least 40 states introduced AI bills and six states adopted resolutions or enacted legislation.

  • Georgia Sports Betting: State lawmakers are making a push to approve online sports betting in Georgia. A full vote is expected in coming weeks. The Peach State would become the 39th state to go forward with legalization.

  • Texas ESG Bank Ban: The Texas State Board of Education moved to terminate one of its investments with BlackRock, citing concerns over the company's focus on ESG. Texas is seen as one of the most active states in the forefront of many "anti-ESG" initiatives

  • Maine bill to Join the National Popular Vote: The Maine house has passed legislation that would add Maine to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). If passed, Maine would become the 17th state to ratify the NPVIC

  • States Sue President Biden over SAVE program: Kansas and at least 10 other states are suing to stop Biden's "SAVE" Student Loan program.


For more on each of these actions, see our "State Policy Tracker."


Congress


Congress plays an important role in respecting the autonomy of state governments within their spheres of authority. As Federalism scholar Martha Derthick has noted, Congress "both embodies federalism and influences how federalism is put into practice."


Given that most Americans associate Congress with Gridlock, readers might be surprised to learn that Congress is active - the lack of legislation is not for lack of trying. Today there are at least 13,929 bills and resolutions currently before Congress. Of those bills and resolutions, 356 had a significant vote in one chamber, giving them a "greater than zero" probability of passing.


Of the 13,929 bills and resolutions currently before Congress, 356 of them had a significant vote in one chamber, giving them a "greater than zero" probability of being passed.

By our estimate, that means that roughly 2.6% 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:


  • H.R.1023 repeals the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which provides states with financial and technical aid to assist low-income communities reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While the bill has passed the house, President Biden has promised that he will veto it, if the bill lands on his desk.

  • H.R.7521, colloquially known as the "TikTok Ban" bill, "prevents American app stores or web hosting services from carrying apps that are under the control of congressionally designated 'foreign adversaries.'” Opponents of the bill are concerned that it would give too much power to the President and violate First Amendment rights.

  • H.R.7511, the Laken Riley Act, passed the House on March 11th. 26 state AGs penned a letter in support of the act, which deals with illegal immigration and deportation. Opponents of the bill are concerned that it would violate civil liberties and give state officials the power to override federal immigration enforcement decisions.

Additionally, there were several noticeable trends on topics relating to healthcare and energy standards. Those with federalism implications included:


  • Appliance Regulations: Several bills would prohibit the Secretary of Energy on passing energy conservation standards for air conditioning (H.R. 7626), clothes dryers (H.R. 7645), and refrigerators (H.R. 7637).

  • Healthcare: a number of bills were proposed that would affect healthcare, including one to establish a state public option for healthcare (H.R. 7809), another to distribute grants for cancer awareness in local schools (H.R. 7714), and another to aid states in establishing integrated care programs (S. 3950).


Executive


In the last month, President Biden issued 4 executive orders, 3 notices, and 10 proclamations.


  • EO 14121: Recognizing and Honoring Women's History

  • EO 14120: Advancing Women's Health and Research and Innovation

  • EO 14119: Scaling and Expanding the Use of Registered Apprenticeships in Industries and the Federal Government and Promoting Labor Management Forums

  • EO 14118: Termination of Emergency with Respect to the Situation in Zimbabwe


For information on executive orders over time, see our "Executive Orders" primer.


Agencies


As of March 22nd, there are 20,538 pages in 2024's Federal Register with an average of 1,711 pages added each week. Contributing to that total are 426 proposed rules and 668 final rules. Additionally, there are 175 pending actions across various agencies. As of writing, here are the agencies with the most "regulatory actions" currently under review:



Judiciary



The U.S. Supreme Court heard 11 cases in March, with 10 more scheduled for the April sitting. State supreme courts have issued over 2,008 opinions so far in 2024.


Stay tuned for more on these decisions as we move in to April.


 

What did we miss? Let us know by clicking on the "Let's Chat" button on the bottom right of your screen!


Authors: Andrew Bibby, Sam Hill, and Johana Linford






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