Our American States | An NCSL Podcast

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The “Our American States” podcast—produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures—is where you hear compelling conversations that tell the story of America’s state legislatures, the people in them, the politics that compel them, and the important work of democracy.

You can listen to the podcast on this page, you can subscribe through iTunes or Google Play, or you can use the RSS icon at the right to copy a feed URL for your podcatcher. 

U.S. Supreme Court

24

The U.S. Supreme Court opened its current term on the first Monday of October. The court is considering several cases of direct interest to state legislatures. For starters, the court will decide whether the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is judicially reviewable and lawful.

Other potentially charged cases are reviews of state laws on insanity defense, sexual orientation, gun laws, abortion, and the separation of church and state. It could even decide the legal copyright of state law annotations. 

Our guest is Lisa Soronen, the executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, who watches and analyzes U.S. Supreme Court decisions. She explains these cases and more, and offers insight on how justices are likely to view them.

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18

In every term, the U.S. Supreme Court makes decisions that affect state and local governments. In 2019, the court addressed several such issues, including a blockbuster decision on political gerrymandering and an issue of critical importance to the census.

In addition to these two rulings, our guests offer perspective on whether certain monuments may be on public land, a challenge on duel sovereignty, taking blood from someone who is passed out from drinking, and regulations on wine selling and distribution. Our guests are:

  • Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, who tracks decisions made by the Supreme Court. She discusses the major issues addressed by the court this term.
  • Susan Frederick, NCSL senior federal affairs counsel, who offers some extra perspective on the U.S. census citizenship question decided by the court.

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26
 

When the dust settled from the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the term that ended in June 2018, states were left with a historic victory regarding the fairness of sales tax collections and the ability to decide for themselves on the legality of sports wagering. While there were other victories, some issues remained cloudy. But perhaps the biggest news of the term was the announcement from Justice Anthony Kennedy that he is retiring.

In this episode of “Our American States,” we ask Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, to provide her analysis of the court’s 2017-18 decisions. She also gives her perspective on how Kennedy’s retirement may affect the court’s decisions on state issues in the future.

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28

For more than 25 years, states have worked to close a loophole that allowed online companies to sell products tax free, while traditional brick and mortar stores were forced to collect and remit those taxes to states. The effort to put fairness in the marketplace and in state tax policy was led by the creation of a special task force formed by the National Conference of State Legislatures 26 years ago. The work paid off on June 21, 2018 when the United States Supreme Court reversed a 1992 decision that said businesses only had to collect sales taxes if they had a physical presence in the state.

In the new case, South Dakota v Wayfair, the court noted that the state had adopted the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which NCSL and other associations created to set a standard for the collection of taxes on online purchases. In this edition of “Our American States,” we have two experts who have worked intimately on this issue.

  • William Pound is the executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures and worked with officers, state legislators and legislative staff 26 years ago to create the NCSL Executive Committee Task Force on State and Local Taxation. The group has worked tirelessly to bring fairness on this issue.
  • Max Behlke is the budget and tax director of the National Conference of State Legislatures State-Federal Relations Department in their Washington, D.C., office. He has staffed NCSL’s task force for several years.

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26

Five cases that the U.S. Supreme Court has put on its docket for the current term could have a significant impact on states. State legislatures are waiting for decisions on these cases, and could cause them to change state laws depending on how the court rules. And a potentially explosive sixth case is waiting in the wings.

Our guests on this episode of “Our American States” are Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, and Susan Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The cases we examine are:

  • Gill v. Whitford, a Wisconsin case in which the court may decide whether partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
  • Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, looks at whether Colorado's public accommodations law violates a cake artist’s First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights.
  • Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees the court will address whether unions can collect dues from nonmembers.
  • Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute looks at Ohio’s procedures to remove voters from their rolls after four years of inactivity.
  • Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association may decide how far Congress can regulate states and localities in the absence of comprehensive federal regulation.

And, as a bonus, we’ll discuss what could happen if the court accepts a South Dakota case that could overturn the 1992 Quill Corp v North Dakota, which said states could not force business to collect sales or use taxes unless it has a physical presence in a state.

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