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Committee Tackles Federalism and State Law

Sarah Bertozzi, Advanced Law Clerk

NAAG staff attended the Uniform Law Commission (ULC)’s Committee on Federalism and State Law Oct. 24 meeting in Washington, DC. The ULC created its committee with two purposes in mind: (1) to evaluate whether cooperative state action is an effective alternative to federal law and regulation for achieving uniformity among the states; and (2) to develop better mechanisms for facilitating communication and cooperation between federal policy makers and state governments. The primary purpose of the meeting was to think about the latter—what form should these mechanisms take and how should they be developed.

In addition to the committee members, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the National Governors Association, the Conference of Chief Justices, the National Judicial Conference, and the American Law Institute all had representatives in attendance (“the group”). NAAG’s executive director, general counsel and visiting counsel, attended in an observational capacity. The group discussed past experiences integrating uniform state law and federal law—both successes and frustrations—participants’ perspectives on preemption, and the reality of how lawmaking is done on Capitol Hill. That discussion revealed that in the eyes of the group the biggest hurdle to Congress and federal agencies promoting uniform state law and regulation was their general lack of understanding about the impact of preemption on state law and lawmaking. As a result, the group tentatively proposed that the ULC committee develop a document of principles for federal lawmakers and their staff on how to preserve the balance between state law and federal law in our federal system. The committee also plans to hold a symposium at the Georgetown University Law Center in fall 2010 to showcase scholarship about preemption and federalism.

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