Battleground: Feds vs. States vs. Cities


Inter-governmental battles are becoming more frequent these days, whether between cities and states or between states and the federal government. The latest chapter in this saga is the Trump Administration's recent announcement of a crackdown on sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration law. At the same time, several states have legalized marijuana use despite it being against federal law, and recently three Democrat-led states announced plans to sue the federal government over provisions in the new tax law.

In Texas, the battleground has shifted. During the Obama Administration the state was a frequent and vocal challenger of federal policies. Now, with state leaders much more friendly to the Trump Administration, the big battles here are between the state and local jurisdictions. "It does seem we're seeing more and more of local governments--cities--taking actions that might be considered on the more progressive end of the political spectrum," says Kellen Zale, assistant professor at the University of Houston Law School. She tells KTRH that battles over things like red light cameras and plastic bag bans have pitted cities versus the state in recent years. "Texas doesn't like the federal government telling it what to do, but when it comes to some of the cities in Texas...Texas will not like the cities challenging the state."

Last year, Texas leaders moved to rein in renegade cities by passing Senate Bill 4, which allows the state to prosecute local officials who ignore or refuse to enforce federal immigration law. That has led to lawsuits and challenges, and we can likely expect more of the same in the years ahead. "The Supremacy Clause (in the Constitution) says that federal law is the supreme law of the land over state and local law, but there are plenty of cases where states...have been able to act and not have the federal government interfere with that," says Zale.


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