You had to know the U.S. Supreme Court would save the health care ruling for its June encore.
So while we policy wonks hold our Bic lighters (or smartphones) aloft, waiting for todays news, lets reflect on an already newsy week for the justices. News that came on two fronts, and largely at the expense of the states.
Æ Monday courts ruling on the Arizona immigration law, while cluttered, managed to deliver a cogent message. On immigration, the states must defer to the federal government.
The Supreme Court let stand the worst of the Arizona law: the show me your papers section. This clause requires police officers to check immigration status if they suspect they have stopped or arrested someone who is in the country illegally. But this clause is surviving on a wing and a prayer, with the high courts wink and nod. It would be inappropriate for the Supreme Court to weigh in on this section, said Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing on behalf of the majority, without the benefit of a definitive interpretation from the state courts.
Thats not an endorsement. And the Supreme Court cast aside other key pieces of this law.
To their collective credit, Idaho lawmakers have generally steered clear of the immigration issue. They certainly havent followed their Arizona colleagues down the path of pandering and profiling. That all looks better, in light of the Supreme Courts ruling.
This ruling must have been frustrating to many Arizonans, and I get that.
On the one hand, Kennedy writes about signs along an interstate highway just 30 miles south of Phoenix, cautioning motorists not to travel in an active drug and human smuggling area. Writes Kennedy, as if in deadpan, The problems posed to the State by illegal immigration must not be underestimated.
Yet Kennedy, and the courts majority, said Arizona must wait for a solution from a federal government that has proved unable or unwilling to pass comprehensive immigration law.
Dysfunctional? Absolutely. But it doesnt change the fact that states cannot write 50 versions of immigration law and that Arizonas law was a particularly poorly crafted piece of legislation.
Æ Also on Monday, the court exerted its primacy over campaign finance law, saying its controversial Citizens United ruling, and the new political Wild West of unlimited independent campaign spending, trumps a 100-year-old Montana law banning corporate contributions.
The ruling wasnt just a setback for Montana; 22 attorneys general, including Idahos Lawrence Wasden, supported the challenge to Citizens United.
Makes sense. After all, this isnt immigration a national security and border control issue where the federal government should take charge. I dont think it should matter to anyone in Mississippi how a state Senate campaign in Montana is bankrolled.
But now that a Supreme Court majority has tersely ruled that there can be no serious doubt that Citizens United is the law in Montana, what becomes of Idaho campaign finance laws?
Perhaps nothing. Idaho never placed limits on independent contributions, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said Wednesday. And limits on contributions to campaigns $1,000 in legislative elections and $5,000 in statewide elections apply equally to corporations and individuals.
Wasden filed on Montanas behalf in order to protect the Legislatures ability to restrict contributions, if it so chose.
On Monday, the Supreme Court quickly took care of that option.
THE LINE LINEUP
Gov. Butch Otters nuclear energy committee has a full and interesting agenda ahead for Friday.
The Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission, charged with advocating new research work at the Idaho National Laboratory, will hear from former Govs. Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt.
Andrus, a Democrat, and Batt, a Republican and mentor to Otter, havent been shy about dispensing advice to the panel. Both have said that Idaho should hold the federal government to the 1995 nuclear agreement crafted by Batt a deal that limits future nuclear shipments into Idaho and mandates the removal of all waste by 2035.
This could be a moot point. Otter has said he has no intention of renegotiating and allowing the feds to ship more waste into Idaho. But the waste deal is a big piece of Batts gubernatorial legacy and Andrus spent much of his time as governor ripping the feds for failing to honor their cleanup commitment. Something tells me that neither elder statesman will mince words.
The LINE Commission will meet from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Idaho Statehouses auditorium. Batt and Andrus are on the docket for 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Kevin Richert: 377-6437, Twitter: @KevinRichert