Lawmakers: Federal laws often preempt state ones

State lawmakers say federal regulators are increasingly trying to preempt state laws without giving them an opportunity to comment on those regulations.

“Federal preemption of state authority is a growing concern,” Georgia Sen. Don Balfour, chairman of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Standing Committees, said in a press release today. “These unwarranted power grabs by the federal government subvert the federal system, choke off innovation and ignore diversity among states.”

“Federal preemption is nothing more than a one-size-fits-all approach to public policy,” NCSL President-elect and Texas Sen. Leticia Van de Putte said in the press release. “Our federal system of government was designed so that each state could address the needs of its own people. These blanket solutions to multifaceted problems just don't work.”

Imposed regulations also mean higher costs for state governments in some cases, state lawmakers said.

NCSL, which is holding its annual spring conference in Washington, D.C., this week, released an updated “Preemption Monitor,” a watch list of 72 federal bills or amendments usurping state laws.

Some technology-related bills or laws would:

  • Establish national security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and data storage and sharing requirements. The Real ID Act, enacted last year, would forbid license holders in states that do not comply with the federal requirements from boarding airplanes or entering federal buildings. States would also not be eligible for financial assistance. The deadline for compliance is May 2008.

  • Require the federal government, businesses and states, in some cases, to notify individuals when there has been a security breach of their personal data. According to the “Preemption Monitor,” the bills “either expressly preempt state notification laws entirely or preempt state laws to the extent that they are inconsistent with federal law.”

  • Require states to establish statewide sex offender registry databases according to U.S. attorney general standards. States would be required to collect a wide range of data, which would be reported to the attorney general. The Justice Department would take over registry programs of states that do not comply. Those states would also lose some federal funding.

  • Prohibit states from enacting laws that would limit or restrict use of software that collects information about computer users or their surfing behavior, or causes advertisements to be delivered to the user.


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