Archive | Proposed Legislation

Reducing the Drug War’s Damage to Government Budgets

That’s the title of an article that I have co-authored with the Cato Institute’s Trevor Burrus, in a symposium issue of the┬áHarvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. The symposium is “Law in an Age of Austerity,” and includes contributions from Charles Cooper (Treasury Dept.’s authority to index capital gains for inflation), John Eastman (state authority to enforce immigration laws), and others.

The major part of the Article details some recently-enacted criminal law and sentencing reforms in Colorado, which mitigate the fiscal damage of the drug war. The second part of the Article summarizes the fiscal benefits of ending prohibition. Finally, the Article looks at some of the legal history of alcohol prohibition, and suggests that current federal drug prohibition policies are inconsistent with the spirit of the Tenth Amendment, including  state tax powers. [...]

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Amidst all of my many posts about what federal courts should do if DOMA is struck down, I thought I should say a little bit about Congress.

First — and this may be obvious to some readers but perhaps not to all — Congress could of course fix the choice of law problem by providing a statutory rule. Indeed, one of the few virtues of DOMA is that it is just such a rule. And in one of the most recent proposed bills that would repeal DOMA, Congress has also proposed replacing it with a choice of law rule.

I think this is a great idea. If DOMA goes away, Congress should exercise its power to replace it with some legitimate choice of law rule (obviously, if DOMA is unconstitutional, the replacement rule couldn’t be identical to DOMA, but there are a lot of other possibilities).

A congressional choice of law solution would have more legitimacy than a common-law solution, and could be more far-reaching, considering a broader range of policy considerations. (It could even extend federal marital benefits to civil unions, as discussed in my exchange with JHW.) Indeed, the opportunity to provide a replacement rule is one reason that Congress ought to repeal DOMA rather than just waiting around for the courts to have their way with it.

As for what rule Congress should adopt, I think the rule proposed in S.598 is a pretty good one. That rule is:

For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered

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