The Las Vegas Sun (5/29) editorialized, “It is only common sense that many federal laws, those on civil rights among them, should be consistently and strictly enforced throughout the country.” However, “many federal laws not covering constitutionally protected freedoms should stand only as a minimum standard.” The paper said, “regulators under Bush often wrote “preemption” language into regulations, which meant the laws would be standard across the country because they preempted any relevant state law.” One famous example is California's 2005 request to the Environmental Protection Agency “to adopt a law setting tougher automobile emissions standards than those set by federal law.” This request was denied.
Now, Obama has “directed his administration to abandon the freewheeling preemption policies of the Bush administration,” including asking the EPA to reevaluate their previous decision. President Obama sent a memo to his staff stating, “heads of departments and agencies should not include preemption provisions … except where such provisions would be justified under legal principles.” He further ordered the reviewing of any regulations written in the past decade by federal departments and agencies to search for unjustified preemptive language. Concluding, the paper said, “Obama's directive is a victory not only for states, but also for consumers.”
I have been a product liability lawyer in Chicago for 25 years. I found it very interesting and disconcerting that George Bush, the head of a party that supposedly prides itself on state's rights, would summarily and unilaterally federalize product liability law on such a massive scale. Thankfully for the citizens of Illinois, the Obama administration has reversed this unwelcome attempt to preempt state tort law.