RELEASE: Obama concession on emissions standards highlights states' role as leaders on regulation

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California's leadership highlights need for states to take initiative on setting national standards

NEW YORK — Today, Progressive States Network (PSN) lauded President Obama's decision to accept California's tough new 35.5 miles-per-gallon fuel emissions standards. The group hailed today's victory as a landmark example of states' power to set national policy by outpacing federal legislation.

Said PSN's Interim Executive Director, Nathan Newman, "The spin from auto industry executives is that Obama's decision demonstrates the wisdom of letting the federal government set a unified national standard instead of a 'patchwork' of state regulations. In fact, the complete opposite is true. If it weren't for California pushing to set standards that outpaced the Bush Administration's pitifully low ones, there would be no new regulatory framework to enact today."

According to Newman, the Bush administration's obstruction of California's emissions standards only serves as the most recent in a series of federal preemptions of state regulations on crucial issues. Currently federal preemptions are preventing state crack downs on predatory lending, state requirements that employers provide health care to their employees, and state rules preventing labor law violators from receiving government contracts.

"In each of these cases, federal standards are acting as a barrier to real solutions coming out of the states," said Newman.  "California's victory today shows the benefit of states pushing to overcome those barriers. But, moving forward, we need to make sure that federal regulations act as a floor, and not a ceiling, on state action. If more states are allowed to take the the kind of initiative that California did, the whole country would be better off."

To bolster his case, Newman provided a list of landmark reforms in which states forced the federal government into action, including the eight hour day, minimum wage hikes, clean air and water regulations, and civil rights protections.


Progressive States Network is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the work of progressive state legislators around the country and to the passage of state legislation that delivers on issues the issues that matter to working families: strong wage standards and workplace freedom, balancing work and family responsibilities, health care for all, smart growth and clean energy, tax and budget reform, clean and fair elections, and technology investments to bridge the digital divide.