The U.S. Supreme Court of the past generation has demonstrated renewed interest in federalism—in protecting the prerogatives of states in our American system of government. “Local control” of schools and of city or town affairs is a popular notion as well. When should federal policies trump state preferences and when should state governments trump city choices? Uniform and consistent treatment across jurisdictions promotes federal or state control, but respect for local wishes and differences points toward greater deference to decisions of lower levels of government. Wisconsin has recently exemplified this tension as the state has asserted its right to resist federal direction on health care while simultaneously exercising jurisdiction over matters from permissible levels of property tax levies to municipal-employee residency requirements to the size of soft drinks—or various other things traditionally left to local government. Is there a contradiction in these developments? Should different preferences among voters in different geographies lead to different policies? How far “down” should the idea of federalism go?
Join us for a conversation with several individuals with overlapping expertise in constitutional law, political theory, voting trends, and Wisconsin law and politics: