The Daily Brew: Supreme Court declines to hear Chevron challenge in case involving UPS, Amazon

Daily Brew

Welcome to the Friday, May 24, Brew. I hope you have a great Memorial Day weekend. I will not be popping into your inbox on Monday, and will instead see you again, bright and early, Tuesday morning. Next week, Ballotpedia will also begin our annual Ballotpedia Society membership drive. In case you didn’t know, Ballotpedia is a nonprofit organization, and we rely on the donations of our readers to keep informative products like the Brew going! We don’t like to bug you often, but we are excited to tell you more about what we are working on, and how you can help.

But until then, it’s back to your regularly scheduled programming. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start today:

  1. Supreme Court declines to hear Chevron challenge in case involving UPS, Amazon
  2. Alaska state representative targeted for recall
  3. Quiz: Which states do not have a state income tax?

Supreme Court declines to hear Chevron challenge in case involving UPS, Amazon

Last week, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case in which the plaintiff challenged the Chevron doctrine—a 35-year old court precedent. The case also involves two of the largest corporations in the United States: Amazon and UPS.

The Chevron doctrine is an administrative law principle that compels federal courts to defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous or unclear statute that Congress delegated to the agency to administer. The principle derives its name from the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. That decision guided courts to consider whether Congress’ intent in writing a statute was ambiguous and whether the agency’s interpretation of the statute is reasonable.

In the suit, the United Parcel Service (UPS) challenged how the D.C. Circuit applied Chevron deference in upholding the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) cost allocation and pricing formulas. USPS package delivery rates are set by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). UPS argued that the D.C. Circuit made a mistake in its May 2018 opinion which applied the Chevron doctrine to uphold the formula used by the PRC to set rates. Amazon was among several organizations which filed briefs supporting the PRC.

In its petition, UPS asked the Court to reconsider the Chevron doctrine in light of the following criticisms:

  • “It threatens the proper separation of powers by shifting legislative and judicial responsibilities to executive agencies”
  • “There is no legal basis for the assumption that Congress implicitly delegates interpretive authority to agencies”
  • Chevron (with its attendant limitations) is enormously difficult to apply in practice.”
  • “Several Justices have recognized that this powerful criticism warrants a reconsideration of Chevron by the Court.”

A 2017 study by Michael Kagan at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, found that the Chevron doctrine has been cited in legal arguments 81,000 times since it was introduced. That same study also found that all nine current Supreme Court justices “have at least once signed an opinion explicitly holding that Chevron should not apply in a situation where the administrative law textbooks would previously have said that it must apply.”

In deciding not to take the case, the Supreme Court upheld the D.C. Circuit’s decision letting the PRC’s interpretation stand and upholding the cost and pricing formulas used by the postal service. Click the link below to read more about the Chevron doctrine, or click here to take one of our Learning Journeys to explore the topic in depth.

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Alaska state representative targeted for recall

The Alaska House of Representatives elected a Speaker of the House for its 2019 session on February 14thirty days after its members were sworn into office. During that time, majority or minority leaders and committee chairpersons were not selected and little legislative business was conducted. Last week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) called the legislature into a 30-day special session to address bills related to criminal reform, education funding, and the state’s operating, capital and mental health budgets.

Earlier this month, a committee was formed to gather signatures to recall Alaska state Rep. Gary Knopp (R) for what recall supporters state was his role in the delays and disruptions to the 2019 legislative session.

In the November 2018 elections for the Alaska House of Representatives, Republicans won 23 seats, Democrats won 16 seats, and a Democratic-aligned independent won another race. On December 8, Knopp announced that he was leaving the Republican caucus in order to form a majority coalition with Democrats. Rep. Bryce Edgmon—who switched his party affiliation from Democratic to unenrolledwas eventually elected House Speaker by 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents. Both parties also split control of committee leadership positions in a power-sharing agreement. Alaska currently has divided government, as Republicans control the governor’s office and state Senate.

Recall supporters need about 1,000 signatures to request a recall petition from Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R). If Meyer accepts the application, supporters will need about an additional 3,000 signatures to force a recall election. Alaska is one of 18 states to allow the recall of state legislators. Since 2011, 80 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 55 did not go to a vote, and seven are still ongoing. The most recent recall of a state legislator was in 2018 when California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled.

The only grounds for recalling an elected official in the state are misconduct in office, incompetence, or failure to perform prescribed duties. Recall supporters stated in their petition that they are seeking to recall Knopp because he “did not show up for several key votes this session,” “demonstrated his incompetence in representing a conservative district,” and “admitted that he had deceived his fellow lawmakers and constituents.”

Knopp responded to the recall by stating, “In the recall petition, they are welcome to do what they want to do. I don’t think they have cause, but if they want to move forward with it that’s their prerogative. I just wish it would be done by people in the district not the haters across the state who aren’t getting what they want.”

Knopp was elected to the state House in 2016 with 66.5% of the vote. He won re-election unopposed in 2018.

Want to learn more about recalls? Check out this short Ballotpedia video from our Beyond the Headlines series.

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Quiz: Which states do not have a state income tax?

I brought you a story yesterday about voters in Texas who will decide later this year whether to add an amendment to their state constitution prohibiting the adoption of a state income tax. Texas does not have currently have a state income tax and is one of just seven states without one. Four of the seven states without an income tax are Florida, Washington, Alaska, and Nevada.

Today’s quiz question is, what are the other two states without a state income tax?

  1. North Dakota and South Dakota
  2. Montana and Wyoming
  3. Idaho and Montana
  4. South Dakota and Wyoming

Correction: A story in Thursday’s Brew incorrectly stated that Amanda Green-Hawkins and Beth Tarasi advanced from Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the Pennsylvania Superior Court. The two candidates that advanced from the Democratic primary were Amanda Green-Hawkins and Daniel D. McCaffery. We apologize for the error.