111th Congress Concludes with Several NAAG Victories

By Blair Tinkle, General Counsel and Congressional Liaison

Blair Tinkle, General Counsel to the Association and Congressional Liaison

It is a wrap for the 111th Congress this month (2009 -2010) and while it had one of the lowest numbers in history of passed bills signed into law, the state Attorneys General supported several federal initiatives that became public law, including a NAAG legislative priority that took seven years.

During the 111th Congress, 51 Attorneys General signed on to three letters—one to the U.S. House of Representatives, one to the U.S. Senate and another to the president---supporting the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act), designed to curb youth access to tobacco and enforce against tax evasion in the sale of tobacco products over the Internet. This issue was a NAAG priority in Congress since 2003. The bill was signed into law (P.L. 111-154) on March 31, 2010.

In addition, 42 state Attorneys General signed on to several letters supporting the “Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010,” that allows states and private entities to operate responsible drug take-back programs. The legislation was signed into law on Oct. 12, 2010.

As Congress deliberated over Wall Street reform, 39 Attorneys General sent a letter to key members stating that while Attorneys General individually hold a wide variety of views on the optimal structure of regulatory reform, Congress should provide states with concurrent authority to enforce federal law and to allow states to enforce their own consumer protection laws. That is, do not preempt the states. The “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act” (the Act; P.L. 111-203) was signed into law July 21, 2010, and preserved state laws that were more stringent and gave state Attorneys General authority to enforce federal consumer financial protection laws and regulations. The newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may only preempt when state laws are inconsistent with the Act.

Also, the new Act, while not eliminating current preemptions of state actions against national banks and thrifts, does codify a standard by which state actions are tested to determine preemption shifting the presumption regarding preemption in favor of state banking regulations. Consumer financial protection will be the focus of the NAAG Presidential Initiative Summit that will take place in April 2011 in Charlotte, lead by North Carolina Attorney General and NAAG President Roy Cooper.

However, not all legislation affecting state Attorneys General was completed in the 111th Congress and the Attorneys General will again be working with the 112th Congress when it convenes in January, to address such issues as consumer protection and law enforcement funding.

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