The Constitution in Your Community Assume that you are working for a law firm that has just been retained by Steve Smith, a local home owner who is upset with his local government’s enforcement of a zoning code prohibiting him from building a fence in his front yard. Mr. Smith is thinking about challenging the legitimacy of the zoning code. But before examining the zoning code, your supervising attorney would like to get some background research on the makeup and structure of the local government. From where does the zoning board get its au-thority ( e. g., state constitution, state statute, local ordinance), and is this delegation of authority consistent with the state constitution? If legitimate, does the zoning board have the authority to make the fencing decision? Is there a provision for appeal? Prepare a short brief answering these questions.
Assume the following facts:
With presidential approval,
Congress enacts the following statute:
Green Construction and Conservation Act
Section One Purpose and Constitutional Source The existing decentralized sys-tem of building and construction codes is inefficient, wasteful, and disparate. Uniform standards that challenge the nation to increase energy efficiency and enable businesses to easily conduct business across state lines without confronting different standards will lessen the nation’s dependence on oil and improve the economy. Therefore, pursuant to its authority under the Commerce Clause of Article I of the Constitution of the United States, Congress enacts this law. Section Two Establishment and Mission of DBCC There is established a De-partment of Building Construction and Conservation (DBCC), an executive department of the United States. The mission of the DBCC is to maximize the energy efficiency of all building, renovation, and construction of homes and businesses in the United States. The Director of DBCC shall be appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Director shall report to the Secretary of Commerce. The Director shall appoint the necessary inspectors and other officials to execute the responsibilities delegated herein. Section Three Standards The Director shall establish through formal rulemak-ing procedures a set of standards for all construction, building, and renovation.
These standards shall be designed to maximize energy efficiency and safety. The standards shall provide minimum standards of energy efficiency and shall pro-vide incentives for builders to exceed the minimum standards. The Director shall also establish through formal rulemaking the procedures and processes for the issuance of building, construction, and renovation permits, including inspection, approval, fines and other punitive action, and appeals of decisions. Section Four Preemption These provisions shall preempt all state and local laws that regulate construction and building. The DBCC was formed, the Director and other employees were appointed, and the standards were promulgated. John Rodriguez, a local builder, has received notice from the DBCC that he has been charged with noncompliance with the minimum energy standards in the construction of an office building. His hearing on the matter before an administra-tive law judge is scheduled for six weeks from the date he received the notice. Although he applied and received a permit for the project, he objects to the federal government’s regulation of the industry as exceeding its constitutional authority. He noted his objection on his permit application. It is true that he did not comply with the energy standards, which he believes are so expensive to implement that they are onerous. Mr. Rodriguez lost his case before the administrative law judge and he was fined $ 10,000. He has appealed the decision to a federal trial court. He has raised only one issue on appeal, whether Congress has the authority to regulate the construction industry. You work for the U. S. district judge hearing the case. Prepare a memorandum for him analyzing the preemption question raised by Mr. Rodriguez. Include a final recommendation to the judge about how to rule.
The U. S. separation of powers between the branches, particularly between the presi-dent and Congress and within Congress itself, was on the international stage in 2011 during the debt ceiling debates. Federal law establishes a limit to how much debt the United States may carry. Changes to the debt ceiling must undergo standard lawmaking procedure, ( e. g., approval by both houses of Congress and presentation to the presi-dent). The debt ceiling, as it is commonly known, has been raised on many occasions by both Republic and Democratic presidents and by congresses dominated by both parties. If the nation were to reach its debt ceiling and no legislation were enacted to increase it, all of the federal government, with the exception of certain national security and other agencies, would have to close. As the United States neared the debt ceiling in 2011, negotiations between the Obama administration and the leadership of both houses of Congress began. The dis-cussions went on for months and were punctuated by disagreements, inflammatory rhetoric, and walk- outs. The 2011 debt ceiling discussions were more difficult than in the past because of the election of a number of “ tea party” members and other fiscal conservatives in Congress whose political and economic philosophies ( and campaign platforms) included smaller government and less federal debt. Most of these individu-als desired to see cuts in entitlement programs, such as social security and Medicare/ Medicaid. These individuals, newly elected in 2010 with a sense of a strong mandate from the people to lower the debt, were unwavering in their demands for a plan to lower the national debt, sometimes putting them at odds with their own party’s leadership in Congress. President Obama, on the other hand, strongly opposed reductions in some entitlement programs. Of course, these discussions happened in larger geo- economic climate that was characterized by a worldwide recession, austerity measures, and even violence. A deal was reached two days before the debt ceiling was reached, avoiding the closing of many federal agencies and the suspension of many services. The com-promise called for increasing the preexisting $ 14 trillion debt ceiling by an additional $ 2.4 trillion with subsequent decreases of $ 2.4 trillion over ten years. Many viewed the difficulties in the discussions, as well as the eleventh- hour compromise, as evidence