06/21/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

President Obama Reverses Bush Administration's Preemption Policy

In a bold and sweeping policy memorandum issued late yesterday, President Obama reaffirmed the critical role that state and local governments play in our constitutional system. The President's memorandum directs executive branch officials to review every regulation adopted in the past ten years to scrub them of inappropriate preemption language.

In an assault on federalism and our Constitution, the Bush administration quietly inserted preemptive language into a number of important regulations in an attempt to favor corporate interests at the expense of state laws protecting their citizens. Yesterday, the Obama administration recognized that states serve as "laboratories of democracy" and often are the most aggressive defenders of public health, safety, and the environment.

This action follows Tuesday's decision to adopt California's automobile emissions standards at the national level -- a perfect example of how our country benefits when states act as policy innovators. The states led, the nation followed, and the broad coalition of industry leaders, state officials, and environmental advocates assembled at the White House this week showed our country at its best.

In December, we at the Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) joined a coalition of organizations on a letter asking then-President-Elect Obama to review and reject the Bush administration's preemption policies. Before the Supreme Court, CAC also successfully advocated for a rejection of Bush-era regulatory preemption in Wyeth v. Levine, a case where the Supreme Court slammed the Bush Food and Drug Administration for trying to trump state consumer protection laws by including preemptive language in regulatory preambles. Combined with the Supreme Court's Wyeth opinion, yesterday's memorandum is the last nail in the coffin for Bush-era preemption policy.

Cross-posted at Text & History.