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Old 12-17-2016, 04:09 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 14,058
Originally Posted by Stranger On A Train View Post
There is an entire conversation going on here with no reference to any fact in law. Have you guys never actually read the US Constitution? It is not very long and for a legal document generally very clear and concise. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 (the so-called "Interstate Commerce Clause") forms the basis for much of federal regulatory authority over the states, and the US government authority for making binding treaty agreements. For reference, see the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

Yes, the federal government absolutely has the authority, should they impose it, to prevent individual states from entering into agreements with one another involving trade or finance, and can most certainly prevent states from making any kind of treaties or joint ventures with foreign nations. This is not "a bunch of wild assumptions"; it is the fundamental law of the nation, and the easily researched regulations stemming from it. The federal government could not prevent California from funding a program or building a satellite within its own borders, but could certainly prevent other states from working in explicit cooperation, and of course the federal government "owns" both the airspace that a launch vehicle would have to fly through, necessitating FAA approval, and the frequency spectrum that a satellite would need some portion of which to transmit, requiring an FCC license. The federal government also controls all export of any technology with potential application for military use through 22 USC 2778 and regulated by the US State Department under the Interntional Trafficking in Arms Regulations, which definitely includes a space launch vehicle and many components within it such as guidance and communication systems. International trafficking would including towing a launch vehicle on a barge into international waters, and there is no launch facility or range from California that is not owned by the US Department of Defense.

California is not going to be legally operating its own indigenous space program in defiance of federal approval. To suggest otherwise is obtuse to all existing law and the relationship between the federal government and the states.

Since this is GQ you should know that you're not speaking authoritatively on the law here. There's more than just the constitution when it comes to understanding the parameters of Federal power. The body of constitutional law says that Congress cannot actually arbitrarily restrict agreements between the states (for example interstate compacts), unless those compacts in some way infringe on a Federal power. There's often a belief that since Congress has to "sign off" on interstate compacts this prevents various coordinations between the states, and that just isn't true. The scope of that congressional power is actually fairly limited. If states wanted to establish a non-profit dedicated to climate research and then fund it from state dollars, there's almost nothing under the law that would allow Congress to stop the formation of such an organization.

If you believe that congress could, under commerce clause (which is what you asserted) powers stop the states from forming a joint non-profit I'd love to see some support for that in the form of a cite to a U.S. Supreme Court case. The reality is states actually already do this, there are things like the Western Governor's Association, Southern Governors Association (disbanded within the last year, but was around for 82), and there are many others. A more realistic approach would just be to have a fully independent non-profit (in the vein of something like the States United for Biomedical Research organization), that various states agree to give funding to--there is absolutely no constitutional way, based on your misunderstanding of the commerce clause, that the Congress could step in to stop such a thing--and pretty much any conservative jurist on the Supreme Court would pitch a fit at any Congress that tried to do so, let alone liberal jurists who would be outraged at a conservative congress trying to suppress State's doing "liberal" research.

No one is saying the states could ignore FAA, FCC or etc regulations and just start launching shit into space (I find it hilarious you've repeated that argument like four times when literally no one has said otherwise), but these agencies are generally expected to behave in a certain way, and if they just capriciously blocked private research satellites it'd cause a major row. Legally they certainly could if a President Trump did unprecedented "reaching down" power grabs into the Federal bureaucracy, but again--the reality of the political situation is most Republicans love state-lead initiatives, and would be very unlikely to want this. Their response would probably more likely be "if the dumb liberals want to keep funding fake science, more power to em--we'll just keep saying it's fake." End of story.

Last edited by Martin Hyde; 12-17-2016 at 04:11 PM.