THE COMMERCE CLAUSE AS A RESTRAINT ON STATE POWERS
The grant of power to Congress over commerce, unlike that of power to levy customs duties, the power to raise armies, and some others, is unaccompanied by correlative restrictions on state power.961 This circumstance does not, however, of itself signify that the states were expected to participate in the power thus granted Congress, subject only to the operation of the Supremacy Clause. As Hamilton pointed out in The Federalist,962 while some of the powers that are vested in the National Government admit of their “concurrent” exercise by the states, others are of their very nature “exclusive,” and hence render the notion of a like power in the states “contradictory and repugnant.” As an example of the latter kind of power, Hamilton mentioned the power of Congress to pass a uniform naturalization law. Was the same principle expected to apply to the power over foreign and interstate commerce?
Unquestionably, one of the great advantages anticipated from the grant to Congress of power over commerce was that state interferences with trade, which had become a source of sharp discontent under the Articles of Confederation, would thereby be brought to an end. As Webster stated in his argument for appellant in Gibbons v. Ogden: “The prevailing motive was to regulate commerce; to rescue it from the embarrassing and destructive consequences, resulting from the legislation of so many different States, and to place it under the protection of a uniform law.”963 In other words, the constitutional grant was itself a regulation of commerce in the interest of uniformity.964
That the Commerce Clause, unimplemented by congressional legislation, took from the states any and all power over foreign and interstate commerce was by no means conceded and was, indeed, counterintuitive, considering the extent of state regulation that existed before the Constitution.965 Moreover, legislation by Congress that regulated any particular phase of commerce would raise the question whether the states were entitled to fill the remaining gaps, if not by virtue of a “concurrent” power over interstate and foreign commerce, then by virtue of “that immense mass of legislation” as Marshall termed it, “which embraces everything within the territory of a State, not surrendered to the general government”966 —in a word, the “police power.”
The text and drafting record of the Commerce Clause fails, therefore to settle the question of what power is left to the states to adopt legislation regulating foreign or interstate commerce in greater or lesser measure. To be sure, in cases of flat conflict between an act or acts of Congress that regulate such commerce and a state legislative act or acts, from whatever state power ensuing, the act of Congress is today recognized, and was recognized by Marshall, as enjoying an unquestionable supremacy.967 But suppose, first, that Congress has passed no act, or second, that its legislation does not clearly cover the ground traversed by previously enacted state legislation. What rules then apply? Since Gibbons v. Ogden, both of these situations have confronted the Court, especially as regards interstate commerce, hundreds of times, and in meeting them the Court has, first, determined that it has power to decide when state power is validly exercised, and, second, it has coined or given currency to numerous formulas, some of which still guide, even when they do not govern, its judgment.968
Thus, it has been judicially established that the Commerce Clause is not only a “positive” grant of power to Congress, but is also a “negative” constraint upon the states. This aspect of the Commerce Clause, sometimes called the “dormant” commerce clause, means that the courts may measure state legislation against Commerce Clause values even in the absence of congressional regulation, i.e., when Congress’s exercise of its power is dormant.
Webster, in Gibbons, argued that a state grant of a monopoly to operate steamships between New York and New Jersey not only contravened federal navigation laws but violated the Commerce Clause as well, because that clause conferred an exclusive power upon Congress to make the rules for national commerce, although he conceded that the grant to regulate interstate commerce was so broad as to reach much that the states had formerly had jurisdiction over, the courts must be reasonable in interpretation.969 But, because he thought the state law was in conflict with the federal legislation, Chief Justice Marshall was not compelled to pass on Webster’s arguments, although in dicta he indicated his considerable sympathy with them and suggested that the power to regulate commerce between the states might be an exclusively federal power.970
Chief Justice Marshall originated the concept of the “dormant commerce clause” in Willson v. Black Bird Creek Marsh Co.,971 although in dicta. Attacked before the Court was a state law authorizing the building of a dam across a navigable creek, and it was claimed the law was in conflict with the federal power to regulate interstate commerce. Rejecting the challenge, Marshall said that the state act could not be “considered as repugnant to the [federal] power to regulate commerce in its dormant state . . . .”
Returning to the subject in Cooley v. Board of Wardens of Port of Philadelphia,972 the Court, upholding a state law that required ships to engage a local pilot when entering or leaving the port of Philadelphia, enunciated a doctrine of partial federal exclusivity. According to Justice Curtis’ opinion, the state act was valid on the basis of a distinction between those subjects of commerce that “imperatively demand a single uniform rule” operating throughout the country and those that “as imperatively” demand “that diversity which alone can meet the local necessities of navigation,” that is to say, of commerce. As to the former, the Court held Congress’s power to be “exclusive”; as to the latter, it held that the states enjoyed a power of “concurrent legislation.”973 The Philadelphia pilotage requirement was of the latter kind.
Thus, the contention that the federal power to regulate interstate commerce was exclusive of state power yielded to a rule of partial exclusivity. Among the welter of such cases, the first actually to strike down a state law solely974 on Commerce Clause grounds was the State Freight Tax Case.975 The question before the Court was the validity of a nondiscriminatory statute that required every company transporting freight within the state, with certain exceptions, to pay a tax at specified rates on each ton of freight carried. Opining that a tax upon freight, or any other article of commerce, transported from state to state is a regulation of commerce among the states and, further, that the transportation of merchandise or passengers through a state or from state to state was a subject that required uniform regulation, the Court held the tax in issue to be repugnant to the Commerce Clause.
Whether exclusive or partially exclusive, however, the Commerce Clause as a restraint upon state exercises of power, absent congressional action, received no sustained justification or explanation; the clause, of course, empowers Congress, not the courts, to regulate commerce among the states. Often, as in Cooley and in later cases, the Court stated or implied that the rule was imposed by the Commerce Clause.976 In Welton v. Missouri,977 the Court attempted to suggest a somewhat different justification. The case involved a challenge to a state statute that required a “peddler’s” license for merchants selling goods that came from other states, but that required no license if the goods were produced in the state. Declaring that uniformity of commercial regulation is necessary to protect articles of commerce from hostile legislation and that the power asserted by the state belonged exclusively to Congress, the Court observed that “[t]he fact that Congress has not seen fit to prescribe any specific rules to govern inter-State commerce does not affect the question. Its inaction on this subject . . . is equivalent to a declaration that inter-State commerce shall be free and untrammelled.”978
It has been evidently of little importance to the Court to explain. “Whether or not this long recognized distribution of power between the national and state governments is predicated upon the implications of the commerce clause itself . . . or upon the presumed intention of Congress, where Congress has not spoken . . . the result is the same.”979 Thus, “[f]or a hundred years it has been accepted constitutional doctrine . . . that . . . where Congress has not acted, this Court, and not the state legislature, is under the commerce clause the final arbiter of the competing demands of state and national interests.”980
Two other justifications can be found throughout the Court’s decisions, but they do not explain why the Court is empowered under a grant of power to Congress to police state regulatory and taxing decisions. For example, in Welton v. Missouri,981 the statute under review, as the Court observed several times, was clearly discriminatory as between in-state and interstate commerce, but that point was not sharply drawn as the constitutional fault of the law. That the Commerce Clause had been motivated by the Framers’ apprehensions about state protectionism has been frequently noted.982 A later theme has been that the Framers desired to create a national area of free trade, so that unreasonable burdens on interstate commerce violate the clause in and of themselves.983
Nonetheless, the power of the Court is established and is freely exercised. No reservations can be discerned in the opinions for the Court.984 Individual Justices, to be sure, have urged renunciation of the power and remission to Congress for relief sought by litigants,985 but that has not been the course followed.
The State Proprietary Activity (Market Participant) Exception.
In a case of first impression, the Court held that a Mary- land bounty scheme by which the state paid scrap processors for each “hulk” automobile destroyed is “the kind of action with which the Commerce Clause is not concerned.”986 As first enacted, the bounty plan did not distinguish between in-state and out-of-state processors, but it was amended in a manner that substantially disadvantaged out-of-state processors. The Court held “that entry by the State itself into the market itself as a purchaser, in effect, of a potential article of interstate commerce [does not] create[ ] a burden upon that commerce if the State restricts its trade to its own citizens or businesses within the State.”987
Affirming and extending this precedent, the Court held that a state operating a cement plant could in times of shortage (and presumably at any time) confine the sale of cement by the plant to residents of the state.988 “[T]he Commerce Clause responds principally to state taxes and regulatory measures impeding free private trade in the national marketplace. . . . There is no indication of a constitutional plan to limit the ability of the States themselves to operate freely in the free market.”989 It is yet unclear how far this concept of the state as market participant rather than market regulator will be extended.990
Congressional Authorization of Otherwise Impermissible State Action.
The Supreme Court has heeded the lesson that was administered to it by the Act of Congress of August 31, 1852,991 which pronounced the Wheeling Bridge “a lawful structure,” thereby setting aside the Court’s determination to the contrary earlier the same year.992 The lesson, subsequently observed the Court, is that “[i]t is Congress, and not the Judicial Department, to which the Constitution has given the power to regulate commerce.”993 Similarly, when in the late 1880s and the early 1890s statewide prohibition laws began making their appearance, Congress again authorized state laws that the Court had held to violate the dormant commerce clause.
The Court applied the “original package” doctrine to interstate commerce in intoxicants, which the Court denominated “legitimate articles of commerce.”994 Although it held that a state was entitled to prohibit the manufacture and sale of intoxicants within its boundaries,995 it contemporaneously laid down the rule, in Bowman v. Chicago & Northwestern Ry. Co.,996 that, so long as Congress remained silent in the matter, a state lacked the power, even as part and parcel of a program of statewide prohibition of the traffic in intoxicants, to prevent the importation of liquor from a sister state. This holding was soon followed by another to the effect that, so long as Congress remained silent, a state had no power to prevent the sale in the original package of liquors introduced from another state.997 Congress soon attempted to overcome the effect of the latter decision by enacting the Wilson Act,998 which empowered states to regulate imported liquor on the same terms as domestically produced liquor, but the Court interpreted the law narrowly as subjecting imported liquor to local authority only after its resale.999 Congress did not fully nullify the Bowman case until 1913, when enactment of the Webb-Kenyon Act1000 clearly authorized states to regulate direct shipments for personal use.
National Prohibition, imposed by the Eighteenth Amendment, temporarily mooted these conflicts, but they reemerged with repeal of Prohibition by the Twenty-first Amendment. Section 2 of the Twenty-first Amendment prohibits “the importation into any State . . . for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof.” Initially the Court interpreted this language to authorize states to discriminate against imported liquor in favor of that produced in-state, but the modern Court has rejected this interpretation, holding instead that “state regulation of alcohol is limited by the nondiscrimination principle of the Commerce Clause.”1001
Less than a year after the ruling in United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Ass’n1002 that insurance transactions across state lines constituted interstate commerce, thereby establishing their immunity from discriminatory state taxation, Congress passed the McCarran-Ferguson Act,1003 authorizing state regulation and taxation of the insurance business. In Prudential Ins. Co. v. Benjamin,1004 the Court sustained a South Carolina statute that imposed on foreign insurance companies, as a condition of their doing business in the state, an annual tax of three percent of premiums from business done in South Carolina, while imposing no similar tax on local corporations. “Obviously,” said Justice Rutledge for the Court, “Congress’s purpose was broadly to give support to the existing and future state systems for regulating and taxing the business of insurance. This was done in two ways. One was by removing obstructions which might be thought to flow from its own power, whether dormant or exercised, except as otherwise expressly provided in the Act itself or in future legislation. The other was by declaring expressly and affirmatively that continued state regulation and taxation of this business is in the public interest and that the business and all who engage in it ‘shall be subject to’ the laws of the several states in these respects.”1005
Justice Rutledge continued: “The power of Congress over commerce exercised entirely without reference to coordinated action of the states is not restricted, except as the Constitution expressly provides, by any limitation which forbids it to discriminate against interstate commerce and in favor of local trade. Its plenary scope enables Congress not only to promote but also to prohibit interstate commerce, as it has done frequently and for a great variety of reasons. . . . This broad authority Congress may exercise alone, subject to those limitations, or in conjunction with coordinated action by the states, in which case limitations imposed for the preservation of their powers become inoperative and only those designed to forbid action altogether by any power or combination of powers in our governmental system remain effective.”1006
Thus, it is now well-established that “[w]hen Congress so chooses, state actions which it plainly authorizes are invulnerable to constitutional attack under the Commerce Clause.”1007 But the Court requires congressional intent to permit otherwise impermissible state actions to “be unmistakably clear.”1008 The fact that federal statutes and regulations had restricted commerce in timber harvested from national forest lands in Alaska was, therefore, “insufficient indicium” that Congress intended to authorize the state to apply a similar policy for timber harvested from state lands. The rule requiring clear congressional approval for state burdens on commerce was said to be necessary in order to strengthen the likelihood that decisions favoring one section of the country over another are in fact “collective decisions” made by Congress rather than unilateral choices imposed on unrepresented out-of-state interests by individual states.1009 And Congress must be plain as well when the issue is not whether it has exempted a state action from the Commerce Clause but whether it has taken the less direct form of reduction in the level of scrutiny.1010
State Taxation and Regulation: The Old Law
In 1959, the Supreme Court acknowledged that, with respect to the taxing power of the states in light of the negative (or “dormant”) commerce clause, “some three hundred full-dress opinions” as of that year had not resulted in “consistent or reconcilable” doctrine but rather in something more resembling a “quagmire.”1011 Although many of the principles still applicable in constitutional law may be found in the older cases, the Court has worked a revolution in this area, though at different times for taxation and for regulation. Thus, in this section we summarize the “old” law and then deal more fully with the “modern” law of the negative commerce clause.
The task of drawing the line be- tween state power and the commercial interest has proved a comparatively simple one in the field of foreign commerce, the two things being in great part territorially distinct.1012 With “commerce among the States” affairs are very different. Interstate commerce is conducted in the interior of the country, by persons and corporations that are ordinarily engaged also in local business; its usual incidents are acts that, if unconnected with commerce among the states, would fall within the state’s powers of police and taxation, while the things it deals in and the instruments by which it is carried on comprise the most ordinary subject matter of state power. In this field, the Court consequently has been unable to rely upon sweeping solutions. To the contrary, its judgments have often been fluctuating and tentative, even contradictory, and this is particularly the case with respect to the infringement of interstate commerce by the state taxing power.1013
The leading case dealing with the relation of the states’ taxing power to interstate commerce—the case in which the Court first struck down a state tax as violating the Commerce Clause— was the State Freight Tax Case.1014 Before the Court was the validity of a Pennsylvania statute that required every company transporting freight within the state, with certain exceptions, to pay a tax at specified rates on each ton of freight carried by it. The Court’s reasoning was forthright. Transportation of freight constitutes commerce.1015 A tax upon freight transported from one state to another effects a regulation of interstate commerce.1016 Under the Cooley doctrine, whenever the subject of a regulation of commerce is in its nature of national interest or admits of one uniform system or plan of regulation, that subject is within the exclusive regulating control of Congress.1017 Transportation of passengers or merchandise through a state, or from one state to another, is of this nature.1018 Hence, a state law imposing a tax upon freight, taken up within the state and transported out of it or taken up outside the state and transported into it, violates the Commerce Clause.1019
The principle thus asserted, that a state may not tax interstate commerce, confronted the principle that a state may tax all purely domestic business within its borders and all property “within its jurisdiction.” Inasmuch as most large concerns prosecute both an interstate and a domestic business, while the instrumentalities of interstate commerce and the pecuniary returns from such commerce are ordinarily property within the jurisdiction of some state or other, the task before the Court was to determine where to draw the line between the immunity claimed by interstate business, on the one hand, and the prerogatives claimed by local power on the other. In the State Tax on Railway Gross Receipts Case,1020 decided the same day as the State Freight Tax Case, the issue was a tax upon gross receipts of all railroads chartered by the state, part of the receipts having been derived from interstate transportation of the same freight that had been held immune from tax in the first case. If the latter tax were regarded as a tax on interstate commerce, it too would fall. But to the Court, the tax on gross receipts of an interstate transportation company was not a tax on commerce. “[I]t is not everything that affects commerce that amounts to a regulation of it, within the meaning of the Constitution.”1021 A gross receipts tax upon a railroad company, which concededly affected commerce, was not a regulation “directly. Very manifestly it is a tax upon the railroad company. . . . That its ultimate effect may be to increase the cost of transportation must be admitted. . . . Still it is not a tax upon transportation, or upon commerce. . . .”1022
Insofar as it drew a distinction between these two cases, the Court did so in part on the basis of Cooley, that some subjects embraced within the meaning of commerce demand uniform, national regulation, whereas other similar subjects permit of diversity of treatment, until Congress acts; and in part on the basis of a concept of a “direct” tax on interstate commerce, which was impermissible, and an “indirect” tax, which was permissible until Congress acted.1023 Confusingly, the two concepts were sometimes conflated and sometimes treated separately. In any event, the Court itself was clear that interstate commerce could not be taxed at all, even if the tax was a nondiscriminatory levy applied alike to local commerce.1024 “Thus, the States cannot tax interstate commerce, either by laying the tax upon the business which constitutes such commerce or the privilege of engaging in it, or upon the receipts, as such, derived from it . . . ; or upon persons or property in transit in interstate commerce.”1025 However, some taxes imposed only an “indirect” burden and were sustained; property taxes and taxes in lieu of property taxes applied to all businesses, including instrumentalities of interstate commerce, were sustained.1026 A good rule of thumb in these cases is that taxation was sustained if the tax was imposed on some local, rather than an interstate, activity or if the tax was exacted before interstate movement had begun or after it had ended.
An independent basis for invalidation was that the tax was discriminatory, that its impact was intentionally or unintentionally felt by interstate commerce and not by local, perhaps in pursuit of parochial interests. Many of the early cases actually involving discriminatory taxation were decided on the basis of the impermissibility of taxing interstate commerce at all, but the category was soon clearly delineated as a separate ground (and one of the most important today).1027
Following the Great Depression and under the leadership of Justice, and later Chief Justice, Stone, the Court attempted to move away from the principle that interstate commerce may not be taxed and reliance on the direct-indirect distinction. Instead, a state or local levy would be voided only if in the opinion of the Court it created a risk of multiple taxation for interstate commerce not felt by local commerce.1028 It became much more important to the validity of a tax that it be apportioned to an interstate company’s activities within the taxing state, so as to reduce the risk of multiple taxation.1029 But, just as the Court had achieved constancy in the area of regulation, it reverted to the older doctrines in the taxation area and reiterated that interstate commerce may not be taxed at all, even by a properly apportioned levy, and reasserted the direct-indirect distinction.1030 The stage was set, following a series of cases in which through formalistic reasoning the states were permitted to evade the Court’s precedents,1031 for the formulation of a more realistic doctrine.
Much more diverse were the cases dealing with regulation by the state and local governments. Taxation was one thing, the myriad approaches and purposes of regulations another. Generally speaking, if the state action was perceived by the Court to be a regulation of interstate commerce itself, it was deemed to impose a “direct” burden on interstate commerce and impermissible. If the Court saw it as something other than a regulation of interstate commerce, it was considered only to “affect” interstate commerce or to impose only an “indirect” burden on it in the proper exercise of the police powers of the states.1032 But the distinction between “direct” and “indirect” burdens was often perceptible only to the Court.1033
A corporation’s status as a foreign entity did not immunize it from state requirements, conditioning its admission to do a local business, to obtain a local license, and to furnish relevant information as well as to pay a reasonable fee.1034 But no registration was permitted of an out-of-state corporation, the business of which in the host state was purely interstate in character.1035 Neither did the Court permit a state to exclude from its courts a corporation engaging solely in interstate commerce because of a failure to register and to qualify to do business in that state.1036
Interstate transportation brought forth hundreds of cases. State regulation of trains operating across state lines resulted in divergent rulings. It was early held improper for states to prescribe charges for transportation of persons and freight on the basis that the regulation must be uniform and thus could not be left to the states.1037 The Court deemed “reasonable” and therefore constitutional many state regulations requiring a fair and adequate service for its inhabitants by railway companies conducting interstate service within its borders, as long as there was no unnecessary burden on commerce.1038 A marked tolerance for a class of regulations that arguably furthered public safety was long exhibited by the Court,1039 even in instances in which the safety connection was tenuous.1040 Of particular controversy were “full-crew” laws, represented as safety measures, that were attacked by the companies as “feather-bedding” rules.1041
Similarly, motor vehicle regulations have met mixed fates. Basically, it has always been recognized that states, in the interest of public safety and conservation of public highways, may enact and enforce comprehensive licensing and regulation of motor vehicles using its facilities.1042 Indeed, states were permitted to regulate many of the local activities of interstate firms and thus the interstate operations, in pursuit of these interests.1043 Here, too, safety concerns became overriding objects of deference, even in doubtful cases.1044 In regard to navigation, which had given rise to Gibbons v. Ogden and Cooley, the Court generally upheld much state regulation on the basis that the activities were local and did not demand uniform rules.1045
As a general rule, although the Court during this time did not permit states to regulate a purely interstate activity or prescribe prices for purely interstate transactions,1046 it did sustain a great deal of price and other regulation imposed prior to or subsequent to the travel in interstate commerce of goods produced for such commerce or received from such commerce. For example, decisions late in the period upheld state price-fixing schemes applied to goods intended for interstate commerce.1047
However, the states always had an obligation to act nondiscriminatorily. Just as in the taxing area, regulation that was parochially oriented, to protect local producers or industries, for instance, was not evaluated under ordinary standards but subjected to practically per se invalidation. The mirror image of Welton v. Missouri,1048 the tax case, was Minnesota v. Barber,1049 in which the Court invalidated a facially neutral law that in its practical effect discriminated against interstate commerce and in favor of local commerce. The law required fresh meat sold in the state to have been inspected by its own inspectors with 24 hours of slaughter. Thus, meat slaughtered in other states was excluded from the Minnesota market. The principle of the case has a long pedigree of application.1050 State protectionist regulation on behalf of local milk producers has occasioned judicial censure. Thus, in Baldwin v. G.A.F. Seelig.,1051 the Court had before it a complex state price-fixing scheme for milk, in which the state, in order to keep the price of milk artificially high within the state, required milk dealers buying out-of-state to pay producers, wherever they were, what the dealers had to pay within the state, and, thus, in-state producers were protected. And, in H. P. Hood & Sons, Inc. v. Du Mond,1052 the Court struck down a state refusal to grant an out-of-state milk distributor a license to operate a milk receiving station within the state on the basis that the additional diversion of local milk to the other state would impair the supply for the in-state market. A state may not bar an interstate market to protect local interests.1053
State Taxation and Regulation: The Modern Law
Transition from the old law to the modern standard occurred relatively smoothly in the field of regulation,1054 but in the area of taxation the passage was choppy and often witnessed retreats and advances.1055 In any event, both taxation and regulation now are evaluated under a judicial balancing formula comparing the burden on interstate commerce with the importance of the state interest, save for discriminatory state action that cannot be justified at all.
During the 1940s and 1950s, there was conflict within the Court between the view that interstate commerce could not be taxed at all, at least “directly,” and the view that the negative commerce clause protected against the risk of double taxation.1056 In Northwestern States Portland Cement Co. v. Minnesota,1057 the Court reasserted the principle expressed earlier in Western Live Stock, that the Framers did not intend to immunize interstate commerce from its just share of the state tax burden even though it increased the cost of doing business.1058 Northwestern States held that a state could constitutionally impose a nondiscriminatory, fairly apportioned net income tax on an out-of-state corporation engaged exclusively in interstate commerce in the taxing state. “For the first time outside the context of property taxation, the Court explicitly recognized that an exclusively interstate business could be subjected to the states’ taxing powers.”1059 Thus, in Northwestern States, foreign corporations that maintained a sales office and employed sales staff in the taxing state for solicitation of orders for their merchandise that, upon acceptance of the orders at their home office in another jurisdiction, were shipped to customers in the taxing state, were held liable to pay the latter’s income tax on that portion of the net income of their interstate business as was attributable to such solicitation.
Yet, the following years saw inconsistent rulings that turned almost completely upon the use of or failure to use “magic words” by legislative drafters. That is, it was constitutional for the states to tax a corporation’s net income, properly apportioned to the taxing state, as in Northwestern States, but no state could levy a tax on a foreign corporation for the privilege of doing business in the state, both taxes alike in all respects.1060 In Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady,1061 the Court overruled the cases embodying the distinction and articulated a standard that has governed the cases since. The tax in Brady was imposed on the privilege of doing business as applied to a corporation engaged in interstate transportation services in the taxing state; it was measured by the corporation’s gross receipts from the service. The appropriate concern, the Court wrote, was to pay attention to “economic realities” and to “address the problems with which the commerce clause is concerned.”1062 The standard, a set of four factors that was distilled from precedent but newly applied, was firmly set out. A tax on interstate commerce will be sustained “when the tax is applied to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State, is fairly apportioned, does not discriminate against interstate commerce, and is fairly related to the services provided by the State.”1063 All subsequent cases have been decided in this framework.
Nexus.—“The Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause impose distinct but parallel limitations on a State’s power to tax out-of-state activities. The Due Process Clause demands that there exist some definite link, some minimum connection, between a state and the person, property or transaction it seeks to tax, as well as a rational relationship between the tax and the values connected with the taxing State. The Commerce Clause forbids the States to levy taxes that discriminate against interstate commerce or that burden it by subjecting activities to multiple or unfairly apportioned taxation.”1064 “The broad inquiry subsumed in both constitutional requirements is whether the taxing power exerted by the state bears fiscal relation to protection, opportunities and benefits given by the state—that is, whether the state has given anything for which it can ask return.”1065
The question of the presence of a substantial nexus often arises when a state imposes on out-of-state vendors an obligation to collect use taxes on goods sold in the taxing state, and a determinative factor is whether the vendor is physically present in the state. The Court has sustained such an imposition on mail order sellers with retail outlets, solicitors, or property within the taxing state,1066 but it has denied the power to a state to tax a seller whose “only connection with customers in the State is by common carrier or the United States mail.”1067 The validity of general business taxes on interstate enterprises may also be determined by the nexus standard. However, again, only a minimal contact is necessary.1068 Thus, maintenance of one full-time employee within the state (plus occasional visits by non-resident engineers) to make possible the realization and continuance of contractual relations seemed to the Court to make almost frivolous a claim of lack of sufficient nexus.1069 The application of a state business-and-occupation tax on the gross receipts from a large wholesale volume of pipe and drainage products in the state was sustained, even though the company maintained no office, owned no property, and had no employees in the state, its marketing activities being carried out by an in-state independent contractor.1070 The Court also upheld a state’s application of a use tax to aviation fuel stored temporarily in the state prior to loading on aircraft for consumption in interstate flights.1071
When “there is no dispute that the taxpayer has done some business in the taxing State, the inquiry shifts from whether the State may tax to what it may tax. To answer that question, [the Court has] developed the unitary business principle. Under that principle, a State need not isolate the intrastate income-producing activities from the rest of the business but may tax an apportioned sum of the corporation’s multistate business if the business is unitary. The court must determine whether intrastate and extrastate activities formed part of a single unitary business, or whether the out-of-state values that the State seeks to tax derive[d] from unrelated business activity which constitutes a discrete business enterprise. . . . If the value the State wishe[s] to tax derive[s] from a ‘unitary business’ operated within and without the State, the State [may] tax an apportioned share of the value of that business instead of isolating the value attributable to the operation of the business within the State. Conversely, if the value the State wished to tax derived from a discrete business enterprise, then the State could not tax even an apportioned share of that value.”1072 But, even when there is a unitary business, “[t]he Due Process and Commerce Clauses of the Constitution do not allow a State to tax income arising out of interstate activities—even on a proportional basis—unless there is a ‘minimal connection’ or ‘nexus’ between the interstate activities and the taxing State and ‘a rational relationship between the income attributed to the State and the intrastate values of the enterprise.’ ”1073
Apportionment.—This requirement is of long standing,1074 but its importance has broadened as the scope of the states’ taxing powers has enlarged. It is concerned with what formulas the states must use to claim a share of a multistate business’ tax base for the taxing state, when the business carries on a single integrated enterprise both within and without the state. A state may not exact from interstate commerce more than the state’s fair share. Avoidance of multiple taxation, or the risk of multiple taxation, is the test of an apportionment formula. Generally speaking, this factor has been seen as both a Commerce Clause and a due process requisite,1075 although, as one recent Court decision notes, some tax measures that are permissible under the Due Process Clause nonetheless could run afoul of the Commerce Clause.1076 The Court has declined to impose any particular formula on the states, reasoning that to do so would be to require the Court to engage in “extensive judicial law-making,” for which it was ill-suited and for which Congress had ample power and ability to legislate.1077
“Instead,” the Court wrote, “we determine whether a tax is fairly apportioned by examining whether it is internally and externally consistent. To be internally consistent, a tax must be structured so that if every State were to impose an identical tax, no multiple taxation would result. Thus, the internal consistency test focuses on the text of the challenged statute and hypothesizes a situation where other States have passed an identical statute. . . . The external consistency test asks whether the State has taxed only that portion of the revenues from the interstate activity which reasonably reflects the in-state component of the activity being taxed. We thus examine the in-state business activity which triggers the taxable event and the practical or economic effect of the tax on that interstate activity.”1078
In Goldberg v. Sweet, the Court upheld as properly apportioned a state tax on the gross charge of any telephone call originated or terminated in the state and charged to an in-state service address, regardless of where the telephone call was billed or paid.1079 A complex state tax imposed on trucks displays the operation of the test. Thus, a state registration tax met the internal consistency test because every state honored every other states’, and a motor fuel tax similarly was sustained because it was apportioned to mileage traveled in the state, whereas lump-sum annual taxes, an axle tax and an identification marker fee, being unapportioned flat taxes imposed for the use of the state’s roads, were voided, under the internal consistency test, because if every state imposed them, then the burden on interstate commerce would be great.1080 Similarly, the Court held that Maryland’s personal income tax scheme—which taxed Maryland residents on their worldwide income and nonresidents on income earned in the state and did not offer Maryland residents a full credit for income taxes they paid to other states—“fails the internal consistency test.”1081 The Court did so because, if every state adopted the same approach, taxpayers who “earn income interstate” would be taxed twice on a portion of that income, while those who earned income solely within their state of residence would be taxed only once.1082
Deference to state taxing authority was evident in a case in which the Court sustained a state sales tax on the price of a bus ticket for travel that originated in the state but terminated in another state. The tax was unapportioned to reflect the intrastate travel and the interstate travel.1083 The tax in this case was different from the tax upheld in Central Greyhound, the Court held. The previous tax constituted a levy on gross receipts, payable by the seller, whereas the present tax was a sales tax, also assessed on gross receipts, but payable by the buyer. The Oklahoma tax, the Court continued, was internally consistent, because if every state imposed a tax on ticket sales within the state for travel originating there, no sale would be subject to more than one tax. The tax was also externally consistent, the Court held, because it was a tax on the sale of a service that took place in the state, not a tax on the travel.1084
However, the Court found discriminatory and thus invalid a state intangibles tax on a fraction of the value of corporate stock owned by state residents inversely proportional to the state’s exposure to the state income tax.1085
Discrimination.—The “fundamental principle” governing this factor is simple. “ ‘No State may, consistent with the Commerce Clause, impose a tax which discriminates against interstate commerce . . . by providing a direct commercial advantage to local business.’ ”1086 That is, a tax that by its terms or operation imposes greater burdens on out-of-state goods or activities than on competing in-state goods or activities will be struck down as discriminatory under the Commerce Clause.1087 In Armco, Inc. v. Hardesty,1088 the Court voided as discriminatory the imposition on an out-of-state wholesaler of a state tax that was levied on manufacturing and wholesaling but that relieved manufacturers subject to the manufacturing tax of liability for paying the wholesaling tax. Even though the former tax was higher than the latter, the Court found that the imposition discriminated against the interstate wholesaler.1089 A state excise tax on wholesale liquor sales, which exempted sales of specified local products, was held to violate the Commerce Clause.1090 A state statute that granted a tax credit for ethanol fuel if the ethanol was produced in the state, or if it was produced in another state that granted a similar credit to the state’s ethanol fuel, was found discriminatory in violation of the clause.1091 The Court reached the same conclusion as to Maryland’s personal income tax scheme, previously noted, which taxed Maryland residents on their worldwide income and nonresidents on income earned in the state and did not offer Maryland residents a full credit for income taxes they paid to other states, finding the scheme “inherently discriminatory.”1092
Expanding, although neither unexpectedly nor exceptionally, its dormant commerce jurisprudence, the Court in Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison,1093 applied its nondiscrimination element of the doctrine to invalidate the state’s charitable property tax exemption statute, which applied to nonprofit firms performing benevolent and charitable functions, but which excluded entities serving primarily out-of-state residents. The claimant here operated a church camp for children, most of whom resided out-of-state. The discriminatory tax would easily have fallen had it been applied to profit-making firms, and the Court saw no reason to make an exception for nonprofits. The tax scheme was designed to encourage entities to care for local populations and to discourage attention to out-of-state individuals and groups. “For purposes of Commerce Clause analysis, any categorical distinction between the activities of profit-making enterprises and not-for-profit entities is therefore wholly illusory. Entities in both categories are major participants in interstate markets. And, although the summer camp involved in this case may have a relatively insignificant impact on the commerce of the entire Nation, the interstate commercial activities of nonprofit entities as a class are unquestionably significant.”1094
Benefit Relationship.—Although, in all the modern cases, the Court has stated that a necessary factor to sustain state taxes having an interstate impact is that the levy be fairly related to benefits provided by the taxing state, it has declined to be drawn into any consideration of the amount of the tax or the value of the benefits bestowed. The test rather is whether, as a matter of the first factor, the business has the requisite nexus with the state; if it does, then the tax meets the fourth factor simply because the business has enjoyed the opportunities and protections that the state has afforded it.1095
The modern standard of Commerce Clause re- view of state regulation of, or having an impact on, interstate commerce was adopted in Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona,1096 although it was presaged in a series of opinions, mostly dissents, by Chief Justice Stone.1097 Southern Pacific tested the validity of a state train-length law, justified as a safety measure. Revising a hundred years of doctrine, the Chief Justice wrote that whether a state or local regulation was valid depended upon a “reconciliation of the conflicting claims of state and national power [that] is to be attained only by some appraisal and accommodation of the competing demands of the state and national interests involved.”1098 Save in those few cases in which Congress has acted, “this Court, and not the state legislature, is under the commerce clause the final arbiter of the competing demands of state and national interests.”1099
That the test to be applied was a balancing one, the Chief Justice made clear at length, stating that, in order to determine whether the challenged regulation was permissible, “matters for ultimate determination are the nature and extent of the burden which the state regulation of interstate trains, adopted as a safety measure, imposes on interstate commerce, and whether the relative weights of the state and national interests involved are such as to make inapplicable the rule, generally observed, that the free flow of interstate commerce and its freedom from local restraints in matters requiring uniformity of regulation are interests safeguarded by the commerce clause from state interference.”1100
The test today continues to be the Stone articulation, although the more frequently quoted encapsulation of it is from Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc.: “Where the statute regulates evenhandedly to effectuate a legitimate local public interest, and its effects on interstate commerce are only incidental, it will be upheld unless the burden imposed on such commerce is clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits. If a legitimate local purpose is found, then the question becomes one of degree. And the extent of the burden that will be tolerated will of course depend on the nature of the local interest involved, and on whether it could be promoted as well with a lesser impact on interstate activities.”1101
Obviously, the test requires “evenhanded[ness].” Discrimination in regulation is another matter altogether. When on its face or in its effect a regulation betrays “economic protectionism”—an intent to benefit in-state economic interests at the expense of out-of-state interests—then no balancing is required. “When a state statute clearly discriminates against interstate commerce, it will be struck down . . . unless the discrimination is demonstrably justified by a valid factor unrelated to economic protectionism, . . . . Indeed, when the state statute amounts to simple economic protectionism, a ‘virtually per se rule of invalidity’ has applied.”1102 Thus, an Oklahoma law that required coal-fired electric utilities in the state, producing power for sale in the state, to burn a mixture of coal containing at least 10% Oklahoma-mined coal was invalidated at the behest of a state that had previously provided virtually 100% of the coal used by the Oklahoma utilities.1103 Similarly, the Court invalidated a state law that permitted interdiction of export of hydroelectric power from the state to neighboring states, when in the opinion of regulatory authorities the energy was required for use in the state; a state may not prefer its own citizens over out-of-state residents in access to resources within the state.1104
States may certainly promote local economic interests and favor local consumers, but they may not do so by adversely regulating out-of-state producers or consumers. In Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Comm’n,1105 the Court confronted a North Carolina requirement that closed containers of apples offered for sale or shipped into North Carolina carry no grade other than the applicable U.S. grade. Washington State mandated that all apples produced in and shipped in interstate commerce pass a much more rigorous inspection than that mandated by the United States. The inability to display the recognized state grade in North Carolina impeded marketing of Washington apples. The Court obviously suspected that the impact was intended, but, rather than strike down the state requirement as purposeful, it held that the regulation had the practical effect of discriminating, and, as no defense based on possible consumer protection could be presented, the Court invalidated the state law.1106 State actions to promote local products and producers, of everything from milk1107 to alcohol,1108 may not be achieved through protectionism.
Even garbage transportation and disposition is covered by the negative commerce clause. A New Jersey statute that banned the importation of most solid or liquid wastes that originated outside the state was struck down as “an obvious effort to saddle those outside the State with the entire burden of slowing the flow of refuse into New Jersey’s remaining landfill sites”; the state could not justify the statute as a quarantine law designed to protect the public health because New Jersey left its landfills open to domestic waste.1109 Further extending the application of the negative commerce clause to waste disposal,1110 the Court, in C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown,1111 invalidated as discriminating against interstate commerce a local “flow control” ordinance that required all solid waste within the town to be processed at a designated transfer station before leaving the municipality. Underlying the restriction was the town’s decision to have a solid waste transfer station built by a private contractor, rather than with public funds. To make the arrangement appealing to the contractor, the town guaranteed it a minimum waste flow, which the town ensured by requiring that all solid waste generated within the town be processed at the contractor’s station.
The Court saw the ordinance as a form of economic protectionism, in that it “hoard[ed] solid waste, and the demand to get rid of it, for the benefit of the preferred processing facility.”1112 The Court found that the town could not “justify the flow control ordinance as a way to steer solid waste away from out-of-town disposal sites that it might deem harmful to the environment. To do so would extend the town’s police power beyond its jurisdictional bounds. States and localities may not attach restrictions to exports or imports in order to control commerce in other states.”1113 The Court also found that the town’s goal of “revenue generation is not a local interest that can justify discrimination against interstate commerce. Otherwise States could impose discriminatory taxes against solid waste originating outside the State.”1114 Moreover, the town had other means to raise revenue, such as subsidizing the facility through general taxes or municipal bonds.1115 The Court did not deal with—indeed, did not notice—the fact that the local law conferred a governmentally granted monopoly—an exclusive franchise, indistinguishable from a host of local monopolies at the state and local level.1116
In United Haulers Ass’n, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority,1117 the Court declined to apply Carbone where haulers were required to bring waste to facilities owned and operated by a state-created public benefit corporation instead of to a private processing facility, as was the case in Carbone. The Court found this difference constitutionally significant because “[d]isposing of trash has been a traditional government activity for years, and laws that favor the government in such areas—but treat every private business, whether in-state or out-of-state, exactly the same—do not discriminate against interstate commerce for purposes of the Commerce Clause. Applying the Commerce Clause test reserved for regulations that do not discriminate against interstate commerce, we uphold these ordinances because any incidental burden they may have on interstate commerce does not outweigh the benefits they confer . . . .”1118
In Department of Revenue of Kentucky v. Davis,1119 the Court considered a challenge to the long-standing state practice of issuing bonds for public purposes while exempting interest on the bonds from state taxation.1120 In Davis, a challenge was brought against Kentucky for such a tax exemption because it applied only to government bonds that Kentucky issued, and not to government bonds issued by other states. The Court, however, recognizing the long pedigree of such taxation schemes, applied the logic of United Haulers Ass’n, Inc., noting that the issuance of debt securities to pay for public projects is a “quintessentially public function,” and that Kentucky’s differential tax scheme should not be treated like one that discriminated between privately issued bonds.1121 In what may portend a significant change in dormant commerce clause doctrine, however, the Court declined to evaluate the governmental benefits of Kentucky’s tax scheme versus the economic burdens it imposed, holding that, at least in this instance, the “Judicial Branch is not institutionally suited to draw reliable conclusions.”1122
Drawing the line between regulations that are facially discriminatory and regulations that necessitate balancing is not an easy task. Not every claim of unconstitutional protectionism has been sustained. Thus, in Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co.,1123 the Court upheld a state law banning the retail sale of milk products in plastic, nonreturnable containers but permitting sales in other nonreturnable, nonrefillable containers, such as paperboard cartons. The Court found no discrimination against interstate commerce, because both in-state and out-of-state interests could not use plastic containers, and it refused to credit a lower, state-court finding that the measure was intended to benefit the local pulpwood industry. In Exxon Corp. v. Governor of Maryland,1124 the Court upheld a statute that prohibited producers or refiners of petroleum products from operating retail service stations in Maryland. The statute did not on its face discriminate against out-of-state companies, but, as there were no producers or refiners in Maryland, “the burden of the divestiture requirements” fell solely on such companies.1125 The Court found, however, that “this fact does not lead, either logically or as a practical matter, to a conclusion that the State is discriminating against interstate commerce at the retail level,”1126 as the statute does not “distinguish between in-state and out-of-state companies in the retail market.”1127
Still a model example of balancing is Chief Justice Stone’s opinion in Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona.1128 At issue was the validity of Arizona’s law barring the operation within the state of trains of more than 14 passenger cars (no other state had a figure this low) or 70 freight cars (only one other state had a cap this low). First, the Court observed that the law substantially burdened interstate commerce. Enforcement of the law in Arizona, while train lengths went unregulated or were regulated by varying standards in other states, meant that interstate trains of a length lawful in other states had to be broken up before entering Arizona. As it was not practicable to break up trains at the border, that act had to be done at yards quite removed, with the result that the Arizona limitation controlled train lengths as far east as El Paso, Texas, and as far west as Los Angeles. Nearly 95 percent of the rail traffic in Arizona was interstate. The other alternative was to operate in other states with the lowest cap, Arizona’s, with the result that Arizona’s law controlled the railroads’ operations over a wide area.1129 If other states began regulating at different lengths, as they would be permitted to do, the burden on the railroads would burgeon. Moreover, the additional number of trains needed to comply with the cap just within Arizona was costly, and delays were occasioned by the need to break up and remake lengthy trains.1130
Conversely, the Court found that, as a safety measure, the state cap had “at most slight and dubious advantage, if any, over unregulated train lengths.” That is, although there were safety problems with longer trains, the shorter trains mandated by state law required increases in the numbers of trains and train operations and a consequent increase in accidents generally more severe than those attributable to longer trains. In short, the evidence did not show that the cap lessened rather than increased the danger of accidents.1131
Conflicting state regulations appeared in Bibb v. Navajo Freight Lines.1132 There, Illinois required the use of contour mudguards on trucks and trailers operating on the state’s highways, while adjacent Arkansas required the use of straight mudguards and banned contoured ones. At least 45 states authorized straight mudguards. The Court sifted the evidence and found it conflicting on the comparative safety advantages of contoured and straight mudguards. But, admitting that if that were all that was involved the Court would have to sustain the costs and burdens of outfitting with the required mudguards, the Court invalidated the Illinois law, because of the massive burden on interstate commerce occasioned by the necessity of truckers to shift cargoes to differently designed vehicles at the state’s borders.
Arguably, the Court in more recent years has continued to stiffen the scrutiny with which it reviews state regulation of interstate carriers purportedly for safety reasons.1133 Difficulty attends any evaluation of the possible developing approach, because the Court has spoken with several voices. A close reading, however, indicates that, although the Court is most reluctant to invalidate regulations that touch upon safety and that if safety justifications are not illusory it will not second-guess legislative judgments, the Court nonetheless will not accept, without more, state assertions of safety motivations. “Regulations designed for that salutary purpose nevertheless may further the purpose so marginally, and interfere with commerce so substantially, as to be invalid under the Commerce Clause.” Rather, the asserted safety purpose must be weighed against the degree of interference with interstate commerce. “This ‘weighing’ . . . requires . . . a sensitive consideration of the weight and nature of the state regulatory concern in light of the extent of the burden imposed on the course of interstate commerce.”1134
Balancing has been used in other than transportation-industry cases. Indeed, the modern restatement of the standard was in such a case.1135 There, the state required cantaloupes grown in the state to be packed there, rather than in an adjacent state, so that in-state packers’ names would be associated with a superior product. Promotion of a local industry was legitimate, the Court, said, but it did not justify the substantial expense the company would have to incur to comply. State efforts to protect local markets, concerns, or consumers against outside companies have largely been unsuccessful. Thus, a state law that prohibited ownership of local investment-advisory businesses by out-of-state banks, bank holding companies, and trust companies was invalidated.1136 The Court plainly thought the statute was protectionist, but instead of voiding it for that reason it held that the legitimate interests the state might have did not justify the burdens placed on out-of-state companies and that the state could pursue the accomplishment of legitimate ends through some intermediate form of regulation. In Edgar v. MITE Corp.,1137 an Illinois regulation of take-over attempts of companies that had specified business contacts with the state, as applied to an attempted take-over of a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Connecticut, was found to constitute an undue burden, with special emphasis upon the extraterritorial effect of the law and the dangers of disuniformity. These problems were found lacking in the next case, in which the state statute regulated the manner in which purchasers of corporations chartered within the state and with a specified percentage of in-state shareholders could proceed with their take-over efforts. The Court emphasized that the state was regulating only its own corporations, which it was empowered to do, and no matter how many other states adopted such laws there would be no conflict. The burdens on interstate commerce, and the Court was not that clear that the effects of the law were burdensome in the appropriate context, were justified by the state’s interests in regulating its corporations and resident shareholders.1138
In other areas, although the Court repeats balancing language, it has not applied it with any appreciable bite,1139 but in most respects the state regulations involved are at most problematic in the context of the concerns of the Commerce Clause.
Foreign Commerce and State Powers
State taxation and regulation of commerce from abroad are also subject to negative commerce clause constraints. In the seminal case of Brown v. Maryland,1140 in the course of striking down a state statute requiring “all importers of foreign articles or commodities,” preparatory to selling the goods, to take out a license, Chief Justice Marshall developed a lengthy exegesis explaining why the law was void under both the Import-Export Clause1141 and the Commerce Clause. According to the Chief Justice, an inseparable part of the right to import was the right to sell, and a tax on the sale of an article is a tax on the article itself. Thus, the taxing power of the states did not extend in any form to imports from abroad so long as they remain “the property of the importer, in his warehouse, in the original form or package” in which they were imported. This is the famous “original package” doctrine. Only when the importer parts with his importations, mixes them into his general property by breaking up the packages, may the state treat them as taxable property.
Obviously, to the extent that the Import-Export Clause was construed to impose a complete ban on taxation of imports so long as they were in their original packages, there was little occasion to develop a Commerce Clause analysis that would have reached only discriminatory taxes or taxes upon goods in transit.1142 In other respects, however, the Court has applied the foreign commerce aspect of the clause more stringently against state taxation.
Thus, in Japan Line, Ltd. v. County of Los Angeles,1143 the Court held that, in addition to satisfying the four requirements that govern the permissibility of state taxation of interstate commerce,1144 “When a State seeks to tax the instrumentalities of foreign commerce, two additional considerations . . . come into play. The first is the enhanced risk of multiple taxation. . . . Second, a state tax on the instrumentalities of foreign commerce may impair federal uniformity in an area where federal uniformity is essential.”1145 Multiple taxation is to be avoided with respect to interstate commerce by apportionment so that no jurisdiction may tax all the property of a multistate business, and the rule of apportionment is enforced by the Supreme Court with jurisdiction over all the states. However, the Court is unable to enforce such a rule against another country, and the country of the domicile of the business may impose a tax on full value. Uniformity could be frustrated by disputes over multiple taxation, and trade disputes could result.
Applying both these concerns, the Court invalidated a state tax, a nondiscriminatory, ad valorem property tax, on foreign-owned instrumentalities, i.e., cargo containers, of international commerce. The containers were used exclusively in international commerce and were based in Japan, which did in fact tax them on full value. Thus, there was the actuality, not only the risk, of multiple taxation. National uniformity was endangered, because, although California taxed the Japanese containers, Japan did not tax American containers, and disputes resulted.1146
On the other hand, the Court has upheld a state tax on all aviation fuel sold within the state as applied to a foreign airline operating charters to and from the United States. The Court found the Complete Auto standards met, and it similarly decided that the two standards specifically raised in foreign commerce cases were not violated. First, there was no danger of double taxation because the tax was imposed upon a discrete transaction—the sale of fuel—that occurred within only one jurisdiction. Second, the one-voice standard was satisfied, because the United States had never entered into any compact with a foreign nation precluding such state taxation, having only signed agreements with others, which had no force of law, aspiring to eliminate taxation that constituted impediments to air travel.1147 Also, a state unitary-tax scheme that used a worldwide-combined reporting formula was upheld as applied to the taxing of the income of a domestic-based corporate group with extensive foreign operations.1148
Extending Container Corp., the Court in Barclays Bank v. Franchise Tax Bd. of California,1149 upheld the state’s worldwide-combined reporting method of determining the corporate franchise tax owed by unitary multinational corporations, as applied to a foreign corporation. The Court determined that the tax easily satisfied three of the four-part Complete Auto test—nexus, apportionment, and relation to state’s services—and concluded that the nondiscrimination principle—perhaps violated by the letter of the law—could be met by the discretion accorded state officials. As for the two additional factors, as outlined in Japan Lines, the Court pronounced itself satisfied. Multiple taxation was not the inevitable result of the tax, and that risk would not be avoided by the use of any reasonable alternative. The tax, it was found, did not impair federal uniformity or prevent the Federal Government from speaking with one voice in international trade, in view of the fact that Congress had rejected proposals that would have preempted California’s practice.1150 The result of the case, perhaps intended, is that foreign corporations have less protection under the negative commerce clause.1151
The power to regulate foreign commerce was always broader than the states’ power to tax it, an exercise of the “police power” recognized by Chief Justice Marshall in Brown v. Maryland.1152 That this power was constrained by notions of the national interest and pre-emption principles was evidenced in the cases striking down state efforts to curb and regulate the actions of shippers bringing persons into their ports.1153 On the other hand, quarantine legislation to protect the states’ residents from disease and other hazards was commonly upheld though it regulated international commerce.1154 A state game-season law applied to criminalize the possession of a dead grouse imported from Russia was upheld because of the practical necessities of enforcement of domestic law.1155
Nowadays, state regulation of foreign commerce is likely to be judged by the extra factors set out in Japan Line.1156 Thus, the application of a state civil rights law to a corporation transporting passengers outside the state to an island in a foreign province was sustained in an opinion emphasizing that, because of the particularistic geographic situation the foreign commerce involved was more conceptual than actual, there was only a remote hazard of conflict between state law and the law of the other country and little if any prospect of burdening foreign commerce.
- Thus, by Article I, § 10, cl. 2, States are denied the power to “lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports” except by the consent of Congress. The clause applies only to goods imported from or exported to another country, not from or to another State, Woodruff v. Parham, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 123 (1869), which prevents its application to interstate commerce, although Chief Justice Marshall thought to the contrary, Brown v. Maryland, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419, 449 (1827), and the contrary has been strongly argued. W. CROSSKEY, POLITICS AND THE CONSTITUTION IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES 295–323 (1953).
- THE FEDERALIST No. 32 (J. Cooke ed. 1961), 199–203. Note that in connection with the discussion that follows, Hamilton avowed that the taxing power of the States, save for imposts or duties on imports or exports, “remains undiminished.” Id. at 201. The States “retain [the taxing] authority in the most absolute and unqualified sense[.]” Id. at 199.
- 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 11 (1824). Justice Johnson’s assertion, concurring, was to the same effect. Id. at 226. Late in life, James Madison stated that the power had been granted Congress mainly as “a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States.” 4 LETTERS AND OTHER WRITINGS OF JAMES MADISON 14–15 (1865).
- It was evident from THE FEDERALIST that the principal aim of the Commerce Clause was the protection of the national market from the oppressive power of individual States acting to stifle or curb commerce. Id. at No. 7, 39–41 (Hamilton); No. 11, 65–73 (Hamilton); No. 22, 135–137 (Hamilton); No. 42, 283–284 (Madison); No. 53, 362–364 (Madison). See H. P. Hood & Sons v. Du Mond, 336 U.S. 525, 533 (1949). For a comprehensive history of the adoption of the Commerce Clause, which does not indicate a definitive answer to the question posed, see Abel, The Commerce Clause in the Constitutional Convention and in Contemporary Comment, 25 MINN. L. REV. 432 (1941). Professor Abel discovered only nine references in the Convention records to the Commerce Clause, all directed to the dangers of interstate rivalry and retaliation. Id. at 470–71 & nn. 169–75.
- The strongest suggestion of exclusivity found in the Convention debates is a remark by Madison. “Whether the States are now restrained from laying tonnage duties depends on the extent of the power ‘to regulate commerce.’ These terms are vague but seem to exclude this power of the States.” 2 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787 625 (rev. ed. 1937). However, the statement is recorded during debate on the clause, Art. I, § 10, cl. 3, prohibiting states from laying tonnage duties. That the Convention adopted this clause, when tonnage duties would certainly be one facet of regulating interstate and foreign commerce, casts doubt on the assumption that the commerce power itself was intended to be exclusive.
- Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 203 (1824).
- 22 U.S. at 210–11.
- The writings detailing the history are voluminous. See, e.g., F. FRANKFURTER, THE COMMERCE CLAUSE UNDER MARSHALL, TANEY, AND WHITE (1937); B. GAVIT, THE COMMERCE CLAUSE OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION (1932) (usefully containing appendices cataloguing every Commerce Clause decision of the Supreme Court to that time); Sholleys, The Negative Implications of the Commerce Clause, 3 U. CHI. L. REV. 556 (1936). Among the recent writings, see Sedler, The Negative Commerce Clause as a Restriction on State Regulation and Taxation: An Analysis in Terms of Constitutional Structure, 31 WAYNE L. REV. 885 (1985) (a disputed conceptualization arguing the Court followed a consistent line over the years), and articles cited, id. at 887 n.4.
- 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) at 13–14, 16.
- 22 U.S. at 17–18, 209. In Sturges v. Crowninshield, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 122, 193–96 (1819), Chief Justice Marshall denied that the grant of the bankruptcy power to Congress was exclusive. See also Houston v. Moore, 18 U.S. (5 Wheat.) 1 (1820) (militia).
- 27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 245, 252 (1829).
- 53 U.S. (12 How.) 299 (1851). The issue of exclusive federal power and the separate issue of the dormant commerce clause was present in the License Cases, 46 U.S. (5 How.) 504 (1847), and the Passenger Cases, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 283 (1849), but, despite the fact that much ink was shed in multiple opinions discussing the questions, nothing definitive emerged. Chief Justice Taney, in contrast to Marshall, viewed the clause only as a grant of power to Congress, containing no constraint upon the states, and the Court’s role was to void state laws in contravention of federal legislation. 46 U.S. (5 How.) at 573; 48 U.S. (7 How.) at 464.
- 48 U.S. at 317–20. Although Chief Justice Taney had formerly taken the strong position that Congress’s power over commerce was not exclusive, he acquiesced silently in the Cooley opinion. For a modern discussion of Cooley, see Goldstein v. California, 412 U.S. 546, 552–60 (1973), in which, in the context of the Copyright Clause, the Court, approving Cooley for Commerce Clause purposes, refused to find the Copyright Clause either fully or partially exclusive.
- Just a few years earlier, the Court, in an opinion that merged Commerce Clause and Import-Export Clause analyses, had seemed to suggest that it was a discriminatory tax or law that violates the Commerce Clause and not simply a tax on interstate commerce. Woodruff v. Parham, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 123 (1869).
- Reading R.R. v. Pennsylvania, 82 U.S. (15 Wall.) 232 (1873). For cases in which the Commerce Clause basis was intermixed with other express or implied powers, see Crandall v. Nevada, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 35 (1868); Steamship Co. v. Portwardens, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 31 (1867); Woodruff v. Parham, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 123 (1868). Chief Justice Marshall, in Brown v. Maryland, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419, 488–89 (1827), indicated, in dicta, that a state tax might violate the Commerce Clause.
- “Where the subject matter requires a uniform system as between the States, the power controlling it is vested exclusively in Congress, and cannot be encroached upon by the States.” Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100, 108–09 (1890). The Commerce Clause “remains in the Constitution as a grant of power to Congress . . . and as a diminution pro tanto of absolute state sovereignty over the same subject matter.” Carter v. Virginia, 321 U.S. 131, 137 (1944). The Commerce Clause, the Court has said, “does not say what the states may or may not do in the absence of congressional action, nor how to draw the line between what is and what is not commerce among the states. Perhaps even more than by interpretation of its written word, this Court has advanced the solidarity and prosperity of this Nation by the meaning it has given these great silences of the Constitution.” H. P. Hood & Sons, Inc. v. Du Mond, 336 U.S. 525, 534–35 (1949). Subsequently, the Court stated that the Commerce Clause “has long been recognized as a self-executing limitation on the power of the States to enact laws imposing substantial burdens on such commerce.’ ” Dennis v. Higgins, 498 U.S. 439, 447 (1991) (quoting South-Central Timber Dev., Inc. v. Wunnicke, 467 U.S. 82, 87 (1984) (emphasis added)).
- 91 U.S. 275 (1876).
- 91 U.S. at 282. In Steamship Co. v. Portwardens, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 31, 33 (1867), the Court suggested that congressional silence with regard to matters of “local” concern may in some circumstances signify a willingness that the states regulate. These principles were further explained by Chief Justice Stone, writing for the Court in Graves v. New York ex rel. O’Keefe, 306 U.S. 466, 479 n.1 (1939). “The failure of Congress to regulate interstate commerce has generally been taken to signify a Congressional purpose to leave undisturbed the authority of the states to make regulations affecting the commerce in matters of peculiarly local concern, but to withhold from them authority to make regulations affecting those phases of it which, because of the need of a national uniformity, demand that their regulation, if any, be prescribed by a single authority.” The fullest development of the “silence” rationale was not by the Court but by a renowned academic, Professor Dowling. Interstate Commerce and State Power, 29 VA. L. REV. 1 (1940); Interstate Commerce and State Power: Revisited Version, 47 COLUM. L. REV. 546 (1947).
- Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona, 325 U.S. 761, 768 (1945).
- 325 U.S. at 769. See also California v. Zook, 336 U.S. 725, 728 (1949).
- 91 U.S. 275, 277, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282 (1876).
- 91 U.S. at 280–81; Brown v. Maryland, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419, 446 (1827) (Chief Justice Marshall); Guy v. City of Baltimore, 100 U.S. 434, 440 (1879); Baldwin v. G.A.F. Seelig, Inc., 294 U.S. 550, 552 (1935); Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725, 754 (1981).
- E.g., Gwin, White & Prince, Inc. v. Henneford, 305 U.S. 434, 440 (1939); McLeod v. J. E. Dilworth Co., 322 U.S. 327, 330–31 (1944); Freeman v. Hewit, 329 U.S. 249, 252, 256 (1946); H. P. Hood & Sons, Inc. v. Du Mond, 336 U.S. 525, 538, 539 (1949); Dennis v. Higgins, 498 U.S. 439, 447–50 (1991). “[W]e have steadfastly adhered to the central tenet that the Commerce Clause ‘by its own force created an area of trade free from interference by the States.’ ” American Trucking Ass’ns v. Scheiner, 483 U.S. 266, 280 (1987) (quoting Boston Stock Exchange v. State Tax Comm’n, 429 U.S. 318, 328 (1977)).
- E.g., Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill, Inc. v. Michigan Natural Resources Dep’t, 504 U.S. 353, 359 (1992); Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992); Wyoming v. Oklahoma, 502 U.S. 437, 455 (1992). Indeed, the Court, in Dennis v. Higgins, 498 U.S. 439, 447–50 (1991), broadened its construction of the clause, holding that it confers a “right” upon individuals and companies to engage in interstate trade. With respect to the exercise of the power, the Court has recognized Congress’s greater expertise to act and noted its hesitancy to impose uniformity on state taxation. Moor-man Mfg. Co. v. Bair, 437 U.S. 267, 280 (1978). Cf. Quill Corp., 504 U.S. at 318.
- In McCarroll v. Dixie Lines, 309 U.S. 176, 183 (1940), Justice Black, for himself and Justices Frankfurter and Douglas, dissented, taking precisely this view. See also Adams Mfg. Co. v. Storen, 304 U.S. 307, 316 (1938) (Justice Black dissenting in part); Gwin, White & Prince, Inc. v. Henneford, 305 U.S. 434, 442 (1939) (Justice Black dissenting); Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona, 325 U.S. 761, 784 (1945) (Justice Black dissenting); id. at 795 (Justice Douglas dissenting). Justices Douglas and Frankfurter subsequently wrote and joined opinions applying the dormant commerce clause. In Michigan-Wisconsin Pipe Line Co. v. Calvert, 347 U.S. 157, 166 (1954), the Court rejected the urging that it uphold all not-patently discriminatory taxes and let Congress deal with conflicts. More recently, Justice Scalia has taken the view that, as a matter of original intent, a “dormant” or “negative” commerce power cannot be justified in either taxation or regulation cases, but, yielding to the force of precedent, he will vote to strike down state actions that discriminate against interstate commerce or that are governed by the Court’s precedents, without extending any of those precedents. CTS Corp. v. Dynamics Corp. of America, 481 U.S. 69, 94 (1987) (concurring); Tyler Pipe Indus. v. Washington State Dep’t of Revenue, 483 U.S. 232, 259 (1987) (concurring in part and dissenting in part); Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enterprises, Inc., 486 U.S. 888 (1988) (concurring in judgment); American Trucking Assn’s v. Smith, 496 U.S. 167 (1990) (concurring); Itel Containers Int’l Corp. v. Huddleston, 507 U.S. 60, 78 (1993) (Justice Scalia concurring) (reiterating view); Oklahoma Tax Comm’n v. Jefferson Lines, Inc.., 514 U.S. 175, 200–01 (1995) (Justice Scalia, with Justice Thomas joining) (same). Justice Thomas has written an extensive opinion rejecting both the historical and jurisprudential basis of the dormant commerce clause and expressing a preference for reliance on the imports-exports clause. Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 609 (1997) (dissenting; joined by Justice Scalia entirely and by Chief Justice Rehnquist as to the Commerce Clause but not the Imports-Exports Clause).
- Hughes v. Alexandria Scrap Corp., 426 U.S. 794, 805 (1976).
- 426 U.S. at 808.
- Reeves, Inc. v. Stake, 447 U.S. 429 (1980).
- 447 U.S. at 436–37; see also McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. ___, No. 12–17, slip op. at 14 (2013) (to the extent that the Virginia Freedom of Information Act created a market for public documents in Virginia, the Commonwealth was the sole manufacturer of the product, and therefore did not offend the Commerce Clause when it limited access to those documents under the Act to citizens of the Commonwealth).
- See also White v. Massachusetts Council of Construction Employers, 460 U.S. 204 (1983) (city may favor its own residents in construction projects paid for with city funds); South-Central Timber Dev., Inc. v. Wunnicke, 467 U.S. 82 (1984) (illustrating the deep divisions in the Court respecting the scope of the exception).
- Ch. 111, 10 Stat. 112, § 6.
- Pennsylvania v. Wheeling & Belmont Bridge Co., 54 U.S. (13 How.) 518 (1852), statute sustained in Pennsylvania v. Wheeling & Belmont Bridge Co., 59 U.S. (18 How.) 421 (1856). The latter decision seemed facially contrary to a dictum of Justice Curtis in Cooley v. Board of Wardens of Port of Philadelphia, 53 U.S. (12 How.) 299, 318 (1851), and cf. Tyler Pipe Indus., Inc. v. Washington State Dept. of Revenue, 483 U.S. 232, 263 n.4 (1987) (Justice Scalia concurring in part and dissenting in part), but if indeed the Court is interpreting the silence of Congress as a bar to action under the dormant commerce clause, then when Congress speaks it is enacting a regulatory authorization for the states to act.
- Transportation Co. v. Parkersburg, 107 U.S. 691, 701 (1883).
- The Court had developed the “original package” doctrine to restrict application of a state tax on imports from a foreign country in Brown v. Maryland, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419, 449 (1827). Although Chief Justice Marshall had indicated in dictum in Brown that the same rule would apply to imports from sister states, the Court had refused to follow that dictum in Woodruff v. Parham, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 123 (1869).
- Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623 (1887). Relying on the distinction between manufacture and commerce, the Court soon applied this ruling to authorize states to prohibit manufacture of liquor for an out-of-state market. Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U.S. 1 (1888).
- 125 U.S. 465 (1888).
- Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100 (1890).
- Ch. 728, 26 Stat. 313 (1890), upheld in In re Rahrer, 140 U.S. 545 (1891).
- Rhodes v. Iowa, 170 U.S. 412 (1898).
- Ch. 90, 37 Stat. 699 (1913), sustained in Clark-Distilling Co. v. Western Md. Ry., 242 U.S. 311 (1917). See also Department of Revenue v. Beam Distillers, 377 U.S. 341 (1964).
- Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460, 487 (2005). See also Bacchus Imports Ltd. v. Dias, 468 U.S. 263 (1984); Brown-Forman Distillers Corp. v. New York State Liquor Auth., 476 U.S. 573 (1986); Healy v. The Beer Institute, 491 U.S. 324 (1989), and the analysis of section 2 under Discrimination Between Domestic and Imported Products.
- 322 U.S. 533 (1944).
- 59 Stat. 33, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1011–15.
- 328 U.S. 408 (1946).
- 328 U.S. at 429–30.
- 328 U.S. at 434–35. The Act restored state taxing and regulatory powers over the insurance business to their scope prior to South-Eastern Underwriters. Discriminatory state taxation otherwise cognizable under the Commerce Clause must, therefore, be challenged under other provisions of the Constitution. See Western & Southern Life Ins. Co. v. State Bd. of Equalization, 451 U.S. 648 (1981). An equal protection challenge was successful in Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Ward, 470 U.S. 869 (1985), invalidating a discriminatory tax and stating that a favoring of local industries “constitutes the very sort of parochial discrimination that the Equal Protection Clause was intended to prevent.” Id. at 878. In Northeast Bancorp, Inc. v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 472 U.S. 159, 176–78 (1985), the Court declined to follow Ward where state statutes did not, as in Ward, favor local corporations at the expense of out-of-state corporations, but instead “favor[ed] out-of-state corporations domiciled within the New England region over out-of-state corporations from other parts of the country.” The Court noted that the statutes in Northeast Bancorp were concerned with “preserv[ing] a close relationship between those in the community who need credit and those who provide credit,” and with protecting “the independence of local banking institutions”; they did not, like the statutes in Ward, discriminate against “nonresident corporations solely because they were nonresidents.”
- Northeast Bancorp, Inc. v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 472 U.S. 159, 174 (1985) (interpreting a provision of the Bank Holding Company Act, 12 U.S.C. § 1842(d), permitting regional interstate bank acquisitions expressly approved by the state in which the acquired bank is located, as authorizing state laws that allow only banks within the particular region to acquire an in-state bank, on a reciprocal basis, since what the states could do entirely they can do in part).
- South-Central Timber Dev., Inc. v. Wunnicke, 467 U.S. 82, 90 (1984).
- 467 U.S. at 92. See also Hillside Dairy, Inc. v. Lyons, 539 U.S. 59 (2003) (authorization of state laws regulating milk solids does not authorize milk pricing and pooling laws). Earlier cases had required express statutory sanction of state burdens on commerce but under circumstances arguably less suggestive of congressional approval. E.g., Sporhase v. Nebraska ex rel. Douglas, 458 U.S. 941, 958–60 (1982) (congressional deference to state water law in 37 statutes and numerous interstate compacts did not indicate congressional sanction for invalid state laws imposing a burden on commerce); New England Power Co. v. New Hampshire, 455 U.S. 331, 341 (1982) (disclaimer in Federal Power Act of intent to deprive a State of “lawful authority” over interstate transmissions held not to evince a congressional intent “to alter the limits of state power otherwise imposed by the Commerce Clause”). But see White v. Massachusetts Council of Construction Employers, 460 U.S. 204 (1983) (Congress held to have sanctioned municipality’s favoritism of city residents through funding statute under which construction funds were received).
- Maine v. Taylor, 477 U.S. 131 (1986) (holding that Lacey Act’s reinforcement of state bans on importation of fish and wildlife neither authorizes state law otherwise invalid under the Clause nor shifts analysis from the presumption of invalidity for discriminatory laws to the balancing test for state laws that burden commerce only incidentally).
- Northwestern States Portland Cement Co. v. Minnesota, 358 U.S. 450, 457–58 (1959) (quoting Miller Bros. Co. v. Maryland, 347 U.S. 340, 344 (1954)). Justice Frankfurter was similarly skeptical of definitive statements. “To attempt to harmonize all that has been said in the past would neither clarify what has gone before nor guide the future. Suffice it to say that especially in this field opinions must be read in the setting of the particular cases and as the product of preoccupation with their special facts.” Freeman v. Hewit, 329 U.S. 249, 251–52 (1946). The comments in all three cases dealt with taxation, but they could just as well have included regulation.
- See J. HELLERSTEIN & W. HELLERSTEIN, STATE AND LOCAL TAXATION: CASES AND MATERIALS (8th ed. 2005), ch. 5.
- In addition to the sources previously cited, see J. HELLERSTEIN & W. HELLERSTEIN (8th ed.), ch. 5, supra. For a succinct description of the history, see Hellerstein, State Taxation of Interstate Business: Perspectives on Two Centuries of Constitutional Adjudication, 41 TAX LAW. 37 (1987).
- Reading R.R. v. Pennsylvania, 82 U.S. (15 Wall.) 232 (1873).
- 82 U.S. at 275.
- 82 U.S. at 275–76, 279.
- 82 U.S. at 279–80.
- 82 U.S. at 280.
- 82 U.S. at 281–82.
- Reading R.R. v. Pennsylvania, 82 U.S. (15 Wall.) 284 (1872).
- 82 U.S. at 293.
- 82 U.S. at 294. This case was overruled 14 years later, when the Court voided substantially the same tax in Philadelphia Steamship Co. v. Pennsylvania, 122 U.S. 326 (1887).
- See The Minnesota Rate Cases (Simpson v. Shepard), 230 U.S. 352, 398–412 (1913) (reviewing and summarizing at length both taxation and regulation cases). See also Missouri ex rel. Barrett v. Kansas Natural Gas Co., 265 U.S. 298, 307 (1924).
- Robbins v. Shelby County Taxing Dist., 120 U.S. 489, 497 (1887); Leloup v. Port of Mobile, 127 U.S. 640, 648 (1888).
- The Minnesota Rate Cases (Simpson v. Shepard), 230 U.S. 352, 400–401 (1913).
- The Delaware R.R. Tax, 85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 206, 232 (1873). See Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Ry. Co. v. Backus, 154 U.S. 439 (1894); Postal Telegraph Cable Co. v. Adams, 155 U.S. 688 (1895). See cases cited in J. HELLERSTEIN & W. HELLERSTEIN (8th ed.), supra, at 195 et seq.
- E.g., Welton v. Missouri, 91 U.S. 275 (1875); Robbins v. Shelby County Taxing District, 120 U.S. 489 (1887); Darnell & Son Co. v. City of Memphis, 208 U.S. 113 (1908); Bethlehem Motors Co. v. Flynt, 256 U.S. 421 (1921).
- Western Live Stock v. Bureau of Revenue, 303 U.S. 250 (1938); McGoldrick v. Berwind-White Coal Mining Co., 309 U.S. 33 (1940); International Harvester Co. v. Department of Treasury, 322 U.S. 340 (1944); International Harvester Co. v. Evatt, 329 U.S. 416 (1947).
- E.g., Gwin, White & Prince, Inc. v. Henneford, 305 U.S. 434 (1939); Joseph v. Carter & Weekes Stevedoring Co., 330 U.S. 422 (1947); Central Greyhound Lines v. Mealey, 334 U.S. 653 (1948). Notice the Court’s distinguishing of Central Greyhound in Oklahoma Tax Comm’n v. Jefferson Lines, 514 U.S. 175, 188–91 (1995).
- Freeman v. Hewit, 329 U.S. 249 (1946); Spector Motor Serv. v. O’Connor, 340 U.S. 602 (1951).
- Thus, the states carefully phrased tax laws so as to impose on interstate companies not a license tax for doing business in the state, which was not permitted, Railway Express Agency v. Virginia, 347 U.S. 359 (1954), but as a franchise tax on intangible property or the privilege of doing business in a corporate form, which was permissible. Railway Express Agency v. Virginia, 358 U.S. 434 (1959); Colonial Pipeline Co. v. Traigle, 421 U.S. 100 (1975). Also, the Court increasingly found the tax to be imposed on a local activity in instances it would previously have seen to be an interstate activity. E.g., Memphis Natural Gas Co. v. Stone, 335 U.S. 80 (1948); General Motors Corp. v. Washington, 377 U.S. 436 (1964); Standard Pressed Steel Co. v. Department of Revenue, 419 U.S. 560 (1975).
- Sedler, The Negative Commerce Clause as a Restriction on State Regulation and Taxation: An Analysis in Terms of Constitutional Structure, 31 WAYNE L. REV. 885, 924–925 (1985). In addition to the sources already cited, see the Court’s summaries in The Minnesota Rate Cases (Simpson v. Shepard), 230 U.S. 352, 398–412 (1913), and Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona, 325 U.S. 761, 766–70 (1945). In the latter case, Chief Justice Stone was reconceptualizing the standards under the clause, but the summary represents a faithful recitation of the law.
- See Di Santo v. Pennsylvania, 273 U.S. 34 (1927) (Justice Stone dissenting). The dissent was the precursor to Chief Justice Stone’s reformulation of the standard in 1945. DiSanto was overruled in California v. Thompson, 313 U.S. 109 (1941).
- Bank of Augusta v. Earle, 38 U.S. (13 Pet.) 519 (1839); Hanover Fire Ins. Co. v. Harding, 272 U.S. 494 (1926); Union Brokerage Co. v. Jensen, 322 U.S. 202 (1944).
- Crutcher v. Kentucky, 141 U.S. 47 (1891); International Textbook Co. v. Pigg, 217 U.S. 91 (1910).
- Dahnke-Walker Co. v. Bondurant, 257 U.S. 282 (1921); Allenberg Cotton Co. v. Pittman, 419 U.S. 20 (1974). But see Eli Lilly & Co. v. Sav-on Drugs, 366 U.S. 276 (1961).
- Wabash, S. L. & P. Ry. v. Illinois, 118 U.S. 557 (1886). The power of the states generally to set rates had been approved in Chicago, B. & Q. R.R. v. Iowa, 94 U.S. 155 (1877), and Peik v. Chicago & N.W. Ry., 94 U.S. 164 (1877). After the Wabash decision, states retained power to set rates for passengers and freight taken up and put down within their borders. Wisconsin R.R. Comm’n v. Chicago, B. & Q. R.R., 257 U.S. 563 (1922).
- Generally, the Court drew the line at regulations that provided for adequate service, not any and all service. Thus, one class of cases dealt with requirements that trains stop at designated cities and towns. The regulations were upheld in such cases as Gladson v. Minnesota, 166 U.S. 427 (1897), and Lake Shore & Mich. South. Ry. v. Ohio, 173 U.S. 285 (1899), and invalidated in Illinois Cent. R.R. v. Illinois, 163 U.S. 142 (1896). See Chicago, B. & Q. R.R. v. Wisconsin R.R. Comm’n, 237 U.S. 220, 226 (1915); St. Louis & S. F. Ry. v. Public Service Comm’n, 254 U.S. 535, 536–537 (1921). The cases were extremely fact-specific.
- E.g., Smith v. Alabama, 124 U.S. 465 (1888) (required locomotive engineers to be examined and licensed by the state, until Congress should deem otherwise); New York, N.H. & H. R.R. v. New York, 165 U.S. 628 (1897) (forbidding heating of passenger cars by stoves); Chicago, R.I. & P. Ry. v. Arkansas, 219 U.S. 453 (1911) (requiring three brakemen on freight trains of more than 25 cars).
- E.g., Terminal Ass’n v. Trainmen, 318 U.S. 1 (1943) (requiring railroad to provide caboose cars for its employees); Hennington v. Georgia, 163 U.S. 299 (1896) (forbidding freight trains to run on Sundays). But see Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Blackwell, 244 U.S. 310 (1917) (voiding as too onerous on interstate transportation a law requiring trains to come to almost a complete stop at all grade crossings, when there were 124 highway crossings at grade in 123 miles, doubling the running time).
- Four cases over a lengthy period sustained the laws. Chicago, R.I. & Pac. Ry. Co. v. Arkansas, 219 U.S. 453 (1911); St. Louis, I. Mt. & So. Ry. v. Arkansas, 240 U.S. 518 (1916); Missouri Pacific R.R. v. Norwood, 283 U.S. 249 (1931); Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen v. Chicago, R.I. & P. R.R., 382 U.S. 423 (1966). In the latter case, the Court noted the extensive and conflicting record with regard to safety, but it then ruled that with the issue in so much doubt it was peculiarly a legislative choice.
- Hendrick v. Maryland, 235 U.S. 610 (1915); Kane v. New Jersey, 242 U.S. 160 (1916).
- E.g., Bradley v. Public Utility Comm’n, 289 U.S. 92 (1933) (state could deny an interstate firm a necessary certificate of convenience to operate as a common carrier on the basis that the route was overcrowded); Welch Co. v. New Hampshire, 306 U.S. 79 (1939) (maximum hours for drivers of motor vehicles); Eichholz v. Public Service Comm’n, 306 U.S. 268 (1939) (reasonable regulations of traffic). But compare Michigan Comm’n v. Duke, 266 U.S. 570 (1925) (state may not impose common-carrier responsibilities on business operating between states that did not assume them); Buck v. Kuykendall, 267 U.S. 307 (1925) (denial of certificate of convenience under circumstances was a ban on competition).
- E.g., Mauer v. Hamilton, 309 U.S. 598 (1940) (ban on operation of any motor vehicle carrying any other vehicle above the head of the operator). By far, the example of the greatest deference is South Carolina Highway. Dep’t v. Barnwell Bros., 303 U.S. 177 (1938), in which the Court upheld, in a surprising Stone opinion, truck weight and width restrictions prescribed by practically no other state (in terms of the width, no other).
- E.g., Transportation Co. v. City of Chicago, 99 U.S. 635 (1879); Willamette Iron Bridge Co. v. Hatch, 125 U.S. 1 (1888). See Kelly v. Washington, 302 U.S. 1 (1937) (upholding state inspection and regulation of tugs operating in navigable waters, in absence of federal law).
- E.g., Western Union Tel Co. v. Foster, 247 U.S. 105 (1918); Lemke v. Farmers Grain Co., 258 U.S. 50 (1922); State Comm’n v. Wichita Gas Co., 290 U.S. 561 (1934).
- Milk Control Board v. Eisenberg Co., 306 U.S. 346 (1939) (milk); Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341 (1943) (raisins).
- 91 U.S. 275 (1875).
- 136 U.S. 313 (1890).
- E.g., Brimmer v. Rebman, 138 U.S. 78 (1891) (law requiring postslaughter inspection in each county of meat transported over 100 miles from the place of slaughter); Dean Milk Co. v. City of Madison, 340 U.S. 349 (1951) (city ordinance preventing selling of milk as pasteurized unless it had been processed and bottled at an approved plant within a radius of five miles from the central square of Madison). As the latter case demonstrates, it is constitutionally irrelevant that other Wisconsin producers were also disadvantaged by the law. For a modern application of the principle of these cases, see Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill v. Michigan Nat. Res. Dep’t, 504 U.S. 353 (1992) (forbidding landfills from accepting out-of-county wastes). See also C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown, 511 U.S. 383, 391 (1994) (discrimination against interstate commerce not preserved because local businesses also suffer).
- 294 U.S. 511 (1935). See also Polar Ice Cream & Creamery Co. v. Andrews, 375 U.S. 361 (1964). With regard to products originating within the state, the Court had no difficulty with price fixing. Nebbia v. New York, 291 U.S. 502 (1934).
- 336 U.S. 525 (1949). For the most recent case in this saga, see West Lynn Creamery, Inc. v. Healy, 512 U.S. 186 (1994).
- And the Court does not permit a state to combat discrimination against its own products by admitting only products (here, again, milk) from states that have reciprocity agreements with it to protect its own dealers. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. v. Cottrell, 424 U.S. 366 (1976).
- Formulation of a balancing test was achieved in Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona, 325 U.S. 761 (1945), and was thereafter maintained more or less consistently. The Court’s current phrasing of the test was in Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137 (1970).
- Indeed, scholars dispute just when the modern standard was firmly adopted. The conventional view is that it was articulated in Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, 430 U.S. 274 (1977), but there also seems little doubt that the foundation of the present law was laid in Northwestern States Portland Cement Co. v. Minnesota, 358 U.S. 450 (1959).
- Compare Freeman v. Hewit, 329 U.S. 249, 252–256 (1946), with Western Live Stock v. Bureau of Revenue, 303 U.S. 250, 258, 260 (1938).
- 358 U.S. 450 (1959).
- 358 U.S. at 461–62. See Western Live Stock v. Bureau of Revenue, 303 U.S. 250, 254 (1938). For recent reiterations of the principle, see Quill Corp. v. North Dakota ex rel. Heitkamp, 504 U.S. 298, 310 n.5 (1992) (citing cases).
- Hellerstein, State Taxation of Interstate Business: Perspectives on Two Centuries of Constitutional Adjudication, 41 TAX LAW. 37, 54 (1987).
- Spector Motor Service, Inc. v. O’Connor, 340 U.S. 602 (1951). The attenuated nature of the purported distinction was evidenced in Colonial Pipeline Co. v. Traigle, 421 U.S. 100 (1975), in which the Court sustained a nondiscriminatory, fairly apportioned franchise tax that was measured by the taxpayer’s capital stock, imposed on a pipeline company doing an exclusively interstate business in the taxing state, on the basis that it was a tax imposed on the privilege of conducting business in the corporate form.
- 430 U.S. 274 (1977).
- 430 U.S. at 279, 288. “In reviewing Commerce Clause challenges to state taxes, our goal has instead been to ‘establish a consistent and rational method of inquiry’ focusing on ‘the practical effect of a challenged tax.’ ” Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U.S. 609, 615 (1981) (quoting Mobil Oil Corp. v. Commissioner of Taxes, 445 U.S. 425, 443 (1980)).
- 430 U.S. at 279. The rationale of these four parts of the test is set out in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota ex rel. Heitkamp, 504 U.S. 298, 312–13 (1992). A recent application of the four-part Complete Auto Transit test is Oklahoma Tax Comm’n v. Jefferson Lines, Inc., 514 U.S. 175 (1995).
- Meadwestvaco Corp. v. Illinois Dept. of Revenue, 128 S. Ct. 1498, 1505 (2008) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “[T]he due process nexus analysis requires that we ask whether an individual’s connections with a State are substantial enough to legitimate the State’s exercise of power over him. . . . In contrast, the Commerce Clause and its nexus requirement are informed not so much by concerns about fairness for the individual defendant as by structural concerns about the effects of state regulation on the national economy.” Quill Corp. v. North Dakota ex rel. Heitkamp, 504 U.S. 298, 312 (1992).
- 128 S. Ct. at 1505 (internal quotation marks omitted). It had been thought, prior to the decision in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota ex rel. Heitkamp, 504 U.S. 298, 305 (1992), that the tests for nexus under the Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause were identical, but the Court in that case, although stating that the two tests “are closely related” (citing National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Dept. of Revenue of Illinois, 386 U.S. 753, 756 (1967)), held that they “differ fundamentally” and found a state tax to satisfy the Due Process Clause but to violate the Commerce Clause. Compare Quill at 325–28 (Justice White concurring in part and dissenting in part). However, the requirement for “some definite link, some minimum connection, between a state and the person, property or transaction it seeks to tax” probably survives the bifurcation of the tests in Quill. National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Dept. of Revenue of Illinois, 386 U.S. 753, 756 (1967) (Commerce Clause), quoting Miller Bros. Co. v. Maryland, 347 U.S. 340, 344–45 (1954) (Due Process Clause).
- Scripto v. Carson, 362 U.S. 207 (1960); National Geographic Soc’y v. California Bd. of Equalization, 430 U.S. 551 (1977). In Scripto, the vendor’s agents that were in the state imposing the tax were independent contractors, rather than employees, but this distinction was irrelevant. See also Tyler Pipe Indus. v. Washington State Dept. of Revenue, 483 U.S. 232, 249–50 (1987) (reaffirming Scripto on this point). See also D. H. Holmes Co. v. McNamara, 486 U.S. 24 (1988) (upholding imposition of use tax on catalogs, printed outside state at direction of an in-state corporation and shipped to prospective customers within the state).
- National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Dept. of Revenue of Illinois, 386 U.S. 753, 758 (1967), reaffirmed with respect to the Commerce Clause in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota ex rel. Heitkamp, 504 U.S. 298 (1992).
- Reacting to Northwestern States, Congress enacted Pub. L. 86–272, 15 U.S.C. § 381, providing that mere solicitation by a company acting outside the state did not support imposition of a state income tax on a company’s proceeds. See Heublein, Inc. v. South Carolina Tax Comm’n, 409 U.S. 275 (1972).
- Standard Pressed Steel Co. v. Department of Revenue, 419 U.S. 560 (1975). See also General Motors Corp. v. Washington, 377 U.S. 436 (1964).
- Tyler Pipe Indus. v. Dept. of Revenue, 483 U.S. 232, 249–51 (1987). The Court agreed with the state court’s holding that “the crucial factor governing nexus is whether the activities performed in this state on behalf of the taxpayer are significantly associated with the taxpayer’s ability to establish and maintain a market in this state for the sales.” Id. at 250.
- United Air Lines v. Mahin, 410 U.S. 623 (1973).
- Meadwestvaco Corp. v. Illinois Dept. of Revenue, 128 S. Ct. 1498, 1505–06 (2008) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The holding of this case was that the concept of “operational function,” which the Court had introduced in prior cases, was “not intended to modify the unitary business principle by adding a new ground for apportionment.” Id. at 1507–08. In other words, the Court declined to adopt a basis upon which a state could tax a non-unitary business.
- Container Corp. of America v. Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. 159, 165–66 (1983) (internal quotation marks omitted). See also ASARCO Inc. v. Id. State Tax Comm’n, 458 U.S. 307, 316–17 (1982); Hunt-Wesson, Inc. v. Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal., 528 U.S. 58 (2000) (interest deduction not properly apportioned between unitary and non-unitary business).
- E.g., Pullman’s Palace Car Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U.S. 18, 26 (1891); Maine v. Grand Trunk Ry., 142 U.S. 217, 278 (1891).
- See Allied-Signal, Inc. v. Dir., Div. of Taxation, 504 U.S. 768 (1992); Tyler Pipe Indus. v. Dep’t of Revenue, 483 U.S. 232, 251 (1987); Container Corp. of Amer. v. Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. 159 (1983); F. W. Woolworth Co. v. N.M. Tax. & Revenue Dep’t, 458 U.S. 354 (1982); ASARCO Inc. v. Id. State Tax Comm’n, 458 U.S. 307 (1982); Exxon Corp. v. Wis. Dep’t of Revenue, 447 U.S. 207 (1980); Mobil Oil Corp. v. Comm’r of Taxes, 445 U.S. 425 (1980); Moorman Mfg. Co. v. Bair, 437 U.S. 267 (1978). Cf. Am. Trucking Ass’ns Inc. v. Scheiner, 483 U.S. 266 (1987).
- Comptroller of the Treasury of Md. v. Wynne, 575 U.S. ___, No. 13–485, slip op. at 13 (2015) (“The Due Process Clause allows a State to tax ‘all the income of its residents, even income earned outside the taxing jurisdiction.’ But ‘while a State may, consistent with the Due Process Clause, have the authority to tax a particular taxpayer, imposition of the tax may nonetheless violate the Commerce Clause.”) (internal citations omitted). The challenge in Wynne was brought by Maryland residents, whose worldwide income three dissenting Justices would have seen as subject to Maryland taxation based on their domicile in the state, even though it resulted in the double taxation of income earned in other states. Id. at 2 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting) (“For at least a century, ‘domicile’ has been recognized as a secure ground for taxation of residents’ worldwide income.”). However, the majority took a different view, holding that Maryland’s taxing scheme was unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause because it did not provide a full credit for taxes paid to other states on income earned from interstate activities. Id. at 21–25 (majority opinion).
- Moorman Mfg. Co. v. Bair, 437 U.S. 267, 278–80 (1978).
- Goldberg v. Sweet, 488 U.S. 252, 261, 262 (1989) (citations omitted).
- 488 U.S. 252 (1989). The tax law provided a credit for any taxpayer who was taxed by another state on the same call. Actual multiple taxation could thus be avoided, the risks of other multiple taxation was small, and it was impracticable to keep track of the taxable transactions.
- American Trucking Ass’ns v. Scheiner, 483 U.S. 266 (1987).
- Comptroller of the Treasury of Md. v. Wynne, 575 U.S. ___, No. 13–485, slip op. at 22 (2015). The Court in Wynne expressly declined to distinguish between taxes on gross receipts and taxes on net income or between taxes on individuals and taxes on corporations. Id. at 7, 9. The Court also noted that Maryland could “cure the problem with its current system” by granting a full credit for taxes paid to other states, but the Court did “not foreclose the possibility” that Maryland could comply with the Commerce Clause in some other way. Id. at 25.
- Id. at 22–23.
- Indeed, there seemed to be a precedent squarely on point: Central Greyhound Lines v. Mealey, 334 U.S. 653 (1948). The Court in that case struck down a state statute that failed to apportion its taxation of interstate bus ticket sales to reflect the distance traveled within the state.
- Oklahoma Tax Comm’n v. Jefferson Lines, Inc., 514 U.S. 175 (1995). Indeed, the Court analogized the tax to that in Goldberg v. Sweet, 488 U.S. 252 (1989), a tax on interstate telephone services that originated in or terminated in the state and that were billed to an in-state address.
- Fulton Corp. v. Faulkner, 516 U.S. 325 (1996). The state had defended on the basis that the tax was a “compensatory” one designed to make interstate commerce bear a burden already borne by intrastate commerce. The Court recognized the legitimacy of the defense, but it found the tax to meet none of the three criteria for classification as a valid compensatory tax. Id. at 333–44. See also South Central Bell Tel. Co. v. Alabama, 526 U.S. 160 (1999) (tax not justified as compensatory).
- Boston Stock Exchange v. State Tax Comm’n, 429 U.S. 318, 329 (1977) (quoting Northwestern States Portland Cement Co. v. Minnesota, 358 U.S. 450, 457 (1959)). The principle, as we have observed above, is a long-standing one under the Commerce Clause. E.g., Welton v. Missouri, 91 U.S. 275 (1876).
- Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725, 753–760 (1981). But see Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U.S. 609, 617–619 (1981). See also Oregon Waste Systems, Inc. v. Department of Environmental Quality, 511 U.S. 93 (1994) (surcharge on in-state disposal of solid wastes that discriminates against companies disposing of waste generated in other states invalid).
- 467 U.S. 638 (1984).
- The Court applied the “internal consistency” test here too, in order to determine the existence of discrimination. 467 U.S. at 644–45. Thus, the wholesaler did not have to demonstrate it had paid a like tax to another state, only that if other states imposed like taxes it would be subject to discriminatory taxation. See also Tyler Pipe Industries v. Dept. of Revenue, 483 U.S. 232 (1987); American Trucking Ass’ns, Inc. v. Scheiner, 483 U.S. 266 (1987); Amerada Hess Corp. v. Director, New Jersey Taxation Div., 490 U.S. 66 (1989); Kraft Gen. Foods v. Iowa Dep’t of Revenue, 505 U.S. 71 (1992).
- Bacchus Imports, Ltd. v. Dias, 468 U.S. 263 (1984).
- New Energy Co. of Indiana v. Limbach, 486 U.S. 269 (1988). Compare Fulton Corp. v. Faulkner, 516 U.S. 325 (1996) (state intangibles tax on a fraction of the value of corporate stock owned by in-state residents inversely proportional to the corporation’s exposure to the state income tax violated dormant commerce clause), with General Motors Corp. v. Tracy, 519 U.S. 278 (1997) (state imposition of sales and use tax on all sales of natural gas except sales by regulated public utilities, all of which were in-state companies, but covering all other sellers that were out-of-state companies did not violate dormant commerce clause because regulated and unregulated companies were not similarly situated).
- Comptroller of the Treasury of Md. v. Wynne, 575 U.S. ___, No. 13–485, slip op. at 23 (2015) (“[T]he internal consistency test reveals what the undisputed economic analysis shows: Maryland’s tax scheme is inherently discriminatory and operates as a tariff.”). In so doing, the Court noted that Maryland could “cure the problem with its current system” by granting a full credit for taxes paid to other states, but it did “not foreclose the possibility” that Maryland could comply with the Commerce Clause in some other way. Id. at 25.
- 520 U.S. 564 (1997). The decision was 5-to-4 with a strong dissent by Justice Scalia, id. at 595, and a philosophical departure by Justice Thomas. Id. at 609.
- 520 U.S. at 586.
- Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U.S. 609, 620–29 (1981). Two state taxes imposing flat rates on truckers, because they did not vary directly with miles traveled or with some other proxy for value obtained from the state, were found to violate this standard in American Trucking Ass’ns, Inc. v. Scheiner, 483 U.S. 266, 291 (1987). But see American Trucking Ass’ns v. Michigan Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 545 U.S. 429 (2005), upholding imposition of a flat annual fee on all trucks engaged in intrastate hauling (including trucks engaged in interstate hauling that “top off ” loads with intrastate pickups and deliveries) and concluding that levying the fee on a per-truck rather than per-mile basis was permissible in view of the objectives of defraying costs of administering various size, weight, safety, and insurance requirements.
- 325 U.S. 761 (1945).
- E.g., DiSanto v. Pennsylvania, 273 U.S. 34, 43 (1927) (dissenting); California v. Thompson, 313 U.S. 109 (1941); Duckworth v. Arkansas, 314 U.S. 390 (1941); Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341, 362–68 (1943) (alternative holding).
- Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona, 325 U.S. 761, 768–69 (1941).
- 325 U.S. at 769.
- 325 U.S. at 770–71.
- 397 U.S. 137, 142 (1970) (citation omitted).
- Wyoming v. Oklahoma, 502 U.S. 437, 454 (1992) (quoting City of Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U.S. 617, 624 (1978)). See also Brown-Forman Distillers Corp. v. New York State Liquor Auth., 476 U.S. 573, 579 (1986). In Maine v. Taylor, 477 U.S. 131 (1986), the Court upheld a protectionist law, finding a valid justification aside from economic protectionism. The state barred the importation of out-of-state baitfish, and the Court credited lower-court findings that legitimate ecological concerns existed about the possible presence of parasites and nonnative species in baitfish shipments.
- Wyoming v. Oklahoma, 502 U.S. 437 (1992). See also Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725 (1981) (a tax case, invalidating a state first-use tax, which, because of exceptions and credits, imposed a tax only on natural gas moving out-of-state, because of impermissible discrimination).
- New England Power Co. v. New Hampshire, 455 U.S. 331 (1982). See also Hughes v. Oklahoma, 441 U.S. 322 (1979) (voiding a ban on transporting minnows caught in the state for sale outside the state); Sporhase v. Nebraska, 458 U.S. 941 (1982) (invalidating a ban on the withdrawal of ground water from any well in the state intended for use in another state). These cases largely eviscerated a line of older cases recognizing a strong state interest in protection of animals and resources. See Geer v. Connecticut, 161 U.S. 519 (1896). New England Power had rather old antecedents. E.g., West v. Kansas Gas Co., 221 U.S. 229 (1911); Pennsylvania v. West Virginia, 262 U.S. 553 (1923).
- 432 U.S. 333 (1977). Other cases in which a state was attempting to promote and enhance local products and businesses include Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137 (1970) (state required producer of high-quality cantaloupes to pack them in the state, rather than in an adjacent state at considerably less expense, in order that the produce be identified with the producing state); Foster-Fountain Packing Co. v. Haydel, 278 U.S. 1 (1928) (state banned export of shrimp from state until hulls and heads were removed and processed, in order to favor canning and manufacture within the state).
- That discriminatory effects will result in invalidation, as well as purposeful discrimination, is also drawn from Dean Milk Co. v. City of Madison, 340 U.S. 349 (1951).
- E.g., H. P. Hood & Sons, Inc. v. Du Mond, 336 U.S. 525 (1949). See also Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. v. Cottrell, 424 U.S. 366 (1976) (state effort to combat discrimination by other states against its milk through reciprocity provisions). In West Lynn Creamery, Inc. v. Healy, 512 U.S. 186 (1994), the Court held invalidly discriminatory against interstate commerce a state milk pricing order, which imposed an assessment on all milk sold by dealers to in-state retailers, the entire assessment being distributed to in-state dairy farmers despite the fact that about two-thirds of the assessed milk was produced out of state. The avowed purpose and undisputed effect of the provision was to enable higher-cost in-state dairy farmers to compete with lower-cost dairy farmers in other states.
- Healy v. Beer Institute, Inc., 491 U.S. 324 (1989); Brown-Forman Distillers Corp. v. New York State Liquor Auth., 476 U.S. 573 (1986). See also Bacchus Imports, Ltd. v. Dias, 468 U.S. 263 (1984) (a tax case). But cf. Pharmaceutical Research and Mfrs. of America v. Walsh, 538 U.S. 644 (2003) (state prescription drug program providing rebates to participating companies does not regulate prices of out-of-state transactions and does not favor in-state over out-of-state companies).
- City of Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U.S. 617, 629 (1978), reaffirmed and applied in Chemical Waste Management, Inc. v. Hunt, 504 U.S. 334 (1992), and Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill v. Michigan Natural Resources Dept., 504 U.S. 353 (1992).
- See also Oregon Waste Systems, Inc. v. Department of Envtl. Quality, 511 U.S. 93 (1994) (discriminatory tax).
- 511 U.S. 383 (1994).
- 511 U.S. at 392. The Court added: “Discrimination against interstate commerce in favor of local business or investment is per se invalid, save in a narrow class of cases in which the municipality can demonstrate, under rigorous scrutiny, that it has no other means to advance a legitimate state interest.” Id.
- 511 U.S. at 393.
- 511 U.S. at 393–94.
- 511 U.S. at 394.
- See The Supreme Court, Leading Cases, 1993 Term, 108 HARV. L. REV. 139, 149–59 (1994). Weight was given to this consideration by Justice O’Connor, 511 U.S. at 401 (concurring) (local law an excessive burden on interstate commerce), and by Justice Souter, id. at 410 (dissenting).
- 550 U.S. 330 (2007).
- 550 U.S. at 334. The Commerce Clause test referred to is the test set forth in Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137 (1970). “Under the Pike test, we will uphold a nondiscriminatory statute . . . ‘unless the burden imposed on [interstate] commerce is clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits.’ ” Id. at 1797 (quoting Pike, 397 U.S. at 142). The fact that a state is seeking to protect itself from economic or other difficulties, is not, by itself, sufficient to justify barriers to interstate commerce. Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160 (1941) (striking down California effort to bar “Okies”—persons fleeing the Great Plains dust bowl during the Depression). Cf. Crandall v. Nevada, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 35 (1867) (without tying it to any particular provision of Constitution, Court finds a protected right of interstate movement). The right of travel is now an aspect of equal protection jurisprudence.
- 128 S. Ct. 1801 (2008).
- This exemption from state taxes is also generally made available to bonds issued by local governmental entities within a state.
- 128 S. Ct. at 1810–11. The Court noted that “[t]here is no forbidden discrimination because Kentucky, as a public entity, does not have to treat itself as being ‘substantially similar’ to the other bond issuers in the market.” Id. at 1811. Three members of the Court would have also found this taxation scheme constitutional under the “market participant” doctrine, despite the argument that the state, in this instance, was acting as a market regulator, not as a market participant. Id. at 1812–14 (Justice Souter, joined by Justices Stevens and Breyer).
- 128 S. Ct. at 1817.
- 449 U.S. 456, 470–74 (1981).
- 437 U.S. 117 (1978).
- 437 U.S. at 125.
- 437 U.S. at 125.
- 437 U.S. at 126.
- 325 U.S. 761 (1945). Interestingly, Justice Stone had written the opinion for the Court in South Carolina State Highway Dep’t v. Barnwell Bros., 303 U.S. 177 (1938), in which, in a similar case involving regulation of interstate transportation and proffered safety reasons, he had eschewed balancing and deferred overwhelmingly to the state legislature. Barnwell Bros. involved a state law that prohibited use on state highways of trucks that were over 90 inches wide or that had a gross weight over 20,000 pounds, with from 85% to 90% of the Nation’s trucks exceeding these limits. This deference and refusal to evaluate evidence resurfaced in a case involving an attack on railroad “full-crew” laws. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen v. Chicago, R.I. & P. Railroad Co., 393 U.S. 129 (1968).
- The concern about the impact of one state’s regulation upon the laws of other states is in part a reflection of the Cooley national uniformity interest and partly a hesitation about the autonomy of other states. E.g., CTS Corp. v. Dynamics Corp. of America, 481 U.S. 69, 88–89 (1987); Brown-Forman Distillers Corp. v. New York State Liquor Auth., 476 U.S. 573, 583–84 (1986).
- Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona, 325 U.S. 761, 771–75 (1945).
- 325 U.S. at 775–79, 781–84.
- 359 U.S. 520 (1959).
- Raymond Motor Transp., Inc. v. Rice, 434 U.S. 429 (1978); Kassel v. Consolidated Freightways Corp., 450 U.S. 662 (1981).
- Kassel v. Consolidated Freightways Corp., 450 U.S. 662, 670–71 (1981), (quoting Raymond Motor Transp. v. Rice, 434 U.S. 429, 441, 443 (1978)). Both cases invalidated state prohibitions of the use of 65-foot single-trailer trucks on state highways.
- Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137 (1970).
- Lewis v. BT Investment Managers, Inc., 447 U.S. 27 (1980).
- 457 U.S. 624 (1982) (plurality opinion).
- CTS Corp. v. Dynamics Corp. of America, 481 U.S. 69 (1987).
- E.g., Northwest Central Pipeline Corp. v. Kansas Corp. Comm’n, 489 U.S. 493, 525–26 (1989); Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co., 449 U.S. 456, 472–74 (1981); Exxon Corp. v. Governor of Maryland, 437 U.S. 117, 127–28 (1978). But see Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enterprises, Inc., 486 U.S. 888 (1988).
- 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419 (1827).
- Article I, § 10, cl. 2. This aspect of the doctrine of the case was considerably expanded in Low v. Austin, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 29 (1872), and subsequent cases, to bar states from levying nondiscriminatory, ad valorem property taxes upon goods that are no longer in import transit. This line of cases was overruled in Michelin Tire Corp. v. Wages, 423 U.S. 276 (1976).
- See, e.g., Halliburton Oil Well Co. v. Reily, 373 U.S. 64 (1963); Minnesota v. Blasius, 290 U.S. 1 (1933). After the holding in Michelin Tire, the two clauses are now congruent. The Court has observed that the two clauses are animated by the same policies. Japan Line, Ltd. v. County of Los Angeles, 441 U.S. 434, 449–50 n.14 (1979).
- 441 U.S. 434 (1979).
- Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, 430 U.S. 274, 279 (1977). A state tax failed to pass the nondiscrimination standard in Kraft General Foods, Inc. v. Iowa Dept. of Revenue and Finance, 505 U.S. 71 (1992). Iowa imposed an income tax on a unitary business operating throughout the United States and in several foreign countries. It taxed the dividends that a corporation received from its foreign subsidiaries, but not the dividends it received from its domestic subsidiaries. Therefore, there was a facial distinction between foreign and domestic commerce.
- 441 U.S. at 446, 448. See also Itel Containers Int’l Corp. v. Huddleston, 507 U.S. 60 (1993) (sustaining state sales tax as applied to lease of containers delivered within the state and used in foreign commerce).
- 441 U.S. at 451–57. For income taxes, the test is more lenient, accepting not only the risk but the actuality of some double taxation as something simply inherent in accounting devices. Container Corp. of America v. Franchise Tax Board, 463 U.S. 159, 187–192 (1983).
- Wardair Canada v. Florida Dep’t of Revenue, 477 U.S. 1, 10 (1986).
- Container Corp. of America v. Franchise Tax Board, 463 U.S. 159 (1983). The validity of the formula as applied to domestic corporations with foreign parents or to foreign corporations with foreign parents or foreign subsidiaries, so that some of the income earned abroad would be taxed within the taxing state, is a question of some considerable dispute.
- 512 U.S. 298 (1994).
- Reliance could not be placed on Executive statements, the Court explained, because “the Constitution expressly grants Congress, not the President, the power to ‘regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.’ ” 512 U.S. at 329. “Executive Branch communications that express federal policy but lack the force of law cannot render unconstitutional California’s otherwise valid, congressionally condoned, use of world-wide combined reporting.” Id. at 330. Dissenting Justice Scalia noted that, although the Court’s ruling correctly restored preemptive power to Congress, “it permits the authority to be exercised by silence. Id. at 332.”
- The Supreme Court, Leading Cases, 1993 Term, 108 HARV. L. REV. 139, 139–49 (1993).
- 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419, 443–44 (1827).
- New York City v. Miln, 36 U.S. (11 Pet.) 102 (1837) (upholding reporting requirements imposed on ships’ masters), overruled by Henderson v. Mayor of New York, 92 U.S. 259 (1876); Passenger Cases, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 283 (1849)(1849); Chy Lung v. Freeman, 92 U.S. 275 (1876).
- Campagnie Francaise De Navigation a Vapeur v. Louisiana State Bd. of Health, 186 U.S. 380 (1902); Louisiana v. Texas, 176 U.S. 1 (1900); Morgan v. Louisiana, 118 U.S. 455 (1886).
- New York ex rel. Silz v. Hesterberg, 211 U.S. 31 (1908).
- Japan Line, Ltd. v. County of Los Angeles, 441 U.S. 434, 456 n.20 (1979) (construing Bob-Lo Excursion Co. v. Michigan, 333 U.S. 28 (1948)).